Russians take to the streets to protest Putin's war as Ukraine fights back

Russians take to the streets to protest Putin's war as Ukraine fights back

There’s bravery in the streets on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine today:

Dissent is also being registered online at great personal risk, given what’s known to happen to journalists who cross Putin:

Russia’s most celebrated dissident also opposes the war. “I think this war is designed to divert attention from Russia’s problems, and it will only lead to greater impoverishment,” said Alexei Navalny during a court hearing today. “I consider those who unleashed this war to be bandits and thieves. I went into politics to fight this criminal regime of thieves.”

There’s no way to tell how many are protesting, but one report claims 1,000 people have already been arrested and riot police are out in force in central Moscow. Put it this way: There are enough demonstrators to have drawn the attention of the interior minister, who felt obliged to warn others not to join them.

If you know the first thing about Russian history you know that unpopular wars tend to end badly for the ruling regime. The Times claims today that Putin’s folly in Ukraine has led his subjects to view him in a new, march darker light:

Russians awoke in shock after they learned that Mr. Putin, in an address to the nation that aired before 6 a.m., had ordered a full-scale assault against what Russians of all political stripes often refer to as their “brotherly nation.” Liberal-leaning public figures who for years tried to compromise with and adapt to Mr. Putin’s creeping authoritarianism found themselves reduced to posting on social media about their opposition to a war they had no way to stop…

“Everything that we believed turned out to be wrong,” said one such analyst, insisting on anonymity because he was at a loss over what to say.

“I don’t understand the motivations, the goals or the possible results,” said another. “What is happening is very strange.”…

Ksenia Sobchak, another television celebrity whose father was mayor of St. Petersburg and a 1990s mentor to Mr. Putin, posted on Instagram that from now on she would only “believe in the worst possible scenarios” about her country’s future. Days earlier, she had praised Mr. Putin as a “grown-up, adequate politician” compared to his Ukrainian and American counterparts.

Russian media had convinced its audience that U.S. claims of an imminent invasion of Ukraine were western propaganda aimed at depicting Putin as a crazed warmonger. This morning that audience woke up to find … he’s a crazed warmonger. The unmistakable takeaway from the NYT story from the many Russians it quotes is “we’re no longer sure what he’s capable of.” Which, on the one hand, is encouraging: If Russians now view the tsar as a menace rather than a national hero, that would seem to make a populist uprising more likely.

On the other hand, “we’re no longer sure what he’s capable of” isn’t what you want to hear about a man who commands the world’s largest nuclear arsenal from those who know him best.

There’s bravery in the streets on the Ukrainian side of the border with Russia today as well. Zelensky isn’t taking the coward’s way out like Ashraf Ghani did when he fled Afghanistan. To the contrary:

There are reports of Ukrainians clearing out gun shops and arming up with AK-47s. They’re not going to win this fight but they can take a bite out of Putin’s forces by going down swinging. Anecdotal reports suggest that’s just what they’re doing:

The battle for Chernobyl that John wrote about earlier also reportedly involved “fierce resistance.” As Ukrainians shoot back, Russians protest at home, and NATO countries slap mega-sanctions on Russian industry, we’re left to wonder how soon it’ll be before Putin’s inner circle concludes this invasion was a mistake.

Sooner than we think, maybe?

That sounds like a demand for the “Finlandization” of Ukraine. The Ukrainian government won’t agree, I’m sure, and Putin must be sure as well. Possibly this olive branch is being extended in the knowledge that it’ll be rejected so that he can then claim that he sought peace before he launches the next stage of the attack. But if Engel is right, it’s noteworthy that Russia would theoretically allow Zelensky’s government to remain in place. Given how Putin has talked this week about “denazifying” the country, it seemed like nothing short of regime change and subjugating the population would suffice.

I’ll leave you with CNN, live on the scene in Moscow as police roll up protesters.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023