Russia Has Suffered A Crushing Moral Defeat. And Russians Know It.

Russia Has Suffered A Crushing Moral Defeat. And Russians Know It. By Alexey Kovalev, at Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet.

That’s the response of many Russians to the sight of rockets and artillery shells hitting Ukrainian tower blocks that in their concrete uniformity could easily be in Moscow. The towns through which Russian armored vehicles are rolling, captured in shaky videos and accompanied by howls of horror, could be Voronezh or Krasnodar or any Russian city. The invasion of Ukraine is a waking nightmare, horrible and absurd.

And it’s being done in our name. Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion, is the day Russia became an outcast, despised nation, not just economically isolated but actively shunned by the rest of the world — in sports, science and most other kinds of international cooperation. Whatever military “victory” Mr. Putin might find acceptable in his twisted mind, Russia has already suffered a crushing moral defeat.

And to a certain extent, it seems like the Russian people know it. Though dissent has been effectively outlawed, thousands of people have taken the risk to express their opposition to the invasion. And it’s not just the usual suspects, the malcontents already known to the Kremlin. Major public figures, prominent journalists and artists have spoken out against the war. …

For many of us, the horror is visceral and personal. … It’s hard to find a Russian family without Ukrainian relatives and friends, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, chess partners and colleagues. Many of them are now hiding in bomb shelters in Kyiv and Kharkiv.

They’re under attack by a Russian Army whose soldiers — young men who have spent their entire lives under Mr. Putin — look forlorn and confused. They were told by their commanders that they were going to the Ukrainian border to take part in logistical drills, only to find themselves at war. Mr. Putin seemingly dreamed of a quick victory with Russian-speaking Ukrainians welcoming their “liberators” with flowers, the Ukrainian Army surrendering en masse and the country’s leaders fleeing in fear. None of this is happening.

Instead, as the Ukrainians bravely resist the onslaught, Russians are feeling the pain of wide-ranging international sanctions and reprisals. With no European Union country accepting flights from Russia and America closing its airspace, thousands have been left scrambling in airports — while others wait in long lines at A.T.M.s as the ruble plunges. For ordinary Russians, poorer and cut off from the world, the costs of Mr. Putin’s aggression will be high.

State propaganda is baying hysterically … The government took Echo of Moscow and TV Rain, the last remaining independent radio station and TV channel, off the air. Demands to punish the “fifth columnists” and “traitors” — in effect those who sympathize with Ukraine — are growing louder and louder. Political repression will surely intensify. …

According to a state-owned pollster, 68 percent of citizens support the war. But there’s a big caveat: The survey never mentioned war at all. Instead, it asked people whether they support what the government calls a “special military operation,” aimed among other things at “preventing a NATO base in Ukraine” and “denazification of Ukraine.” …

A mass antiwar movement is still a way off. But these are, amid the gloom, promising signs. As the country continues to bomb and terrify Ukraine, more and more Russians may wake up to something only a few dare to say publicly: That Mr. Putin is an existential danger not only to themselves but also to the world. And he must be stopped.

Ed Morrissey:

Vladimir Putin has his propaganda machine operating at full capacity, attempting to sell the idea that all he’s doing is “de-Nazifying” Ukraine rather than invading it and bombing civilian centers …

Putin knows well enough from the Soviet era that a full-blown propaganda machine provides so much of the context for understanding of its subjects that it provides little toehold for reality to contradict it. Hence, a mother has difficulty believing the first-hand testimony of atrocities from her own daughter, even while bombs are falling in the background.