Two Russian Women, Two Visions of War in Ukraine | war in ukraine

For two Russian women, both named Yekaterina, the war in Ukraine stirred very different emotions. One supports President Vladimir Putin and expects victory, while the other opposes Putin and thinks Russia will lose.

A year after Putin sent troops into Ukraine, the views of the 145 million Russians on the war are still elusive, even though official polls say Putin’s approval rating remains at around 80%.

Yekaterina, 38, is a supporter of Putin and believes that Russia will eventually triumph, even though she is now fighting a Ukraine backed by the US-led NATO military alliance.

His apartment in southern Moscow is littered with bags of donated clothes and boxes of food he has collected to send to Russian-controlled Donbass, where many people have been left homeless by the war.

Yekaterina, 38, supports Russian President Vladimir Putin.
REUTERS/Yulia Morozova

“When my boyfriend left to fight as a volunteer, I understood that I had to do something to help,” she says, asking that her nickname not be used for fear of being the target of abuse. online by supporters of Ukraine.

“We need to help defend our country, our families, those close to us and all of Russia”, he concludes, adding that he supports Putin and the current path of the Kremlin leadership.

In her apartment, she sorted out dozens of bags, carefully labeling those containing winter clothes, fur-lined boots and baby clothes, sometimes discarding boots that weren’t in good condition.

Yekaterina and her son

Surveys by Moscow’s Levada Center indicate that about 75% of Russians support the Russian military, while 19% do not and 6% do not know. Three-quarters of Russians expect Russia to be victorious.

Many diplomats and analysts doubt the numbers. “I support the President and I think he is doing well”, says Yekaterina. “Russia will emerge victorious — unequivocally.”

two points of view

Just 10 kilometers to the south, another Yekaterina has a completely different view. Yekaterina Varenik, 26, who used to work at the state-controlled Gazprom gas company, hates war and is publicly opposed to Putin.

After a Russian attack on Dnipro last month, he erected a sign reading “Ukrainians are not our enemies, but our brothers” in front of the statue of Lesya Ukrainka, a Ukrainian poet from Moscow.

Your apartment is empty. Everything was sold or stored as she packed to leave Russia to join her husband, who left shortly after Putin sent troops to Ukraine.

Yekaterina Varenik was arrested for holding a sign that read “Ukrainians are not our enemies, but our brothers”.

Yekaterina Varenik is 26 years old and publicly opposes Russian President Vladimir Putin.
REUTERS/Yulia Morozova

Varenik recalls the shock and emotion when he first heard that the war had started on 24 February last year. Like many Russians, he has friends and family who have crossed the borders of post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine. He remembers vacationing in Ukraine as a child. Now his family is divided by several closed borders and impassable front lines.

After her protest, she spent 12 days in detention. “Many of my friends left,” says Varenik. “If you are in danger, and in order not to be an accomplice in these events, you need to use all means to escape.”

Since the war began, and following Putin’s partial mobilization in September, parts of Moscow’s cultural, technological and economic elites have embarked on the biggest wave of emigration since the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Shortly after the war broke out, Putin warned Russians to be on the lookout for Russian “traitors” and “scum” that the West would try to use to destroy the country.

“Ukrainians are not our enemies, they are our brothers”

Some officials have been concerned about such a huge exodus of Russian talent, although others dismiss the concerns and say that Russian society is now much more united without those whose loyalty is questionable.

“It’s very sad, but it seems to me that this is not going to end anytime soon”, considers Varenik. “I think this will only end when Russia admits defeat or loses.”

In his opinion, the reputation of Russia and Russians will be tarnished forever. “We in Russia will probably never be able to wash it.”

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