November and December are known as the most depressing months in Moscow. The days are short and dark, and the weather is too cold and wet to spend much time outdoors, but still too hot and rainy to enjoy the real Russian winter.
This year, the sense of melancholy is heightened by the sight of shuttered shops on many of the capital’s streets, as businesses grapple with the economic fallout from massive Western sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine, which Russian officials still call a “military operation”. Special”.
“The mood in Moscow and the country right now is extremely dark, quiet, intimidated and hopeless,” said Lisa, 34, who declined to give her last name and said she is a film producer. “The planning horizon is lower than ever. People have no idea what might happen tomorrow or a year from now.”
While most store shelves remain well stocked, Western goods are becoming increasingly scarce and very expensive, further driving up prices that are already hitting many Russian households.
“Family possessions disappear, starting with toilet paper and Coke, ending with clothes,” said Lisa.
“Of course, you can get used to it all, that’s not the worst thing,” she said. But she also criticized Western governments and companies that left the Russian market in response to the invasion of Ukraine. “I really don’t know how it helps with conflict resolution, because it affects ordinary people, not decision makers,” said Lisa.
Some economists believe that Russia will face increasing economic difficulties and a population that will become increasingly critical of the “special military operation” amid mounting defeats, such as the one seen in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, where a determined Ukrainian offensive forced a Russian withdrawal.
Sergey Javoronkov, a senior fellow at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, says the climate is already more critical than before, thanks to “both the economic toll and dissatisfaction with the unresolved task”, contrary to expectations created by the Kremlin.
“We were supposed to win. The authorities promised to capture Kiev in three days, but as we see, it turned out to be foolish,” he told CNN 🇧🇷
“In his speech on February 24, [o presidente russo] Vladimir Putin stated that military operations would be conducted only by professional troops. But in September a partial mobilization was declared – also an unpopular measure: they are recruiting those who do not want to fight.”
“It’s a known effect: a short victorious war can provoke enthusiasm, but if the war goes on indefinitely and doesn’t lead to the desired result, then disappointment sets in.”
A 30-year-old public relations manager who gave her name only because Irina disagrees, saying she believes the situation is stabilizing after an initial exodus of Russians fleeing not only Western sanctions but also possible recruitment following Putin’s announcement on 21 September of a partial national mobilization.
The Kremlin says more than 300,000 Russians were called up for military service between late September and early November, while hundreds of thousands, mostly young Russians, fled the country, often to places like Kazakhstan or Russia. Georgia.
“The first wave of panic has passed, everyone has calmed down a little. Many are gone, but many remain. I am satisfied with the people who stay and support Russia,” Irina told the CNN 🇧🇷
At the same time, she stressed that she is opposed to the war in Ukraine, as it is starting to become clear to her, as it is to many Russians, that the fighting could go on for a long time. This is especially the case since Ukraine’s forces managed to retake the large city of Kherson from the Russian army – an area Russia annexed in September and which Putin said would remain part of Russia “forever”.
“I have a negative view. I believe that any aggression or war is bad. And to say that if we don’t attack them, they would attack us is obviously absurd,” Irina said, referring to Putin’s repeated assertion that Russia is acting in self-defence in its invasion of Ukraine.
Targeting Ukrainian infrastructure
Well-known Russian blogger Dmitry Puchkov, who goes by the name “Goblin” and supports his country’s military operation in Ukraine, acknowledges that recent defeats on the battlefield have shaken many people’s confidence.
“From the point of view of civil society, it is not good for our troops to leave the territories that have become part of the Russian Federation. But we think it’s a tactical move and won’t last long,” he wrote, responding to written questions from the CNN online. Pushkov says he believes Russia will react fiercely and force Ukraine into a ceasefire.
“The morale of the Russian military is very high,” wrote Puchkov, explaining how he thinks victory will be achieved. “The necessary strategic decisions are well known: in the first place is the destruction of the Ukrainian infrastructure. Electricity, hot water and heating systems must be destroyed,” he said.
The Kremlin appears to be following that playbook. Russian forces have repeatedly attacked power infrastructure in Ukraine in recent weeks, leaving more than 7 million people without power after a wave of attacks last week, according to Ukrainian officials.
Ukrainians remain resolute in the face of Russian missile strikes, however, and hopes for any kind of negotiated end to the war remain distant, even as America’s top general is pushing for diplomacy. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday called for increased support for Ukraine, telling NATO allies: “We must be prepared to support Ukraine for the long term.”
Western technology is lacking
Asked how the mood is in the Russian business community at the prospect of a prolonged conflict, Javoronkov used a single word: “Pessimistic!”
“Economic experts realize that nothing is expected for the economy if military actions continue,” Javoronkov said. Russia’s economy is now officially in a recession, which he believes will only get worse.
The country’s industries are facing major problems replacing Western technology, prompting car company AvtoVAZ – maker of the Lada vehicle brand – to first halt production earlier this year and then switch to producing some vehicles without basic electronic features such as air conditioning. bags and anti-lock braking systems.
The problems span everything from the airline industry to consumer electronics, prompting former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to call for the nationalization of foreign assets.
Yevgeny Popov, a well-known Russian journalist and member of parliament, attacked Medvedev’s idea in a rare moment of open criticism.
“What are we going to direct, we have nothing to direct. Shall we drive wagons?” Popov shouted at a former Russian general who supported the idea of nationalization on the state TV talk show “60 Minutes”.
“We are going to nationalize everything, but what are we going to drive, how are we going to make connections, what are we going to do? Yes, all of our technology is Western,” said Popov.
The Kremlin has been promoting the idea of replacing Western products with products and technologies from allied countries such as China or Iran, but also of increasing Russia’s own production.
On Monday (21), Putin opened – via videolink – a turkey farm in the Tyumen region. The move was hailed as a sign of Russia’s growing economic independence by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who called it “a significant event on the president’s agenda related to the development of domestic rearing and selection in the meat and poultry sector of the industry.” agricultural. A crucial sector that is directly connected with Russia’s food security.”
But Russia’s growing isolation from the world is not necessarily welcomed by all its citizens. Film producer Lisa said she would rather her country end the war and renew ties with foreign countries than go it alone.
“I hope it all ends because there is nothing more valuable than human lives,” she said.
Source: CNN Brasil