By: Zorais Naroo
Many in the west tend to discuss Ukraine’s current suffering, perhaps most notably because of its common online coverage. On YouTube, many livestreams and maps reveal the current impact on Kiev and show how people are reacting to the war.
People seem very interested in seeing how Ukranians cope with the Russian invasion, especially as many are fleeing to other European countries like Poland, and the war has caused an immigration catastrophe.
But what about Russians?
Many in Russia, who oppose the government and have no support for Putin, still suffer the consequences of mass sanctions against the country. Services like PayPal, McDonalds, Starbucks, and several other businesses have outright shut down operations in Russia as a result of the conflict. Thus, lines of people have come to enjoy or stock up on many of the goods they loved. The stress piles on due to sanctions by many financially important nations as well, such as the United States.
Most damning, however, is the SWIFT payment system, crucial for people inside Russia that rely on outside money or finances to survive. Namely, people reliant on outside connections and trade have been hurt dramatically.
Roman Aballin, commonly known by his YouTube nickname “NFKRZ,” has lived in the rural Russian city of Chelyabinsk and became popular for his touring of the Russian countryside. With his friend, “Bald and Bankrupt,” they often tour abandoned Soviet buildings and downtrodden cities, giving a light to places many people have forgotten about.
However, due to the recent conflict in Ukraine Roman’s channel has come under fire. Many angry commentators have pointed out his lack of criticism towards Putin and lack of support for Ukraine explicitly.
However, in a recent video, Roman has explained that he fears being arrested by the government for treason and has been dodging these matters as a result. Fearing that YouTube might be banned in Russia soon, he has temporarily moved to Tbilisi in Georgia and plans on staying there until it’s safe to return to his family.
It’s clear to see that shutting down businesses only does one thing in the short-term: it hurts the many innocent people of Russia.
Disconnected senators such as Lindsey Graham have promoted a revolution in Russia as a potential solution. As idealistic as this would be, it’s entirely impossible given the actual situation within the country. Strengthened under Putin’s thumb, the Kremlin has notoriously crushed anti-war protests in major cities like Moscow. And without financial support to rely on due to sanctions and business closures, they’re more fearful for their own wellbeing than willing to serve as pawns in a geopolitical game.
Importantly, the people of Russia must also be treated differently from the Russian government.
Alex Ovechkin, a star hockey player for the Washington Capitals, has been harassed and had sponsorships dropped due to his previous support for Vladimir Putin. However, similar to many in the country, he has changed his views and now supports Ukraine’s resistance alongside many in the NHL. People can change, and many people would see this unprompted war as a valid reason to drop all support for Putin.
Only through respect for the people of Russia, who have little to do with provoking the war and are still sent reluctantly to fight it, can the conflict be resolved. Even if Putin is deposed, upholding cold-war era hatred for the Russian people themselves must change if relations between them and the outer world are to be repaired.