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Rumors were circulating about the possible arrival of martial law Russia Amidst fears of war in Ukraine A simmering crisis blowing the lid off a controlled society could prove a kind of hybrid police state with Starbucks and vibrant social media.
This last part of the description, of course, was not applied until very recently, when cheerful young baristas were sent home and Instagram served the death sentence. Most independent news outlets in Russia have closed their doors to writers now in exile to avoid going to prison for up to 15 years for crossing the arbitrary red line of the Kremlin’s “fake news”.
Another noteworthy press sign that remained in Moscow is Novaya Gazeta. Its editor-in-chief won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Novaya is probably too famous to fail, and too celebrated for elopement. But now she is under enormous pressure. The deputy editor-in-chief told Fox News about the mood in Moscow as he sees it.
“It is kind of tragic because our society has collapsed and we have no economic hopes, nor do we see any political future for our homeland and country,” Kirill Martynov said. “We have a lot of pro-war propaganda. It’s very stupid and aggressive. Basically, you start to feel like someone who lives in some kind of occupied territory, like it’s not your own. It’s a country that has been occupied by some foreign invaders, some kind of enemy.”
Martynov added that compared to what Ukrainians live with, he feels that Russians have nothing to complain about. But it remains a painful time for many and pits Russia against Russia.
“I feel that the whole situation is bringing us to the brink of civil war, because hatred is rising in Russia,” he said. “Propaganda feeds this hatred, and we have more and more hatred and mistrust of Russia.”
I ask the question everyone wants to know – second only to what’s on Putin’s mind? Martynov: What percentage of Russians support the war on Ukraine?
Estimated at about 25%. Another quarter – and his answers are based on how he feels – just support President Vladimir Putin, believing that whatever he chooses to do must be right. Martynov believes that another quarter is afraid, just keeping their heads down and trying to take care of their family. And 25% or less strongly oppose this war.
I asked Martynov if he thought anyone in Putin’s inner circle was watching photos of Ukraine broadcast by non-Russian state channels. And if so, do they feel bad about the damage, the deaths, and the refugee crisis?
“I feel that there are smart people around President Putin, and I think they understand very well what is happening in Ukraine,” said Martynov. “They can see the same, as we still have some independent sources of information left – YouTube, Telegram and some other social media – which are not completely blocked in Russia at the moment. But I feel they decided that they are war criminals, so they can’t cut ties. With Mr. Putin.
He also believed that the political consequences of the war could mean the disintegration of Russia.
“Or, let’s say, the Soviet Union. You feel that in 1991 the Soviet Union was just wiped off the map, the political map, but I feel it was an illusion. I feel that in these thirty years, the Soviet Union in the form of the Russian Federation was still on the Alive. He’s still alive.”
Novaya Gazeta made a decision to continue work based on subscriber feedback. She went directly to her readers and asked if the publication should continue, even if she could not report the war. It cannot report war because if it refers to the conflict as a “war” or “invasion” rather than a “special military operation”, it will face punishment.
Novaya’s editorial board refuses to soften the words. But if the publication were to report a version of events that contradicts the official version, its employees would risk imprisonment. It turns out that her readers want her to continue writing about whatever is in her power, and about everything else that is happening in Russia, which, in the present circumstances, is mostly the fallout from the war, the economy, and street protests.
Martynov said the newspaper had just published perhaps its best cover ever, featuring ballerinas dancing on “Swan Lake” against a backdrop of a mushroom cloud. All that says on the cover is “This version of Novaya complies with the changing Russian Criminal Code”.
Avatar is strong. Russian state television broadcast “Swan Lake” during the 1991 coup attempt by hard-line communists against Mikhail Gorbachev.