Moscow, between indifference and concern about the conflict in Ukraine
MOSCU.- “Fear of a war with Ukraine? No! That topic is not discussed. Young people are not interested in politics. Although for weeks the Western world has been watching, alarmed, a possible Russian invasion of the neighboring former Soviet republic of Ukraine, defended by NATO and the United States, in Moscow there is no pre-war climate. What’s more, there is a surprising atmosphere that oscillates between absolute indifference, especially among young people, and some concern in those over 30 years of age.
“In Moscow people only think about having a lot of money, big cars and working hard. Life goes by very fast,” says Dalibar, a 26-year-old receptionist at a small boutique hotel a few meters from the famous Bolshoi Theatre. It is the heart of this metropolis of 13 million inhabitants where opulence impresses, beyond the economic blow caused by the coronavirus, which still causes about 700 deaths per day.
In a snowy, but hyper-organized Moscow, with its clean, neat sidewalks and streets, with salt spread to prevent slipping on the ice, illuminated at night with charming decorations, the wealth of this country of 145 million inhabitants is palpable, which does not they appear not at all interested in a war with the Ukraine.
You can see high-end cars, spectacular stores, luxury shopping malls that really look half-empty, but are still frequented by people who show off their well-being with brand-name clothing and accessories and the latest fashions, where very well-groomed women with fur coats stand out. and high heels, which dominate on ice and snow. They are members of that society of “nouveau riche” that was created when the Soviet Union dissolved, which also fill trendy bars and restaurants until late at night. And that neither believes in a war that would mean very heavy economic sanctions that nobody wants and would hurt the strength to death.
“Actually, there have already been sanctions for two years. For example, it’s impossible to get fresh italian products like parmesan cheese, mozzarella or prosciutto… I have a pilot friend who brings me”, says Dalibar, who, in order to survive, has another job. “Life is not easy, I work 15 hours a day and, like most young people, I am not worried about a possible war in Ukraine. It’s not a topic, nobody cares. In addition, the reason why it is impossible for there to be a war is that it would be a disaster because there would be more and worse economic sanctions that the country cannot afford”, adds this young man who left his native Macedonia because he married a Russian doctor. “From Skopje my frightened relatives call me because the news only talks about Ukraine and the war, but I keep explaining to them that nothing is happening,” he says, laughing.
Zujra, an employee of a souvenir shop adjacent to the emblematic Red Square -empty-, 28 years old and born in Dagestan, in the Caucasus, thinks the same. “I am not interested in politics, nor in political power games and I am not worried about Ukraine, I do not follow the news. Maybe older people do, who turn on the TV when they get home and watch the news,” he says. “I am not interested in politics, I want peace and I miss the tourists, the large groups that came from China, from Europe, from Argentina, who have not come for two years due to Covid-19 … There are only Russian tourists and very few”, the Mint.
On the other hand, her co-worker, Olga, 42, from Moldova, married to a Russian and mother of a ten-year-old boy, is worried. “I am afraid, the United States and Russia hate each other,” he says.
While most interviewees dodge questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin, the 21st-century “tsar” in power for more than two decades, Olga has no problem. “Is a handsome guy, but as president I don’t like it. He has been in power for 25 years, it is time for him to retire. Russia is a rich country, with resources of all kinds, but the people are still poor. Only the president and his friends are very rich, for simple people like me the situation is bad”, he says.
According to World Bank data from 2020, 12% of the Russian population lives above the poverty line. “Why mess with Ukraine now? Russia is very big, what does it need Ukraine for?
Boris, red hair and beard tied in a ponytail, tattoos on his arm, who works in a bar in the flirtatious Tsum shopping center, 24 years old, like most, is not issued about Putin. “I don’t know, I don’t know him personally, I don’t get involved in politics, I love life and I love everyone,” he answers, interviewed via Google translator. Are you worried about the conflict with Ukraine? “Yes, because war is always a terrible thing and history proves it. But if we talk about the situation in the country right now, the truth is that I don’t follow events, I’m not interested.”, he insists.
Katarina, a 37-year-old economist born in St. Petersburg, who lives in Moscow, where she works for a large company that imports and exports raw materials for beer, is concerned about the crisis in Ukraine. “If the tension that exists degenerates, there will be dire consequences for the business and a terrible blow to big business and the country’s economy,” he says.
“It is true that indifference reigns among the youngest, who are on social media and don’t want to go deeper and understand what’s going on, but the situation is worrying, and the news doesn’t talk much about it either,” he says. “My grandfather, now deceased, was from Ukraine, where I have never been but where many Russians have relatives and friends,” he adds. Changing the subject and reflecting the world, he highlights that Argentine malbec is one of his favorite wines.
“The truth is that war is not in Putin’s interest. Russian society is still suffering from the pandemic, there is a galloping economic crisis due precisely to that and, unlike many other countries, where the state gave a lot of public financial aid to the people, here there was none of that, because the Russians are conservative politically, but economically liberal. And it is not in Putin’s interest to stir up a war. The population is very tired”, said a European diplomat, from a cafe in a neat little pedestrian street in the historic center, lit up with Christmas decorations, a reflection that Moscow is one of the capitals with the highest budget in the world.
“Although the vast majority of the population supports Putin and his dream of restoring Russia’s character as a world power, Russian dignity, on the Ukraine issue, has to be careful”, warned the same source. “Because, although it is not a conflict invented by him – but it is a real problem due to the expansion of NATO in a neighboring country, which was part of the empire of the tsars, if it goes badly in Ukraine, it ends Putin,” he closed.