Moscow seeks ‘sense of normalcy’ in Ukraine conflict


At Moscow’s sprawling Izmailovsky open-air souvenir market, shoppers can find mugs and t-shirts commemorating the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine, but since the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

There is nothing about the “special military operation” that started six months ago.

Throughout the capital, there are few overt signs that Russia is engaged in the worst fighting in Europe since World War II.

Displays of the letter “Z” – which first caught on as an icon of combat, replicating insignia painted on Russian military vehicles – are barely visible.

Russia’s economic outlook is far from clear: unemployment is down, contrary to many predictions. But gross domestic product fell 4% in the second quarter of the year – the first full period of fighting – and is expected to contract nearly 8% for the year as a whole.

Inflation is calculated at 15 percent for the year.

But while the impending economic turmoil is obvious, it doesn’t seem to be causing much anxiety.

Public reluctance or denial of the operation in Ukraine is striking in a country where military exploits are deeply embedded in the social fabric.

The annexation of Crimea produced almost instantaneous memes, including images of President Vladimir Putin calling him “the most polite person”, a smug variation on characterizing Russian troops as polite.

Victory Day, marking the defeat of Nazi Germany, is observed obsessively with weeks of anticipation.

A Lamborghini dealership on Kutuzovsky Prospekt, a major thoroughfare in Moscow, still displays a Victory Day banner, even though the showroom is dark.

Lamborghini pulled out of Russia, along with hundreds of other foreign companies that suspended or ended operations after Russia sent troops to Ukraine.

The dark storefronts and deserted spaces of malls that once housed popular fast food outlets such as McDonald’s and Starbucks are the most visible sign of the conflict in Moscow.

The company departures were a psychological blow to Muscovites accustomed to the gleaming comforts of consumer culture.

The former McDonald’s and Starbucks outlets were acquired by Russian entrepreneurs who soon decided to reopen with nearly identical operations.

Although the belief that Russia can create local alternatives to companies that have left has become an article of faith among officials, many Russians have private doubts.

A survey by the Levada Center, Russia’s only independent pollster, found that 81% of Russians believe the country will be able to replace foreign food operations with domestic alternatives, while only 41% believe local industries can entirely replace electronic products and only a third believe that domestic car production can compensate for the loss of imports.

The auto industry has been hit with sanctions that have dried up the supply of parts.

The National Statistics Service said car production in May fell 97% from the same month in 2021. Putin recently admitted that Russian shipyards were also suffering from supply shortages.

The panic that swept across Russia in the aftermath of broad Western sanctions and the abandonment of the country by foreign companies has subsided.

The rouble, which lost half its value against the dollar right after the sanctions, not only rebounded, but reached levels not seen in years.

But while it’s good for national pride, it’s a burden on export-dependent industries whose products have become more expensive.

The desire to take a vacation has been a particular achievement for Russia’s sense of self-sufficiency in the sanctions era.

Denied easy air links to Western Europe – industry experts say Russian travel to popular Italy has dwindled to next to nothing – Russians found exotic inland destinations, such as Sakhalin Island , 6,300 kilometers (3,900 miles) from Moscow, where tourism is said to have increased by 25 percent. hundred; traffic to the Baltic Sea beaches in Kaliningrad has reached unprecedented daily highs.

Tourism in Crimea, however, is expected to be around 40% lower than normal.

Long segments described the Kremlin army as highly efficient, using high-end weaponry.

About 60% of Russians rely on state television as their main source of information, but may find it unreliable. A Levada survey this month found that 65% of Russians don’t believe some or all of what they see about Ukraine in state media.

However, many of these sources can only be accessed through a VPN or Virtual Private Network. Russia has banned or blocked an array of foreign news media, intimidated critical domestic media into shutting down, and banned the use of Facebook and Twitter.

In a repressive environment, the assessment of the opinion of the population as a whole, even by an internationally renowned pollster like Levada, is uncertain.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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