meeting Russians who support Putin and the war in Ukraine

meeting Russians who support Putin and the war in Ukraine
meeting Russians who support Putin and the war in Ukraine

More than two years after the start of the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s power does not waver. The one who held office this Tuesday, May 7, is beginning a 5th term at the head of a country where he still finds many supports, from the city to the countryside.

Vladimir Putin, an unpopular head of state? Seen from France, the Kremlin leader’s popularity rating may seem doubtful. However, this Tuesday, May 7, he has just pledged for a fifth term, while a war has been raging with Ukraine for more than two years. Russians opposed to this “special operation”? “It doesn’t exist,” Viktoria, a former resident of Ukrainian Donbass, tells BFMTV.

From Moscow’s business districts to the more remote reaches of the country, the “Red Line” team interviewed Russians who support Vladimir Putin against all odds. A BFMTV documentary broadcast this Tuesday, May 7.

“My associates don’t like the French because of Macron”

Contrary to what the long list of economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia might suggest, the economy is not at a standstill. The Kremlin even promises GDP growth of around 2.6% over the year.

The capital’s brand new business district – a sort of Moscow City – continues to be roamed by white-collar workers. A hyper-modern economic lung, far from the front, yet struck by a kamikaze drone on July 30, 2023 in the middle of the night.

One of these executives in a suit agreed to testify, with some reservations. “Because (of Emmanuel Macron’s comments), just being in the process of discussing with you could be blamed on me,” explains Alexeï, a young man working in finance.

“Russia is a very important financial center (…) You Westerners have a biased and perverted vision of Russia. You still see us in the Soviet era with these scary buildings, tanks in the streets. has nothing to do with it anymore,” he insists.

Alexei seems particularly annoyed by the French president’s statements. “My associates don’t like the French because of Macron, because of what they heard on TV,” particularly on the possible sending of French troops to Ukraine. He himself also fears the possibility of mobilization at the front if France sent its troops to support kyiv.

Minds remain marked by the hasty mobilization of 300,000 men after the failure of the blitzkrieg in 2022. In a few days, at least 700,000 Russians left their country to avoid being forcibly conscripted.

“Without Vladimir Putin, Russia would not have existed for a long time”

One of the ideas recurring in the mouths of Russian citizens: the disguised desire that Westerners would have to put an end to Russia as it exists, rather than wanting peace in Ukraine.

This idea is pushed directly by the tenant of the Kremlin in messages broadcast on television. “The Western elites do not hide their objective of inflicting, as they say: ‘a strategic defeat on Russia’. What does that mean? It means: making us disappear once and for all.”

This idea runs deep, as with Oxanna, whose son voluntarily enlisted at the start of the war to fight in Ukraine. A month later, he lost his life on the front, on March 12, 2022.

“For me, he is the best leader. Without Vladimir Putin, Russia would not have existed for a long time and I do not consider him responsible for the death of my son,” says the bereaved mother.

After the death of her soldier son, Oxanna received compensation of the equivalent of 50,000 euros. With the first half, she chose to finance an association helping soldiers of which she is a part. With the other, she bought herself a Chinese car, on which she displays her support for the current war.

The former drug dealer fighting “for moral order”

Oxanna’s son died on the front alongside Boris, another soldier. He is injured today. His first motivations, a fight “for moral order” in Russia. “We are against the destruction of family values, against decadence, against homosexual marriage,” Boris says loudly.

But other motivations pushed her to follow Vladimir Putin’s war. They are less philosophical. In 2017, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for drug trafficking. But at the start of the war, in a now famous video, Wagner and his deceased boss Yevgeni Prigozhin came to make an offer to the convicts. Stay in prison or join the militia.

“When Wagner came, they told us: ‘Guys, we need those who are ready to die. If you are not ready to die for the country, then you have nothing to do here- low'”, he remembers. “You have five minutes to make a decision, then it will be too late,” Prigozhin said in front of a camera.

Boris has since had a particular vision of this conflict which he has seen twice, after two return trips for incapacitating injuries. More than a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, he thinks he is participating in “the 3rd World War”, where “Ukraine is only a boxing ring for NATO and Russia”. He is delighted to take part for the equivalent of 4x the minimum wage.

People opposed to the war in Russia? “It does not exist”

The war finds support even among unsuspected people. BFMTV met Viktoria in the countryside 70km from Moscow, in a snowy area nicknamed “the Switzerland of Russia”. There, Viktoria supports the war effort in her own way. However, she grew up in the Ukrainian Donbass, before spending the next 30 years of her life in Russia.

His opinions on this war are very strong. People in Russia who don’t support the “special operation”? “It doesn’t exist,” she says with conviction.

The case of Wagner? “These are our troops, they are fighting for Russia.” Only one question seems to embarrass her… That of the former president and candidate for re-election in the United States, Donald Trump. Friend or enemy? “We’ll see,” hesitates Viktoria, who refuses to talk about “politics”.

Are Russian citizens unanimous on this war? Some were still present in recent days at the tomb of opponent Alexeï Navalny, moved by his fate and determined to continue the opposition. Some even agree to speak in front of a camera. Despite the risks.

“Immersed with Putin’s supporters”, a major “Red Line” report. A document signed Jérémy Normand, Etienne Grelet and Alexandre Funel. Article Tom Kerkour.

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