Who is shaping the Russian anti-war protests?

Russian citizens are protesting in different ways: they are risking brutal suppression in banned street protests, signing petitions, and people in the cultural sector are boycotting their state employers. However, the majority of the population continues to support the government's course. Commentators discuss the role played by the various actors here and the protesters' chances of success.

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Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

A significant minority

Tygodnik Powszechny says the protest movement should not be underestimated:

“For now, Putin can sleep easy. As VTsIOM reports, 68 percent of respondents generally support the president. Those who do not are writing petitions, letters and appeals for peace. They are mostly members of the intelligentsia - architects, writers, stage artists, scientists and so on. They are certainly in the minority. But what a significant minority.”

Expresso (PT) /

Change only comes after war and crisis

Expresso doesn't believe that the anti-war demonstrations in Russia will bring about a turning point in the Kremlin's war:

“Despite demonstrations in dozens of cities and an anti-war petition signed by a million Russians, these are the brave 'usual suspects'. The image of the arrest of Yelena Osipova, a survivor of the siege of Leningrad, is moving because of her courage and also disturbing because of the fragility of a regime that fears a woman almost a hundred years old. But Yelena is a long-time activist.... There is still no popular movement against the war... Only a long, bloody and destructive war and a profound economic crisis caused by the fall of the rouble could change things.”

France Inter (FR) /

The decisive role of soldiers' mothers

Right now the Russian government is shaping the war narrative, but that could soon change, comments France Inter:

“The Russian population only gets to hear one narrative today. A narrative about the 'denazification' of Ukraine, the threat posed by Nato, the 'illegitimacy' of the Kyiv government. The Chinese model shows that it is possible to block information. But this will become more difficult when news about the true number of casualties in this war starts reaching families. The mothers' committees, which played a big role in the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, are already gaining new impetus.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Cultural strike is counterproductive

Novaya Gazeta appeals to employees of Russian cultural institutions who are considering resigning in protest at the invasion of Ukraine:

“We must not allow ourselves to be turned into enemies. That is exactly what some people want: for us to get angry and sulk in response. ... Let us curb our pride. ... A great European director, the creator of several plays now running in Moscow, has turned to his Russian colleagues and called for a strike. His pain is understandable. He means it sincerely, but he is wrong. Closing down theatres and museums will only play into the hands of those he wishes to punish. ... Let us preserve what can be preserved. Times have changed, but that doesn't mean that these times will last forever. They will change again.”

Satori (LV) /

A war against a democratic rebellion

Putin is fighting his own people, the website Satori writes:

“If Putin imagines that this 'one nation' (Russians and Ukrainians) exists, then Russia is at war with itself by invading Ukraine. Perhaps this can explain his actions. He is arming himself against Ukraine's efforts to build a democracy that believes in the rule of law and fair politics. For that would also ignite the spark of democracy in his own country. The old despot can only be overthrown by his own people. And he wants to deprive the people of the possibility of being seduced by the dangerous ideas of his neighbours.”

Woxx (LU) /

The president needs escalation

Putin's actions are neither the result of a rational calculation nor of an individual pathology, Woxx writes:

“He is acting in the specific context of the political system he has created. ... To maintain his position of power he requires permanent escalation, both internally and externally. As early as 2011, the political scientist Robert Horvath assessed Russia's foreign policy as a 'preventive counterrevolution' motivated mainly by domestic politics. It is intended to neutralise the opposition, bring the various power factions into line and organise public approval. A calculation that, as we now see once again, follows an irrational and ultimately self-destructive dynamic.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Russian elite must act now

Hopefully, there are influential people in Russia who are thinking of their children and grandchildren, education scientist Stefan Vlaston writes in Adevărul:

“Presumably, secret talks are going on these days with Nato's intelligence structures about defusing the situation in a post-Putin era. ... People in the Russian political and military elite also have children and grandchildren. They don't want them to perish in a nuclear war. They don't want collective suicide. It is only a matter of days until this elite deposes Putin, peacefully or violently. Otherwise, the people of Russia will continue to suffer enormously, mourn their dead and curse those who could stop this madness but do not.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

The people did not make this decision

Russian citizens must not be held collectively responsible for the invasion, Ilta-Sanomat warns:

“In these troubled times it is extremely important to remember that the Russian rulers' insane attack on Ukraine is not the fault of ordinary Russians. Of course, Putin has his supporters who dream of restoring the country's status as a major power. But in the Russian political system ordinary citizens hardly have a chance to influence the actions of those in power, let alone oppose them. ... However bad the actions carried out by the Russian state may be, ordinary Russians must not be held collectively responsible. They did not take the decision to invade Ukraine.”