Newsletter October Newsletter

Russians’ Views of the War in Ukraine

OpenDemocracy and the Public Sociology Laboratory, an independent research initiative, carried out more than 200 in-depth interviews with Russians since 27 February. The people sampled tended to be educated and from large cities. The research showed that within this sample attitudes to the war split into three broad camps: supporters, opponents and, the largest group, the doubters. Some of the supporters want an all-out offensive, criticising the Russian government for its apparent ‘soft touch’, while others are more hesitant. What these supporters have in common is denial of Russia’s responsibility for the invasion, the scale of destruction brought to Ukraine and its population by the Russian army, and the seriousness of the consequences of sanctions and international isolation for Russia. Doubters, on the other hand, try to avoid having an opinion. They distance themselves from the war, citing their inability to understand the justification for it or what is going on. Those who oppose the war see no justification for it and have strong negative emotions about the destruction and the deaths, the indifference they often see around them in Russian society, their inability to change anything, and about their futures and the future of Russia. The research concludes that public opinion could shift for or against the war depending on what unfolds over the coming months. Read more at

Since this research was undertaken, Russia has ordered the mobilisation of 300,000 personnel. According to the Russian human rights group OVD-info, more than 16,000 protesters have been detained since the war began, but more than 800 protesters were arrested in 37 cities after the draft was announced. Vesna, a youth democratic movement, has organised protests against mobilisation and has also urged members of the military to refuse to participate in the war or to surrender to Ukraine.

The announcement has certainly led to larger and more widespread street protests and many thousands of mainly young men fleeing for neighbouring countries, particularly Belarus. This influx is giving Baltic and EU countries an interesting dilemma, and there will be varied approaches to whether or not they will be considered as tourists, refugees, asylum seekers or conscientious objectors when it comes to the issuing of visas.