No time for war: Russians see no chance of conflict

No time for war: Russians see no chance of conflict


There may be hope of US-Russia talks in the new year but the build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border has led to fears of an invasion and all-out war. Commentators and experts in Moscow are as alive to the risk as their Western counterparts, but for most Russians there is little interest.

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To gauge the public mood, I asked Muscovites if they were worried by the prospect of conflict or further economic sanctions. The EU, UK and US have all warned Moscow of a harsh economic response and President Joe Biden has threatened President Putin with "sanctions like he's never seen".

'Putin will resolve this'
For Roman this is no time for war and he wants relations to improve.

"The situation in the country is quite complicated as it is. Then again," he glances up at the Kremlin, "up there they might have a different view."

Amalia believes the Kremlin will ultimately take the right course of action.

Despite the hope of talks in the coming weeks, the rhetoric is at a high pitch and defence analysts and journalists here agree there is a risk of conflict, even if Russia's troop movements can be explained away by routine exercises. That could also indicate preparations for some form of invasion later.

Sanctions were imposed when Russia seized and then annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Although they were targeted at individuals and key sectors of the economy, Moscow hit back with an import ban on an array of products.

So far, Roman has not noticed the change.

'Protect our borders'
Vladimir, a pensioner, is convinced Russia would not start a war but believes, in the event of a conflict, all the Ukrainians living in Russia would have to leave and Moscow would have to provide rebel-held areas of Ukraine with money and arms.

Arsen, a biologist, sees no reason for a war: "The official explanation is that the troops are there for the drills, so why not?"

An IT expert, also called Vladimir, has little time for Western reports of a planned Russian invasion but he is concerned by unsubstantiated Russian media claims that Ukraine has sent a large part of its army to the front line. "We need to protect our borders. If Ukraine has pulled its troops close to the border, why can't we do the same?"

The story is very different on Russian social media and that is where you will find most anti-war sentiment.

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