Article by: Olena Matusova
While kneeling in the central square of the old town in Prague, Anton Litvin, Russian civil activist, opposition activist, co-organizer of the Peace March, as well as one of the organizers of KULTURUSFEST which is being held in the Czech Republic, asked for forgiveness from Ukraine.
“Though for any patriot and citizen to represent their country is a great honor and extraordinary responsibility, today we have to admit that no reasonable human being would want to have anything to do with the criminal government which took over the Kremlin in Moscow and in Russia. Therefore I can only speak for myself and for my friends: ‘Forgive us if you can!’,” said Anton Litvin.
Tendencies of anti-war moods
However, in Moscow the form of this repentance, as well as its contents, would evoke a lot of surprise. Most Russians get their information about the military conflict in Ukraine from federal media. And though some Russian citizens in the past months have changed their position on some issues, the influence of the state propaganda machine remains quite strong. This is evidenced by the latest sociological surveys by Levada-Center. According to the leader of this organization Lev Gudkov, there are certain positive tendencies, however, in general the attitude towards Ukraine and military action in the east of the country remains complex.
“There is the same support for Putin and the actions of the Russian government. In particular, they approve the accession of Crimea, on the one hand. On the other hand, the readiness to support the deployment of Russian troops to solve the conflict between the separatists and the Ukrainian army by military means is on the steady decline. While in March, 74 percent were ready to support the deployment of Russian troops to eastern regions, in August-September this number went down to 40 percent approximately, and today, according to the survey done in October, the disapproval of such policies prevails. 21 percent are ready to support the renewal of military actions and the deployment of the Russian army there in case the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is violated, and 63 percent are against it,” Gudkov notes. “However, the people have no idea how this may end, as they don’t really understand the possible risks and the possible behavior of the various sides. While supporting the Russian government in general, the Russian citizens do not understand where and what the Kremlin’s next step will be, and how this will manifest. Unclarity is very high, and it is shown first and foremost in the very understanding of the ceasefire as highly unstable. Only 2 percent think that some sort of stable peace will follow, 32 percent would like for peace to come, however they don’t believe in it that much, and the rest simply think that combat will soon resume.”
Peace without compromise
Russia today has no illusions in regard to the fact that Russian troops are participating in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, most people, according to Levada-Center, traditionally place the blame on the Ukrainian side. And once more, this is the result of mass propaganda, Lev Gudkov thinks. The danger that the conflict might expand and its influence on people’s lives are not comprehended by many. Head of Levada-Center notes that the middle class tends to be more reasonable in this issue. According to Gudkov, the number of people who want peace in eastern Ukraine is growing.
“It (the number of people) has definitely grown. Only it is not readiness for compromise and understanding the motives of the other side, the Ukrainian side, it is the readiness to accept peace on the conditions of the Russian government. Bow down to us – and everything will be all right. This is approximately what dominates mass consciousness. There is a fear that this conflict may grow into a big war, and war not only with Ukraine, which the people, naturally, don’t want, but with the West in general. There is fear, and it is supported by the sanctions and the feeling that the economic situation in the country is becoming worse as a result. There is an understanding, a more sober one, rational and critical one, of the actions of the Russian government on part of the middle class, first and foremost, in cities,” Gudkov emphasizes. “Because there the negative consequences of such political adventurism, geopolitical adventurism, are comprehended better, however imperialistic pride, the desire to insist on their own opinion makes the people accept the Kremlin’s position.”
As a rule, the middle class is the active part of Russian society which not only understands the senselessness of participating in war on the territory of another country, but also, within their own capacity, tries to provide help for those who need it.
Famous Russian blogger and creator of NuzhnaPomoshch.ru Dmitry Aleshkovsky thinks that charitable organizations and funds have to be beyond politics and cannot take anyone’s side in the conflict.
“In my opinion, there are very important principles which both sides of the conflict should adhere to, it is important to stick to them on both sides,” he says. “These are principles of non-intervention of charity organizations in political conflict, first of all. And second, objective assistance to all those in need, and non-participation in the conflict itself. It is very important. Therefore, it seems to me that both us, meaning Russia, and Ukraine, need this. Because it is absolutely obvious that the assistance coming from Russia reaches exclusively the citizens of the regions which are controlled by so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘republics,’ and this assistance does not reach those in need on the territories which are controlled by the legitimate government in Kyiv. Political views have nothing to do with providing aid, therefore it is most correct to give it to everyone who asks for it, regardless of whom they voted for, what God they believe in. Charitable non-profit organizations do not participate in conflicts. Countries, armies, politicians do, but never charitable organizations.
Under the guise of charity
Dmitry Aleshkovsky laments that there are charity organizations which start political protests. According to him, this does not encourage the conflicts to end, but instead incites them even more.
“If any organization comes and lends assistance to citizens of a region and suddenly it turns out that it is some sort of political action, I would not trust such an organization. For example, there is the so-called Novorossiya Assistance Fund, which, to my mind, is absolutely illegitimate and blown out of proportion, which gathers aid, with tents all around Moscow in an attempt to collect aid. And they write: ‘Let us help the children of Novorossiya,’ ‘Let us help the children of Donbas’ etc. At the same time they are collecting money for bulletproof vests and thermal vision equipment. As you know, this is what the children of Donbas ‘need’ the most. It is obvious they are manipulators who are collecting money for war, and not to prevent this war,” says Dmitry Aleshkovsky.