The Russian invasion of Ukraine could start the painful process of decolonizing Russia. Much depends on whether Russian intellectuals let go of the ideals of a great Russian people and the friendship of “brotherly” nations. This requires accepting the sovereignty and equality of other countries and cultures and admitting responsibility for the Soviet genocidal colonial past. Decolonizing Russian political discourse and culture will debunk the myth of Russian imperial innocence and victimhood and restore the dignity of the colonized.

We Americans and Europeans are used to thinking of terrorism as something involving fertilizer bombs or improvised weapons, and of terrorists as fringe extremists who operate conspiratorially in irregular gangs. When we speak of state-sponsored terrorism, we are usually talking about clandestine groups that are supported, covertly, by a recognized state, in the way that Iran supports Hezbollah. But Russia’s war in Ukraine blurs the distinction among all of these things—terrorism, state-sponsored terrorism, war crimes—for nothing about the bombing of Serhiivka, or Kremenchuk, or Kharkiv, is surreptitious, conspiratorial, or fringe.

Instead Russia, a legitimate, recognized world power—a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council—is directing constant, repetitive, visible terrorist violence against civilians, many of whom are nowhere near the fighting. The attacks are not errors or accidents. The planes carrying bombs can be tracked on radar screens. Occasionally, Moscow issues denials—the shopping-mall bombing was, like many others, described by Russian state media as “faked”—but no apologies. The Russian army will not punish the murderers. On the contrary, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has already awarded medals to the brigade that committed so many atrocities in the town of Bucha.

For many decades, everyone had been asking if Germans in 1939 really didn’t understand what was going on. We’ve wondered how an entire nation, all of those regular people, decided to go along with total insanity. It occurred to me that today, we’re in a position to answer this question.

My friend Alisa, a sociologist whose name has been changed, and I started walking around Moscow and asking random people how they felt about the war in Ukraine. We thought that what was going on was so insane, everyone must have questions about it. Half of the people we asked refused to talk to us. The other half were usually open to fairly in-depth conversations. Later, I talked to people in the Kaluga and Kostroma regions. We conducted over 50 interviews in total. They are not intended to be representative. We just wanted to get some sense of what was going through people’s heads. To enter into the darkness and feel around for something human.

An extensive investigation by Amnesty International has concluded that Russian military forces committed a war crime when they struck the Mariupol drama theatre in Ukraine in March, killing at least [a] dozen people and likely many more.

In a new report, ‘Children’: The Attack on the Donetsk Regional Academic Drama Theatre in Mariupol, Ukraine, the organization documents how the Russian military likely deliberately targeted the theatre despite knowing hundreds of civilians were sheltering there on 16 March, making the attack a clear war crime.

For over a decade, Russian society has been bombarded with hardcore, revanchist propaganda. The West did not take note.

The surveys, carried out by the Levada Centre three times so far, at the end of March, of April and at the beginning of June, should be read by all of those wanting to believe that a single madman is dragging his country into a war they didn’t ask for and do not support. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that this is the case. Even if we assume that people would be wary of expressing open disapproval of the war, the overriding impression is that the population are happy to blame anybody but Russia for an act of aggression not seen since the Second World War.

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Judging by the results of the survey, 77% of respondents support “the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine”, with 47% saying that they definitely support them (the others – that they basically support them). This is a few points lower than in March, but higher than at the end of April. These may be normal fluctuations, however it was in April that the Russian atrocities committed in Bucha and other Kyiv oblast cities first received widespread coverage, eliciting international outrage. Levada found support to be greatest among the older respondents, lowest among the younger, however even among the 18-24-year-olds, there is still 70% (decided or general) support.

For the moment, both Russia and the West appear to believe that their counterpart is doomed and that time is on their side. Putin dreams about the West suffering from political upheaval, whereas the West dreams about Putin being removed, overthrown, or dropping dead from one of many diseases he is regularly rumored to be suffering. No one is right. At the end of the day, a deal between Russia and Ukraine is only possible as an extension of an agreement between Russia and the West or as a result of the collapse of Putin’s regime. And that gives you an idea of how long the war could last: years, at best.

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As in any country, the exact picture depends on the media you consume. For Russians with the desire and a bit of tech-savvy, unofficial information is still accessible. But those who follow the official news, as The Economist did on May 11th, see a world solely of the Kremlin’s making. Here is a day in the life of a follower of The Putin Show.

Finland and Sweden are right to have concluded from the tragic war being waged in Ukraine that they need more security. Mr Putin is dangerous and unpredictable not because of NATO, but because of the way he has chosen to govern Russia. Their applications should rapidly be approved. As with NATO’s expansion in the past, their membership will help secure European peace.

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