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Do protests show Russians don't buy Putin's 'Nazi' Ukraine rhetoric? It's too early to tell

The official version of this war being pushed in Russian state media is it is a special military operation limited to eastern Ukraine and Crimea. 

Russian troops moving from the breakaway self-styled people’s republics are being welcomed as liberators, say officials.

Ukraine is run by a clique of Nazis and pro-Western puppets in the pocket of oligarchs, say the Russians.

The country needs to be liberated from Nazism and militarism, says foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

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Many Ukrainians are choosing to leave Kyiv after mayor declares city has entered ‘defensive phase’

Pretty rich from a government that’s just launched possibly the biggest military campaign in Europe since the Second World War.

Do the Russians buy it? It’s too early to say.

More on Russia

Certainly not the hundreds if not thousands of brave Russians who came out to protest in more than 50 countries last night.

People take part in a pro-Ukrainian demonstration near Downing Street, in London, Britain, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
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Demonstrations have been held around the world, including London

Only the bravest would dare demonstrate given the government’s repressive intolerance of dissent so there will be many more who would have wanted to join them.

They are likely to be reading the truth about this operation from international media.

The majority of Russians though will be receiving the official line from state media that Ukraine is a threat to Russia that requires this special military operation.

Read more: What is happening and where is Ukraine under attack?

Claims Russian troops are being welcomed by Ukrainians as liberators, however fake, will reassure them this is necessary.

Polls so far suggest that Russian sympathy for Ukrainians has reduced since Vladimir Putin recognised the breakaway republics in the Donbas and Russian state-owned media justified it with claims of Ukrainian attacks.

Polls also suggest the majority of Russians blame the current crisis on Kyiv and Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron
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Russian President Vladimir Putin gets animated

As the bigger picture becomes clear, that this is in reality a much larger military operation, it is harder to predict Russian public sentiment.

In particular when Russians start coming home in body bags in considerable numbers.

News of significant numbers of Ukrainian casualties is also likely to reduce public support.

For that reason most analysts have said Putin has only a small window in which to carry out this offensive.

That assumes he cares about public support. His rule has become increasingly autocratic and repressive.

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On a war footing his government will have more leeway to crush dissent. Opposition will be condemned as unpatriotic.

The securocratic elite that supports him will become more entrenched in power.

In the short to intermediate term that is likely to secure Putin’s grip on power and that may be his primary motive for this action.

But longer term, turning Russia into a pariah state with a weaker and weaker economy damages his legacy and may weaken his chances of securing his future and succession.

Read more:
What is Putin thinking?
What is happening in Ukraine?

How does Ukraine’s military compare to Russia’s?

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