The actors don khaki balaclavas in the dressing room and fasten their flak jackets with Velcro.
It is a click as bullets are loaded into magazines, even though they are empty.
You can find the “Z” sign everywhere.
This would be the worst nightmare for most Ukrainians.
It’s a night out in Russia.
It’s groupthink now.
People who dare to think and act differently have either left or become so quiet that their voices are not heard.
People going about their daily lives don’t have any chance against these thick narratives.
Polite People is the Russian name for the “little green men”, the illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
These actors are part of a troupe called Novorossiya Ensemble and are affiliated to a regiment of the Luhansk People’s Republic.
This story is told through immersive theatre, video, and blaring music. It tells a wild tale about bio-labs and drug-addled Ukrainian Nazis as well as big bad Americans, Russian heroism and big bad Americans. Some of it was shot on location in Donbas.
Roman Razum, the main role-player, said that “This is what our eyes saw.”
“This is what we went through. My friends and colleagues. It’s the truth.
Razum believes that the eight years of terror inflicted by the Ukrainian army under the direction of CIA on the people of Donbas has been a story of horror.
He doesn’t have the slightest doubt that things may not be as black and white as he thinks.
He stated that the definition of Ukraine was made to destroy Russia.
“Today, we discussed the Operation Aerodynamic” which was developed by the CIA/Pentagon to provoke our two countries and destroy Russia. We now see the results of this operation.
Operation Aerodynamic was a postwar CIA program that sought to build ties with Ukrainian nationalists who were against the Soviet Union.
Although it has been long dismantled, it remains a useful conspiratorial foundation for many Russians, including Vladimir Putin, who believe that the CIA is the beginning of all evil.
We have come to see the play in Vladimir, just a few hours east from Moscow.
The audience consists mainly of local military or security forces, young cadets, Rosgvardiya, and Rosgvardiya officers, as well as the National Guard.
Rosgvardiya’s cultural wing (yes they do have one) as well as the local administration are responsible for the distribution of the invitations.
The grant was provided by the presidential fund for cultural initiatives.
The next stop is Kovrov, a nearby military training facility where soldiers from the Vladimir region train.
Believe in your cause even if you don’t have any training or have inadequate equipment.
The audience seems captivated.
Standing ovation greets Razum’s last words: “Victory is ours!”
I ask him about Ukraine’s capture of Kherson in the south, where Russian troops were forced into retreat.
“This is only temporary. He said, “We will definitely return.”
“The military leadership of the country knows the situation better than anyone and knows exactly what to do.”
Photographed with him are audience members in front of the billboard “Polite People”.
Volodya, a tall man, said he was thrilled with the performance.
He stated, “I am a veteran of military action in North Caucasus.” This was something I had to go through back then.
What if he served in Ukraine?
“If the motherland asks, I’ll go. He said, “I’ve already packed my bags.”
Mobilization has seen regular online video appeals from wives and relatives asking for more support for those who have been called up.
Many of them hail from the Vladimir region.
A group of women begged Putin to stop the “mayhem” in the latest episode.
“No one is allowed to mobilize troops without weapons or training. They argue that this is against the law.
More information about the Ukraine war here:
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It is difficult to get any of them talking to Western media.
Partly fear is the reason, laws discrediting the Armed Forces are well-known.
It is mostly suspicion.
We are still the enemy, and they are still patriots – even though their boys don’t have sufficient weapons or training.
Nine months after the invasion, attitudes seem to have hardened. This is despite the recent setbacks, as well as the tragic loss of lives.
It seems that there is a feeling that the Russian people have to make these sacrifices for a reason.
It will be passed down to the future generations as a message that Russia is noble and that Russia did not do wrong.
A small boy looks at the billboard and tries to pronounce “VeZhlii-Viye”, the Russian word meaning polite.
“Why are they called this?” He asked his mother.
She said, “Because their politeness is what they do.”