The People You Meet

Prison camp acquaintances, of course, slightly tweak the picture that can take shape when you read only anti-war media.

I talked to a friend from Krasnoyarsk today. He is currently doing time in a camp in Mari El (he was transferred there from Krasnoyarsk). He says, “A lot of people have left Mari El [for the war].” “Voluntarily?” I ask. “Voluntarily. And why not, the money is good, so they go. Plus there’s looting: they drag things back from there too.” In response to my remark that they might come back home in a coffin, he tries to explain, although he himself does not approve of their actions. “Well, a one-way ticket… People have been pushed to the limit. There’s nothing to live on. But there you can make decent money.”

Basically, you can’t argue with the material attractiveness of going to fight in the war. Here, in the countryside, some earn 20 thousand rubles a month [approx. 300 euros], but there they are promised 200 thousand [approx. 3,000 euros]. Plus looting. And there is seemingly nothing you can do about it. If they are paid, they will go. Especially because it has become harder to survive.

Source: privately posted social media entry whose author is afraid that it could be grounds for charging them with violating Russian Criminal Code Article 207.3. (‘”Public dissemination of knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” The new law provides for a prison sentence of up to 15 years for knowingly disseminating false information about the Russian Armed Forces.’) Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

In Red River

A spontaneous memorial to those who died in Ukraine has appeared here in Krasnaya Rechka [Red River]. At the moment there are 25 photos, and yet this is far from the largest residential area in Khabarovsk.

Source: Vitaly Blazhevich, Facebook, 15 May 2022. Krasnaya Rechka is a so-called microdistrict (mikroraion) in Khabarovsk’s Industrial district, in the south of the city. Khabarovsk is home to over 600,000 people and is Russia’s twenty-sixth largest city. Translated by the Russian Reader


Ukraine Says Russia is Desperately Hiding True Death Figures – This week, the Security Services of Ukraine revealed that an intercepted phone call exposed how Russia is desperately trying to hide the actual number of Russian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians killed in the conflict in Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian Security Services, an invading Russian soldier can be heard on the call talking about “makeshift dumpsites” where there are so many corpses piled up that they are around 6 feet high.

“It’s not a morgue, it’s a dump,” the soldier said. “They were just lying one on top of another, it was a dump as tall as a man.”

The soldier, who reportedly sounded tired and dispirited, described how he heard about the mass graveyards from the wife of a soldier who was first reported missing and eventually found at the so-called “dump.”

The wife said that thousands of bodies had been disposed of at the site and that Russians were saying that deceased soldiers left on the site were simply “missing in action.”

Russia Has a Problem – How Many Have Died?

The true number of Russian soldiers killed in the war with Ukraine is unknown, and will likely never be known thanks to the Kremlin’s efforts to hide the figure.

Estimates vary, but reports at the end of April indicated that as many as 25,900 Russian soldiers could have died so far. The number actually came from the same intercepted phone call that revealed how Russia hid the true number of deaths by declaring soldiers missing.

The number was similar to the estimate of 22,800 soldiers offered by Ukraine. The estimate, which was released last month, also suggested that 2,389 armored personnel vehicles, 431 artillery systems, 151 multiple launch rocket systems, and 970 Russian tanks had been destroyed.

As for Ukrainian civilians, the number is also unknown but will likely eventually be determined once the war comes to an end. According to the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission, a total of 7,061 civilian casualties have been verified so far. Among those casualties were 3,381 deaths.

The number, however, is likely to be significantly higher.

“Overall, to date, we have corroborated 7,061 civilian casualties, with 3,381 killed and 3,680 injured across the country since the beginning of the armed attack by the Russian Federation. The actual figures are higher and we are working to corroborate every single incident,” UN spokeswoman Matilda Bogner told a press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland this week.

“We have been working on estimates, but all I can say for now is that it is thousands higher than the numbers we have currently given to you,” Bogner added about Russia’s causality figures.

Source: Jack Buckby, “Putin Is Lying: Russia May Have Lost Nearly 26,000 Soldiers in Ukraine,” 1945, 12 May 2022

Moscow, May 9

For the first time in my life (I swear!) I went to the Immortal Regiment march today. Let’s just say I was strongly encouraged to do it. I hesitated, I thought it over, but in the end my curiosity won out. I have been shooting almost nothing for more than two months, because I simply lost any sense of how to go on documenting urban life and civic activism in the new reality. What did I see and hear today? I found super polite people of all ages portraying the ideal “Russian world” in its peaceful aspect. “Nobody here wants war,” a man of about forty-five, holding a portrait of his grandfather and a flag emblazoned with an image of Stalin, told me. He is one of those who sees “pros and cons” in everything and everyone, and who, although experiencing some discomfort, still fully trusts the vision of the country’s leadership. Maybe some of the marchers were forced by their employers to go to the rally, but it seemed to me that people had gone there quite willingly. They were given free food and beverages: in exchange for such generosity, one can walk in the rain and sun for a couple of hours. The Uzbek workers seemed to be happy, because on Victory Day they are allowed to join the people of Great Russia, who for the rest of the year carefully monitor and maintain the existing division of society into “homeboys” and “aliens.” When, instead of periodic enthusiastic shouts of “Hur-ra-a-a-a-h!” or “Ru-u-u-u-sia!”, the crowd started chanting “fascism will not pass” behind me, I should have fought the good fight, but instead my instinct of self-preservation kicked in and I stupidly continued to shoot.

“NOD” = the so-called National Liberation Movement

Source: anatrrra, LiveJournal, 10 May 2022. Introductory text translated and photos reprinted with the author’s kind permission. Go to the original post to see their completely stunning photo reportage in full. Translated by the Russian Reader

V (Z) Day in Petersburg

Footage of Victory Day celebrations on Palace Square in Petersburg, 9 May 2022

Victory over fascism was celebrated in Petersburg to the song “I Am Russian.” Alexander Beglov, the city’s governor, spoke at Palace Square.

Congratulating the citizens of Petersburg on May 9, [Beglov] recalled the “fight against fascism and Nazism today.”

“Our soldiers in Ukraine are defending Donbas. They are defending us, our historical memory, and the heroic deeds of our grandfathers. Our president, the son of a front-line soldier, has stood up against the Nazis. He has united us all. We are united, we are strong, and we will win!” he said.

After his congratulations, a military ensemble came on stage to sing the song “I Am Russian.” During its performance, footage of either actual military operations or exercises by the Russian Army was shown on a big screen.

Source: Rotunda, 9 May 2022. Video courtesy of a Rotunda reader. Translated by the Russian Reader


“I’m Proud That I’m [an Ethnic] Russian.” A poster for a concert at the Gavrila Derzhavin Estate Museum on the Fontanka River Embankment in Petersburg, on 22 May 2022. The concert will be performed by the Boris Troyanovsky Great Russian Orchestra, under the direction of Anna Drozdovich. Thanks to Marina Varchenko for the snapshot.

Absolutely Horizontal

Olga lived in Mariupol for many years. Until February 24, she worked as a courier, while her husband worked at the Azovstal steel works, and their two children studied at school. Since early March 2022, due to the so-called special operation, Mariupol has been under siege, and fighting has been going on in the city. In the middle of the month, when humanitarian corridors opened up, the family was able to get to Donetsk, and from there they took a bus to Petersburg. Their bus tickets were bought by volunteers — ordinary people who are not connected with government agencies. They also met the Mariupol residents in Petersburg and housed them in their apartment for the night, and then took them to Ivangorod, where Olga and her relatives crossed the Estonian border. The family is now in Finland.

There are many similar stories. In Petersburg, hundreds of residents help transit refugees every day. There are so many people willing to help that all requests — from putting up a family of five people and two dogs to transporting a nursing mother with a baby to Ivangorod — are claimed by volunteers in a matter of minutes. Over the border, in the Estonian city of Narva, Ukrainians are also welcomed by volunteers. This is the story of how ordinary citizens sat and watched the news, feeling powerless, but then found an opportunity to help others and themselves.

How Volunteering Heals Witness Trauma
Alexander from Petersburg is an artist. If it weren’t for [the war], he would now be engaged in art making. “I won’t be getting around to art anytime soon, but there will be food for it,” he says.

In April, Alexander and other volunteers launched a platform on the internet where they coordinate requests for assistance in crossing the border with Estonia and (less often) Finland. For security reasons and at the request of the volunteers, we are not publishing a link to this resource. Currently, there are more people willing to help than requests for help: people span up the requests in minutes.

Here is an example of a typical request: “A family is coming from Mariupol: a grandmother, grandfather, their daughter, grandson (12 years old), and a pregnant cat. You need to meet them at the train station, feed them, provide overnight accommodation, chip the cat and put the family on the bus to Tallinn the next morning.”

“Society has been traumatized. People were watching the news and tortured by a feeling of impotence, so we created a platform where we try to cure this powerlessness. I have the feeling that any problem can be solved en masse. People are competing for the opportunity to help,” says Alexander, “and so [the campaign] has turned out absolutely horizontal. People find the requests on their own and fulfill them  on their own. In the past, I worked on the problems in my neighborhood, and back then it was several activists dragging the whole movement like locomotives, but now the wave rolls on by itself.”

We thought we were going to disappear inside Russia, the refugees tell local volunteers. People travel mostly in groups. Most of them are women, children, and the elderly. There are fewer men. “Many people are traveling with their pets,” says Alexander. In addition to Mariupol and the surrounding area, they come from the Kharkiv region, Donetsk, and Luhansk. They are going to European countries, but some seek to  return to Ukraine as quickly as possible because they have relatives there, they can speak their native language, and they don’t have to deal with the “refugee” label.

It is not only Petersburgers who have been helping them to make the journey to the Russian-Estonian border. There are also hundreds of volunteers in Moscow. The Petersburgers are now establishing contacts in Rostov, Krasnodar, and Belgorod, the [southern] Russian cities through which the refugees travel most often.

“The other day I came to my senses, looked up from the screen, and realized that nothing was hurting inside me. I haven’t watched the news for more than a week and I don’t know what is happening in the political space. I have a specific task, it is very simple and clean. Unlike everything else, I have no doubt that it’s a good thing,” says Alexander. “Everyone wants to do good, and helping refugees certainly satisfies this need.”

How Natalia Got from Mariupol to Vilnius via Petersburg
Natalia got from Ukraine to Lithuania thanks to the internet platform where Alexander volunteers.

Previously, she worked as a cook in the Shchiriy Kum retail chain. She has two daughters: one is a high school student, the other, a university student. On the morning of February 24, Natalia went to work as usual. “I heard that there had been an explosion somewhere. But in Mariupol this is so routine that no one paid it any mind. (Echoes of the fighting have been audible in Mariupol since 2014, and most residents were used to the sounds of distant explosions and shooting — The Village.) When I arrived at work, I realized that things were serious. I finished up by three o’clock, and they let us go home. I didn’t go to work anymore after that.”

Natalia and her family remained in Mariupol until March 23. There was no “serious fighting” in her neighborhood, so she and her daughters stayed in their apartment, not in a basement or a bomb shelter. “But our things were packed to leave at any moment,” she says. The electricity in the city had been turned off, and the water was also turned off, so the family went to a spring to get water. Then the gas was turned off, so they had to cook on a bonfire.

When the fighting got close, Natalia, her girls, and her eldest daughter’s boyfriend went to the outskirts of city, where “there were buses from the [Donetsk People’s Republic].” They went on one of these buses to her parents who live near Mariupol and stayed there for three weeks. Then all four of them traveled to Taganrog [a Russian city approximately 120 km east of Mariupol]. At the local temporary accommodation point, they were offered a choice: they could go either to Khabarovsk or to Perm. Natalia didn’t want to go to Khabarovsk or Perm. She needed to get to Lithuania, where a friend of hers lives. That was when a Mariupol acquaintance put her in touch with the Petersburg volunteers.

“The vbolunteers bought us tickets to Petersburg. We got to Rostov, where we boarded a train. In Petersburg, we were met by Ivan, who took us home to eat. We washed up and changed clothes, and he took us to get on a minibus to Ivangorod,” Natalia says. The Mariupol residents crossed the Russian-Estonian border on April 23. “At the Russian border, they asked [my daughter’s boyfriend] where he was going and why.” The Petersburg volunteers had put Natalia in touch with Narva volunteers, and so the family immediately boarded a free bus to Riga.

Natalia is currently in Vilnius. She has no plans to leave — she no longer has the strength to travel with suitcases. “We’ve rented a room. We’re going to look for jobs,” she says.

How to Help via Twitter
“It all started with the fact that I felt helpless and useless. I really wanted to do something,” says Katya from Petersburg.

You can find out about helping refugees who are traveling to Europe via Petersburg on various websites. The one on which the artist Alexander volunteers is the largest. There are others. For example, Katya saw such a request on Twitter. In mid-April, a friend of hers asked whether anyone could welcome a family (a mother, son and daughter) and an 18-year-old girl who was traveling with them for a couple of days. Katya responded. The family was put up by her friend, while Katya took in the girl. “She met the family she came with two weeks before [the war]. They went for a walk once with the boy, and he decided to take her with him. Her mother refused to leave, and so now the girl is all alone, without relatives here,” says Katya.

Katya met the girl at the Moscow Railway Station and they traveled the rest of the way to her house. The question arose: how to talk to a person who has country has been invaded by your own country? “Either we were a match, or the girl herself is this way, but it was easy to communicate with her, like with a sister,” says Katya. They sat down to drink tea, and the girl recounted in a calm voice how one day a tank drove up to the nine-story building in Mariupol where she was hiding in a bomb shelter, raised its turret, and began shooting into the distance. “I was bored, and I started counting. It fired seventy shots,” the girl said.

Before the girl left, Katya and her guest hugged tightly. The Mariupol family eventually stayed in Sweden, while the girl ended up in Germany. “I was constantly thinking about what is it like to live when your city is gone, when it has been wiped off the face of the earth,” says Katya.

What Ivangorod, the Transit Point for Refugees Going to Estonia, Looks Like
It takes two hours to drive from Petersburg to Ivangorod. At the outskirts of the city, you need to show the frontier guards a passport or a special pass for entering the border zone. Refugees are allowed through with an internal Ukrainian passport. A kilometer from the checkpoint, on a pole right next to the highway, storks have built a large nest.

Ivangorod is home to around nine thousand people. Its main attraction is a medieval fortress. In the six years that have passed since The Village‘s correspondents last visited the city, it has become prettier. The local public spaces have been beautified under the federal government’s Comfortable Environment program.

Estonia can be seen from the bank of the Narva River. To get to the European Union, you need to walk 162 meters across the Friendship Bridge. At the entrance there is a hut where insurance used to be sold, but now it is abandoned, its windows broken. People walk down the slope carrying bags and plastic sacks stuffed with things. The local children ride scooters. Closer to the shore, the children turn right onto the embankment, which the local authorities attempted to beautify in the 2010s with funding from the EU. The people carrying bags go to the left.

There are several dozen people at the border checkpoint. A heart-rending meow resounds from the middle of the queue. A woman removes a black jacket from a pet carrier: a hairless Sphynx cat stares at her indignantly.

“Maybe I should let him out on the grass?”

The people in the queue say there is no need, that they will get through quickly. But it seems that this forecast is too optimistic.

“Are they all Ukrainians?” a man with a reflector asks loudly. The people in front of him shrug their shoulders. “Are they Maidanovites? Refugees? Are they fleeing from the nationalists?”

Someone argues that the frontier guards should organize two queues — “for people and for refugees” — to make the border crossing go more quickly.

Under the bar at the border restaurant Vityaz hangs a homemade “Peace! Labor! May!” banner and an image of a dove. On the way to the Ivangorod fortress there is a memorial stone dedicated to “the militiamen, volunteers, and civilians who perished and suffered in the crucible of the war in the Donbas.” The Village‘s correspondents did not encounter a single letter Z — the symbol of the “special operation” — in Ivangorod. Nor they did encounter a single pacifist message either.

How Narva Helps Transit Refugees
At the border checkpoint, people are met by numerous volunteers from various associations, including the Friends of Mariupol. “These are all private initiatives,” says Narva volunteer Marina Koreshkova.

“We have been seeing exhausted people,” says Marina. “Many are in rough psychological condition, and they really want to talk. We listen to them for an hour, two, three — we empathize with them and share important information. People say that while they were traveling through Russia, they saw the Z, heard unpleasant messages addressed to Ukrainians, and were forced to put up with it and remain silent just to get to Europe. But I often see examples of Stockholm syndrome. Or maybe people are just afraid to say the wrong thing.”

Six years ago, Marina and her children moved to Narva from Petersburg, because she understood that the situation in Russia was getting worse. In Russia, she was a lawyer, working for ten years in a government committee on social policy, then as an arbitration manager. She started her life from scratch in Narva, and is now studying new professions. She is a member of Art Republic Krenholmia and Narva Meediaklubi, nonprofits engaged in civil society development and social and creative projects.

On April 10, Marina received a call from the manager of the Vaba Lava Theater Center, who said that they had decided to temporarily convert a hostel for actors into an overnight accommodation for refugees. Soon, the Narva Art Residence also let transit refugees into its hostel for artists. Then the Ingria House, located near the train station, equipped a room to accommodate Ukrainians. And on May 1, a Narva businessman temporarily vacated his office, located near the border, for daytime stays.

“For the first week, Sergei [Tsvetkov, another volunteer] and I tried to do everything ourselves. We quickly realized that at this pace we would burn out or get sick. Now about sixty local volunteers are involved, and people have come from Tallinn to help. The number of people helping out has been growing every day. Local residents collect the refugees’ laundry for washing, and bring them food and medicine.”

Almost none of the refugees remain in Narva. “The proximity to the border generates a new sense of uncertainty for them,” Marina argues. In addition, the region’s refugee registration office, which enables Ukrainians to gain a foothold in Estonia, has been closed. The nearest one still in operation is in Tartu [a distance of 180 km from Narva by car].

Narva is also “the most Russian city in NATO.” Only four percent of the city’s population is ethnic Estonian, and thirty-six percent of residents are Russian passport holder. “I don’t have time to read social media, but until April 10, I constantly observed negative comments [from Narva residents] about the refugees, although I have not seen any outward aggression in the city,” says Marina.

She believes that a welcoming station where refugees could get basic information and relax inside in the warmth should be equipped at the border. “It was quite cold in late April. People were freezing on the border outside in the wind, then thawing out for an hour and not taking off their outerwear.”

There is not even a toilet on the Russian side of the border, however.

Source: “‘An absolutely horizontal business’: How residents of Petersburg and Narva are helping Ukrainian refugees going to Europe,” The Village, 5 May 2022. Image (below) courtesy of The Village. Thanks to JG for the story and the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

______________

Umm Khaled hardly leaves the tent where she lives in northwest Syria, and she says she doesn’t pay attention to the news. But she knows one reason why it is getting harder and harder to feed herself and her children: Ukraine.

“Prices have been going up, and this has been happening to us since the war in Ukraine started,” said the 40-year-old, who has lived in a tent camp for displaced people in the last rebel-held enclave in Syria for the past six years since fleeing a government offensive.

Food prices around the world were already rising, but the war in Ukraine has accelerated the increase since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24. The impact is worsening the already dangerous situation of millions of Syrians driven from their homes by their country’s now 11-year-old civil war.

The rebel enclave in Syria’s northwest province of Idlib is packed with some 4 million people, most of whom fled there from elsewhere in the country. Most rely on international aid to survive, for everything from food and shelter to medical care and education.

Because of rising prices, some aid agencies are scaling back their food assistance. The biggest provider, the U.N. World Food Program, began this week to cut the size of the monthly rations it gives to 1.35 million people in the territory.

The Ukraine crisis has also created a whole new group of refugees. European nations and the U.S. have rushed to help more than 5.5 million Ukrainians who have fled to neighboring countries, as well as more than 7 million displaced within Ukraine’s borders.

Aid agencies are hoping to draw some of the world’s attention back to Syria in a two-day donor conference for humanitarian aid to Syrians that begins Monday in Brussels, hosted by the U.N. and the European Union. The funding also goes toward aid to the 5.7 million Syrian refugees living in neighboring countries, particularly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Last year, the EU, the United States and other nations pledged $6.4 billion to help Syrians and neighboring countries hosting refugees. But that fell well short of the $10 billion that the U.N. had sought — and the impact was felt on the ground. In Idlib, 10 of its 50 medical centers lost funding in 2022, forcing them to dramatically cut back services, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.

Across Syria, people have been forced to eat less, the Norwegian Refugee Council said. The group surveyed several hundred families around the country and found 87% were skipping meals to meet other living costs.

“While the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues to demand world attention, donors and governments meeting in Brussels must not forget about their commitment to Syria,” NRC’s Mideast Regional Director Carsten Hansen said in a report Thursday.

The U.N.’s children’s agency UNICEF said more than 6.5 million children in Syria are in need of assistance calling it the highest recorded since the conflict began. It said that since 2011, over 13,000 children have been confirmed killed or injured.

Meanwhile, UNICEF said funding for humanitarian operations in Syria is dwindling fast, saying it has received less than half of its funding requirements for this year. “We urgently need nearly $20 million for the cross-border operations” in Syria, the agency said in a statement.

Umm Khaled is among those who rely on food aid. With her aid rations reduced, she has gone deeper in debt to feed her family.

Her husband and eldest son were killed in a Syrian government airstrike in their home city of Aleppo in 2016. Soon after, she escaped with her three surviving children to the rebel enclave in Idlib province. Ever since, they have lived in a tent camp with other displaced people on the outskirts of the town of Atmeh near the Turkish border.

Her family lives on two meals a day — a small breakfast and a main meal late in the afternoon that serves as lunch and dinner. Her only income is from picking olives for a few weeks a year, making 20 Turkish liras ($1.35) a day.

“We used to get enough rice, bulgur, lentils and others. Now they keep reducing them,” she said by telephone from the camp. She spoke on condition her full name is not made public, fearing repercussions. She lives with her two daughters, ages six and 16, and 12-year-old son, who suffered head and arm injuries in the strike that killed his brother and father.

The price of essential food items in northwest Syria has already increased by between 22% and 67% since the start of the Ukraine conflict, according to the aid group Mercy Corps. There have also been shortages in sunflower oil, sugar and flour.

Mercy Corps provides cash assistance to displaced Syrians to buy food and other needs and it says it has no plans to reduce the amount.

“Even before the war in Ukraine, bread was already becoming increasingly unaffordable,” said Mercy Corps Syria Country Director, Kieren Barnes. The vast majority of wheat brought into northwest Syria is of Ukrainian origin, and the territory doesn’t produce enough wheat for its own needs.

“The world is witnessing a year of catastrophic hunger with a huge gap between the resources and the needs of the millions of people around the world,” said WFP spokeswoman Abeer Etefa.

In many of its operations around the world, WFP is reducing the size of the rations it provides, she said. Starting this month in northwest Syria, the provisions will go down to 1,177 calories a day, from 1,340. The food basket will continue to provide a mix of commodities, including wheat flour, rice, chickpeas, lentils, bulgur wheat, sugar and oil.

Rising prices have increased the cost of WFP’s food assistance by 51% since 2019 and that cost will likely go even higher as the impact of the Ukraine crisis is felt, Etefa said.

Earlier in the year, before the Ukraine conflict began, a 29% jump in costs prompted the Czech aid agency People in Need to switch from providing food packages to giving food vouchers. The vouchers, worth $60, buy less food than the group’s target level, but it had to take the step to “maximize its coverage of food assistance to the most vulnerable,” a spokesperson told The Associated Press.

As the world turns to other conflicts, “Syria is on the verge of becoming yet another forgotten crisis,” Assistant U.N. Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya warned in late April.

In northwest Syria, “a staggering 4.1 million people” need humanitarian aid, Msuya said — not just food, but also medicines, blankets, school supplies and shelter. She said almost a million people in the territory, mainly women and children, live in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal lifespan.”

Many fear that the situation could only get worse in July, because Russia may force international aid for the northwest to be delivered through parts of Syria under the control of its ally, President Bashar Assad.

Currently, aid enters the Idlib enclave directly from Turkey via a single border crossing, Bab al-Hawa. The U.N. mandate allowing deliveries through Bab al-Hawa ends on July 9, and Russia has hinted it will veto a Security Council resolution renewing the mandate.

A Russian veto would effectively hand Assad control over the flow of aid to the opposition enclave and the U.S. and EU had warned earlier they will stop funding in that case.

The result will be a severe humanitarian crisis, likely triggering a new flood of Syrian migrants into Turkey and Europe, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs warned in a report.

Umm Khaled said she has no choice but to endure her deteriorating living conditions.

“They keep reducing our food basket,” she said. “May God protect us if they cut it completely.”

Source: Bassem Mroue, “Syrians in desperate need of aid hit hard by Ukraine fallout,” AP News, 8 May 2022. Thanks to Harald Etzbach for the story.

Children

PAZ-3205 bus. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I have spent half the day wandering around Orenburg on various errands. At a crossing, I saw a yellow PAZ bus, marked “Children” and with a flashing light. I thought, wow, how they take care of their children’s safety. But I didn’t look inside. But now I have just seen a column of three yellow “Children” buses with flashing lights — and it wasn’t children inside them, but soldiers.

Source: Jenya Kulakova, Facebook, 6 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Sometimes it seems that United Russia has reached the limits of cynicism and nothing they do can surprise you. But their functionaries hand a crippled soldier a package of buckwheat and a bottle of sunflower oil, shove the party logo in his hand, and proudly post the photo. And it becomes clear that United Russia’s cynicism is a bottomless pit.

Source: Ilya Yashin, Facebook, 5 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


If anyone did not understand why I think that my daughter should not go to school in the Russian Federation, this is her class and homeroom teacher at a fucking Victory Day trivia competition.

Fortunately, my daughter didn’t go to school today.

Source: Leda Garina, Facebook, 6 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Support

There wasn’t much left of Russian army Sgt. Andrei Akhromov’s body when it arrived in a zinc coffin at his hometown, a four-hour drive south of Moscow, relatives said. The 21-year-old died in April near the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv when his tank was hit by enemy fire.

Sgt. Akhromov’s cousin, Sergei Akhromov, said a representative of the regional governor’s office told the family it took the armed forces three weeks to identify what remained of him using DNA analysis. Loved ones didn’t look into the casket before burying him last week, he said.

“I only blame America—not Ukraine, not Russia,” Mr. Akhromov, a 32-year-old parks-and-recreation worker, said. “Biden, or however he is called, allowed for Nazism to flourish in Ukraine, and so Russia had to fight not only to protect its people and borders, but also the Ukrainian people, women, children, elderly.”

Source: Evan Gershkovich, “As Coffins Come Home, Russians Confront Toll of Ukraine Invasion,” Wall Street Journal, 4 May 2022

I see that there is a struggle underway over the numbers [of Russians] supporting the war. We are all asked whether Russians want war, how different segments of society relate to the war, etc. There is a temptation (a natural desire) to find grounds — everyone has their own — for our “sense of society’s reaction to the war.” The old liberal circles in Moscow, of course, do not want to reconcile themselves to the fact that society in a patriotic frenzy sincerely supports all the monstrous violence, destruction, and sowing of death and grief produced by Russia’s political leadership and army. Hence the struggle arises. VTsIOM says 75% [of Russians support the war], but independent sociologists says it’s 58-59%. And look at Levada’s figures: by the end of the second month [of the war], support had fallen from 74% to 68%. And so on.

However, if you think about it, what is the political significance of this struggle over the sociological grounds for “non-support”? There is none, since there is no way to mold “non-support” into a political factor. It’s like when the Polish uprising of 1863 was put down. Russian society, including the educated classes, experienced a patriotic upsurge. This is a historical fact. Some people, of course, did not support it, but politically that didn’t mean anything. Therefore, no “figures” or “focus groups” change anything now. They do not enable one to shift Russian society’s attitudes to the war from where they are now. This society is currently under martial law – undeclared, but de facto — because the norms of military censorship have been been instituted, economic data has been partly made off-limits, and civil rights have been completely restricted. Under martial law, “non-support” is tantamount to desertion, “alarmism,” sabotage, and treason. Under martial law, there are no civil institutions within which you can politically voice your “non-support.” Therefore, what are we talking about when we raise the question of who supports the war and why they support it?

Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 4 May 2022. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

Young, Poor, Dead

IStories
Young, Poor, Dead

The war against Ukraine has entered its third month, but there is still no public list in Russia of the soldiers killed. Isolated cases have been reported by the heads of regions or districts where soldiers lived, or by the schools and sports clubs where they studied and trained.

We compiled our list by studying and rechecking reports from open sources. As of this writing, we have confirmed the deaths of 1,855 men.

What we have learned
It is mostly young soldiers who have perished in the war: their average age is 28. More than 80% were between the ages of 18 and 35, and 40% were younger than 25.

Due to the war, the mortality rate among young men in Russia has already increased by more than a quarter, and by several times in those regions with the most war dead. (For example, in Buryatia, the number of deaths of men under 30 has already increased by more than two and half times.)

Russian regions with the highest number of confirmed war dead in Ukraine

Per 100 thousand men between 18 to 45 years old: Buryatia, 46 men; Tyva, 44; North Ossetia, 40; Kostroma Region, 28; Altai, 25; Jewish Autonomous Region, 25; Pskov Region, 21; Dagestan, 19; Transbaikal Territory, 19; Orenburg Region, 18

In absolute numbers: Dagestan, 123 men; Buryatia, 91; Volgograd Region, 75; Orenburg Region, 64; North Ossetia, 52; Chelyabinsk Region, 49; Bashkortostan, 49; Saratov Region, 46; Krasnodar Territory, 44; Stavropol Territory, 43

Source: Istories, Telegram channel Goryushko

The deaths of young men in the war will eventually cause demographic problems for Russia: the birth rate will drop sharply, which means that the population will decrease. Demographer Alexei Raksha argues that in 2023 we may face the lowest number of births in the entire recent history of Russia.

Military service in Russia is an extremely low prestige job, but new people are constantly going into the army. Why?

What is the quality of life in the regions with the largest numbers of war dead in Ukraine?

Read the investigative report on our website.

Source: I(mportant)Stories, email newsletter, 4 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Most Russians are getting a distorted picture of what Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Even the use of the words “war” or “invasion” is prohibited and state-controlled TV does not acknowledge that Russian troops are attacking civilians. Russian soldiers aren’t allowed to call home from Ukraine, and the military authorities are tight-lipped, even when their soldiers are taken prisoner. So how can Russian families find out what’s become of their sons? Some search for help through a Ukrainian website, which posts pictures and videos of dead and captured Russian soldiers on the internet. Tim Whewell follows the stories of two Russian families – one from western Russia whose son was taken prisoner in the early days of the war. And one from the very far east whose family worry about how his frame of mind is holding up against the relentless onslaught of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

Source: BBC Radio 4, 3 May 2022

Vitaly Koltsov

Baza and Mediazona have reported that a man who threw a Molotov cocktail at a riot police bus was detained in downtown Moscow on the evening of May 2. They have published photos from the scene of the incident and the suspect’s arrest.

“A Molotov cocktail flew into a riot police vehicle in the center of Moscow. It all happened not far from the Karl Marx monument on Revolution Square — there are always several police buses there. A man threw a Molotov cocktail and it set fire to one of the paddy wagons. The vehicle was extinguished, and the thrower was detained.” Source: Baza, Telegram, 2 May 2022

A video made by an eyewitness, which Mediazona has at its disposal, made it clear that the front side of the vehicle was charred. The witness specified that the bus “burned for a couple of minutes” before it was extinguished.

The attacker’s motives are unknown, and there was no information about him at the time that the news went to press. In March, a court in Moscow sentenced to two years in prison an anti-war protester who threw a Molotov cocktail at the police: the container did not break, the liquid did not ignite.

Source: Radio Svoboda, 2 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Vitaly Koltsov

A Molotov cocktail thrown at a paddy wagon in Moscow turned out to be an anti-war protest by an alumnus of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Russian State University for the Humanities.

Before the protest, Vitaly Koltsov posted a poem about fiery hearts lighting up the darkness. The man went to throw a Molotov cocktail in the center of the capital dressed in a suit and carrying a suitcase.

“If the day is extinguished forever, / Our glory will not fade / Death is given only once, / Let’s choose it to our liking / So as to see, at the end, / The desert illuminated / By our fiery hearts / By the rising sun,” the man wrote before attacking the paddy wagon.

Vitaly Koltsov is the father of three children and a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He has been charged under Article 317 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (endangering the life of a law enforcement officer). He faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted.

Source: Astra, Telegram, 3 May 2022. Thanks to Marina Ken for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

This Is What You Wanted!

Dear Sir,

I’m sorry you did nothing with our message.
As you will have noticed, all Russians will be held accountable for the genocide of the Ukraine people.
We will destroy your economy and life in Russia will be set back 100 years.
Many more than the present almost 25,000 death Russian soldiers will be killed.
Russia will lose its youth.
Every Russian will be treated as a potential criminal.
This is what you wanted!

Free people in the World

Source: Email sent to avvakum (at) pm.me, 3 May 2022

Shot of a young woman using a smartphone and having coffee in the kitchen at home

I enraged this particular reader, apparently, by not “acting” on their previous letter, dated 4 March 2022, to wit:

Dear sir,

Please help to stop the genocide in Ukraine by Putin.
We know this is not the will of the ma[j]ority of the Russian people.
Ukrainian and Russian population are interrelated in many families. They should be brothers and sisters.
War should not be something of the 21st century.

In the last 30 years there was cooperation in Europe and more understanding. The Russian economy was helped by efforts of many investors, business owners and countries. By this a backlog in welfare has diminished.
The war started by Putin means that all the people in Russia will get poorer.
And travel abroad is made impossible. Nobody wants Russian people anymore.
Even if the killing is stopped. The committed war crimes and the grieve about lost ones will be in the memories for decades.
Everything you have build up in welfare, relations or future will be lost for a very long time.

Do something against the killing of civilians in Ukraine!
You are the ones that should and could do that!
What would you tell your children when they ask you why you tolerated this war?

Kind regards,

[Name withheld]