The war returned to impose its standards and laws that have long defined the features and faces of societies wherever they are and whenever they are confronted.
Russia and Ukraine were no exception to this rule. What we are witnessing today in Russia of hustle and bustle at all levels, and what creeps in from them, whether in the form of opposition movements, or what is closer to a collective escape, is also not an exception.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that in Russia, during the years of the last century, no one was able to inflict military defeat on Russia from outside even if many succeeded in provoking a lot of trouble and unrest aimed at undermining society from within.
It is not understandable that the former Soviet Union witnessed shocks since the mid-1980s, which practically ended with its downfall, and the ensuing confusions that almost toppled all of Russia in the 1990s.
These are stations in the history of Russia, each of which has its own features that vary as much as the circumstances and requirements of the stage, including what it witnessed during recent years, which derive its beginnings from the initial outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis in February 2014 and the subsequent series of sanctions and pressures against Russia.
Despite their severity, they did not lose much of their stability. Here is a new station whose features seem more severe than its counterparts in the recent past, and the “devastating” effects and consequences related to it in some aspects.
It was expected that in light of the restrictions that are increasing day by day since the outbreak of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, many foreign websites and electronic networks will be subject to blocking and liquidation decisions.
Therefore, it was not surprising that the Russian Federal Service for Oversight, Information Technology and Media rushed, and in contrast to the interests and desires of millions of Russian citizens and guests, to block Facebook sites as of March 4, 2022.
Sources of the Russian Federal Service for Oversight, Information Technology and Media say that they had earlier requested Meta that owns Facebook to remove the restrictions that prevent access to the sites of the Russian channel Russia Today and Sputnik on social networks, after they were imposed in Europe, which was not responded to.
This came at a time of the closure of a number of radio stations and television channels, including Radio Echo of Moscow amid many internal disputes for the stars of the Russian media scene, whose struggles and verbal battles intensified against a background that varied between support and opposition to President Putin's decisions.
Among these differences, there is something close to settling personal accounts that intertwine so that the public mingles with the private. But the most exciting thing in this regard is the conflict that rages between the poles of the media scene, most of whom belong to the Jewish sect, with which the old Arab saying “In their disagreement there is mercy” is true.
It is also an additional source of clarification and exposing hidden information. Among them is Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy which announced the end of its activity in Moscow after a period of widespread reach for more than 30 years.
The Ukrainian-Jewish journalist Dmitry Gordon and other well-known faces have long dominated various talk shows as well as news and even cultural and artistic events in each of the two countries.
If media professionals and men of culture and arts make up the cultural scene in Russia and Ukraine today, the disputes that raged between them have become an entertaining material filled with many elements of excitement as well as a source not only for amateurs who follow artistic ideas, but perhaps also for the relevant agencies, whether political, financial, security and intelligence.
This is at a time when these people split into what is closer to the two opposing sides due to the fall of a number of symbols of art, culture, and media into the trap of siding with the Western point of view even if there seemed to be a consensus on the necessity of stopping the war and moving towards settling the situation through diplomatic and political methods. This is what Russian official sources and decision makers in the Kremlin do not reject, provided that there is response to the proposals and fears that Moscow puts forward.
It is worth noting that what is happening today was witnessed by Russia nearly eight years ago, in March 2014, when Putin made his decision to annex Crimea based on the results of a popular referendum in which the overwhelming majority said to unilaterally separate from Ukraine and join Russia similar to previous referendums that took place in the 1990s. We note that some Russian artists expressed their objection to the annexation of Crimea, although the number at that time was very small, in addition to the fact that the famous of them were not of significant weight in the Russian art scene.
In response to the opposing voices and the movements that the Russian street is witnessing, we are reminded in this regard of what was previously said by Vyacheslav Volodin, the Speaker of the Duma, who declared his “well-known” saying in a closed meeting of the International Forum. “There is Putin. There is Russia and if there is no Putin, there is no Russia,” which was quoted by others as saying “Russia is Putin and Putin is Russia.”
Therefore, it was not surprising that Volodin and also from his position as Speaker of the Duma, returned to the same meaning when discussing changes to the Russian Constitution, which would ensure that Putin would remain in power until 2036.
At that time, Volodin surprised his listeners by developing what he had previously said about the link between Russia's presence and Putin," by saying: "Russia's wealth is not oil and gas, Putin is the (real) wealth of Russia!"
On a related level, many people in Russia stop at attempts to revive many of the traditions of the Soviet past, which has long witnessed the inculcation of many ideals of patriotism in the hearts of young people since childhood during the years of the former Soviet Union.
This is what many schools in many Russian regions and districts have recorded in dedicating lessons in which young children record their attitudes towards the heroism of the young people participating in the war, through letters “To the Unknown Soldier” by name and with a well-known stance and heroism.
In these letters, they express their admiration for his bravery and their hopes he returns home as a hero crowned with laurel wreaths after achieving victory, along with the symbolic gifts they send.
This is similar to what was previously recorded by parents and grandparents during the years of the Great Patriotic War, which is the name given by the Soviet leadership to World War II.
Against the backdrop of the youngsters' positions, official circles record what they described as the low behavior of many adults who tried to register their objections and protests against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
From this perspective and commenting on these behaviors and attitudes, including the flight of some artists and symbols of Russian culture abroad, Duma Speaker Volodin returned to developing his aphorisms, expressing a new position he wanted to legally document by issuing a decree from the Duma to punish every artist who takes an opposite position on Putin's policies.
Commenting on the flight of a number of artists and cultural icons abroad, and their declaration of their opposition to what they described as the invasion of Ukraine, Volodin says on his Telegram page that each of them should make his own decision regarding the events in Ukraine and determine their positions on sanctions against Russia.
“Today: The moment of truth. Everyone must understand: Either we will rally around the country and overcome challenges, or we will lose ourselves," he stated. “In this regard, it would be right for all fans of foreign approaches and standards, including directors, actors, technicians, working in show business in Russia, to decide on a clear stance on the situation in Ukraine.”
In this regard, Volodin referred to the mayor of Munich's decision to dismiss the international Russian musician and maestro Valery Gergiev, conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, from his post because he "did not specify his position on the situation in Ukraine."
Volodin drew attention to the statements made by representatives of artistic circles and cultural figures, who he said had achieved, thanks to state television channels, a lot of fame and money.
This in essence seems closer to the content of what the authorities of European countries requested from Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, about the need to define his position. Russia is doing a "special military operation", following the recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Volodin suggested stripping all those who object to Moscow's policies and official positions, of all the rewards and privileges that were conferred on them.
In this regard, we will stop to refer to the strange and controversial "decision" taken by Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia Today channels, who jumped from a mere reporter for one of the state television channels, to the position of editor-in-chief of the largest network of state-oriented channels in the history of Russia. She was not over twenty-five, which at the time aroused a lot of astonishment, filled with untold condemnation.
She decided to celebrate President Putin's decision to start the military operation in Ukraine, by announcing her official marriage contract, after she was in a relationship with her current husband for more than ten years and gave birth to their children. It is also strange that she took advantage of the most official Russian news channels to announce the "auspicious marriage registration".
Similarly odd is the escape of the famous Russian singer Alla Pugacheva, who is over seventy years old and is known to be addicted to marrying men decades younger than her. Pugacheva and her young husband, Maxim Galkin, quickly fled abroad without announcing their destination with their two children although Galkin pre-empted the flight by writing on his social media page, "There is no justification for this war." It is worth noting that Pugacheva was the last artist to whom former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev bestowed the title of "People's Artist of the Soviet Union" a few days before his fall, at the insistence of her, as was said at the time.
With Pugacheva, not a small number of famous people in the media and art scene also rushed to leave Russia, including Russian anchor Ksenia Sobchak, who until recently enjoyed personal patronage on the part of President Putin, in honor of the memory of his teacher, former mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak who was the first to introduce Putin to "big politics." In recent years, Sobchak has been publicly criticizing Putin's policies through her television programs, whether through opposition channels or via YouTube. Rather, it was against the list of opposition candidates who fought in the last presidential election in 2018, rivals to Putin, and won an advanced position on the list of losers. However, there are statements from Sobchak saying that she did not flee from Russia and that her trip abroad was due to the desire to spend her son's school holiday outside the country.
Russia had witnessed a number of limited moves declaring opposition to the continuation of the war, under slogans, some of which exceeded the limits of the "common". That required the reaction of the concerned security services, including what was revealed by a number of members of the Federation Council and the Duma in their criticism of such opposition visions.
They announced their condemnation of the opposition’s double standards that have long ignored the practices of NATO and its bombing of the Balkans in the nineties of the last century, while it is now rising to condemn the Russian military operation in Ukraine. Hence, the Federation Council and the Duma have labeled cultural figures opposing the operation in Ukraine as traitors, at a time when they do not have the courage to refuse the material and moral privileges they receive, according to some deputies of the Federation Council and Duma.
Perhaps all of this could be an explanation for the call by Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s official spokesman, to rally around President Putin. He pointed out at the same time that there are many in Russian cultural circles who support Russia’s actions in Ukraine, although he also pointed to those who misunderstand the essence of what happens.
Peskov emphasized: "Yes, in fact, there are heated debates between representatives of culture. There are many of those who support the president, sincerely support the president ... Now is the time for all of us to unite and be together. Of course, let's unite and rally around our president.”
This came as an indirect response to the call of US Senator Lindsey Graham, a congressman from South Carolina 17 years ago, to "kill President Putin, in a perfidious manner as they assassinated the famous Caesar of Rome, Julius Caesar, on March 15, 44 BC."
This is what Kremlin spokesman Peskov commented: “It is very difficult to find words. Of course, these days not everyone manages to maintain a sober mind. I would even say a sound one. Therefore, unfortunately, not many can in such a very tense atmosphere maintain their mental integrity.”
As for the Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, he was satisfied with saying: "Graham's statement is unacceptable," noting at the same time that "The US fear of Russia and hatred to Russians have gone beyond their usual range."
He added, "It is impossible to believe that a senator preaches his moral values as a guide for all humanity and can call for terrorism and murder as a way to achieve Washington's goals on the international scene."
At a time when all this news, which is characterized in large part by being "absurd" and "unreasonable", recurs, many in the Russian arena stop at the hesitation of the Ukrainian leadership and what mars the credibility of its statements about its desire to negotiate.
That was represented in Ukraine’s many delays regarding the rounds. The three rounds of talks, which took place with the Russian side in Belarus, only resulted in reaching relative solutions regarding the provision of safe corridors for the exit of civilians, according to statements by many officials in Moscow.
This is what prompts many people to cling to the results of officials’ talks while looking at the repeated offers of Ukrainian President Zelensky to his Russian counterpart Putin to negotiate. Zelensky had announced that the only way to resolve the current conflict between his country and Russia lies in a direct dialogue with Russian President Putin and to reach "compromise solutions." In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, Zelensky replied to questions about the possibility of recognizing the Donetsk and Lugansk republics and Crimea’s affiliation with Russia. He said, “The question is not what I can do. In any talks, my goal is to end the war with the Russian Federation. And for that I am ready for certain steps, ready for negotiations and ready for compromise. But it cannot be a betrayal of my people. The other side must also be ready for compromise.”
Zelensky added: "This is the only way out of this situation for us. It is very difficult and premature to talk about details. So far, there has been no contact between the two presidents, and this war can only be ended through direct negotiations between the two presidents."
This is what senior diplomats in the Russian capital commented with a lot of irony, given the recent discussions between the Russians and Ukrainians in Belarus over the past few days, which indicated the attempts of the Ukrainian side at gaining time, pending possible reactions from the parties that the Ukrainian leadership counts on their aid.