Mounting Casualties Force Russians to Assess the Costs of War

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But for soldiers’ families, the state’s propaganda continues to carry influence. Mr. Chernykh, whose son grew up in a small town in Siberia and died thousands of miles west, near the Ukrainian town of Konotop, said he did not watch television news. Yet, he said Russia was fighting Nazis and was being supplied by the United States, and he dismissed the idea that his country’s army could be responsible for the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine.

“I know the Russian spirit and I know that Russians do not shoot at civilians,” Mr. Chernykh, an engineer, said in a phone interview from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. “Only Nazis could do that.”

In another Siberian city, Khanty-Mansiysk, a 38-year-old woman named Alina — she asked her last name be withheld out of fear of repercussions — also said she believed that her brother, a lieutenant colonel, had perished fighting Nazism.

Through tears, she said that a small group of Nazis in Ukraine was causing misery by encouraging the mistreatment of ethnic Russians. It was all an echo of World War II, she said, when some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis — a story line propagated at length on Russian television.

“This is a repeat of what happened before,” she said. “This is a repeat of this history.”

For many others, there is the feeling of being at the mercy of events beyond their control. In North Ossetia, Marina Kulumbegova, 25, has been avoiding watching the news. Her father, Robert Kulumbegov, 47, left for eastern Ukraine on the first day of the war to deliver supplies to Russian troops, then stayed to fight, she said, “because there were boys there who were my brother’s age” — 23.

“The only people who know what’s really happening there are the guys who are fighting there,” she said in a phone interview from the city of Vladikavkaz. “To talk about it, to say your opinion on it, has absolutely no use.”



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