Every war has two sides
A long history together
The All-Russia Nation
'Denazification'
The Great Patriotic War continues on
The Azov Battalion
A controversial symbol
Soviet nostalgia
The so-called end of history
Back in the USSR
NATO provocations
Enemy at the gates?
Cuban missile crisis parallels
If Kennedy felt threatened, why not Putin?
Putin's Rasputin
The Euroasian empire
The battle between good and evil
Holy War
Bothsidesism
Conspiracy theories
'The West wants to carve up Russia’s territory'
'NATO has turned Ukraine into a military camp'
'The opposition wants to destroy Russia from within'
'The global LGBTQ movement is a plot against Russia'
'Ukraine is preparing bioweapons to use against Russia'
What do Russians think about this?
Everybody loves Putin (in Russia)
The D-word
Unfair
'Insane war'
A very expensive Instagram post
Propaganda
Understanding the other
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Every war has two sides

Every war has at least two sides. The coming from the West seems clear enough: To defend Ukraine as a sovereign state after being attacked by an autocratic regime. However, what are the arguments of Vladimir Putin and the Russian population that supports him?

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A long history together

One can't deny that Russia and Ukraine share strong historical and cultural bonds. Both modern-day countries have a long history together, technically forming part of the same polity on several occasions such as the Kievan Rus', the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union.

Image: Nico Smit / Unsplash

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The All-Russia Nation

With Ukraine becoming independent in 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country has drifted closer to Europe. This is tantamount to treason for Putin and Conservative Russians, that have always seen Ukraine and Russia being part of a whole.

Picture: Demonstrations in Kyiv in 1990.

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'Denazification'

Hours before the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his reasons to declare war on Ukraine as part of a process of "demilitarization and denazification".

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The Great Patriotic War continues on

During the broadcast, Putin evoked several times the Second World War as a point of reference for the current special military operation: The invasion of Ukraine would continue the Great Patriotic War against Hitler and fascism.

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The Azov Battalion

One of the salient points among those who accuse the Ukrainian government of having connections with dangerous extremist groups is the existence of the Azov Battalion. This neo-Nazi volunteer militia from Mariupol has been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard and receives funding from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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A controversial symbol

The Nazi influence of the Azov Battalion, which started out as a group of football ultras of the FC Metalist Kharkiv, can be seen on its emblem. It shows a 'Wolfsangel', a rune-like symbol that was used extensively by several military units of Nazi Germany and by neo-Nazi groups around the globe.

Pictured: Members of the Azov Battalion pose with the unit's former flag.

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Soviet nostalgia

Nostalgia for the old Soviet Empire also plays a role in the military actions Russia has had in Ukraine, but also in other regions such as Chechnya.

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The so-called end of history

The loss of power and relevancy that brought the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been a generalized trauma affecting the Russian people, particularly in comparison to the turbulent years that followed.

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Back in the USSR

As Cold War scholar James Hershberg argued in a piece for Foreign Policy, Putin regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as “a genuine tragedy” and “the greatest political catastrophe” of the 20th century.

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NATO provocations

Another argument by Putin and by those who put into question The West's response to Russia has been the strategy taken by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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Enemy at the gates?

NATO would allegedly be trying to bring Ukraine into the fold despite Russia's protests, which doesn't want to have military bases from a potential enemy on its borders.

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Cuban missile crisis parallels

Some have compared Putin's special military operations in Ukraine to 1962 when the United States almost went to war due with the Soviet Union due to the presence of nuclear missiles in Cuba, within short range of US soil. The missiles were eventually removed.

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If Kennedy felt threatened, why not Putin?

People following this train of thought ask: If Kennedy felt that US security was at risk and managed that Khrushchev removed the missiles from Cuba, why can't Putin demand NATO to back off from Ukraine? Although, after the invasion started, Ukraine stated that it would not take part in the alliance.

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Putin's Rasputin

Others see in Putin's policy an expansionist drive that could be on the ideas of Aleksandr Dugin, an ultranationalist thinker that has been described by the BBC as “Putin's Rasputin”.

Image: Fars Media Corporation, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87159921

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The Euroasian empire

Dugin supports the creation of a Eurasian empire far beyond Russia's borders as a counterweight to the United States. His proposal? A bloc of nations united by statism and Christian (and anti-LGBT) values that spread “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.

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The battle between good and evil

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, has also justified the Ukrainian invasion as a war “against the evil” of perverted Western values. The patriarch singled out “gay pride” among them.

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Holy War

CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher writes that Kirill considers Russia's invasion of Ukraine as “a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power”. In other words, The West.

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Bothsidesism

Another argument that has been criticized as 'pro-Russian' is framing an equivalence between the alleged war crimes done by Russian troops, like the civilian deaths in Bucha, to actions perpetrated by the Ukrainians. Videos showing executing captured Russian soldiers, for instance.

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Conspiracy theories

In an opinion piece published by The New York Times, Russian media historian Ilya Yablokov pinpoints five conspiracy theories promoted by Putin and the Russian government to justify the war in Ukraine.

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'The West wants to carve up Russia’s territory'

The first of the five theories enumerated by Yablokov is that “The West wants to carve up Russia’s territory”. The article cites Putin and his belief that “everyone” wants a piece of Russia.

Image: Egor Filin / Unsplash

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'NATO has turned Ukraine into a military camp'

Yablokov argues that the idea that “NATO has turned Ukraine into a military camp” has become a useful bogeyman to move Russian voters towards Putin.

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'The opposition wants to destroy Russia from within'

Another useful bogeyman? The Russian opposition, led by figures such as Alexei Navalny, who is currently in prison. The New York Times opinion piece couldn't be clearer with its third conspiracy theory: “The opposition wants to destroy Russia from within — and is backed by the West”.

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'The global LGBTQ movement is a plot against Russia'

'The global LGBTQ movement is a plot against Russia' is, according to Yaboklov, another way to sum up one of the most divisive points exploited by The Kremlin against The West. Putin claims he's only defending the traditional Christian values of the Russian people.

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'Ukraine is preparing bioweapons to use against Russia'

The fifth and final theory goes beyond the realm of rhetoric to become a very serious accusation: “Ukraine is preparing bioweapons to use against Russia”. Even Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shared this canard to heat up the ongoing conflict.

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What do Russians think about this?

All these previously mentioned theories and arguments are constantly shared by the monolithic Russian media. Does this mean the Russian population supports the war? From the people who exhibit the Z in support of Putin to those in jail for protesting the invasion, it's hard to tell.

Image: Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash

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Everybody loves Putin (in Russia)

It's often said that polls have never shown Putin's approval dropping below 60%, The Ukrainian invasion is no exception, with Forbes showing in late March support of 83% of the Russian population.

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The D-word

Putin's supporters argue that it would be difficult to label him a dictator with so many Russians backing him, particularly during election times.

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Unfair

However, it's important to point out that the Russian opposition during those elections hardly has the same opportunities to run and manage a campaign as the pro-government camp.

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'Insane war'

Nonetheles, not everyone agrees with these numbers. Russian oligarch Oleg Tinkov launched into a tirade on Instagram that was covered by the BBC and other news outlets. Tinkov claimed that 90% of Russians are against the “insane war” and that “there are about 10% idiots in all countries”.

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A very expensive Instagram post

Tinkov said afterward that he was forced to sell 35% of his stake in TCS Group Holdings, which owns Tinkoff Bank to a close Putin ally under threats of nationalization. The banker is currently hiding, claiming he's afraid of being assassinated.

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Propaganda

One should always assume that, during wartime, there's propaganda and misinformation coming from both sides. Acknowledging the motives of the other side can be important.

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Understanding the other

Although their arguments might not convince us, understanding the other can be useful. Who knows, it makes help to make way for the ultimate goal: peace, free from any violence.

Image: Christian Wiediger / Unsplash

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