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Updated Dec 8, 2023, 7:20am EST
Europe
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Why the West’s sanctions on Moscow aren’t harming ordinary Russians

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
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Russian citizens say they are living relatively normal lives despite the imposition of worldwide sanctions following the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to a new poll.

A Gallup survey found that 56% of Russian respondents believe their local economies are improving, while 46% agree that living standards are also improving — a record since the poll began in 2006.

The upbeat sentiment comes as Western countries are losing the motivation to continue supporting Ukraine’s defense efforts, with many analysts now saying that Russia has the upper hand in the war.

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Most Russians feel that war efforts are benefiting them, according to a survey. The Gallup poll found that Russians’ perception of stability has remained constant, with only one in five respondents saying they felt stressed, sad, or angry, compared to 36% of Ukrainians. Seventy-five percent of the Russians polled said they were satisfied with their personal freedoms, with that figure only rising since the start of the war. But not all data is as optimistic: the percentage of Russians who said they were satisfied with their living standards fell 8% compared to last year, and there was also a rise in those who said they struggled to find food at times, according to Gallup.

The majority of Russians remain apathetic toward President Vladimir Putin’s offensive, according to another analysis, but believe opposing the war would mean the West destroying Russia. Moscow’s swift intervention following global sanctions saved the country from total economic collapse, and the population has “adapted” to new conditions not drastically different compared to before the war, found a paper by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Some in Putin’s most vital support base — chiefly public sector workers and those reliant on government handouts — have even seen their wealth grow, as Moscow grants large-scale social payouts and salary increases. Most Russians know the war will not end anytime soon, but “prefer to concentrate instead on their own lives,” the authors wrote.

Sympathy for Ukraine has been “diluted and replaced” with victims of the Israel-Gaza war, geopolitics expert Samir Puri told Australian public broadcaster ABC News. And if U.S. lawmakers succeed in reducing military aid for Kyiv — as many Republicans want — history shows this could lead to a bleak future for Ukraine, with Puri drawing parallels with the slow military withdrawals from Vietnam and Afghanistan. Yet a sudden Ukrainian collapse is still unlikely, Puri believes, as NATO would “very directly bear the brunt.” And while Russia’s ambition at the start of the war was to force a change of political leadership in Kyiv, Moscow could now be hoping simply to annex some of Ukraine’s eastern provinces — with the debate as to whether Russian still wants to “go all the way and capture Kyiv” as yet unresolved.

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