‘The war was a mistake, but losing it is unacceptable’

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, independent Russian news website Meduza has been analyzing — and refuting — the Russian military propaganda that tries to justify the war. But while Meduza finds Moscow’s talking points absurd and unconvincing, there’s no denying it: propaganda works. Even among their readers, there are people who continue to make excuses for the invasion. Meduza decided to hear what these people had to say: they asked them to explain why they support Russia waging war on Ukraine. These letters are a selection of the responses.

The letter 'Z' has become a symbol of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Image Wikimedia.

by Meduza


35 years old, Volgograd

'A war ends when one side wins. Russia’s defeat will mean national humiliation, which we cannot allow. Therefore, we must win — we no longer have a choice.

Ukraine isn’t looking for peace. They’re just asking for more weapons and shelling Russian cities. Too much blood has been spilled for us to just say, “Thanks everyone, time to go our separate ways.”


24 years old, Yakutsk

'[Meduza’s] question [about why some readers support the war] is actually wrongly put. I don’t support the war, but I also don’t want Russia to lose. If that happens, it will be worse for everybody, and there’s no doubt the world we’re used to will collapse — and an even greater darkness will come. The war was a mistake, but losing it is unacceptable.'


30 years old, Germany

'I don’t support the war, but I decided to write a response, because people who try to find justifications for the war are being equated with those who support it.

I’m angry at both sides of the conflict. I’m angry at Russia because it started a stupid, bloodthirsty war that leads to senseless killing every day. I’m angry at the countries that support Ukraine because they’re not insisting on an immediate cessation of hostilities, on an end to the senseless killing. Instead, they’re supplying the country with weapons, understanding all the while that it’s only increasing the number of victims.'


38 years old, city not specified

'I don’t support the war. But unfortunately, the very existence of my Motherland (Russia) is at stake. I don’t want to see the collapse, the destruction of my country. I do have questions for the instigators of the special military operation [the Kremlin’s official euphemism for the war against Ukraine, ed.]. But first we need to solve the existential issue.'

An apartment building in the city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, destroyed by a Russian attack on May 23rd. Image Twitter, Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.


38 years old, city not specified

'The only thing worse than a war is a lost war. Starting it was an insane mistake, but now we have to win it; otherwise we’ll be in the position of vae victis. I don’t support Putin — damn him.'


35 years old, Moscow

'At first, I consistently opposed the war. But over time, I got tired of what was happening, of the constant fear for myself and my friends, of the fact that I could be called up [to the front] if I opposed the war, and of the foreign media writing that Russians need to do something about the current regime and the war.

I also realized that if Russia doesn’t find a way to get out of this situation without losing face or losing on the global stage, life in Russia will get drastically worse. There are a number of examples in world history that indicate this (such as Germany).

Nevertheless, war is always bad, and it doesn’t bringing anything but blood, death, and crippled fates. The decision to wage it was a mistake, that’s a fact, but now the situation has reached a stage where losing isn’t an option.'


27 years old, city not specified

'[I support the war] because in my view, the “peace plan” presented by Zelensky and supported by the “collective West” is highly likely to do so much damage to Russia that we can’t be sure it would survive. And I’m keenly aware that my well-being, my safety, and my life prospects would worsen significantly more [in that case] than if the Russian army manages to do enough damage to Ukraine that the final peace deal is more of a compromise.'


36 years old, Tyumen

'I don’t support the war in the “Z” sense. What’s more, I lost my fucking mind on February 24, [2022]. But as a resident of Russia, I believe that while sending troops into Ukraine was a mistake, withdrawing them would be a crime. I have no intention of paying reparations for the mistakes of others for the next 20 years. Nobody listens to the losing side.

I have no intention of paying reparations for the mistakes of others

I’m not going to take up arms. You could say I’m an observer who doesn’t support Ukraine. I went there dozens of times before the Maidan, and I’m aware of how the mood and the laws have changed there. If a European state is being built there, then it’s similar to Francoist Spain or Salazar's Portugal, no different from Putin’s Russia.'


28 years old, St. Petersburg

'At first, my view [of the war in Ukraine] was negative, like my view of all armed conflicts. But over time, as I saw the amount of hatred for Russia and Russians, the joy at the explosion of the Crimean Bridge, and the West’s active arming of Ukraine, I started to realize that Russophobia and other things that I used to think were just stupid propaganda are not all lies. War always brings sorrow, but sometimes unpopular decisions are the right ones.'

 krimbrug explosieStill from a video of the Crimea Bridge explosion, in October 2022. Image Twitter.


27 years old, Austria

'In my view, the Western point of view isn’t quite correct; I agree with Putin’s idea about a unipolar world with double standards. I believe the West rocked the boat itself and then made Russia’s government responsible for the aftermath. In addition, the constant financial support and pumping of weapons into Ukraine makes the Ukrainian regime continue the war rather than entering negotiations.'


40 years old, Berlin

'What I support first and foremost is not the war but the Russian people and Russia’s interests. At first, I was strongly opposed to it, but as things have developed, I’ve changed my view.

I’ve lived in Germany for 20 years and have never seen so much propaganda. Western politicians and media have taken an absolutely one-sided stance: Russia is the aggressor and Ukraine is a heroic state. Anyone who subscribes to a different view is pushed out of the information space and “canceled.”

The countries of Western Europe have shown themselves to be completely weak-willed and are doing the bidding of the U.S. Ukraine is being directly controlled by the Americans. This conflict fully proves that there are no independent countries in Western Europe and that there are practically none left in Eastern Europe.' 


31 years old, Moscow

'Well, what options do we have, guys? The war has already begun, there’s no turning back. Given the circumstances, I’m not ready to leave; I don’t want to feel like a migrant worker, even an educated one (I’m a programmer). I love Russia and Moscow has always been the most comfortable place for me. How can I oppose it now, when everyone understands perfectly well what’s going to happen if the current regime loses?

'The war has already begun, there’s no turning back'

It’s too late to turn back. Let them fight as long as there’s mutual interest, and after the regime change (which is inevitable), we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, what happened, what the reasons for it were, and whether it was worth it are all pointless judgements to make right now. For what it’s worth, I opposed the war from the very start. But now I’m against the radical “libtards”, Western hypocrisy, and everything that continues to feed this war.'


27 years old, Perm

'I support the actions of my president and my country. Yes, I didn’t initially understand the purpose of this whole “operation,” but after some time, I saw the Russophobic statements from both the European Union and the U.S. Anyone with critical thinking skills and a modicum of intelligence understands: Russia is not a “terrorist state,” we’re just protecting our interests and our sovereignty. So I, like the majority of Russian citizens, fully support the special military operation, and if it becomes necessary for me to go fight, I’ll do it.'


28 years old, Kazan

'I don’t support the war, but I don’t judge Russia for it either. I believe that by starting the war, Russia showed the weakness of its diplomacy and its inability to negotiate with its neighbors. But I also don’t support the view of those who say Russia is practically the same as Nazi Germany.

First of all, Ukraine had a choice: it could have come to an agreement with us in the first days of the war, before things had gone too far, and met our demands. It would have lost territory, but it would have saved itself as a state. Is territory really more important than human life? So Ukraine is also partially at fault for the lives of those who have died. I’m confident that the lives of the people who lived on the territories that would have gone to Russia would not have gotten any worse. In some cases, it may have even gotten better.'


34 years old, Saratov

'The Minsk agreements were a formality; Russia wasn’t able to implement them unilaterally. The West cynically admitted later on that it was just preparing Ukraine for war.

Nobody was stopping Ukraine from negotiating with the [self-proclaimed, and later annexed] Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics and giving them autonomy. Instead, Ukraine bombed its own cities.

The war in Ukraine can be regarded as the solving of the national question that was postponed after the collapse of the USSR. Nobody was stopping Ukraine from developing Crimea [before its annexation] either. They only remembered that Crimea was Ukrainian after they lost it. An overwhelming majority of Ukraine’s population honestly voted to join Russia.

Ukraine didn’t want to negotiate with Russia. Zelensky took the wrong position when he believed the West’s promises. In the end, Ukraine’s cities were destroyed, its economy is collapsing, and millions of people have left the country.'


28 years old, Moscow

'Despite the fact that our government is corrupt and ineffective, Ukraine poses a danger to our southern border. If we don’t have the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, we’ll lose influence over the Black Sea and the Caucasus. From 2014 to 2022, all Ukrainian governments explicitly stated that they’d get Crimea and their eastern territories back by force or by diplomacy. That’s a direct threat.

[For comparison:] any European or U.S. country would use force without a second thought if it sensed a threat from its neighbors. I consider their current rhetoric to be a policy of double standards.'

dnipro shellingA house in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, that was hit by Russian shelling on June 3rd. Image Twitter, Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.


24 years old, Moscow

'I don’t support the idea of starting a war, but I also don’t support the idea of ending it right now. My feeling is that nobody in the world right now is trying to offer Russians any decent alternative to what Putin is offering. The authorities don’t touch Russians who are studying or doing something related to defense, so surviving the war under this government is possible.

Meanwhile, the only ideas I’ve heard from abroad have involved Russia having a bleak future or simply involved our dehumanization. So it’s better to be with my compatriots that to count on the good will of someone like [Volodymyr Zelensky's communications adviser Mykhailo] Podolyak or an American official making money off the war.'


30 years old, Astana (Kazakhstan)

'For a little over a year, the people I previously considered moral authorities have turned into traitors (who wish harm on citizens of their own country and call for sanctions and don’t try to get them removed), disgraces (they propose that soldiers surrender and blame themselves), weaklings, and liars.

Still now, I think Russia got drawn into this war in vain, very much so. But the method of getting out being proposed by the politicians who I used to trust is shameful, painful, humiliating, and dishonest. It’s better to wait for the people who will replace Putin: Russia is full of smart people.

As far as spending the next three lifetimes repenting, giving up our nuclear weapons, and paying reparations thanks but no thanks. I hope the war will end soon and that as few people will die in it as possible — primarily Russian citizens, but also citizens of Ukraine.'

This article was first published by Meduza.

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