As a result of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, numerous sanctions from Western countries have been piling up and have placed immense and unprecedented strain on the country. As Ukraine continues to be battered by Russian forces and as Western countries increase punishments, ordinary Russians have been questioning their government’s decision.
Russia found half of its assets frozen over the weekend after the invasion, and the ruble, Russia’s currency, fell drastically rendering it nearly worthless and at a record low. The sanctions are the beginning of what experts are calling a banking and economic crisis for Russia. Some Russians have even begun fleeing Russia over economic concerns and over rumors that Putin may impose martial law. Trains to Finland have been full or nearly full in recent days and a constant stream of cars have crossed the border, according to the BBC. Martial law was imposed in Ukraine at the beginning of the invasion, resulting in all men ages 18-60 being banned from leaving the country.
Protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and numerous other cities across the country have led to over 5,000 arrests since the invasion began, according to Reuters. February 27 found more than 2,000 people arrested on that day alone. Although the crowds are small compared to the massive protests across Europe, including over 100,000 in Berlin on February 27, the significance of so many Russians speaking out in such a public manner has not been lost due to the swift and severe police response to protests in Russia.
Russian oligarchs have also found themselves opposing Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Some Russian billionaires, including billionaire Evgeny Lebedev, have spoken out against the move, a highly unusual departure from some of Putin’s closest allies. Many Russian celebrities have spoken out against the invasion, including prominent Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev, who is currently ranked number one in the world. However many Russian celebrities have had to either be careful with what they said or remain silent out of fear of being censored or having their careers ended.
Some of these sanctions have also directly attacked Russian oligarchs as well. German and French authorities are among those who have seized the superyachts of Russian billionaires after sanctions had been placed on Russia. Oligarch Roman Abramovich announced plans to sell his famous Chelsea Football Club over the fear of sanctions.
Ukrainian President Zelensky has been seen by many as the face of Ukrainian resistance and resilience in the face of these attacks. In response to the many across Europe and the world protesting in support of Ukraine, Zelensky said, “Do not be silent. Support Ukraine. Because if Ukraine does not survive, the whole of Europe will not survive. If Ukraine falls, the whole of Europe will fall.” Zelensky has remained in Kyiv and his family has remained in Ukraine, despite facing great personal danger. The United States had offered to help Zelensky flee, but he refused, instead asking for greater supplies and aid. Zelensky is also calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to offer greater protection and is asking to join the European Union, effective immediately.
The United States has continued to send more aid to Ukraine while condemning Russia’s actions and adding in additional sanctions. Many American and Western corporations are also cracking down on Russia financially. Microsoft, IBM, Boening, Visa, Disney and others have all left Russia or scaled back operations in a major way since the invasion. Energy companies such as BP, Exxon and Shell have also been crucial to leave Russia, cracking down on one of Russia’s main industries. These, along with sanctions from many other countries, continue to debilitate Russia’s economy.