A dark, sombre mood filled the Moscow air on Thursday morning as Russians were coming to terms with the fact that their president had launched a broad military offensive targeting Ukraine.
“I am embarrassed for my country. To be honest with you, I am speechless. War is always scary. We don’t want this,” said Nikita Golubev, a 30-year old teacher.
“Why are we doing this?” he added, expressing a sentiment of anger and hopelessness that was shared by many commuting to work down central Arbat Street.
At the Ukrainian culture centre just down the road, the mood was even grimmer.
The Ukrainian administrator said the centre, which aims to promote the language, traditions and identity of a country Vladimir Putin denied the legitimacy of as a modern state in his speech on Monday, would be shut for the “coming period”.
“We are being bombed as we speak. Of course we are closed! Jesus, what is happening?” the administrator, who did not want to give his name, shouted.
Just a day earlier, Ukraine advised its estimated 3 million citizens living in Russia to leave the country immediately, throwing the lives of many Ukrainians in Moscow into disarray
There were already signs that Russians were uncomfortable with Putin’s initial decision to recognise the two self-proclaimed republics in Donbas.
On Tuesday, Yuri Dudt, one of Russia’s most popular media personalities, said he “did not vote for this regime” and its need for an empire and felt ashamed, in a post that received almost a million likes in 24 hours.
A fresh poll by the independent Levada Center released on Thursday showed that only 45% of Russians stood in favour of the recognition move that preceded Thursday morning’s dramatic events.
“I didn’t think Putin would be willing to go all the way. How can we bomb Ukraine? Our countries have their disagreements, but this is not a way to solve them,” said Muscovite Ksenia.
But outcries of anger were not only felt on the streets of Moscow, where the…