Putin’s War Ushers In Crisis for Russia

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin has ushered in a crisis for his country — in its economy and identity.

The Kremlin is hiding the reality of the country’s attack on Ukraine from its own people, even cracking down on news outlets that call it a “war.”

But the economic carnage and societal turmoil wrought by Mr. Putin’s invasion is becoming increasingly difficult to obscure.

Airlines canceled once-ubiquitous flights to Europe. The Central Bank scrambled to deliver ruble bills as the demand for cash spiked 58-fold. Economists warned of more inflation, greater capital flight and slower growth; and the S&P credit rating agency downgraded Russia to “junk” status.

The emphasis on hiding the war’s true extent was a sign that the Kremlin fears that Russians would disapprove of a violent, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a country where many millions of Russians have relatives and friends.

Even so, more public figures with ties to the state spoke out against the war, including a lawmaker in Russia’s rubber-stamp Parliament. Business owners tried to assess the consequences of an economic crisis that appeared already to be beginning, even before sanctions were fully in place.

Shopping at a luxury department store in Moscow on Saturday.
Shopping at a luxury department store in Moscow on Saturday.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Facing the greatest test yet of its reality-distorting prowess, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine for the moment appeared to be keeping widespread opposition to the war in check. There were no signs that the war could undermine Mr. Putin’s hold on power, and in the event of a speedy victory, analysts noted, it could end up strengthening it.

But the enormous risks of the war, along with the economic pressure the country was suddenly under, have created a new and more treacherous reality for both the Kremlin and Russia’s 145 million people.

Russians have been stunned at how quickly the economic impact of the war was being felt. The ruble hit its lowest level ever against the dollar, which traded at about 84 rubles on Saturday compared to 74 a few weeks ago. That sent prices for imports surging, while sanctions on Russia’s largest banks wreaked havoc in the financial markets and new export restrictions promised to scramble supply chains.

On the Ground: Ukraine Under Attack

“Those who shout that Putin is great and bravo to him are no longer shouting as loud,” said Lalya Sadykova, the owner of a chain of beauty salons in St. Petersburg. “They’re in shock from what is happening, from how quickly prices are changing and how suppliers are stopping deliveries.”

The chief executive of one of Russia’s biggest electronics retailers, DNS, said on Thursday that a supply crunch had forced his chain to raise prices some 30 percent. Days earlier, the chief executive, Dmitri Alekseyev, had posted on Facebook: “For the life of me I can’t understand why Russia needs a war.”

“I understand that the prices in stores provoke frustration,” Mr. Alekseyev wrote. “But that’s the reality.”

The Ukrainian military on Friday in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military on Friday in Kharkiv, Ukraine.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

S7, Russia’s second-largest airline, suspended all of its flights to Europe because of airspace closures to Russian companies, an early sign that the cheap and easy travel to the West that middle-class Russians had grown used to could become a thing of the past. Photos of retailers changing or removing their price tags went viral on social media.

“We’re all waiting for what happens next,” said Anastasia Baranova, describing a wave of cancellations on Friday at the hotel she runs in St. Petersburg. “It’s as though the whole country is on pause.”

The Kremlin rushed to maintain its narrative, signaling the start of a new and more brutal phase in its long-running crackdown on dissent. The government’s communications regulator slowed down access to Facebook and warned 10 Russian news outlets that their websites could be blocked. The outlets’ declared offense was publishing articles “in which the operation that is being carried out is called an attack, an invasion or a declaration of war.”

Even as a vicious battle for Kyiv unfolded on Saturday morning, a Russian Defense Ministry statement about the situation in Ukraine made no mention of the Ukrainian capital or any Russian casualties. The ministry, which typically releases sleek and copious footage daily of the Russian military in action, published no videos of its combat operations in Ukraine.

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Walking past a currency exchange shop in Moscow. The ruble hit its lowest level ever against the dollar.
Walking past a currency exchange shop in Moscow. The ruble hit its lowest level ever against the dollar.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

And Russia’s state-run news channel on Saturday showed footage of a peaceful day in Kyiv to try to counter the videos of violence spreading on the social network Telegram.

“As you can see, the situation in the cities is calm,” the anchor said. “No explosions, no bombings, unlike what some of the Telegram channels are writing.”


  1. 61 year old Alexander Tyulakov, Deputy General Manager of Gazprom’s Unified Regulatory Center (UCC) was found dead by his wife in the garage of their home near St. Petersburg, Russia. He allegedly committed suicide on the morning of Feb. 25.

    • Allegedly committed suicide or was he Murdered?
      In any case his widow must be happy, she’ll be rich and the nasty old troll is dead.

  2. RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan boasted: “I’m not worried about sanctions,Attempting to deny Russia’s intensifying war against Ukraine, Simonyan claimed: “Nobody is fighting against Ukrainians! We’re liberating Ukraine!” She followed up with another ludicrous claim: “No one is bombing peaceful Ukrainian cities!”

    • Ho, Ho, Ho. Miss Margarita sounds confused. Let’s hope she doesn’t get disoriented and fall out of a window.
      That’s one way to liberate yourself from your Russian masters.
      Side note: Looks like Ukraine is liberated, so the Nazi Russians can go home now. Dead or alive.

  3. The SBU posts that they have detained a Russian police captain who came to Ukraine to participate in the occupation. I wonder if he aware that he is not protected as a POW by the Geneva convention? Ukraine can prosecute and sentence him to life imprisonment. Anyway, time for that later:

    “The new detainee, a police captain from Novokuznetsk, was sent to “military exercises” in Belarus. And from there he went in a column to “go on the streets of Kiev.” But did not reach.

    And now he says “this is not our war,” calling on Russia to stop bombing Ukraine. What a sudden insight!

    Distribute this and other videos so that as many Russians as possible understand what awaits them on our land.

    Let’s defend Ukraine together!”

  4. Canada has already stated that Russian assets held in Canada will be frozen and then ceased and then transferred to Ukraine. Way to go Canada!

  5. Ursula von der Leyen: “we will paralyse the assets of Russia’s central
    bank. This will freeze its transactions. And it will make it
    impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets”

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