In Moscow one year on, a mixture of defiance and some sadness over Ukraine conflict
MOSCOW (Reuters) - One year after Russia sent its troops into Ukraine in what it called a "special military operation" the mood in the Russian capital on Friday was muted but defiant, with some saying they saw no choice but to fight until victory was achieved.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians who disagree with the decision or fear conscription have fled the country. Those who remain risk being jailed if deemed to have discredited the army, which means that people are careful about what they say in public.
"War is, of course, bad, but this year has shown that no other decision could have been taken and that we are defending our independence, freedom, a chance for the future, the future of our children. Therefore, we are for victory," said one Moscow resident called Marina.
With the temperature below zero and occasional snow flurries swirling, another Muscovite called Yevgeny held his son in his arms as he told Reuters that he hoped Russia would be victorious this year.
"I want this to be over as soon as possible," he said. "Of course, we are waiting for our victory in the special military operation. The whole world is against us. NATO countries are fighting us through Ukraine, supplying them with equipment. We are looking forward to winning this year - hopefully."
Russia suffered three major battlefield reversals in Ukraine last year, but still controls around one fifth of its neighbour's territory and continues to make small gains, with President Vladimir Putin promising total victory.
Backed by the powerful state media machine, Putin has told Russians that the very existence of their country is on the line and has said Russia had no choice but to launch what he has described as a pre-emptive strike to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine and to defend its own security from an aggressive West.
Ukraine's view - that it is the victim of an unprovoked colonial-style war of aggression - does not get a look-in on state media, dominated by hours-long talk shows in which presenters and guests reinforce the Kremlin's preferred narrative.
Other Moscow residents were in a more melancholy mood on Friday and said they were upset by what was going on.
"You know, I can't comment on this. I'm very sad, sad," said one woman called Yekaterina, while saying she thought everything would ultimately "be fine."
Vera, a pensioner, alluded to the financial pressures that people were feeling as a result of the squeeze which Western sanctions have put on the Russian economy, even though it has so far proved much more resilient than many expected.
"I really want peace, I really want it all to end as soon as possible," she said. "There are too many victims - morally speaking and materially. We pensioners really feel all this."
Igor and Viktor, two men walking through central Moscow, said Russia had no choice but to win in Ukraine.
"We're looking forward to it ending successfully. That's all we can expect. We have no other options," said Igor.
(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)