Voices from Zilupe, close to the Russian border

Zilupe is a town in Latvia's far east, less than ten kilometers from the Russian border. According to last year's statistical data, 1372 inhabitants are registered in the town, of which number 760 are ethnic Russians, 372 Latvians, 130 Belarusians, 35 Poles and 23 Ukrainians.

The city has a large proportion of pensioners, as young people generally choose to live closer to where most of the jobs are after graduating from the local high school. Residents on the city streets have differing views on Russia's attack on Ukraine, reports Latvian Radio.

LR's reporter paid a visit and obtained the following anonymous comments from townsfolk:

“It's a very complex problem with deep roots. I know about it, but I don't want to get into it. I mean, who needs a war? There are other ways of adjusting the relationship."

“I don't excuse either Ukraine or Russia. I would even blame Russia more in this war. Putin should not do this because ordinary people are suffering. I'm horrified when I read the news on the Internet  and watch the videos.”

"As a woman and as a mother, it is very difficult for me to see what is happening in the world now. However, I cannot analyze the situation with Ukraine and Russia, because in the past we could look at what was happening on one side, then what was on the other, and then draw conclusions. But now I can't draw any conclusions. "

"It is certainly a "cleansing" operation by Russia against those who shot at Luhansk and Donbas. Now I read on the internet that the Russian army is only firing on military objects."

“It's difficult to be sure. You can't see anything from here, but everyone has reasons."

“Of course Russia is right. I'm just a simple man, sorry. Refugees with little children were forced to leave.”

“Better not to talk about it. One person says one thing, another says another thing. But I'm neutral. As our priest said, only God can sort things out."

Part of the reason for such surprising opinions given the way media in democratic countries have reported on the invasion may come from the fact that many residents of Zilupe appear to rely on Russian media sources for their news and information. It is noticeable that most antennae and satellite dishes in the city are pointing east. There are also some sights that would be unthinkable in some other Latvian cities, including a Soviet war memorial decked with flowers.

Here again, Latvian Radio took a snapshot of media consumption preferences.

"It's very tiring to watch TV, I don't like it. I listen to the Latvian Radio 1 program. ”

"I listen to 'Doma Square' [Latvian Radio Russian language news show]. Also Latvian Television Channel 7 [often Russian language] shows."

"I mostly watch news. I also listen to Latvijas Radio 4, 'Doma Square'. My father was in two wars, and he always said that we had to listen to what some said, then say what the others said, and then divide that information in half. Because neither one was the full truth.”

"I watch both Channel One Russia and the channels in Belarus. I listen to the radio less often, mostly "Doma Square".

"I do not have a TV. I listen to Latgale Radio. The bishop spoke on there yesterday. I crossed myself, I can't say more - it's better to keep quiet. "

"I use the Internet and I also watch Russian television. I believe what RTR shows. There is no radio show that is interesting to me. Only sometimes 'Doma Square'. But for television only Russian."

"I have no television. I watch movies online, but my mom listens to the radio. Only Latvian Radio. ”

The people LR spoke to in Zilupe are also divided about how much of a threat Russia poses to Latvia. Some are not worried about Russia's proximity, while others fear that the war against Ukraine could escalate into a wider armed conflict, in which Latvia may also be involved.

"We must stop the war and come to negotiations, agree. For the sake of both.”

"What worries us? No one is attacking us, we are not attacking anyone. And nothing depends on us."

"I am worried that Russia could be attacked; if Russia is not touched, we have nothing to fear. Russia will not attack us otherwise."

"Putin warned that if Russia fails to defeat Ukraine, nuclear weapons will be used. Of course it's scary. As of today, I have lost my job. I work for a company where we scanned excise stamps for alcohol that came from France, Germany and Russia. Now the company is closed due to sanctions. I will be unemployed.”

 

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