All of these circumstances must be taken into account when considering the claim that Russian citizens aren’t resisting. Some do
resist, risking their freedom. The return of journalists broadcasting to Russia – and doing so quite effectively, especially on YouTube – from exile would mean an end to their activities (and even imprisonment), leaving their vast audiences with just Putin's official media. Without these journalists, scholars and politicians (some of them are still in Russia, and they aren’t silent), the West would have long ago lost even more sympathizers inside Russia.
The notion that all Russians support the regime is false. According to the Levada Center
, only about half of respondents unequivocally support the so-called special military operation. Approximately 30% waver. They are people who are frightened and/or disoriented, who don’t have their own opinion and therefore look to the authorities for one, who block out bad information because they would like to be on the side of good, not evil.
The notion that it is possible to turn Russians against Putin by “punishing” them with a visa ban is unfounded. It would only encourage those who are already not pro-Western or pro-liberal to support Putin more, while those who have a democratic orientation and oppose the regime would find themselves corned: on one side they are persecuted by Putin's siloviki
while on the other they are abandoned to their fate by the West.
It is worth mentioning that only one in 10 Russians has ever been abroad. Meanwhile, sanctions, including various financial restrictions on Russian citizens, have primarily hit the “usual suspects” – like the active, pro-Western middle class – and not the mass of the population who consider sanctions “useful” for the country's economy. (You can read more on this in a special report
on public sentiment prepared by Denis Volkov, director of the Levada Center, and me.)
Given that there are some 110 mln adults in Russia, around 30 mln people more or less openly oppose the war (and there looks to be upside to this number). Why should they bear the double burden of responsibility for Putin and his deeds?