How Russians feel about the possibility of war with Ukraine

From Moscow, ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger finds out what Russians make of the escalating tensions with Ukraine

It's a bitterly cold day in Moscow and the snow is thick on the ground.

But on the state controlled news programmes, the presenters are discussing the possibility of a thaw in relations with Ukraine and the West.

“A Diplomatic Marathon” shout the headlines, but many Russians are already exhausted by all talk of war. With inflation at levels not seen since 2016 and the cost of living rising, they have more pressing concerns.

I’ve come to Kyiv railway station to find out how ordinary people are coping with the crisis unfolding around them. It turns out the younger they are, the less they’re worried.

Anastasia is in her second year of university, studying PR. She tells me: “Young people don't think about war at all. I think we just live our lives”.

Anastasia, a student, says young people are not worried about war Credit: ITV News

I ask if she trusts her President to find a way out of invading Ukraine, after sending so much military hardware to the border.

“Yes,” she responds immediately, “I think he’s a good person”.

Oleg, a teacher from Moscow in his 40s, is far less sure about that. His optimism is also rather more cautious.

“Look around” he instructs me, “You see that everyone is happy because they think about their lives, not international policy.

“We hope everything will settle down sooner or later and I think it will. But I’m very concerned. I still worry”.

Oleg, a teacher, said he is worried about the possibility of war Credit: ITV News

The truth is Vladimir Putin has never been the kind of leader likely to dwell too much on public opinion.

But that hasn’t stopped him trying to shape it over the past two decades. The crackdown on an independent Russian media has been so harsh there is only one television station left here operating without state influence.

Ekaterina Kotrikadze is TV Rain's head of news and its prime time anchor. Her programme is leading on the crisis today but the picture she paints of NATO and the West is very different to the hostile aggressor portrayed on state television.

Ekaterina describes its diet of war-heavy rhetoric, which she believes much of the older generation, outside of Moscow, still swallows.

“Its hard to say how many people still trust the propaganda machine - who come home and automatically put the television on.

"I’m sure that in the regions of Russia - not in big cities, like Moscow or St Petersburg - but in the regions, they do watch television and the comments are just crazy. There are people who write about how much they are in favour of war”.

In the capital, it's far more difficult to find anyone with the appetite for more conflict. It's worth remembering that many people here have good friends and family in Ukraine.

We visit a charity collecting supplies for the Donbas, the pro-Russian separatist area of the country, where ongoing fighting has left many people struggling to get by.

A charity collects supplies for the Donbas, the pro-Russian separatist area, where many are struggling to get by Credit: ITV News

Elena is a middle-aged volunteer who fights back tears when asked if there might be worse to come.

“I don’t believe that,” she says emphatically. “I don’t think Russia can go to Ukraine to begin war because we Russian people know what war means”.

Far away from the capital, the military build up - on both sides - shows no sign of slowing.

But here in Moscow, the hope on streets piled high with snow, is that Russia can somehow find a peaceful path through this.