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Russian blogger and TikToker says Ukraine conflict a ‘disaster’

  • A Russian blogger told Insider that the conflict in Ukraine looks like a “civil war”.
  • The two former Soviet countries share a similar culture, language and customs.
  • “Ukraine is an absolutely different country,” Natalia Konstantinova told Insider. “But we have so many bonds together.”

A popular Russian blogger and TikToker told Insider that her country’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine was a “disaster”.

Natalia Konstantinova, who runs popular TikTok and Instagram accounts @natashasrussia from which she educates her hundreds of thousands of followers on all things Russian culture, said the past four weeks have been difficult to deal with as Russian forces continue to target Ukrainian towns and civilians.

“It’s actually devastating,” Konstantinova said of what’s happening in Ukraine. “It’s a disaster because something happened that none of us could imagine.”

For weeks before the invasion, Western intelligence suggested such an attack was possible, but Russians and Ukrainians were skeptical that all-out war was imminent.

Now one neighbor has attacked the other; a conflict that Konstantinova compared to a “civil war”.

“Ukraine is an absolutely different country,” she told Insider. “But we have so many bonds together. We have a lot of relatives. We have a lot of friends.”

The two former Soviet countries share a similar culture, language and customs. Some regions of Ukraine are even predominantly Russian-speaking. Many Russians have family members and friends living in Ukraine, exemplifying the deep historical ties between the two countries.

But much of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pre-war propaganda focused on the misconception that Ukrainian sovereignty was non-existent; that the country was created by Russia and depends on it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the conditions for peace must include Ukrainian sovereignty as well as security guarantees and the restoration of territorial integrity.

Konstantinova, who said she had friends in Ukraine whom she tried to help at the start of the war, acknowledged that the current Ukrainian and Russian situations are not comparable.

“Ukrainians are suffering the most because they are losing their homes,” she said. “They are losing their families.”

The United Nations said on Thursday that the death toll among Ukrainian civilians now tops 1,000 and more than 3 million people have fled the country.

Yet, she said, Russian citizens are also feeling the backlash of Putin’s war.

“It affects us too,” she said. “Love so much.”

Konstantinova said Russians face rising prices and a depressed economy due to international sanctions. As a blogger, Konstantinova said she and other Russian content creators were struggling to make ends meet after a slew of payment systems and financial institutions suspended operations in the country.

Konstantinova withdrew all of her money from PayPal before the system was blocked in Russia, so she’s still unsure of the impact on her finances now that the platforms suck.

“We’ll see next month how it goes, because people can’t donate directly anymore,” she said.

She also said she had to battle an increase in online attacks and internet hate targeting her nationality and aimed at making her “shame” of being Russian.

“So we get all these messages that we’re baby killers, that we’re awful,” she said. “That we are the killers, we are the bad guys.”

But Konstantinova said she refused to buy into this idea.

“It’s no shame to be Russian right now. No one should be ashamed of their nationality or ethnicity,” she said. “It’s a shame to be a Poutinist, yes.”

While she doesn’t condone online attacks, she told Insider she understands the sentiment behind them.

“I know they see me as the whole population of the Russian Federation,” she said. “And they see in me a person responsible for all this. But it’s not true.”

The attacks, she said, are likely coming from people feeling helpless – a feeling she fully understands.

“You’re sitting there and you can’t do anything and that’s probably the worst feeling ever,” she said. “We see it and we can’t change anything.”

By speaking out against the war – or as Russians have been instructed to call the conflict, “the special operation” – Konstantinova knows she is risking consequences amid the country’s crackdown on public dissent.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law that would punish anyone sharing “false information” about the war with up to 15 years in prison. The country has also banned Facebook and Instagram under a new “extremism law”.

As such, she is very aware of her platform and believes it gives her a responsibility to inform and educate.

“There are so many people living here, and at the moment I see that if I have this tool to connect average people from abroad to average people who live here – then I will use it until no, until the end,” she said. “Until I’m detained or something. So it’s a big responsibility.