French student returning from Russia talks about war taboo

They stayed in Moscow or St. Petersburg as part of a university exchange and told a difficult discussion with Russian students about the war in Ukraine.

It is difficult to freely brooch the subject of Ukrainian war in Russian teachers and students and universities. This is when Jade, 21, a 21-year-old EM Normandy Master 1 student, had to leave Yekaterinburg at the beginning of March, a month after arriving for a college exchange. Ukrainian neighbor.

“As if the subject did not exist”

Email about international remittances sent by Russian university managers to international students- Visa and Mastercard stop operating in Russia -Furthermore, it evokes the “situation” briefly.

“Jade explains to as if the subject didn’t exist. At college, no one talked about it. The first day of the attack, like everyone else, is normal. It was the day. It gave the impression that it was taboo. Besides, we foreigners were quite uncomfortable. “

Opposition to the war in Ukraine is certainly strongly suppressed. Protesters arrested-sometimes Thousands in a day – When A Russian journalist has been convicted of showing signs of opposition to the war in the country’s most watched television news, saying she is afraid of her safety.

Indeed, Russia has adopted Very strict law on dissemination of information on war in Ukraine.. Vladimir Putin thus signed a text that could lead to up to 15 years in prison for those who disseminate “misinformation” with “serious consequences” to the Russian army. The words “war” and “aggression” should also be banned when referring to Ukraine.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking here.”

One night, 21-year-old Guillaume spoke to a Russian student living on the same floor as him in the hallway of a university student dormitory. The young French arrived in Moscow in early February and spent six months there as part of an exchange with the same business school, EM Normandy.

“It was before the invasion of Ukraine, I remember Guillaume. I directly asked him what he thought about the situation, and if he liked Putin. He replied:’You at our university Remember the name of (It’s the National Academy of Russia, Economics and Public Affairs to the President of the Russian Federation, ed.) I can’t say what I think here. “

But when they find themselves in his room, the young Russian speaks to him more freely. He told her that she was against war, that she was against Putin, that she was ashamed of being Russian, and that she did not see her future in Russia. I have confessed that I want to leave her country.

“He told me he didn’t like Putin.”

Sometimes the speech seems to be released. Guillaume tells another episode that happened to him shortly before leaving Russia.

“It was a very vigilant facility and there was a security guard at the entrance. One night I came home late from the party. It must have been 4am. One of them thinks about the conflict in Ukraine. I asked. “

The young man was cautious and his French teacher had just warned him by email not to answer this kind of question.

“I didn’t know what to think. Then he got hooked, opposed the war, and said he hated Putin. Most of the Russians I met dare not say, otherwise private. In a circle. “

Update email

Guillaume hurries to shorten the conversation and returns to his room. It’s hard to know what the guard’s true intentions were, but the student added that he was asked several times by a similarly young Russian. At the same time, the amazing behavior when Guillaume, like all other students and staff at Russian universities, received an email from the government. Stepping stone.

“The Russian President Vladimir Vladimir Putin explained in detail the reason for the decision to carry out a special military operation,” and “the historical background and the reason for this difficult decision are clear.” It has been done.

“We urge everyone to use official sources and be critical and vigilant against the victims of unleashed information warfare. This letter continues. Reckless. Actions and violations can have irreparable consequences. It is the law of the Russian Federation and will not succumb to provocation. “

Subsequently, various penalties (up to 15 years of heavy fines and imprisonment) incurred in the case of “falsehoods”, “public actions” and “calls” to “prevent” or “damage credit” the deployment of Russian troops. ) Is followed by an enumeration. “Including social networks”.

“Some Russian students have posted publications against the war on social networks. Guillaume testifies again (since Russia has been’radical’even if it can connect to Facebook and Instagram.” Is prohibited). On top of them.

23-year-old Morgan hurriedly left Russia four days after the start of the war in Ukraine. This Master 1 student at Kedge Business School, a major business and management school, stayed in St. Petersburg for only one month out of the six schools planned as part of the exchange. The day after the attack, his French school forced him to return as soon as possible.

“Then I found a ticket for Wednesday, but on Sunday I learned that all other flights to France were canceled (then France announced the suspension of flights to Russia and France Closed airspace to Russian planes. Airspace and other European countries, editor’s note), she explains to The school was able to find me a plane the same night. . It took me 4 hours to pack up my luggage and leave. “

Young women have an unfinished taste. “I didn’t want to leave, I felt good, Morgan continues. I was French so I never felt dangerous or targeted.” She was on the same campus. Unlike other French students who told her she felt they were being followed on the street.

Within the university, like other international students, young women were “sponsored” by young Russians and were responsible for promoting on-campus integration. “When we told them we had to go back, they told us that we were doing well, that was better for us.”

“He told me:” You are talking to a corpse. “

The language is sometimes dispelled when Jade, the young woman testifying at the beginning of the article, is unable to evoke the subject privately in college. The owner of the apartment she was renting seemed to feel sorry for the situation. She said, “She apologized and told me she was ashamed of Putin.”

During the party, Jade also interacts with Russian students. He confessed to him on the same day that he had received an official letter from the military administration ordering him to go to Ukraine and fight.

“He had to leave the next day, but he didn’t want. He had tears in his eyes. He told me he had no choice even if he wasn’t a professional soldier. (Russia acknowledges the existence of conscription) He told me: “You are talking to a corpse,” he saw himself already dead, “remembers the young woman.

Since she returned, Jade has been able to talk to a young collector who could have postponed his departure. But what surprised French students most was the lack of information about young people, characterized by the patterns of thinking inherited from the Cold War. Guillaume also evokes these ideas of another era, including among young people-one night he presents his French passport to a young Russian who was convinced he was a Polish reward spy. I was forced to do that.

“He also wanted to know France’s view if France was trying to attack Russia. I remember Jade, and he also told me what was said in’Our camp’. Asked”.