A Russian Influencer Says It's Hard To Get Cash Or Real News In The Country Right Now

She says many people are "brainwashed."

Global Staff Writer
Natalia Konstantinova.

Natalia Konstantinova.

Censorship makes it tough for Russians to get any real news about the invasion of Ukraine, but it’s hard for them to miss the way their lives have changed since this all started last month.

Natalia Konstantinova, a Russian influencer who lives in Saint-Petersburg, recently told us how things have changed on the streets of her city, where there are signs of war, censorship and propaganda everywhere you look.

"We see more police right now on the streets, because of protests and people are angry. We see [Russian] flags everywhere. I don't know why, [because] we never put flags here on the street, only when it's a celebration, but right now, they're like 24 hours here," said Konstantinova, 33.

She added that it's just as common to see the letter "Z," which has quickly become a symbol to promote Russian "victory" in Ukraine.

"Everywhere there's 'Z' signs. They tried to put it on advertisements, [even] when we go down in the metro to get on the subway, and we see this on billboards or on the street," she said.

Russians have been banned from accessing Instagram, but Konstantinova used the time before the ban to show the world what life is like under a government that won't say it's at war.

She explained that one of the biggest struggles for everyday Russians is simply getting their hands on cash, especially with the value of the ruble, the Russian currency, crashing.

"We can't get currency anymore, like dollars, papers. So it creates craziness with people queueing in ATMs trying to withdraw, and they can't because there's no cash," she said. "Everyone's trying to hold this cash right now because it will value differently very soon. We're all expecting it."

Konstantinova, who works as a content creator, says that Russia's decision to block Instagram is costing her money and making it harder to get real news. She says she can still find out what's going on through certain Telegram channels or via a VPN, but many others simply don't know how to do that.

Instead, their only source of news is state-controlled media, which is prohibited by law from calling the invasion a "war."

"Unfortunately, I have parents who watch TV," she said. Konstantinova says it's a struggle to talk to them about Ukraine, because they're getting info from an entirely different reality.

She says her parents, like many others, think Russia is simply running a "special operation for freeing Ukraine from Nazis."

That was the message that Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered at a packed stadium in Moscow on Friday, where he suggested that everything he was doing in Ukraine was out of "love" for the people there.

Konstantinova says the stunts and censorship are all about getting Russians to unite behind Putin, and about cutting off anyone who opposes him.

"The majority of people are like, literally brainwashed right now," she said.

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