In the hours after Russia began invading Ukraine, the scenes in Moscow were subdued. People who spoke to CNN about the conflict seemed surprised and concerned, as many of them had just started tuning in.
Russia's massive propaganda machine has not given the crisis between Kyiv and the Kremlin the same sort of billing as has the international media. State television, the main source of information for older Russians, has been echoing the message of Vladimir Putin. The Russian President has framed the conflict as a mission to protect Russian speakers in the Donbas region from genocide — an accusation the Russian president has repeatedly leveled without proof. Russian state media is also parroting the Kremlin's other unsubstantiated claims — that the Ukrainian government is attempting to obtain nuclear weapons and "nazify" the country, despite the fact that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.
News reports have also, for the most part, failed to mention the Russian military's decision to strike targets in places far from east Ukraine, like the capital of Kyiv and the southern port city of Odessa.
That doesn't mean all Russians are being spoon-fed Putin's narrative. Russia is not North Korea. People who want to get independent information from foreign-language media outlets can do so.
So far, there has not been the surge of patriotic fervor that accompanied Russia's largely bloodless annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. There are likely many Russians who would prefer to see Putin tackle Russia's economic problems at home.
But gauging public opinion in Russia — especially opposition to the Kremlin — has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Putin has increasingly cracked down on independent media, hollowed out its civil society and all but banished peaceful dissent. Even tweeting about planned protests can potentially land someone in jail.
If would-be protesters weren't already spooked, Russian authorities on Thursday warned citizens that participating in anti-war protests could lead to prosecution and criminal charges.