NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia – The games of the 2018 World Cup and local corruption scandals were the main topics this week in Nizhny Novgorod, one of the five largest cities in Russia. All tickets for this year's FIFA Test Match are already sold out. The city hardly cares about the head of a nerve that former spy Sergei Skripal poisoned in England – spies, Moscow and London are too far away from the Volga, which was still trapped in ice at the end of March.
No one here seems too annoyed that dozens of Russian diplomats have been expelled from more than 20 countries around the world. Conflicts can not last forever, the locals say ̵
When it comes to public support of President Putin, Nizhny Novgorod is no different from most Russian cities. Earlier this month, Putin won his biggest election victory: Nearly 77 percent of the population voted to re-elect Putin for his fourth term. In his victory speech, Putin said that Skripal's case in London and the diplomatic scandal were conducive to his popularity.
The Russians know that most officials are corrupt. A few days before the election day, the mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, Oleg Sorokin, was arrested on suspicion of receiving around $ 1 million in bribes. But no matter how criminally Putin's allies appear, how bad international politics may look like, Putin's popularity does not fade.
Vladimir Putin's supporters doubt that London possesses enough evidence to prove that the Russian authorities have sent a nervous agent to England to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia. The strong public opinion in Russia is that the West is wrong to put too much pressure on the Kremlin – unless they want to help Putin to support his power at home. "Europeans need to know how stubborn we are Russians, that we will never give up," said Veronika Ozerova, a student from a local law school, to the Daily Beast. "Every time they are unfair to Putin, we support him even more."
Independent analysts have a different view. "The day will come when British investigators will issue hard evidence of Russian spies being behind scripal poisoning, and the Kremlin will have to admit that they lie, just as they had to admit, when London tells the world the investigation of Litvinenko's murder [Alexander] in London ", said the prominent Russian analyst and professor Vladimir Ryzhkov of the daily newspaper Tier.
But that is not the opinion that is currently reflected on Russian state television networks.
" Every time they are unfair to Putin, we support him even more. "
Both national television stations and state officials decided to treat the script problem with dismissive irony , Earlier this week, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that in order to have good relations with Washington, Moscow must recognize its responsibility for attacking Skripal and "cease its recklessly aggressive behavior." Moscow hated Nauert's remark that "Russia has a lot of tentacles." Russian members of parliament immediately suggested that Washington should look in the mirror and examine its own influence over foreign countries, and compared the United States to a sea monster.
Denial is the Kremlin's usual strategy and that is no exception to spying poisoning. On Thursday, Russian officials mocked Boris Johnson's comparison of Skripal's case with Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment . Konstantin Kosachev, Senator of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Federal Assembly, said that "they use the punishment as evidence of the crime – both Dostoyevsky and Raskolnikov." Kosachev also joked about the allied Western powers, the dozens of Russian expel diplomats.
Aleksei Kandaurov, a retired KGB general and an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, doubted that President Vladimir Putin would give up and compromise under such massive international pressure. "Before the scandal over Skripal's poisoning, I was convinced that Putin would step west immediately after the elections and propose compromises in negotiations with Ukraine – because Russia can not afford complete isolation," Kandaurov told the daily newspaper Tier. "But now Putin is cornered, so he will make no effort to keep in friendship with the West."  Meanwhile, the Kremlin proposed that Austria become Russia's mediator with London. Austria was one of the few countries in the European Union that did not sell Russian diplomats. Only a small percentage of the Russian population is concerned about future diplomatic relations between the Kremlin and the NATO countries. Almost a third of the more than 140 million people in Russia thought that both the US and the EU were hostile to Russia, according to the Levada Center's latest social study.
" Now Putin is cornered (19459005)"
The editor-in-chief of Russia Today Margorita Simonyan, blamed the West for the fading liberal electorate in Russia. In her recent Twitter post, Simonyan said that over voters and the harsh anti-Putin criticism of the West – combined with the "Russians never give up" mentality and the fact that most Russians were never in the US – voters believe that they can live perfectly healthy without any relationship with the West.
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Less than 20 percent of Russians travel abroad; the rest experiences the world described on Russian television. The residents of Nizhny Novgorod Tamara and Aleksei Trifonov tried to understand the script poisoning case. "As far as I understand it, London has not put forth any hard evidence – so it means that Putin is right, the West is jumping to conclusions, Russia is guilty of everything," Aleksei, a manager of a local car service, told The Daily Beast. "I wonder if ordinary Americans know that we expect the world to come to our hometown Nizhny Novgorod for the World Cup, I trust Putin, he would not risk disrupting relations with the West before these expensive games." [19659002TamaraTrifonovawasalsoskeptical"RelationswithEuropeandAmericaarenotreallyimportanttousbutweareconvincedthatRussiaisinnocentthatPutinisnotanidiottoorderamurderrightbeforethepresidentialelection"addedTamaraahousewife"Hewouldnotcutoffthebranchhe'ssittingon"