But for the families of soldiers, state propaganda continues to have influence. Mr Chernykh, whose son grew up in a small town in Siberia and died thousands of miles west near the Ukrainian town of Konotop, said he did not watch TV news. Still, he said Russia was fighting Nazis who were supplied by the United States, and he dismissed the idea that his country’s military could be responsible for the atrocities uncovered in Ukraine.
“I know the Russian spirit and I know that the Russians don’t shoot at civilians,” Mr Chernykh, an engineer, said in a phone interview from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. “Only the Nazis could do that.”
In another Siberian town, Khanty-Mansiysk, a 38-year-old woman named Alina – she asked that her last name be withheld for fear of repercussions – also said she believed her brother, a lieutenant colonel , had perished fighting Nazism.
Through tears, she said a small group of Nazis in Ukraine were causing misery by encouraging the mistreatment of ethnic Russians. It was all an echo of World War II, she said, when some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis – a story that was featured extensively on Russian television.
“It’s a repeat of what happened before,” she said. “It’s a repeat of that story.”
For many others there is a sense of being at the mercy of events beyond their control. In North Ossetia, Marina Kulumbegova, 25, avoids watching the news. Her father, Robert Kulumbegov, 47, left for eastern Ukraine on the first day of the war to deliver supplies to Russian troops and then stayed to fight, she said, “because ‘there were boys there who were my brother’s age’ – 23.
“The only people who know what’s really going on there are the guys fighting there,” she said in a phone interview from the city of Vladikavkaz. “Talking about it, saying your opinion on it, it’s absolutely useless.”