If you like walking, you’ll love Kislovodsk. There are dozens of kilometres of walking trails in the near vicinity and into the mountains. Easy to arduous terrain depending on your preference.
Mrs Speedbox has returned from Russia after a near five week visit with friends and family in Kislovodsk and nearby Pyatigorsk. Both are small cities (pop 140-150,000) in southern Russia only a short (1-1.5 hour) drive from Georgia.
The following may be of interest to Cats.
(a) There are two distinct schools of thought amongst Russians regarding the recent withdrawal of Russian forces from Kherson. The first is that the withdrawal was a national embarrassment for the Russian Army and that Russian forces should push forward and capture most/all of Ukraine.
Mrs Speedbox is back in Kislovodsk, Russia. I wasn’t able to travel due to work commitments and on this trip she will catch up with her numerous friends and the remaining relatives in the city. Our youngest Miss Speedbox has accompanied her on this occasion.
In my phone/video calls with Mrs Speedbox, I have been particularly interested about life in this small city (pop 140,000) now that the conflict with Ukraine has been ongoing for six months accompanied by wide-ranging sanctions. Cats may recall that Mrs Speedbox was also in Kislovodsk in April this year.
I have referenced a couple of comments from my post of April for comparative purposes.
1. During one of our video calls, Mrs Speedbox walked around the main town square/CBD of Kislovodsk and it was filled with people. The shops were trading; there were street musicians; pop-up stalls, local artists painting and selling their wares, the cafes were bustling……
1A. No significant change except people are wearing warmer clothing outdoors given the shift in seasons from her visit earlier in the year. The number of street musicians/artists is thinning as the weather cools. The market is brimming with fresh foods and other goods although the prices have noticeably increased on some products.
2. Enterprising Russians are travelling into Europe and buying large numbers of goods. Want an new Apple phone? Sure, still in its sealed box. Want a new Audi, Renault, Toyota etc.? Sure, what colour? Let me check with my dealer in Austria/Germany/Turkey etc.
2A. This practice continues unabated but appears to have focussed itself as the bulk of the supply of western goods now primarily originates from Turkey.
Everybody is now certain that the conflict in Ukraine has become a war by proxy with the USA but there is no question, none, about Russia’s eventual triumph and the hoped for collapse of the Federation is merely the dream of some stupid westerners.
More broadly, there is a palpable shift in perception/realisation that is fuelling a ‘defend the Motherland’ mindset. The recent mobilisation of military reserves is fully supported and some local men who were not called up have volunteered and were accepted. Furthermore, this has reputedly occurred in towns/cities throughout the region and whilst the official call-up is 300,000 persons, the actual number re-inducted into the Russian military is expected to be well in excess of that figure. (Remember that virtually all men have military experience and for all its acknowledged faults, it is still a revered institution among most Russians).
Overall, it appears that the Ukraine conflict continues to have limited effect on the residents of this small city and the impact of the sanctions is nominal. However, and despite this apparent calm and business-as-usual, the awareness that Russia is under increasing NATO (read USA) threat has taken a marked step forward and that threat is not being treated casually. Russians are certain for example, that the bombing of Nord Stream 1 & 2 was an American action. They are also aware that extensive American military intelligence is being provided to Ukraine and that the CIA is agitating certain groups to take terrorist action within Russia. Meanwhile, highly sophisticated cyber-attacks on Russian infrastructure systems have increased exponentially. The USA is believed to be sponsoring, if not directly responsible for, the increased cyber activity.
As has been noted a number of times: Not all Russians love Putin, but all Russians love Russia. Therefore, this shift in the public’s threat awareness is immensely dangerous for the Ukraine as it provides fertile ground for President Putin to harness public support for increasing Russian engagement. Putin’s earlier forecasts about NATOs encroachment and the threat this will deliver to Russia is coming true before their eyes. Yet Ukraine is merely the battlefield where a much larger clash is being fought out.