The West raised alarm about Russia’s order to send troops into Ukraine, and called it an invasion. However, Russian state media presented a totally different picture: that Moscow was coming to the aid of war-torn regions and bringing peace to those areas.

This fanfare erupted hours after Vladimir Putin declared Russia’s recognition that the separatist areas of eastern Ukraine are independent states. He also ordered his troops to “maintain peaceful” on territory where Russia-backed rebels have been fighting Kyiv forces since 2014. The conflict has claimed over 14,000 lives.

Television presenters celebrated the “historical” day and declared the end of suffering for residents of the breakaway areas.

“You paid with blood for these eighteen years of torment, anticipation,” Olga Skabeyeva said to residents of Donbas in a popular political talk program on Tuesday morning’s Russia 1 state TV. “Russia will now defend Donbas.”

Vladimir Solovyev, TV pundit, echoed these sentiments during his morning show on Vesti.FM radio. He declared, “We will ensure that their safety.” “It is now dangerous for them to fight… because one will now need to fight alongside the Russian army.”

Channel One, another state-funded TV station that is popular, took a more festive tone. Its correspondent in Donetsk stated that the local residents “say it’s the best news over all the years of war”.

She said, “Now they have faith in the future and that years-long war will finally end.”

It is not clear if ordinary Russians buy it.

Putin declared Monday night that he was optimistic about the support of the people.

However, critics denounced both the moves as being harmful to Russia and Ukraine.

In a message posted from behind bars on social media, Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, stated that Putin would not allow Ukraine to develop and drag it into a swamp. But Russia will pay the same price.”

Holod, an independent Russian news site, launched a Facebook campaign using the hashtag “I’m Not Staying Silent” to encourage people to “express their opinion about war — and also to remind each other that we all have something linking us to Ukraine.” This led to dozens of posts condemning the Kremlin and sharing memories.

Many still support Putin’s decision.

Irina Nareyko from Moscow said, “It should’ve been done a long while ago.” “These poor Russians, mainly Orthodox, cannot wait any longer and expect to be killed, so we should have accepted them long ago.”

Denis Volkov is the director of Russia’s Levada Center. According to his poll data, more then half of Russians are ready to support Putin’s actions.

Volkov stated to the AP that “the West is pressing Ukraine” to take action against rebel-held areas. “And Russia needs to somehow assist,” Volkov said to the AP. “This notion that we are helping in an extraordinary circumstance translates into our support” for the recognition of the separatist areas.

Russian authorities actively promoted the narrative that Ukraine has aggressive plans for Donbas. They also made accusations of the West pumping Ukraine with weapons and warfaring.

The Kremlin denies plans to invade Ukraine. This is something that the West fears because of a large Russian presence along Ukraine’s borders. Russian officials blame Kyiv, claiming that it has gathered its troops and could attempt to retake rebel-held areas with force. This is something the Ukraine government refutes.

Official rhetoric heated up when Putin claimed that “what’s now happening in Donbas was genocide”. Popular newscasts, political talk shows and state TV channels began widely using this term.

Dmitry Kiselev, a prominent news anchor, compared what was going on in Donbas to World War II atrocities perpetrated by Nazi Germany. He also scolded German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who challenged Putin’s use the term “genocide.”

He said, “It’s, simply, solidarity avec the genocide today,” on Russia 1’s flagship news program.

Separatist officials gave the situation a new urgency over the weekend by announcing mass evacuations in Donetsk, Luhansk, and mobilizing troops to face an alleged imminent attack from Ukrainian forces.

Emotional images of children and women lining up for buses were shown in news bulletins. Next, segments alleged that the Ukrainian forces had systematically shelled areas. Some segments emphasized that Kyiv’s military was intentionally targeting civilians.

The speech of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, at a Munich security conference on Saturday, in which he threatened not to withdraw from an agreement to give up the nuclear weapons that were left in Ukraine following the Soviet collapse, only fuelled the flames.

Multiple segments were aired by Russian state TV channels about Kyiv’s ability to develop its own nuclear weapons. News hosts warned that this threat should not be taken lightly.

To emphasize the point about Ukraine’s alleged aggressions on Monday, Russian officials accused Ukrainian forces in an attempted invasion into Russia. This was a claim Ukraine dismissed as “disinformation.”

Yevgeny Popov, Russia 1 TV host, declared that “the invasion has started.” “But it wasn’t Putin who invaded Ukraine – instead, Ukraine went into war with Russia and Donbas.”

Putin declared recognition of the self-proclaimed republics of eastern Ukraine several hours later.

Abbas Gallyamov, a political analyst, says that although the majority of Russians support the decision, its impact on the domestic audience is less than in 2014, when the Kremlin rallied Russians behind the idea of annexed Crimea.

On Wednesday, the only public show of support for the actions against eastern Ukraine was in St. Petersburg. This is because Russia celebrated Defender of the Fatherland Day on Wednesday. It’s a holiday that honors the country’s veterans.

Russian media reported that several hundred pro-Kremlin protestors gathered in the center of Moscow with Russian flags and banners reading: “We don’t abandon our own.” Some demonstrators claimed they didn’t understand what the rally was and were promised hot meals.

Rights groups in Moscow also reported that six protestors were detained for holding pickets opposing a war against Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s top official, the United Russia party, laid flowers at the memorial for “defenders” of Donbas in Donetsk with the separatist leader.

Gallyamov believes that Putin will win some domestic political points, but not enough.

“People are still able to recall what the annexation and occupation of Crimea led to.” People know that there will be sanctions, the economy will fall even more, and living conditions are going to continue to get worse.

“They still remember the hangover from the party.”

Sergei, a Moscow resident, gave only his first name. He appeared to be one those skeptical people. He said, “It’s horrible, it’s very terrible.”

He said, “As usual,” and that nobody had asked him anything. “The economic repercussions of the economic crisis are economic repercussions that we face, not the ruling class.”