Elaine Byrne: We must not blame the Russian people for Putin’s war crimes

Ordinary people are terrified even to voice their thoughts in a regime that is becoming ever more Orwellian

‘My Russian friends describe an Orwellian sense of fear when it comes to thinking out loud. As social media videos show, protesters with blank signs are arrested, as are those who actually support the war, but transgressed by giving their opinion to foreign media.’ Picture: Getty

Sofia is my penfriend from Moscow. We first started to write to one another in the early 1990s when we were 12 or 13 years old, after I found her name in the penpal ads in Ireland’s Own magazine. For 30 years we have exchanged letters about our lives; now we write about war.

Her beautifully handwritten letters would arrive in an envelope covered by ornate Russian stamps. Her life in a Moscow high-rise apartment ...