Ukraine is damaging Russia's $50 billion Olympic makeover

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. With all eyes on Crimea, many have already forgotten about the Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi. Even with with the Paralympics about to start, the resort on the Black Sea seems like yesterday's news. That's definitely true in the US, and its the same in much of Russia according to Yekaterina Kravtsova. She covered the Winter Games for The Moscow Times. We reached her today at a cafe in Moscow. Yekaterina Kravtsova: Well actually, it seems like Ukraine has completely overshadowed the Olympics, let alone the Paralympic Games. Even if we look at social media feeds, you can see that no one actually speaks about the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, only just discussing Ukraine. Werman: What was the mood like in Sochi right before you left? Kravtsova: Well, when I left Sochi, it was the end of February. Athletes for the Paralympic Games started to arrive and they were of course very excited. Sochi is not like the rest of Russia because their people just come for the Games. Werman: Right. Sochi is in its own kind of "Sochi bubble." You said that nobody is really following the Paralympics now because they're all focused on Ukraine. Kravtsova: Yes, that's true. Actually in Sochi, during the last week of the Games, most journalists left Sochi and went to Ukraine but when speaking to visitors, to tourists in Sochi, they were still excited about the end of the Games, the closing ceremony, the medal counts, but those who came to cover the Olympics, they were not very interested in them anymore. Werman: How would you describe Russia's image right now? The world saw the new Russia - what do you think of Russia's image right now Kravtsova: I would say that even the Olympics just could not completely change Russia's image in minds of people all over the world. Journalists who come to Russia to work here, they see it as something extraordinary, something unlike stable countries in the West, so yes, they see Russia as not a very stable country. You never know what's going to happen in a week or month, let alone a year. Werman: Are you also hearing the same thing from your family and friends in Russia? Kravtsova: Yes, probably. Everyone understands that the world doesn't completely understand what Russia is right now. Most of my friends don't support the Russian government. They are very close to the perception that Western people have of Russia. Werman: What you're saying is interesting because you're suggesting that a lot of Russians are beginning to feel like Western media, that this is a country they don't understand. Do you feel like you understand what Russia is today? Kravtsova: I just don't understand what the Russian government is. People in Russia are joking that they are ashamed that we have such a government here which can use force against Ukraine because Ukraine is a culturally and historically very close country to Russia and people have friends and family there. They travel there a lot, and yes, they're really ashamed of the decisions of its government. Werman: What have people told you? Kravtsova: I think people were really scared when the upper house of the Russian government, Federation council, approved Putin's decision to use force against Ukraine. Everyone was talking as if they didn't want war. It is reality, there could be war. There were several demonstrations in Moscow but police were acting very aggressively. Lots of people were arrested. There were also demonstrations to support war, which is interesting and more people came there. Werman: What are people in Russia most worried about right now? Kravtsova: I think that people are most worried about their wellbeing. They don't want the economy to crash completely, the currency to be erased. I talked to lots of people and I think that the state of the economy is what concerns them most of all right now. Werman: Yekaterina Kravtsova with The Moscow Times, thanks very much for your time. Kravtsova: Thank you, thanks.