Surveys conducted immediately before and after the outbreak of the Ukrainian invasion on 24 February report that the majority of ordinary Russians expressed support for the Ukrainian war and for President Putin. Overall, across the series of initial polls, a ‘silent majority’ – about 60% of Russian respondents – indicated that they endorsed the “special military operation” in Ukraine. History will ultimately decide how much of the blame for initiating the bloodshed rests on Vladimir Putin alone, as well as his Kremlin acolytes, and how much responsibility rests with the tacit acceptance of ordinary Russians. It is important to determine this issue morally, to assess culpability for the conflict, and legally, to prosecute potential war crimes. Understanding Putin’s soft power can also provide insights into the long-term consequences of the conflict for his leadership and for the future of both countries. State propaganda and fake news about Ukraine “shooting its own citizens in the Donbas region” started back in 2014 and since then has been increasing in its pace and volume. Even if many ordinary Russians are badly misinformed, however, the early polls may still capture authentic attitudes reflecting a silent majority at home supporting Putin’s actions, and thus represent the social construction of reality in modern Russia.