What surprises me is that Russia didn't know this
Ah, you talk of "Russia" as if it's one whole, a people all in agreement, and crucially - where people are free to tell their superiors what they think. What has become clear over the last few months is that the last bit is far from the truth - for whatever complex reasons, this is Putin's war, and his top brass were not able (or willing) to persuade him of his misunderstandings.
At various levels, "reality" is failing to influence those at the top. Whether it's the cannon fodder on the ground realising that the ""Ukrainians will welcome you as liberators with open arms" story was an outright lie, but facing a choice of either carrying on and getting killed or (if they're lucky) captured by the Ukrainians, or turning back and being shot by their own side. Or whether it's the officers up the chain who manage to change "we're getting slaughtered and getting no-where" to "everything is going as well as we could have planned for" by the time it reaches the top.
I reckon a good few people really did "know this" - but were unable to persuade their superiors of that, unable to penetrate the reality filter protecting each level from anything inconsistent with the "official reality".
I don't know Ukrainians, nor to be honest, much about the culture of that area. But your comment that "if you knew any Ukrainians you would not be surprised" is no surprise - with a neighbour like that, you would be totally mad not to assume there'll be hostilities sooner or later.