THEY CALL IT FREEDOM
MY READER will recall that my last column accused the UN of being next to useless, especially here in Cyprus, and also when it comes to dealing with real threats to peace caused by expansionist and dictatorial “rogue states” like Putin’s Russia and Red China.
Last week, this spectacularly upset Russian-born letter writer Marina Binns, who acquainted my criticism of Putin’s regime with criticising the Russian people in general. Good on the lady. She has the courage of her convictions. Boy did she! Crash, bang wallop! She waded in. Great, she read the column. Mission accomplished. I normally only respond briefly to letters about this column, critical or otherwise. In Marina’s case, I thought her eloquent reaction to my views demanded a little more, like the expression of a few home truths about Putin’s Russia, for instance, so here goes.
First of all, I passed no “judgement” on the Russian people, or individuals like Mrs Binns, who are perfectly entitled to be proud of their Russian heritage.
I criticised their President, Vladimir Putin, his dictatorial state and expansionist regime, with good reason. He created it, so he and his cronies get the blame.
Amnesty International lists 478,182 political prisoners in Russia. That is the equivalent of 331 prisoners for every 100,000 Russians.
Stalin’s Gulag is alive and well. Not surprising – Putin is ex-KGB. Getting rid of opponents is his hallmark. Ensuring he remains President indefinitely is another of his obsessions. The post-Soviet Russian Constitution limited Presidents to serving two terms. This year he changed the Constitution to ensure he can stand for “election” as President up until 2036! Fine, provided the elections are fair. Jailing opponents, purging key officials, and silencing the free press, printed and internet based, is hardly conducive to fair elections, now is it?
Not surprisingly, tens of thousands of brave Russians took to the streets in 2011 to protest against electoral fraud. Arrests and sore heads were the order of the day. In 2019 he banned all opposition politicians from standing in the election of 89 regional governors and simply appointed them himself. Just in case the law might challenge his antics, in 2020 he signed a decree granting lifetime immunity from prosecution to Russian ex-Presidents. Very convenient. Then we have the poisonings of Alexander Litvinenko in London and Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Enough said.
Marina may be “happy” with Putin’s Russia, but whilst ever he holds power, the Russian people will never know what freedom is.
Nor those in other countries, like the Baltic States for instance (if he ever gets his hands on them). Like Crimea, they have large Russian populations too. There is a reason for that. Stalin moved Russians there deliberately after he invaded them in 1939, to weld the three Baltic States into the Soviet Union, against the will of their people. Putin is on record as wanting to “save” these Russians as well. Only Nato makes him think twice. That great Russian reformer, democrat and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mikhail Gorbachev, now 90 years old, must be appalled. Now, there is a Russian to be proud of. Sorry Marina, I don’t retract a word. We differ. I’m with Gorby. They call it freedom.