WASHINGTON, DC, Apr 13 – Vladimir Putin has gotten more than he bargained for. Not only has he made a diabolical mess of things in Ukraine, whether he wins his war or not, but he’s also managed to alienate the vast majority of the nations on God’s green earth. And, as a bonus, he’s turned his own countrymen against him. They are protesting his self-assured hubris and getting out of town as fast as they can, as long as they can.
The most recent “slap in the face” came when a “Hero of the Russian Federation,” Alexander Garnaev, resigned from his post as Chairman of the Board of the so-called Club of Heroes and told Putin to put it someplace where the sun doesn’t shine. Garnaev said he did it in protest to the invasion of Ukraine.
In an internet post, he wrote that he “would abandon all of my positions in all of the Russian companies, organizations, legal entities, because I can’t continue my role in the current expanding conditions of the slaughter of Slavic brothers.”
Things are going so bad for Putin that Communist legislators Mikhail Matveyev and Oleg Smolin, who represent the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in the Duma, have called him out for the invasion and the murder and mayhem of innocent men, women, and children in Ukraine. Smolin said he was “shocked” by the invasion. Another Russian lawmaker, Alexei Navalny, said Putin is an “obviously insane tsar.” He told the Russian people to protest – to “Go out onto the main square of your city every weekday at 19.00 and at 14.00 at weekends and on holidays.”
Each and every day, average Russian citizens are putting their lives in jeopardy by the tens of thousands, according to some estimates, throughout the country to protest the war and the merciless massacre, chanting “shame on you” “no more war,” “Putin is a murderer” and “Freedom for Ukraine.” They are, more likely than not, to be arrested and jailed and sometimes even beaten. Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, says, “Russian authorities continue to deny people the right to freedom of assembly and stifle the voices of those who disagree with Russia’s war in Ukraine. The escalating police violence illustrates the length to which Russian authorities will go to intimidate and silence dissent.”
Meanwhile, Russian citizens who have the means of escaping Russia are leaving the country in large numbers. Putin called them scum and said, “The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths. I am convinced that such a natural and necessary cleansing of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion, and readiness to respond to any challenges.”
One report noted that some 35,000 Russians have arrived in the Republic of Georgia “since the war’s outbreak in Ukraine in late February, according to government estimates. The vast majority are in [the capital city of] Tbilisi, a city of 1.1 million residents where they are now all too conspicuous and, increasingly, unwelcome.”
Ex-pat Russians, wherever they are, have added a new symbol for their resistance to the Putin rule; they’ve created a new Russian flag. As one of the dissenters who came up with the new flag, a young woman who now lives in Berlin, Kai Katonina, explained to the British newspaper, The Guardian: “the Russian tricolor has been completely appropriated by the state propaganda and the military. We needed a flag that had no connection to violence and war. It was funny to see that at the very same time, other Russians opposing the war were putting forward the very same flag. Some unconscious collaboration was going on.”
The Guardian reports that the flag is being adopted by Russians who escaped and are using it to protest Putin and his war. The opposition organization, the Free Russia Forum, says it’s a “new symbol” that “frees Russians of their ties to the Kremlin. By showing this flag, we – Russians – can say no to the war, no to dictatorship, and no to censorship. This isn’t the symbol of a state; it’s a symbol of people joining together.”