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Behind Putin's aggression and crimes against his own people

Russian citizens held an anti-Putin rally in front of the Guam Legislature building in Hagatna in this May 20, 2021 file photo. More than a dozen Russians are stranded on Guam, awaiting the U.S. government's action on their applications for political asylum. Photo courtesy of Fedor Simanov

By Fedor Simanov

Given the events of the last few days, and against the background of sometimes over-simplified pacifist sentiments of the world community, I want to provide a historical context to understand what we are dealing with.

The military invasion of Ukraine is somewhat paradoxical, and lacking in historical context. On one hand, we have clear evidence that this latest aggression in the foreign policy arena is an obvious and predictable consequence of the impunity of the Russian regime.

Long before today's events, aggression had already started against ordinary Russians, who became victims of constant abuse and political repression. Thousands and thousands of people have been forced to flee abroad to seek international protection.

From this point of view, the ability to escape a repressive country can be credited to the progress of international humanitarian law.

But on the other hand, today we are dealing with an unusual conflict. The Russian authorities spontaneously put forward an ultimatum to the United States demanding guarantees of non-expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Initially, Vladimir Putin received power and support, perhaps because he seemed to tolerate Western countries and democratic values.

We should remember how NATO expanded in 1997, and again in 2003, when the former socialist and Soviet republics were members. Due to stable appropriating of the well-being of Russian citizens, the kleptocratic beast was sleeping peacefully in its lair.

Russian citizens were largely unaware of the government’s tyrannical tendency, living in the hope of advancing on the democratic path.

Gradually, it became obvious that in the shadow of an outwardly liberal system, a bunch of completely incompetent individuals govern the country. Using a whole set of tools of shadow economy and corruption, the Russian state refused to introduce any democratic institutions, rejected basic human rights, and thwarted a system of checks and balances.


Russia has taken the most inefficient path toward its own development in the modern era. As a result, countries such as Ukraine refused to be in the same alliance with Russia and share a single economic space on unfavorable terms.

Thus, the barely-sleeping kleptocratic regime became afraid that it would lose control—and bared its fangs.

Putin and his cronies now appear to be trying to bend the Russian people to their will.

Instead of recognizing the devastating consequences of his own rule, Putin, in his message to the nation, is in the same context of the confrontation during the Cold War.

He falsely appeals to the concept of development of the country, which he alleges is hindered by foreign political pressure, accompanied by the expansion of NATO.

While repressing its own internal problems, Russia has taken the unsavory path of violating good-neighbor relations, mutual assistance and diplomatic integration.

Ignoring international law, the Russian government has chosen violence. To justify the annexation, Putin could say:, "Look, NATO, for my country to resist you, I need another 40 million taxpayers."

But Russia has now invaded Ukraine, trying to incite hatred between Russians and Ukrainians.

Russia's invasion that began with the bombings of Ukrainian cities clearly showed a disregard for the historical tradition of the brotherhood of peoples.

Putin began bloodshed eight years after the unprofitable annexation of Crimea and the re-modernization of the Ukrainian army. Obviously, Putin and his loyal supporters, including Defense Minister Shoigu, are not military strategists.

There were wars in the history of Russia in which the human factor led to great mistakes and losses, but—unlike the present campaign—they were arguably at least grounded in rationality. With this latest outburst, Russia will finally lose resources and inevitably lose.

In my case for political asylum, I directly called the Russian authority “a gang of thieves” who became war criminals because of impunity and pointed out that the most painless solution to problems is the Yugoslav path.


Based on my experience of living in Russia, I have to state that the Russian regime bears the closest resemblance to Nazi Germany, with a few important differences. First, the Nazi Reich had an evil—but unifying--ideology, while Russian society is fragmented. Second, while Hitler’s campaign claimed a rationale of expanding the German state, Putin’s irrational paternalism does not have any ideas or values. It is irrational and suicidal.

Ironically, Putin invaded Ukraine under the slogan of "de-Nazification.” Ukraine’s president is of Jewish origin.

And just as under the rule of the Nazis, while preparing the country for war, all German opposition and intellectuals were destroyed and people with special needs were classified as unnecessary ballast. The people had nowhere to run, and as a result, a world war was unleashed.

By contrast, the senselessness and extreme randomness of the latest Russian invasion may end up strengthening the position of people who have applied for international protection.

During the Cold War, a major catastrophe was averted when people who fled the USSR were granted political asylum by the international community. With all the ensuing consequences, the aggression against Ukraine must be recognized as genocide.

The accomplices of the Russian regime must bear responsibility for crimes against their own people.

Fedor Simanov is an asylum seeker, who has been residing in Guam for three years. He is awaiting results of his petition for political refugee status.

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