Conflicts & War

Russian pacifists, Putin’s true enemies

By Ignacio Ortega

Moscow, Feb 13 (EFE).- As Russia continues to mount military pressure on its border with Ukraine, pacifists blame the Kremlin for bringing the Eurasian country to the brink of war.

“We cannot allow a great war in the European Theater of Operations. Casualty rates among young soldiers and the civilian population would be very high,” Leonid Ivashov, retired Russian colonel-general, tells Efe.

After months of military propaganda, some Russians have launched an anti-war campaign, but the peace movement has struggled to gain visibility on Russia’s streets due to pandemic restrictions.

Thousands of Russians rallied in Moscow in 2014 against the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, but now efforts are limited to sending open letters and petitions to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

As the chairman of the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly, Ivashov signed a letter of condemnation shunning Russia’s armed aggression and claiming that war propaganda around Ukraine was “artificial”.

“Is the existence of the Russian Federation threatened? Russians cannot fight Russians. As with many compatriots, my father was Russian and my mother Ukrainian. There can be no war in our family,” he says.

In the letter, Ivashov warns of the grave consequences if a “bloody war” to seize control of Ukraine were to break out.

According to Ivashov, the conflict could also prompt Turkey to try to “liberate” Russian-annexed Crimea.

The former Russian general questions Putin’s strategy of refusing to negotiate with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and criticizes the Kremlin for setting ultimatums rather than taking the diplomatic route with European countries.

“Putin does not fulfill his functions. According to the constitution, he designs foreign policy and it is not effective. The diplomats have brought us to the brink of war,” he points out.

For this, Putin “must take responsibility,” he adds.

A group comprising some 100 activists, politicians and journalists has also signed a letter titled ‘If only there was no war’ backing a peaceful approach to the conflict.

Lev Ponomarev, a veteran civil activist and the architect of the initiative, asks: “Do they (Russians) want war? And are they ready to bear its burden? Did they give the authorities the right to play such a game with their fates?”

Although the letter argues that a war against Ukraine and the West would be immoral, irresponsible and criminal, it also insists that threatening Russia is out of the question.

Signatories of the letter include several members of Yabloko, a Russian social-liberal political party, which had already opposed the 1994 war in Chechnya.

Party leader Nikolay Rybakov says that a war would be disastrous for Russia and would lead to a dead-end when it comes to foreign policy, and could very well disintegrate the state.

“As long as there are negotiations, there is hope there will not be war. But if it happens, the main responsibility will fall on the president,” he warns.

“The key point remains the recognition of Ukraine’s political independence. We cannot prevent them from choosing to side with Europe. We must consider Ukraine as a strong country, not as a Russian sphere of influence,” he adds.

According to Russian polling center Levada, 70% of Russians do not support a war, 37% believe the war would be against Ukraine and 25% think it would be against NATO.

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