To dislike someone is a strong emotion. When I dislike someone, that person must have messed it up, according to me. I disliked Putin long before the invasion of Ukraine began. I must admit, it didn’t get better after the invasion started.

Vladimir Putin

2018

Let’s go back to the year 2018. The World Championship Soccer. The football tournament was held in Russia. At the time I wrote an article about this in Dutch. In it, I explained why I did not watch this football tournament. That was a symbolic (solo) action. Many others have watched this tournament. I know that too. But hey, principles, huh?

These principles were not only about the Russian part in the downing of flight MH17 (2014). I also thought about other things that were caused by the regime of Vladimir Putin. Take for instance the assassination attempts on journalists, business people and politicians. Also, the denial of the disease HIV and the oppression of the LGBTQIA+ Community were important reasons not to watch soccer. Combine this with corruption and human rights.

Chechnya

The reasons not to watch had everything to do with just one person and the group surrounding him. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. From leading the former KGB to becoming the prime minister of Russia. During another war, he gained fame and was respected for his actions in Chechnya by the Russian people. Well, not all of them. Enough to have him elected in 2000. With his appointment, a new era began. The Putin Era. Although the war caused many casualties, many people saw Putin as a much stronger leader than his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. Putin was prime-minister but became president in 1999 after Yeltsin resigned from office.

We are talking about a period in history when Russian territory became smaller. This was because different parts of the country wanted to be independent. The latter was not to be allowed to happen in Chechnya. Hence a war. A dirty war. Although you can ask the question which war that is not…

It would be over with Putin after the elections of 2007. Nothing could be further from the truth. After he was re-elected in 2004, this should be his last term. Should be, but wasn’t it. By a smart move, he ran for prime minister in the 2007 elections. Dmitry Medvedev became president and Putin prime minister.

In 2012, Putin was allowed to participate again. After that time, he made sure in every way that he could stay in power for as long as he would like. For example, the Constitution was amended and a president was re-elected for six years. If those six years were over, Putin and Medvedev (or any other candidate) would undoubtedly repeat the same trick as they did in 2007.

Although Medvedev became president, it was Putin who, as prime minister, simply held the reins.

Opposition

Everything could change if there were an opposition leader who beat Putin in elections. That is precisely the problem. There is no opposition. Putin and his group of yes-men have taken care of that. From the moment Putin became president of Russia, he did his best to eliminate critics, the press and the opposition. I’m not just talking about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 (that I mentioned in the Dutch version of this article). Let’s not forget the others – no doubt I have forgotten victims. People such as Sergej Joesjenko (politician, was shot in 2003), Yuri Shchekochikhin (politician and journalist, died in 2003 due to an unknown disease), Paul Klebnikov (journalist, was shot in 2004), Alexandr Litvinenko (former KGB-agent, was poisoned with polonium-210  and died in 2006), Boris Berezovski (businessman, murdered in Ascot in 2013) and Boris Nemtsov (politician, murdered in 2015).

Supporters of Putin state about these murders and deaths that no evidence has been found that there is a link with Putin. Not even with the FSB intelligence service. That is precisely the problem. That proof. Or rather, the lack of it. Evidence can always be found when opponents need to be convicted. Take Aleksei Navalny, for example. He is now in custody and it looks like a new criminal case is being prepared. This time because of corruption. In this way, only those politicians who agree with Putin remain.

Dislike

During my vacation of 2007 (also our honeymoon), I talked to Russian people about Anna Politkovskaya. They told me they were certain this was because of her investigations and work as a journalist. They also said that Putin would never admit his connection with this murder. It turned out to be right: the evidence was never found. That’s how things go in Putin’s Russia. That makes me dislike Putin.

I know that over the last two years (during the COVID pandemic) lots of people from different countries claimed that they lived in a dictatorially ruled country. This was and is because of the measures taken by several governments to contain the pandemic. If I take a look at the country I live in (The Netherlands), I see a country where I can vote in March. I can also write this, without fear. The fear of getting arrested or even worse. I’m sorry, there is no dictatorship in countries such as The Netherlands. Neither is there for instance in Canada. You might not agree with some measures or laws, but you can say something about this. Unless you cross a certain line (threats, violence), you won’t get arrested.

So, there is no dictatorship in the country I live in. When I compare the political system and the justice system with that of Russia, I am convinced that there is a dictatorship in Russia. If you look at the situation in Russia, where every dissent is suppressed and human rights are violated, Russia is a dictatorship. If you look at the possibility offered to let the inhabitants of Russia vote, Russia is not a dictatorship. In addition, the country has a Duma (parliament).

That is just the problem. You can say it’s something, but that doesn’t mean a thing. That’s a little confusing, of course. In other words: you can say that Russia is a democracy because there are elections and there’s a parliament. However, saying something isn’t the same as the real situation. The real situation is that these elections are not free. The opposition is threatened on all sides. This has been the case since Putin took office.

I think that’s a good reason to dislike someone…

What makes it different in Russia? The person in charge (Putin) does something that the Greek philosopher Aristotle described all as acting out of self-interest. It is not the community that benefits from this. It is the man and the group around him who benefits from it. The contradictions in Russia are particularly great.

Church and religion

There’s another subject that plays an important role in Russia. That is the position of the Russian Orthodox church. In other words: religion. For years religion was tolerable according to the communist leaders. Probably to prevent too much unrest among the population. Communism does not “believe” in a church. A church stands for hierarchy and that does not correspond to the basic principles of communism. Was the church completely disabled? Certainly not. However, there was a certain control from the government. The churches were not allowed to do certain things.

After the Soviet Union ceased to exist, things changed. Religion again occupied a prominent place. As this happened earlier in history. This is not to say that there was or is religious extremism. The church’s influence on Russian policy simply increased. This is evident from how the LGBTQIA+ Community is treated.

If it is up to Putin, then this community must be destroyed with fire and sword. It goes against ‘traditional’ values. The values are largely inspired by religion.

There are a lot of examples of a clear anti-LGBTQIA+ policy in Russia. In 2013 a law was passed, whereby homosexuality may not be discussed in the presence of minors and it’s forbidden to show or wear all LGBTQIA+ related icons, signs or characteristics. This ban doesn’t just concern textbooks in schools. It also affects television, film, music and other creative expressions. Also on a digital level. That brings me to another thing I want to bring forward.

Digital domination

If it’s up to Russia (Putin), there should be a kind of digital domination. Everything that doesn’t comply with traditional Russian values, should be addressed. This concerns the digital world. In other words: the internet and all things related. That’s when it even concerns others. Meaning: people or organisations outside Russia. The digital world has no boundaries. Not the way we know them when it comes to countries. When it comes to the aspirations to ‘protect’ Russia and its traditional values, the actions online affect not only people in Russia. However, this is not just because of the protection of traditional values. Russia’s cyber warfare is simply meant to obtain classified information and to disrupt. With that, you could say that freedom of expression online for Russia does not exist. That fits in with the image that is known about Russian society, where that freedom of expression is also very limited.

A proven means are the cyber attacks that have been carried out in recent years. These cyber-attacks are modern-day warfare. Often Russia relies on what we know as troll factories or the Russian web brigades. They’re there to troll, to disrupt and – let’s not forget – to spread fake news. In addition to this, there are also cyber-attacks meant to shut down organisations and even entire governments.

If you try long enough to achieve something online, even when there are no pure motives or falsehoods, there will be a chance that you will reach a wider target group. Especially when you do this en masse. The Russian web brigades are there to do that.

I think the above is pretty good reasons to hate Putin…

The current situation

For a long period, I disliked Putin. Things haven’t changed after today. It’s not that I want to harm this man in any way. I don’t believe in things like that. It doesn’t help.

From the recognition of two parts of Ukrain to a peacekeeping mission. Well, peace keeping? It’s strange because the areas that should be protected are miles away from the capital Kyiv. If it was a peacekeeping mission, why attack other parts of the country?

At this moment, it’s not clear what will happen. I shared my vision about all of this and shared reasons why I dislike Putin. You might say I disliked him before it got trending.

In The Netherlands (and in other countries too), there is a strong fanbase of Putin. This fanbase doesn’t just consist of ‘ordinary’ people. Certain politicians also do not hide their adoration for the Russian leader. That gives us pause for thought. In any case, this causes me to question motives, visions and points of view.

Well… what do I know about all of this? I am no Russia expert. I am probably better at doing other things. Vacuum!  That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow. I don’t want to wake up the kids.

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