The morale and determination of working people who make up the backbone of the Ukrainian armed forces, backed by volunteer territorial defense units, has prevented Russian President Vladimir Putin from crushing Ukraine’s independence for over a year.
And at home Putin’s regime is intensifying its clampdown on free speech and imprisoning opponents, but opposition is growing and he is failing to silence people speaking out against the war.
In Izhevsk, 600 miles east of Moscow, Nikita Gorbunov stood in Kirov Park with a sign, “Hug me if you’re against the war,” with Ukrainian and Russian flags on it March 19. For over an hour he was constantly embraced by many passersby before being arrested. This was all caught on video, available on the internet. It’s “better to go to prison than to go to war,” he told the press. “I decided to do this because I’m tired of living in fear.”
Russia’s largest labor union called off its popular May 1 celebrations around the country, citing hyped-up concerns about “terrorist” threats. The government then canceled the May 9 Victory Day military parades held in hundreds of towns and cities commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, again citing “security threats.”
Both decisions show the fear among Russian authorities that such actions could provide avenues for the expression of opposition to the war.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, commander of the Wagner private mercenary force that the Kremlin is using to spearhead its offensive aimed at taking the city of Bakhmut, claimed Moscow was capable of holding the territory it had seized in eastern Ukraine, but admitted that further breakthroughs are “not very likely.” He added that many Russians who supported the invasion at the outset are now “in doubt or categorically against what is happening.”
Anti-war poetry in Russian
A poetry compilation put together by Julia Nemirovskaya reveals the depth of the sentiment against the war. The Moscow-born poet now living in the U.S. has collected more than 1,000 poems against the war by over 300 Russian authors from around the world in a Kopilka, Russian for “piggy bank.”
The collection includes poems by Russian-speaking Ukrainian poets. One said, “I refuse to abandon the [Russian] language to the Putinites!”
Nemirovskaya edited the pieces into a bilingual anthology called Disbelief: 100 Russian Anti-War Poems, published in January by Smokestack Books.
A poem by Maria Remizova read:
This is the house
That Jack wrecked.
And these are the tenants who
went to hide
In the dark basement and
In the house
That Jack wrecked.
A young poet, Artyom Kamardin, was arrested and tortured for reading his poems against Putin’s military call-up at a street poetry event in Moscow in September, part of wider protests. Along with two other poets, he has been in jail ever since.
The Kremlin is increasingly using treason and espionage laws to smother criticism of the war against Ukraine.
Famous Russian actress Liya Akhezhakova was charged with treason, discrediting the army and fomenting hatred April 11. She has been an outspoken supporter of political freedoms from the final years of the Gulag in the Soviet Union up to today. Prosecutors demand she be declared a “foreign agent” and stripped of her many acting awards. The 84-year-old told the press, “I’ve been accused of the most heinous and serious crime that anyone can be accused of these days — supporting the Ukrainian army.”
A high-profile trial of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a bourgeois political opponent of Putin, ended April 17 with the harshest penalty since the war began. A Moscow court sentenced him to 25 years in prison for treason and spreading “fake news.”
“But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will evaporate,” Kara-Murza said in his final statement at the end of the trial. “When a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper. And when those who fostered and unleashed this war will be recognized as criminals, rather than those who tried to stop it.
“Russia will be free, tell everyone,” he said to his supporters in the courtroom.
The Kremlin is relying on a new call-up of 147,000 conscripts to replenish its depleted forces, which have suffered heavy losses against the Ukrainian forces. Putin hopes to avoid provoking another round of protests like the tens of thousands who took to the streets after the special mobilization of 300,000 in September. His offensive aimed at taking Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, has inched forward at a snail’s pace with the cost of thousands of lives.
Electronic summonses have replaced hand-delivered paper notification of conscription. Harsh new measures have been adopted to punish anyone seeking to avoid service.
As even Prigozhin admits, Ukraine’s threatened spring offensive is likely to make gains.
Source : The Militant