Ukraine’s military has made advances on the ground against Russian forces, which has led to increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin at home. As a supporter and arms supplier to Ukraine, it behooves the United States to be clear about the nature of Putin and his government.
He is ruthless, brutal and feared. We don’t know his limitations, but he increasingly yearns for success at home and crushes the resistance – arresting people, censoring news and seemingly killing his perceived enemies. There is a long list of victims who have been poisoned, thrown out of windows, blown up and shot, and that is nothing compared to the ruin and victims he leaves in Ukraine. The United States needs to be clear about the nature of Putin and his administration.
The names and numbers of Putin enemies who have died in sometimes strange and always brutal circumstances over the past two decades should be remembered.
Four prominent Putin critics have died since February. Igor Nosov, CEO of Russia’s Far East and Arctic Development Corporation, reportedly died of a stroke. This month, Ivan Pechorin, 39, Putin’s handpicked CEO of the corporation, fell from his yacht. Lukoil chairman Ravil Manganov, 67, fell from a sixth-floor window of a Moscow hospital. Or was thrown out after beatings. Dan Rapoport, a Latvian-born US citizen, fell from a window of a luxury apartment building in Washington. [He was the second Putin critic to die in Washington, D.C. Mikhail Y. Lesin, 57, who helped create the Kremlin’s global English-language Russia Today television network, was found dead in a hotel in 2016.] The police found nothing suspicious.
All were opponents of the Ukraine war.
This is this year.
Putin critic and lawmaker Denis Voronenkov (2017), Boris Nemtsov (2015), human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov (2009), journalists Anastasiya Baburova (2009), Natalia Estemirova (2009), Anna Politkovskaya (2005) and Paul Klebnikov (2004), and the politician Sergei Yushenkov (2003) were all shot.
Human rights lawyer Sergei Magnitsky (2009) died in police custody after being beaten and denied treatment. Yevgeny Khahamaganov (2017), Editor-in-Chief of Asia-Russia Daily, died under mysterious circumstances resulting in a coma. Putin critic Nikolai Andrushchenko (2018) on a severe caning – his third in a few months. He had told friends that he had survived an earlier attempt to poison him.
Semyon Korobeinikov (2008) – a clothing salesman – “lost his footing” on a balcony and fell to his death. Only later was it revealed that he had been a co-conspirator in a bank fraud case in which he might have had to testify against a mafia boss friend of Putin. Nicolai Gorokhov (2017), attorney for Magnitsky’s family and a US government witness in the investigation into Magnitsky’s death, fared somewhat better. He fell 50 feet out of a window “while installing a hot tub.” “The balcony fell down,” the Russian government said. After months in intensive care, Gorokhov said he was thrown out the window.
Bathrooms are clearly dangerous. Boris Berezovsky (2013) went to London after a dispute with Putin. He was found dead in his bath in a locked bathroom with a noose around his neck. A British coroner could not determine the cause of death. More about the British in a moment. poison? Yuri Shchekochikhin (2003) had what official reports called a “rare allergic reaction”. To “something”. His family believed he had been poisoned before, and this time he died from it.
Alexander Litvinenko (2006) drank radioactive tea in the UK. British coroners found nothing unusual in Alexander Perepilichny (2012) dropping dead while jogging. It might have been “bad sushi,” they suggested. Later, a scientist from the insurance company revealed Traces of a poisonous plant in his stomach
Vladimir Kara-Murza, leader of the Russian political opposition, directly accused the Kremlin of assassinating political enemies. In 2017, Kara-Murza was in a life-threatening coma with elevated blood levels of heavy metals; It was the second time he was poisoned. Kara-Murza, now partially recovered and not in Russia, called it retaliation for his work with American lawmakers on the Magnitsky Act.
Russia’s battle plans are generally to crush your own troops and crush your enemy. It worked in Stalingrad, where Russian civilians and soldiers suffered endlessly to push back the Nazis. Their bravery was both great and terrible. Hence Putin’s denunciation of Ukrainians as Nazis to justify invading a neighboring independent country. If it’s Nazis after all…
But Russia’s battle plans are the same regardless of the enemy.
Up to a million Afghan civilians plus 100,000 mujahideen and Afghan troops died after the 1979 Russian invasion along with over 15,000 Russian soldiers. Low numbers suggest that 30-40,000 civilians died in the Chechen wars, along with 3,000 Russian soldiers. The UN estimates that more than 300,000 civilians have been killed in Syria (but the UN actually stopped counting after 300,000).
The Ukraine war isn’t over yet – and maybe not anywhere near. The litany of Putin’s victims – individuals and communities, soldiers and civilians at home and abroad – should remain a touchstone of America’s political and military commitment to its victims.