Letter to the Editor from a Russian political dissident
I am a Russian political dissident who fled Russia three years ago, and I am currently seeking asylum in the UK. Naturally, I have been thinking about how we can shorten Putin’s war in Ukraine.
When your readers next put ten litres of diesel in their car, I would like them to imagine that two litres are made up of Ukrainian blood and tears.
The UK spends £6.3 million on gas from Russia every day equating to £2.3 billion per year. We spend even more on oil, both crude and refined – £4 billion per year. This is the money that Putin uses to fund his illegal and monstrous war…
…and 18% of the diesel we use comes from Russia. Every litre we buy from Putin means more death, rape and destruction in Ukraine. The UK is too dependent on Russian oil and gas despite sanctions. In my opinion, phasing out our reliance on Russian oil and gas by the end of the year is not going to be the big stick our government thinks it is.
It is the like giving Oligarchs notice of sanctions, that in turn gives Putin the opportunity to find other buyers. What he needs is a big shock.
Would it be possible to speed up this sanction by, for example, using some of the money currently being spent on military aid to offset any increased cost of sourcing our oil and gas from elsewhere to turn off the tap to Putin’s aggression? Despite the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, 73% of the public support sanctions that would lead to increased energy bills. It should be remembered that about 56% of the cost of a litre of diesel is due to duty and tax, so the increased cost of turning to an alternative supplier should not be exorbitant; so let’s do this to help shorten Putin’s war and to make him more vulnerable to internal dissent.
Speeding up the sanctions would minimise Russia’s ability to find alternative buyers for its oil and gas. This would force Russia to mothball wells and will have the maximum possible economic effect.
Less money means fewer missiles and bombs, less death and destruction in Ukraine, and will hasten internal strife in Russia.
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It isn’t just oil and gas. If you buy something from Russia, or from a company still doing business in or with Russia, you should be aware that you are financing the Russian industrial-military complex. No money equals no bombs. We can search online for companies that are still doing business with Russia. We can boycott them ourselves without waiting for government sanctions. Name and shame them on social media. We may be small, but we are many and we do have influence.
The Soviet Union retreated from Afghanistan in 1989 after almost a decade of brutal war, where about 15,000 Soviet troops were killed and 35,000 wounded. Putin has managed an equivalent toll (probably greater) in just three months. This war will be ended by the Russian people, but they will need to be helped to overcome the Kremlin’s propaganda and they will need to be brave when protesting Putin’s regime. Zelensky knows the influence that Russian mothers can have and called on them to act in March at the start of Putin’s war. The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was set up in the wake of the war in Afghanistan at the beginning of Perestroika campaigning about the inhuman treatment of Russian conscripts. Today they are fielding “a sea of tears” from Russian mothers worried about their sons.
Most Russians only get their news from television. All television in Russia is now state-controlled. All other media is state-controlled. This means their only source of (dis)information is what Putin wants them to see, hear and read. So, we have two things that need to be addressed: how to inform the Russian people of the truth, and how we can help them overcome their natural and completely understandable fear of standing up to the regime. Even now, they can be imprisoned for up to fifteen years for any form of protest, which includes not only holding a blank piece of paper, but even miming holding a blank piece of paper.
The fear of what could happen if there are mass protests is real. If Putin had been in charge rather than Gorbachev when the Soviet Union collapsed, there would have been a bloodbath, but without mass protests, there will be no change.
There is no doubt that Putin’s army – already brutalised by their genocidal war crimes in Ukraine – will fire on peaceful protestors when ordered. The army is filled with men from the poorest and least educated areas of Russia because in those regions, joining the army is the only way out of grinding poverty. The soldiers are brutalised from the moment they join, and like abusive perpetrators, in their turn, they brutalise those lower in the pecking order. The whole culture of the Russian army and other security agencies is toxic. The rape and murders that they have carried out in Ukraine will have only made things far worse.
Putin is at war, and it won’t end until Putin runs out of money. As long as Putin is in power, he will fight, and as long as he has a supply of external funding, he will kill. To stop Putin’s bloody butcher, we need to stop financing him. It is not good enough that the monetary value of the aid that we are sending to Ukraine is much less than what the world is giving to Putin in exchange for his oil and other commodities.
I would like to thank John and Galina Peek (@john196201 on Twitter) for helping me to put my thoughts into English, hopefully with clarity.