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U.S. needs to reach the Russian people to stop Putin’s aggression

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Vladimir Putin should be ousted from power, according to President Biden. Only Russians, though, have the power to depose Mr. Putin.

That is why, in addition to arming Ukraine, the United States must take initiatives to reach out to the Russian people, writes Mr. David Satter in his article for WSJ.

Mr. Putin realizes that in order to win in Ukraine, he needs the Russian people’s backing. He exploits state television to bombard Russians with news of alleged atrocities committed by US-backed Ukrainian Nazis against ethnic Russians, particularly in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, which the Russian army is defending.

The Putin regime, on the other hand, is isolated within Russia. 110 people control 35% of the country’s assets, according to Karen Dawisha, author of “Putin’s Kleptocracy.” This is the organization that is fighting Ukraine and deceiving Russians.

According to the author, America may have more impact over Russians than we realize. To assist Russians in learning the fates of missing soldiers, the US should first create a database separate from the existing Ukrainian site. On March 25, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed the deaths of 1,351 Russian servicemen. The number was put at 16,100 by the Ukrainians. Russian commanders frequently do not remove the remains of soldiers and label them as “missing in action,” according to Valentina Melnikova, secretary of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee. This gives the government a reason to avoid compensating families and decreases the official death toll.

Many parents have no idea what happened to their sons and have been told by the Defense Ministry that no information is available. Death notices appear in the regional Russian media on a regular basis. Although a US database, accessible through Radio Liberty and other sites, would not be comprehensive, it may contain more information than Russian officials can supply.

Mr. Satter emphasized in his post that the US and its allies should also proclaim that revenues from the confiscation of property from billionaires related to corruption will be restored to the Russian people. Because they gained billions by misappropriating state funds, Russia’s super-rich can buy yachts and homes. The Russian oligarchy has its origins in the 1995 “loans for shares” auctions, in which Russia’s major resource corporations were given to unscrupulous business people in exchange for support for President Boris Yeltsin’s re-election campaign in 1996.

Roman Abramovich, for example, is currently exempt from sanctions as a result of his work as a negotiator between Russia and Ukraine. In 1995, he and his partner, Boris Berezovsky, paid $100.3 million for Sibneft, a vertically integrated oil business, in an auction in which competitors were removed. Sibneft’s market capitalization quickly grew to $1 billion. Mr. Abramovich, who had split with Berezovsky, sold it for $13.1 billion in 2005. Mr. Abramovich owns two yachts with a combined value of almost $600 million.

The Yachts for Ukraine Act was introduced in Congress, and it would allow the US to sell seized assets and utilize the proceeds to help Ukraine. Aiding Ukraine is a noble concept, but it will not change Russian thinking, according to the article. A vow by the US to transfer money from Russia to a future democratic Russian state would be a public acknowledgement by the US that ordinary Russian residents have been denied justice for far too long.

Finally, and most importantly, the author thinks, the United States should share what it knows about the apartment bombings in September 1999 that propelled Mr. Putin to power. Chechens were blamed for the four attacks, which were used to launch a new Chechen conflict. Mr. Putin, who had only recently been appointed Prime Minister, was put in control of the war and catapulted into the president as a result of his early successes.

However, the terrorists were apprehended after a fifth device was discovered in the basement of a building in Ryazan, southeast of Moscow. They were not Chechen militants, but Federal Security Service agents. In another astonishing turn of events, after a building was blown up in Moscow, Speaker of the State Duma Gennady Seleznev revealed on Sept. 13 that a structure had been blown up in Volgodonsk. Three days later, that structure was detonated.

The apartment bombings tale is crucial because evidence of state involvement is the most powerful evidence of the Putin regime’s genuine attitude toward the Russian people. The bombs are Russia’s most controversial topic, although there is a lot of curiosity about them. On YouTube, an interview with Duma deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky on the Volgodonsk incident attracted 15 million views.

Despite the regime’s efforts to crush criticism, the signals of discontent in Russia are clear. An editor at Channel One television, Maria Ovsyannikova, mounted an on-air protest against the station’s lies. On March 20, soldiers’ mothers in the North Caucasus blocked a bridge, demanding to know what had happened to their sons. Most importantly, there is opposition in Russia’s military, which alone has the potential to depose Mr. Putin.

Gen. Leonid Ivashov, who leads a group of retired officers, warned just before the invasion that an attack on Ukraine would be the end of Russia. He claimed the invasion was an attempt by a corrupt regime to maintain power. He demanded that Mr. Putin step down. A majority of his organization’s board of directors agreed with him.

The overwhelming casualties of Russian soldiers have almost likely upset Russia’s generals one month into the war. In 1996, after 15 months of fighting in Chechnya, Gen. Alexander Lebed claimed that 30 percent of Russian soldiers were ready to turn their weapons on the people who brought them there.

Despite the regime’s efforts to isolate Russians, information continues to spread via cellphones, Telegram, YouTube, and word of mouth. This presents a window of opportunity for the West.

“Besides aid to Ukraine, we have to engage the Russian people. Despite the grimness of the present situation, opinion can shift dramatically in Russia, as it has in the past,” he ends.

Image Credit: Getty

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