Are there “good Russians” among Russian soldiers?

Are there “good Russians” among Russian soldiers?

Almost every Ukrainian will answer this question like this: of course, there are – every 200th Russian is good. But is it really so clear? Russian propaganda makes a lot of effort to arouse empathy for them, talking about their plight, proving that they are also victims – and objectively, they really suffer. Should one in this case have pity  for the mobilized Russians and the pitying mobilized Russians? Here is what the Ukrainian blogger Murat Sarsenov tells about this.

In the digital era, we cannot do what the French did in 1945 – just stop communicating with all Germans. We continue to do this even in the darkest days of this war. Even when it seems that we hate each other so passionately that our grandchildren will absorb this hatred on a deeply subconscious level. Relations between Russia and Ukraine at the social level have been built for decades. The countries are doomed to be neighbors, and even if Russia disintegrates after the war, its remains will still border Ukraine.

Let me start with the actual case, on the basis of which I chose this topic. Serious discussions arose about Rain and the words of journalist Alexei Korostelev. I remember Alexei from the episodes of the Fake News program in 2020, which I watched with pleasure. I will tell you what happened and give my evaluation of the situation and then I will move on to a general analysis.

For context, let me remind you what happened. On the air, the journalist of the Rain TV channel, Alexei Korostelev, said the following phrase, “We hope that people, including us, were able to help many military personnel, for example, with equipment and simply with basic amenities at the front.”

Is this a reservation? It doesn’t matter, and I’ll explain why. You see, the symptomatic problem is not in what he said, but in what began after. It began with his own excuses in the Telegram channel, where he wrote the following, “Do I feel pity for the hungry mobilized abandoned by everyone (they were discussed)? Yes. Is Putin right? No. It looks like there is a watershed somewhere around here.”

The network immediately appreciated the fatherly care of Alexei and nicknamed those mobilized, whom he speaks of, boys. It is very lyrical and I like this construction, and I will use it. So, it’s a pity that the boys in the trenches are freezing, but Putin is not right, because he started all this. Let’s try to build a collective image of these boys based on the results of their deeds. Today, more than 400 cases against the Russian military are being investigated about tortures done by them in Ukraine. In Izyum, a man told that he was kept in a torture chamber for four days, and released when he was no longer able to feel the torment and pain, he was ready for anything. They tortured him to such a state that when he was released, he was not glad, because he wanted to die more than he wanted freedom. In Kherson, another man said that he was subjected to electric shocks when electricity input and output wires were connected to his ears. He felt his brain melt. One and a half minutes of torture – and you lose consciousness. You come to yourself – and they start this again. And so six times. He says that if he knew something, he would definitely tell.

In general, 9 torture facilities were found in the liberated part of Kherson region. It is curious that it was not the boys from the Federal Security Service or the Russian Guard who did this, but the boys from the army. Apparently, in between freezing in the trenches and starvation.

In general, almost 50 thousand criminal cases on war crimes of the Russian army have now been opened in Ukraine. By the way, the judicial system is completely incapable of processing such a volume of cases and appeals. And no national judicial system could cope with such a volume, this is an excessive burden that creates technical difficulties already at the stage of receiving applications. Mariupol, Lisichansk, Berdyansk and Melitopol are not liberated yet. And it is completely unclear what range of systemic crimes of various structures will open after the liberation of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea.

Between one million two hundred thousand and one and a half million children were brought from Ukraine to Russia. According to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, the vast majority were forcibly brought there.

More than 10,000 residential buildings have been destroyed in Ukraine. Let me remind you that we are talking about judicial office work, that is, these are the houses, the destruction of which is actually confirmed. Once again, this list does not include Mariupol, Volnovakha, Rubizhne and Severodonetsk. And other cities wiped off the face of the earth.

And this whole completely unimaginable array of war crimes, which is of an exclusively systemic nature, all these tortures, executions, looting – all these are done by the boys whom Korostelev has pity for. Of course, he does not support all this on a conscious level. But he has pity for the boys. In warmth and comfort, with a full stomach, the effectiveness of killings and destruction would definitely increase. Alexei obviously does not understand this. Kotrikadze, Dzyadko and Sindeev do not understand either. Kats, Mironov, Zhdanov do not understand as well. And I get the impression that this misunderstanding is also absolutely systemic. They keep telling us about the reservation and pointing out that they don’t sponsor the Russian army in any way.

I really admit that there are those among the war criminals who had no options to avoid mobilization. For example, in Chechnya you can’t avoid it, it will directly affect the family there. But we know for sure that there are only a few of them. Voluntary or submissive mobilization is what we have all seen. Not forced at all. Since we are talking about forced mobilization, we recall the spring cleansing of Luhansk of men. Then they grabbed everyone absolutely indiscriminately and without exception. We remember these shots with captive French teachers and locksmiths. Most of them were not lucky enough to be captured, they were killed. I don’t remember that Korostelev was very worried about this, I don’t remember that the Rain TV channel collected their stories. Well, in principle, it is logical, this is Ukraine, not Russia, what do they care, Ukraine itself should solve its problems.

By the way, in Alexei’s exculpatory message there is one more phrase that seemed to me absolutely wild in its narrative. Speaking about the boy, for whom he has pity, and not about Putin who is not right, Korostelev suggests that a thin, and judging by the context, barely noticeable line runs somewhere between. Which line, he does not specify. I think it’s about common humanity. That is, to support Putin is not humane, but to worry about the mobilized is quite normal. To make it easier for the doubters to understand the situation, I will carry out a terminological trick and replace the word “mobilized” with the word “military”. Because a mobilized person who came to Ukraine with a weapon is a military man. And according to all international and Russian laws. So, Alexei has pity for the Russian military. I just read you a short excerpt of what these soldiers represent. That is, Korostelev is worried about those who cold-bloodedly dropped a bomb on the theater in Mariupol, where up to six hundred people were hiding. He worries about those who shot unarmed civilians on the streets of Bucha and Irpin. No, he will say that this is not so and there is a difference between them. But there is no difference.

A soldier freezing in a trench, if he suddenly gets equipment, ammunition and a full meal, will immediately become the one who shoots civilians. If you are going to Ukraine with weapons, then you are going with one single purpose – to kill Ukrainians. There are no other goals.

That’s who Alexei has pity for.

And here is an interesting point. I have read many opinions on this subject these days. And if for the Ukrainians what I just said is a basic logical chain, then the Russians in the vast majority of them sympathize with Alexei and mainly support him. This, by the way, applies to almost all the opinion leaders that I had time to read or listen to. What is it? Mass insanity? Some new undisguised neoliberal fascism? No, it’s just a different perspective. Russian. It exists, and it is radically different from the Ukrainian one. We look at the same events from completely different angles. And it is quite logical that we see a different picture.

For Russians 90 thousand fellow citizens died without purpose and meaning, for Ukrainians they are 90 thousand destroyed invaders. And, arguing about current events, we should not forget this.

They are really disgusted by the war and they are fully aware of the consequences that their country will face as a result of it. They also hate Putin and his entourage, they also want the return of Ukrainian territories under the control of Ukraine. I will not speak here for all Ukrainians, I will speak for myself. Personally, I think this position is appropriate. I do not adhere to it at all, because I have no sympathy for the invaders. But I’m not Russian either. Once again, I accept their position. Moreover, I agree that one has pity for those whom they are trying to mobilize. The liberals are doing the right thing in trying to protect the Russians from being sent to the front. They advise not to take a summons, not to go to the military registration and enlistment office, to leave the country, or at least to the village to grandmother. But at the moment when you could not save a person from mobilization and he was sent to kill Ukrainians, it seems to me that he should automatically move from the “pity” category to the “accomplice” category. Why the watershed passes not here, but between the military and Putin – I do not know. I will never understand this.


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