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Fearful symmetry - Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is wrecking two countries – 05.03.22

Article from the Economist - It is a tragedy, and it is a catastrophe


TO THOSE WITH long memories, Moscow currently feels oddly similar to the way it did during the attempted coup of August 1991. Admittedly, there are no tanks on the streets this time—they are occupied elsewhere. But the security forces of the FSB have a far firmer grip on the city, and the country, than their predecessors in the KGB had during their last-ditch effort to rescue the Soviet Union 30 years ago—an effort which precipitated its final collapse.

There seems no scope today for resistance like that which back then made Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Federation’s president, into a Russian hero. But in a country fast turning totalitarian, one where a law which allows a 15-year-jail sentence for “spreading fake news about the actions of the Russian armed forces” will soon be rubber-stamped by parliament, there is plenty of room for bravery.

More than 1m people have signed a petition against the war. On February 24th, in St Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin’s hometown, the police detained Liudmila Vasilieva, a survivor of the 872-day siege the city suffered during the second world war, for protesting against the invasion of Ukraine—one of 7,000 such detentions to have taken place. A video posted on Twitter of her being led away by two policemen instantly become an icon of defiance.

“If there is anything in Russia you can be proud of right now, it is those people who have been detained,” Alexei Navalny, Russia’s jailed opposition leader, wrote in a statement his lawyer posted on Instagram. “Let’s at least not become a nation of frightened silent people. Or of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane Tsar.”

There is doubtless some such pretence. Mostly, though, there is shock. “I feel like I'm going mad,” says a banker. “I take part in conference calls where people talk about financial plans and discuss analytical reports about companies’ results, as if nothing is happening.”

Most Russians had no idea that their country was going to war until just before it did so, in part because the idea made no sense, in part because they were lied to. For months the Kremlin’s official line was that the troops at the Ukrainian border were simply exercising. Plans for the “special military operation”, as Mr Putin has branded his war, were even kept from the army itself. (Tellingly, “special operation” is a KGB term, not a military one.) The operation was supposed to be over before anyone realised it had taken place.

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Police taking away body-bags in Ukraine

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