On the eve of Victory Day, the volunteers of the InformNapalm team took an exclusive Skype interview with the Russian opposition leader, State Duma deputy of the 2nd convocation (1995 — 2000), chairman of the political party Western Choice Konstantin Borovoy. The interview highlights the questions of the perception of the war by the Russian society, propaganda operations of Kremlin and German guilt complex, that interferes with the adequate estimation of the current crimes of the Russian government.
— Today, on May 8, we celebrate Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Ukraine. Russia will celebrate Victory Day on May 9. Taking into account the experience of the last year, many analysts predict the possibility of escalation in Donbas, as it often happens on the eve of major religious and social events. What mood is prevalent in the Russian society today? What should we expect?
— Indeed, it seems to me, Petro Poroshenko expects Putin’s aggressive actions on the Victory Day. This makes sense, since the last time when Putin was treated dismissively during the Olympic Games in 2014, he took it as a personal insult and then began taking his revenge. What is more: he was taking his revenge on everyone with no exclusion. This is the exact background of this assumption: that after the 9th of May, after many leaders refused to visit his celebration, he can launch his revenge. Although this assumption sounds quite reasonable, there is a feeling that the condition of the Russian army is disastrous. The defense industry is almost on halt due to the sanctions and Russia has never produced a high-quality electronics. Nowadays even the existence of the nuclear shield is questionable. Electronics comes out of order, which is generally a normal process, but there is nothing to replace it with. In fact, I see a lot of sense in the caution of Mr. Poroshenko. Due to this caution time passes and sanctions gradually makes useless the nuclear weapons: Putin’s greatest tool of influence and blackmail. Milošević could be stopped only by putting his war machine to an end, so Belgrade was bombed. Here you just need to wait. All his instruments of blackmail will go duff as the time passes.
— Thank you for your optimism. But besides the supplies of the lethal weapons we see a strong information component in this war. It was an information war, unleashed by the Kremlin against Ukraine, that became the pretext of the conflict. Why did it happen?
— Nowadays, the state security agencies have enormous resources in Russia. They control a huge country with 140 million inhabitants. The KGB (FSB) is an aggressive, ruthless organization. They are people who were raised that way. They are nationalists in the worst sense of the word, to be more precise — they are imperialists. By the way, I support the Ukrainian nationalism. It is about the struggle for Ukraine’s freedom, your independence. These national purposes contradict our imperial nationalists or, simply, the Russian Nazis.
The Russian security agencies consist of people without any moral limitations, who consider poisoning opponent with polonium to be an acceptable solution for a special operation. I see them using an instrumentarium which is aggressive, provocative and very dangerous for the humanity. It is therefore not surprising that they have already reached the point where they threaten to use nuclear weapons. And there is a real possibility that these people can go beyond the usual propaganda threats.
Their propaganda has no moral principles and limitations as well. It is just another tool of war for them. Meantime, the number of the dead Russians in this undeclared war is approaching the number of those killed in Afghanistan. By the way, in one of the interviews I talked about the provocative killings in Ukraine, including the murder of Oles Buzyna, which is the same instrument of propaganda campaigns of the Russian special services. There are also other weapons of this war, so called ‘instruments of bribery’ and Western audience desperately tries to avoid discussing them. Lobbying Putin’s regime among the Western audiences takes the form of advertorials in reputable publications. For example, if you take the infamous Boeing 777 of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, then you’ll find a series of well-paid pro-Russian articles, links to which are now used even in the Security Council. The publication of these articles also creates powerful information field and is lobbying Moscow.
— Let’s discuss the topic of German guilt complex on the eve of the Victory Day. Do you think Putin manages to use this complex to weaken support for Ukraine by the European Union through conducting information operations in Germany?
— Yes, we can see that the German society is very sensitive to the Kremlin’s propaganda. Of course, there is a historical background, including the notorious guilt complex. Putin’s closest circle, including himself, are experts in propaganda. Their campaigns take into account many psy factors and have been developed over the years. There are two areas of their influence in Germany: the first is the Russian-speaking audience, where they have an impressive efficiency, as over 50% of the former USSR citizens support Putin.
The second area is aimed directly at the non-Russian speaking Germans, at their subconscious and complexes. The only possible way to counteract in this sphere is a counter-propaganda, exposure and suppression of the Kremlin’s propaganda. Even Ukraine took a long way to realize it. Latvia regained consciousness only when squads had began to form in the areas bordering with Russia. But they realized the threat and began working with all the disinformation. We should admit that the problem is not so sharp in Latvia. I spoke to the Latvian leadership and understood that their situation does not require too much counter-propaganda, as the population is not inclined to support Russian invasion. Comparing to Ukraine the situation is way more dangerous. As for the Germans — 70 years have passed since 1945, but the guilt complex still makes them blind to many criminal actions of Russia in relation to Ukraine.
— What can you say about the Russian society? Is it mentally ready to act as an aggressor and fight with Ukraine should Kremlin declare a full-scale war? How do you assess the reaction of the Russian society to such an invasion? What degree of readiness exists in the Russian society?
— The degree of rediness is very high. I was impressed by a recent poll, according to which about 70% of Russians, who support Putin’s policies, understand these policies are deceitful to some extent. This means they perceive the propaganda campaign as a means of warfare. They know that Russia is waging war in Donbas, know that their citizens shot down Malaysian Boeing, but they continue to support Putin.
Therefore, they accept the Kremlin’s lies as a mean of their political regime’s war with Ukraine, citizens of which dared to think about the freedom, about getting rid of Russia’s influence and about making friends with the West. For example, some cars of Moscow with bear slogans “Kill khakhol!”. It was absolutely hard to imagine something like this just a year ago. As well as the fact that Russia may invade Ukraine and kill its citizens.
This is the effect of the one year propaganda campaign. It ruins all moral principles up to the point, where mothers send their children to war to kill ‘ukrops’ [derogatory Russian name for the servicemen of the Ukrainian army] and ‘fascists’. Who really believes this? Who believes in the existence of the ‘fascists’? Nobody. Still, the degree of hatred has reached the level at which they really want to kill Ukrainians. Why is that? Just because ‘they are fascists who want to be friends with the West, which we hate.’ After all, the same abnormal situation happens is now in the United States. I conducted surveys and studies there. It turned out that more than 50% of the Russian-speaking US population supports Putin and… hates the United States. On the other hand: it makes sense, because if they support Putin, they certainly hate the West. It is impossible to support democracy and Putin simultaneously.
— What do you think, if after a certain period of time, let’s say a month, a full-scale invasion and the real war begins and the three options appear for the Russian society: to support the war, remain indifferent or oppose this state policy. What will the Russian people do?
— I am confident they will absolutely support the war. Previously, I often came across such statements, especially by Ukrainians that ‘nobody will ever succeed in setting us against each other, we are way much interconnected, we are fraternal nations” Forget about it. This is aggressive war which is supported by the Russian people. It is important to understand that the struggle is not only with those who are directly fighting in Donbas, but also with those who support it. The number of those who support Putin and stands for the war may be not 85%, but more than 50% in any case. At the moment, the only factor that makes people return to reality is economic sanctions.
Posters ‘Our Victory’ hang across the whole Moscow on the eve of the May, 9th. Moreover, there is a very important detail: a poster with the Battle of Kursk hangs on the left and a small poster of Debaltseve hangs on the right. This is an element of propaganda campaign ‘Our Victory’. People believe in it and are proud of it. It means that the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Victory is interconnected with the recent victory over the Ukrainians and the annexation of the Crimea. The V day has become a holiday of looters and murderers in Russia.
— Under what conditions can this war be over?
— For Putin and his team, this war is a matter of the life and death. This whole situation has exposed the cynical corruption of all the ‘chekists’. Let us take Igor Sechin as the example. Ten years ago this man owned a company producing paperclips. At the same time, he was a KGB officer in Sankt-Petersburg. He is one of the richest guys in the world now. The estimated overall fortune of Sechin is several trillion dollars. This means that if these people lose power and all of this comes out, they will be searched for and persecuted all around the World. They reached the point of no return. There is no possibility for a compromise and they will fight to the end. They will shoot back if someone comes for them… I am a pessimist. I believe this war can only be ended in Moscow, where Ukraine will accept Russian capitulation. I believe that the future of Russia depends on Ukraine. I do hope that after defending itself Ukraine will defend the other Russia.
— Let us get back to the Ukrainian society. You published a lot of comments and writings about Ukraine. Do you think the old concept of division of the Ukrainian society into two parts by the Dnipro river (the pro-Western and the pro-Russian) is still relevant after all these years? Or is this an idea which gradually dissipates in the past?
— Thanks to Russia, many doubters have realized that for Ukraine this is a war for life, for survival of its people. A similar situation took place in 1939, when the Baltic countries were occupied. Executions by firing squads, destructions, deportation of intellectuals and people who can think were the first things NKVD did there. If they start battling through to Kyiv, it will literally become a matter of survival for the nation. Sending intellectuals to the Gulag, extermination of the thinking part of the society is nothing else but the end the nation.
— We believe in our victory too, we understand its importance and the inadmissibility of our defeat. But what is your vision of the Russia—Ukraine relations after the victory comes? Especially with those Russians, who, as you say, are filled with hatred? How can we be good neighbors again?
— A similar situation happened in Germany. Putin is in power for 15 years, Hitler was in power only for 12 years. Then, the re-education of the German nation and society was started. A denazification took place. Approximately 200 thousand Germans were judged for the support of nazism. Germans were forced to dig mass graves of murdered people and bury them like human beings. The Americans then did a great psychological job. All of this is very difficult and long process. It took Germans about 20 years. I do hope that Ukraine and the Western community will not tolerate the existence of such an aggressive, militarist neighbor, which the modern Russian Federation is. A long process of re-education of the vast country is required. Just as in Germany of the 1940s, there is no hope for the fast fixing of this problem. And it is impossible to stand fascism that appeared in the 21st century. It is the time, when humanity has a clear vision of the sources of its origin and development, and possesses enough experience to deal with it. It is a time, when we already have such an achievement of mankind as the Declaration of the Human Rights, which is a form of human coexistence…
In the second half of the 20th century most of humanity has made a huge leap in its development by sudden realization of the importance of human rights or personal rights or the rights of the individual. This principle is fundamental for the whole Western community.
— Crimea is another question which is very important to all Ukrainians. Is there a possibility of the same bloodless return of Crimea to Ukraine, using the methods by which it was taken from it?
— Of course Crimea will be returned because it is a stolen Ukrainian territory. Besides, the thief was caught red-handed. And the stolen must be returned to the owner. I really hope that the liberation of the Crimea will begin this summer. Anyway, that’s my opinion. Currently the present situation the Crimea looks like a real slavery. This is relevant not only to the Crimean Tatars, but to many Ukraine’s citizens who became victims of this Russian slavery. They must be set free.
— Is it possible to have a multi-ethnic democratic state within the borders of the modern Russian Federation or this is an utopia?
— Soviet empire collapsed relatively recently. By 1991, this empire was no longer able to exist according to any laws — it was rotten and started to collapse. The process of its disintegration is not complete, and the events in Ukraine and Georgia are the continuation of the collapse, an attempt to stop the inevitable. Today’s tensions with the national republics, relations between the South and Central Russia is also a natural historical process. Millions of people are groaning from their miserable existence. I believe that Russia should be divided into several small states, which will finally start respecting the human rights. Of course, I do hope that this process will not occur in a form of a civil war. Mr. Putin tries to restore the Soviet repressive machine with the help of law enforcement agencies, accusing World of its intentions to harm Russia and to contribute to its collapse.
In fact, it is a natural process that cannot be stopped. The totalitarian empire is doomed to collapse. There is a threat that some of newly created small states will also be totalitarian, but they will be of no harm to the neighboring states. The process of collapse cannot be stopped. Putin put himself under the tank of a history and soon he’ll be inevitably crushed by it.
Original text by Roman Burko and InformNapalm team, translated by Private, edited by Catcher in the Lie.