Most Russians are adamant about a visaban for citizens of Russia. It would make Russians collectively responsible for the atrocities of their government and make it impossible for critics of the war to leave the country. The Ukrainian political analyst Mykola Riabchuk explains why Ukrainians favour this punishment, but he is a realist. And comes up with simple and effective solutions: crossing borders is no human right, so prohibit entrance to state functionaries and ask visa applicants openly if they support Putin's war.
The Kremlin harvests hatred through symbols like the letter Z, that doesn't even exist in the cyrillic alphabet
by Mykola Riabchuk
On the nice Saturday of August 13 three Ukrainian students, a boy and two girls, were strolling a Zurich street when two angry men approached them aggressively with quite an odd question: 'Why do you speak Ukrainian?' The simple answer – 'We are Ukrainian' – did not satisfy them. On the contrary, it only poored oil onto the fire. The two men had an outburst of ethnic slurs and those multiple f-words the Russian language abounds with. 'You fucking cunts', yelled one of them, 'go back home and die out there!'
As soon as the police arrived, the attackers retired. One of the girls filmed the incident but it is doubtsome that the police will bother to find the offenders. It is even less clear whether Western justice is ready to treat such cases as ethnically-based hate-crimes rather than mere hooliganism.
A few days earlier, two Ukrainian women reported the same harassment in a Turkish resort, where a drunken Russian hurled at them a weird mixture of ethnic abuse and personal threats (to f... them both, in a great variety of verbal forms). In this case the video-recordings of his flirtations did help: the bully was thrown out of the hotel, though this would probably not prevent him from patriotic activity in other places.
On a crowded street in Warsaw, recently, another drunk ‘tourist’ enjoyed his ten minutes of fame by crying 'I love Putin!' and 'America sodomizes you all!' but ended up at the police station after overplaying his hand by physically attacking pedestrians.
Clones of Putin
Stories like these make hardly any headlines in Europe but in Ukraine they pop up regularly in the media and cause quite a stir. Ukrainians first-hand know all these ‘patriots’, global promotors of the Russian World, who destroy their cities, kill their children (363, as of August 20), rape their women, and assert what has been, for two centuries, the Russian official ideology: 'There neither was, nor is, nor should ever be any Ukraine!'
I don’t think that the Russians who hunt Ukrainians abroad are the same that hunt them back home. Physically that is unlikely, but spiritually, mentally, ideologically they are twins. They are all twins, clones, copycats of Vladimir Putin. Ninety-plus per cent of the population. Putin, actually, is just their personification.
I have known this kind of people from my early years in Lviv where they never hid their hatred, contempt and prejudice against the ‘natives’ (mestnye, as they called them disparagingly); I know them from my student years in Moscow where they tried to open my eyes to the global, primarily Jewish-masonic conspiracy against the Slavs; I know them well from the writings of their cultural and ideological gurus – that inflammable mixture of hubris, resentment and inferiority complex that still prevents them from becoming a ‘normal’ nation. Even the flood of recent reports about the ‘patriotic’ activities of Russians abroad for me was a mere replay of the 1994 story from Penn State where my ten-years old daughter was bullied by a Russian classmate just because she did not speak Russian.
[My experience might be too partisan, so one may compare it with the impartial observations of a foreigner who spent some time both in Ukraine and in Russia.]
Azovstal defenders killed in camp at Olenivka
Today, as these patriots promote their Russian World in Ukraine with tanks and rockets, we may humbly ask why they all, their relatives, friends, and compatriots who carry out a genocidal war in Ukraine, are entitled to a dolce vita in the hated West, in Gayropa as they deride it, sodomized by the U.S.? Why are they allowed to enjoy, happily and aggressively, with no remorse, all the things they took away from Ukrainians whom they want to be wiped out from the earth, together with their Western proxies?
I know the answer (actually many answers) but most of them are mere excuses to avoid solutions. There is only one explanation that matters, but this is exactly where my brain clashes with my heart, and my mind with emotions. Yes, I know, that the liberal principles upon which Western civilization was built, do not provide for collective liability. Ten per cent of Russians who do not support their fascist government and are not excited with Putin’s war in Ukraine should not be punished for something they have no impact on, especially nowadays, in the increasingly totalitarian Russia.
This might be a tough conclusion for most of my countrymen who mourn their dead, their pillaged country and broken lives, but it is rational and legitimate. Good or bad, it is a rule. There is actually little sense to insist on the visa ban for all Russians, since all the political heavy-weighters, in the US and EU, expressed their disagreement.
So what can be done in such an odd situation? How to balance formal justice with this moral outcry?
First of all, we should recognize that there are many more ways to target Russia: further restrictions on import and export and business activity, complete disconnection of ALL Russian banks from the international SWIFT system, ban on entering the international ports by Russian ships, and many more.
Secondly, the travel ban should be imposed upon all officials down to a certain level, both in administration and the military-industrial complex, upon all military, security and law-enforcement personnel, all judges and prosecutors implicated in the persecution of the opponents of the regime, all propagandists who promote the regime and its ideology in the media.
And thirdly, smart visa restrictions can be an effective substitute for the visa ban if visas are not endorsed generically but on a case-to-case basis – for a specific country, specific purpose and clearly specified number of days; and, crucially, all the applicants can be obliged to answer a simple question: 'Have you ever in public expressed support for the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, condemned by the UN as an act of aggression?'
Russians believe they are fighting a war not with Ukraine but with the collective West, of which Ukraine is merely a proxy. So the collective West should respond adequately. Russians have a right to free travel, but Westerners have the right to close themselves and their allies for undesirable, dangerous and hostile aliens. Border crossing is perhaps the only situation in international law where the presumption of innocence does not work. Everybody can be suspected unless he/she proves otherwise.
The proposed measures will not solve all problems, partly because there will be a huge grey zone between the passive supporters and passive opponents of the regime, and separation of the sheep from the goats will remain difficult. But this procedure will certainly force many Russians to think twice about their words and deeds, both at home and abroad. Maybe it will slightly mitigate the moral outrage of Ukrainians who observe their boastful tormentors vacationing in Western resorts and perform at university halls and talk-shows on TV.