Staunton, July 5 – “Putin’s Russia has already long been a Reich” much like Hitler’s Germany, but ordinary Russians now, like ordinary Germans 75 years ago, have not taken note of the fact because so far the state’s repressive attentions have not been directed primarily at them, according to Vitaly Portnikov.
Portnikov, a Ukrainian commentator who earlier lived in Moscow for two decades, says that he reached this bitter and unexpected conclusion because the Russian Investigation Committee has announced plans to interview all citizens of Ukraine who are on the territory of the Russian Federation.
So far, the committee has interviewed some 4,000 of them, a small fraction of the millions of Ukrainian citizens living in the Russian Federation, asking them about Ukrainian military deployments and plans. To interview all Ukrainian citizens will require much if not all of the resources of the committee.
But “behind these boring lines is a picture of growing insanity,” the emergence of a situation in which “every individual who has in his pocket ‘the wrong’ passport will become the object of attention of the law enforcement agencies simply because he does not have the fortune to be a Russian citizen or a citizen of some other country which has surrendered to the Kremlin.”
If the Ukrainian answers these questions, he may be committing treason against his own country; if he refuses, he may find himself accused of a crime up to and including planning for a terrorist act in Moscow. Given that danger, he will likely sign whatever the Russian investigators require, just like in 1937.
In short, what is taking place is “the most banal rape under the form of an investigation. Ordinary fascism.”
Portnikov says that it is “difficult” for him to understand how Russia could so rapidly degenerate in this way. When he lived in Moscow with a Ukrainian passport, he never had the sense that that document alone put him “in a zone of risk, in a zone of interests of the sadists from the Investigation Committee.”
Having watched what is going on now, he continues, he “very well understand what the Jews of the preceding Reich felt when on one fine day they were forced to wear yellow stars.”
“Citizens of Ukraine who are living in Russia now are in a position equivalent to those Jews from the Reich,” he says, even while “the Russians living alongside them do not feel this and do not understand” because their lives are not yet being disturbed, exactly the same reaction of many Germans to what the Nazis did to the Jews.
“I assure you, my Russian readers, that this is only the beginning,” Portnikov continues. After Russian officialdom gets through with Ukrainian citizens, it will turn to “ethnic Ukrainians or even no-Ukrainians or simply people who have relatives in Ukraine.” And the questions and the sense of being separated out and isolated will spread.
Members of these groups, of course, will not be able to get positions requiring any clearance as the Georgians have already discovered And “ethnic Ukrainians with Russian passports and other emigrants from Ukraine await the fate of the Georgians – even if these Ukrainians will come running with the flags” of the secessionists.
In short, whether they have noticed it or not, ordinary Russians living under the Putin regime are facing as Pastor Niemoller moment, when they may assume that the authorities are only coming for others but when in fact at the end of the day those authorities will be coming for them as well.