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More Than Meets The Eye – OpEd

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People think that all Russians are complicit in the current invasion of Ukraine. What they don’t realize is the extent to which Russian citizens are being silenced by their own government in this matter. Starting February 24th the Russian government made it a criminal offense punishable by over a decade in prison to spread information regarding the invasion of Ukraine that is not consistent with official propaganda. Furthermore, it became a criminal offense to conduct any action which is deemed as “discrediting” towards the Russian army’s activities in Ukraine. Putin has ruthlessly enforced this to all of his citizens ranging from the rich to the poor.

Putin’s Russia has been critiqued as authoritarian however these new regulations, limiting the ability to openly express one’s position on an international issue, is a new level of authoritarianism. Disturbingly, these regulations extend not only to individuals inside the Russian Federation but also those outside who can be convicted In Absentia. These laws are anything but hypothetical according to fieldwork conducted by international NGO Human Rights Watch. Almost 100 people including minors have already been charged with a criminal offense due to such activities. One convicted individual even received 7 years in prison. Naturally, protesters have been arrested and more than 5000 websites considered to be propagating fake news because they don’t support Russian aggression have been taken down.

The West must consider these limitations when critiquing and penalizing Russian citizens. It must be remembered that even those who live abroad may have family, friends or business interests within Russia that could be at immediate risk should political opinions that are deemed “controversial” inside Russia be expressed. Entire sectors of the global economy, including food, energy and fertilizer, have been paralyzed as a result of sanctions being levied against people who the international community deems to be beneficiaries of the Russian government. 

While we cannot argue that none who have been accused and sanctioned are guilty, there are some innocent Russian citizens who have been severely harmed as a result of this blanket approach to sanctions which sees all Russians as complicit. Countries like Switzerland for example, although traditionally more neutral in their policy, blindly jumped on the EU bandwagon when it came to sanctions. This is without giving those on the receiving end the right to a fair trial, or even considering how this negatively impacts Switzerland’s own national interest. 

This is extremely problematic not only because of the way it has been negatively impacting the food, energy and fertilizer markets globally but from, as noted, a rule of law and human rights perspective. If we take a historical example, sure there were Germans who were supportive of the Nazi party during the Second World War, but there were also those who fought tooth and nail quietly to overcome the tyranny and authoritarianism that had befallen their country. The intention is not to draw a comparison between Putin and Hitler, but rather to underscore the danger of making assumptions regarding affiliations without considering what can and cannot be publicly expressed by Russians. Not everybody can afford to be a political refugee and until this horrendous war in Eastern Europe is over, European authorities must look beyond the pale and understand that more often than not, there is more to consider than meets the eye. 

Philippe Rossi is a native of Switzerland, born, raised and educated in Zurich. He is passionate about history and political philosophy. Phillippe has been a strong advocate for an autonomous, strong and independent Switzerland and operates the Twitter channel Schweizer Autonomie

3 thoughts on “More Than Meets The Eye – OpEd

  • November 13, 2022 at 9:15 pm
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    No one who does nothing to support an aggressive regime — verbally or practically — should be sanctioned or punished, but actions have consequences, unfortunate as they may be for people who were merely caught up in a situation they did not actively seek to bring about.
    For people finding themselves as unwitting accomplices, the answer is to disengage, even if that is at personal cost, or face the consequences of complicity. The ‘man on the street’ is not sanctioned, but those who go along with the regime for their own benefit, at a cost of others, have that choice to make.

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  • November 13, 2022 at 11:41 pm
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    The article is being vastly over-generous about anti-Hitler opinion in war-time Germany. The percentage who held anti-Hitler views was minute – up until the War was lost, where-upon “everybody” miraculously transformed into having been a secret anti-Hitlerite, over night.

    Hitler had the support of the vast bulk of the German people and not a few in Switzerland, laundering Nazi gold. Right up until he didn’t. The same applies in Russia. In both cases manufactured support via control of mass media and colluder-collaborators

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  • November 14, 2022 at 9:25 am
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    If the people on the street are being penalised due to the actions of their government, then those people need to overthrow or vote out that government, one way or the other. This goes for any country. For Russia, they are probably the same people that voted for that government in the first place (In Russia, that’s doubtful). Question, how long can the world go on dealing with countries that suppress and fight with their neighbors? Why can’t governments just go and do their job that was asked of them and improve the living standards for their citizens? I think that we all know why. $$$$

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