The world is watching as Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s war of choice on Ukraine becomes a slaughter. Unable to topple the government in Kyiv promptly, Putin’s forces are now bombarding civilian populations day and night. Humanitarian catastrophe is imminent as electricity and water supplies fail in besieged cities. A million refugees have left and many more are trying to escape. Urgent action is required.
Meanwhile, Putin and his propagandists continue to tell lies about “liberating” Ukraine. Russian TV spews hateful lies about Nazis in Kyiv while the regime blocks social media to prevent Russians from seeing the bloody truth. Ukraine did want liberation—liberation from the grasp of Putin’s dictatorship. They paid a price in blood in 2014 to eject his puppet ruler and move toward Europe and real democracy. This was unacceptable to Putin, who swore to either recapture Ukraine or destroy it if he couldn’t. He is now fulfilling this promise on a raft of spurious pretexts that barely show any effort to disguise his imperialist aims.
The world is not only watching. Sanctions against Russia and Putin’s oligarchs that would have deterred Putin years ago are being applied. Russians are being made aware that Putin’s dictatorship is a dead end for them and the country. Weapons that would have prevented Putin’s invasion are now being sent. It is already too late to save thousands of lives lost in the past week, casualties that are added to the thousands more from the start of Putin’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine in 2014.
It is not enough. It is too late for deterrence when bombs are falling. We know from the horrors of Grozny and Aleppo that Putin has no regard for human life. We know from his track record that he will not stop until he is stopped. NATO, the greatest military alliance in human history, sits on the Western border of Ukraine, a front-row seat to a modern genocide.
There is no gray area here, no room for doubt. Hundreds of international reporters all over Ukraine are documenting atrocities by the hour. Putin’s war is a rare moment of moral clarity, a case of good versus evil rarely seen outside of fables and fantasy novels. No competing ideologies or religions, no disputed claims—nothing but war for the sake of war. There is no NATO treaty obligation to defend Ukraine, it is true, but nor is there any prohibition from doing so.
The West already has Ukrainian blood on its collective hands. In 1994, Ukraine signed away its giant nuclear arsenal in exchange for territorial guarantees by the US and UK (and Russia). Putin’s 2014 invasion of Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea received international condemnation but no action.
Had the international community rushed to Ukraine’s defense then, the nightmare unfolding today could have been avoided. All the sanctions and weapons shipments happening now could have taken place eight long years ago. Instead, we heard it was too risky to confront Putin, that it could lead to war. Now the war has come regardless, as was inevitable. Success emboldens dictators, a lesson from history that has been ignored.
Even as Putin’s army surrounded Ukraine over the past few months, the West did nothing but issue warnings. Instead of rushing to fortify Ukraine with armaments and showing Putin that this time sanctions would be painful, the free world again waited and watched until Russian tanks were rolling in.
Now we are witnessing the third betrayal of Ukraine, the refusal to intervene when the scope of Putin’s murderous intentions have become clear. Ukraine’s heroic president Volodymyr Zelensky, who has refused to flee Kyiv at great personal risk, has pleaded with the international community to clear the skies over Ukraine. NATO and member nations have refused, on the grounds it would be an escalation. Instead, they will wait until Putin escalates on his own terms, as he always does, while the Ukrainian death count grows.
Now more than ever, being pro-Russian and anti-war means being anti-Putin. Putin can only be toppled by Russians, as his mafia cronies, security apparatus, and ordinary citizens are forced to choose between their own lives and his. Russians do not want this war, or any war, but they must see the truth and act. We believe it can and will happen. But it will not be in time to end the slaughter in Ukraine.
Thrice betrayed and now sacrificed for the West’s sins of appeasement of Putin, Ukraine is a tragedy of Biblical dimensions. We call upon the free world to exercise its vast power and clear moral authority to save innocent lives.
Members of the Russian Anti-War Committee:
- Mikhail Khodorkovsky, public figure
- Garry Kasparov, politician, 13th world chess champion
- Sergey Aleksashenko, economist
- Yuri Pivovarov, historian, member of Russian Academy of Sciences
- Yevgeny Kiselyov, journalist
- Vladimir Kara-Murza, politician, historian
- Dmitry Gudkov, politician
- Boris Zimin, entrepreneur
- Yevgeny Chichvarkin, entrepreneur
- Viktor Shenderovich, writer
- Yulia Latynina, writer, journalist
- Elena Lukyanova, lawyer