The Russo-Ukrainian War: Latest News – The New York Times

Boris Bondarev says Russian President Vladimir Putin could have spent the past two decades “developing the country” but instead turned it “into a kind of total horror, a threat to the world”.

Mr. Bondarev will know: he has spent his career promoting Putin’s foreign policy.

A mid-level diplomat at the Russian United Nations mission in Geneva, Mr. Bondarev on Monday became the most prominent Russian official to resign and publicly criticize the war in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion.

“Over the course of my 20 years of diplomacy, I have seen various shifts in our foreign policy, but I have never felt as ashamed of my country as on February 24 this year,” Mr. Bondarev said in an email to colleagues.

While his scathing message is unlikely to reach most Russians given the state’s dominance of the media, his resignation showed that discontent lurks in Russian officials despite the facade of national unity the Kremlin has worked to create.

Mr. Bondarev said in his book: “Those who have imagined this war want only one thing – to remain in power forever, to live in tasteless luxurious mansions, to sail on yachts similar in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, to enjoy unlimited power and complete impunity.” . his email. “To achieve this they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as possible.”

The resignation came on the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the world’s political and business leaders that they needed to go much further to punish Moscow for invading his country. Speaking via video link to the World Economic Forum, Mr. Zelensky called for sanctions to be pushed to the limit, Russia to be cut off from international networks, and foreign companies to halt operations in Russia.

Mr. Bondarev’s letter was the latest example of the unrest in the Russian elite to come to light.

Putin’s climate envoy, Anatoly Chubais, has resigned and left the country in March, reportedly over his opposition to the war, but has not commented publicly. Several Russian state TV journalists have resigned, including an employee who broke into a live news broadcasting site with an anti-war poster. Some business leaders spoke out, including the banker who said the Kremlin forced him to sell his assets by fire because of his opposition to the war.

In a telephone interview from Geneva, Mr. Bondarev said that while he was believed to be in the minority among Russian diplomats for his opposition to the war, he was not alone. He said he knew of several diplomats who quietly resigned after the war began, though it was impossible to verify this claim.

He said, “There are people – not a few – who think as I do.” “But I think most of them are still in the midst of this publicity that they are receiving which they are partly creating.”

The Kremlin has made extraordinary efforts to silence dissent over the war. On state television, opponents of the war are regularly branded traitors. The law Putin signed into law in March punishes with up to 15 years in prison for “false information” about the war – potentially defined as anything that goes against the government’s position. As a result, no government official spoke publicly against the invasion until Mr. Bondarev’s resignation.

However, Mr. Bondarev said the responsibility for the war goes beyond Mr. Putin and includes the Russian Foreign Ministry. He said Russian diplomats were complicit in making it look as if Putin could achieve an easy victory in Ukraine.

“They misunderstood Ukraine, they misunderstood the West, they misunderstood everything,” said Bondarev, referring to the Kremlin’s worldview before the invasion. “We diplomats at the State Department are also wrong about that, for not passing along information we ought to have — to facilitate and present it as if everything was great.”

Bondarev, who is part of the working group on arms control and disarmament at Russia’s mission in Geneva, said he had seen misinformation sent to Moscow in recent weeks.

“Rather than providing your own analysis as objectively as possible along with your suggestions for how to proceed, we often provided information that you were sure to like,” he said. “That was the main criterion.”

In his email to colleagues, he said he “should have stepped down at least three months ago,” when Russia invaded, but that he was late because he had an incomplete family business and “had to gather my resolve.”

Mr. Bondarev wrote: “I can simply no longer take part in this absolutely useless and absolutely needless bloody disgrace.”

In the interview, he said that he was disappointed with Russian state service even before the invasion, “when we were not yet outcasts”, but that he stayed because of the decent pay, pleasant business trips, and the people he met.

The official Russian media did not immediately announce Mr. Bondarev’s resignation, nor did the Foreign Ministry comment as the working day in Moscow drew to a close. Mr. Bondarev, who is listed as an adviser to the Russian mission on the UN website, confirmed his identity in a video call to The New York Times and sent a copy of his diplomatic passport.

Mr. Bondarev said what has bothered him most in his workplace since the invasion was the indifference with which some of his fellow Russian diplomats spoke about potential nuclear strikes against the West – even though they worked on arms control. Commentators on Russian state television have raised the specter of a nuclear conflict with increasing frequency while describing the fighting in Ukraine as a proxy war of the West against Russia.

“They believe that if a village in America were struck by a nuclear strike, Americans would immediately get frightened and run to beg for mercy on their knees,” Mr. Bondarev said, describing his colleagues’ comments. “This is what many of our people think, and I’m afraid this is the line they pass to Moscow.”

He said that when he suggested to colleagues that they might not want their children to live in “radioactive ruins,” they would laugh and say “this is about values” — echoing Mr. against the decadent West.

But Mr. Bondarev said Mr. Putin’s war was really about the president’s efforts to stay in power amid a stagnant economy and a pool of public discontent, and a lack of ideology to mobilize the masses.

“How can you survive and maintain power without losing it in the face of such objective difficulties?” Asked. “You have to invent a war.”

Mr. Bondarev said he does not yet have any firm career plans. On LinkedIn, after posting his resignation statement, he wrote: “We welcome job offers.”

Nick Cumming Bruce contributed reporting from Geneva.

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