Russians revolt against Putin’s war

By Simon Pirani

The stream of protest against Russia’s war on Ukraine has turned into a river. Demonstrations in every major Russian city have been broken up by the police, with more than 4,000 arrests, but people have returned to the streets again and again. There were anti-war demonstrations in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, yesterday, the first street actions since the 2020 crackdown.

Tens of thousands of Russians have signed letters against the war by professional and civic associations – that’s what this post focuses on. There is a list, summarised from an article yesterday on The Insider, and the texts of letters by medical staff, teachers and local government officials.

The Insider’s introduction stated: “Professional associations in Russia, and also representatives of civil society – municipal deputies, NGOs, human rights defenders – are publishing open letters and petitions against the war in Ukraine. Some of them have been signed by dozens of people, some by thousands.

“The examples included here have been signed by more than 60,000 people – and that does not include the anti-war petition started by the human rights defender Lev Ponomarev on Change.org, which was signed by 880,000 people in three days.” [English text of petition here.]

If you are reading this in the UK, or wherever, and you believe in building international solidarity against war, and you work in any of the professions mentioned – you know what to do. Get in touch with your Russian colleagues today.

Professional associations

□ Animators. “We are convinced, that war can bring nothing but death, hurt and destruction.” Signed by more than 390.

□ Architects and town planners. “War can not be an instrument of politics in the 21st century.” Signed by more than 5,000.

□ Artists, curators, architects, critics, art experts and managers. “We demand an end to this war with Ukraine, a sovereign and independent state, that has been waged since 2014. We demand a start to negotiations on a respectful and equal basis.” Signed by more than 12,000.

□ Cinematographers. “No geopolitical pretext, no formal aims are worth people’s lives – and no propaganda can convince us otherwise.” Signed by 80.

□ Comedians. “Our job is literally geared towards getting people look at their problems from a different angle, to laugh and be happy. But there are some things that, from any angle at all, can only produce emotions of fear and anger, and feelings of loss and helplessness. And one of these is war.” Signed by 283.

□ Doctors and medical staff. Text below. Signed by more than 8,000.

□ Film industry representatives. “Today, when too many citizens of our country and frightened, are scared to draw their own conclusions about what is happening, it is the duty of people who work in the cultural sphere to speak out clearly against lies and against violence.” Fifteen people recorded videos.

□ IT specialists and IT industry workers. “We are categorically opposed to the military action that has been started by the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory.” Signed by more than 15,000.

□ Psychologists and psychiatrists. “War is the concentration of everything destructive that can work on the human psyche.” Signed by more than 100.

□ Researchers and authors. “By unleashing war, Russia has condemned itself to international isolation. […] This isolation will lead to the further cultural and technological degradation of our country, without any positive perspectives.” Signed by more than 4,100.

□ Researchers in digital humanities. “We stand in solidarity with our colleagues across the region and our hearts are with Ukraine. We want peace for our countries.” Signed by 85.

□ Schoolteachers. Text below. Signed by more than 3,300.

□ University lecturers, students and researchers. “The freedom of science and academic activity can not be combined with spilling blood and suffering.” Signed by more than 11,000.

Civil society

□ Charitable foundations and non-governmental organisations. “We speak out against the military action by our country on Ukrainian territory.” Signed by more than 520.

□ Human rights defenders. “We dedicated our lives to defend human rights. […] War is the greatest and most barbaric means of depriving not only particular citizens, but millions of people, of their rights.” Signed by more than 100.

□ Municipal deputies. Text below. Signed by 253.

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Open letter to the president of the Russian Federation from doctors, nurses and paramedics, demanding an end to military action on Ukrainian territory

We, Russian doctors, nurses and paramedics, firmly oppose the military action perpetrated by the Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory.

We are not seeking to accuse the perpetrator and do not judge anyone. Our calling is to preserve human life. It is hard to imagine a more humane profession that than of a medic. And right now, at this hard time for both sides, we call for an immediate cessation of all armed hostilities and the resolution of all political issues by solely peaceful means.

As always, we do not divide combatants into ours and theirs. We have pledged an oath to give aid to all people, regardless of nationality, faith or political views. But now our aid is not enough. The war will take many lives, will damage so many futures, that we will not manage to help everyone, no matter hard we try. Everybody will be crying in pain, calling for their mothers, in the same language.

Every shell or bullet, even if it doesn’t hit the target and take someone’s life, is loaded with fear, panic and pain. Heart-rending pain. Everyone’s heart now aches: peaceful citizens’; soldiers’; soldiers’ mothers’ and wives’; children’s. Nobody deserves this fear. Nobody deserves to be killed or maimed, deliberately or accidentally.

In the territories under attack are our relatives, friends, patients and colleagues. There is not one person among them who stands to benefit from bloodshed. We cannot isolate ourselves from the pain and the sufferings that are multiplying by the minute.

Human life is priceless. To kill a person in war takes only an instant – while treating and rehabilitating the injured can take years. And we will be paying, for years to come, for the instants of today’s war.

No matter what righteous purposes are used to justify the use of lethal force, the force remains lethal. Lethal, and bound to cause pain and suffering.

Therefore, in line with our oaths, and preserving our humane and impartial attitude to all life, we demand the immediate cessation of all operations that involve the use of lethal weapons.

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Open letter by Russian schoolteachers against the war on Ukrainian territory

The war with Ukraine that began on the night of 23-24 February is not our war. The invasion of Ukrainian territory began in the name of Russian citizens, but against our will. For us, schoolteachers, violence goes against the very essence of our profession. Our pupils may die in the fires of war. War inevitably intensifies the social problems in our coutry. We support anti-war protests and demand an immediate ceasefire.

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Open letter by municipal deputies from Russian towns and cities (Moscow, Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod, Samara, Ryazan, Yoshkar-Oly and others)

Against war

Fellow citizens! We – deputies elected by the people – unreservedly condemn the attack on Ukraine by the Russian army. This is an unprecedented crime, for which there is and can be no justification.

The decision to invade has been taken personally by the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. We are convinced that the citizens of Russia did not give him that mandate.

War with Ukraine will lead to catastrophic consequences. Thousands of people will be killed, wounded and maimed, and the cities of a land dear to many Russians will be destroyed. Our country faces condemnation by the world community, isolation, higher prices and poverty. Hopes for a decent life in Russia are being dashed before our eyes.

We call on you not to take part in this aggression and not to approve it. Please do not remain silent: the war can only be stopped by mass popular condemnation.

Thanks to P and F for translations

Simon Pirani is honorary professor at the university of Durham, UK, and author of The Russian Revolution in Retreat 1920-24: Soviet workers and the new communist elite (Routledge, 2009). He writes a blog at https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/

This post originally appeared here.

Image: Trafalgar Square, London, Sunday: “Russians against war” at a demonstration called by the Ukrainian community. c/o author.

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