I read the former justice minister’s op-ed with great interest. However, while Ms Yiolitis had valid points, she discredited her argument by closing with the Reverend Martin Niemoller’s poem. Frankly, it was an appalling conclusion.
Ukraine’s cities are being pulverised to smithereens. Its women are being raped. Its children are being traumatised. Some of them, in a chilling echo of the Nazi policy towards Aryan-looking children in the Axis occupied Europe, are being abducted and taken back to Russia to be brought up as Russian, not Ukrainian.
It may be unfair that some wealthy Russians unconnected with Putin’s ultranationalist, criminal regime will be penalised by the sanctions. But to compare it to Nazi persecution is in poor taste.
If you want to recite or paraphrase Martin Niemöller’s poem, there are far more deserving events to think about. Here is a rudimentary list:
We didn’t speak up when Putin was turning Chechnya to rubble and murdering civilians en masse. We didn’t speak up when his FSB started murdering journalists, human rights workers and anti-corruption activists, starting with Paul Klebnikov and Anna Politkovskaya. We didn’t speak up when his regime started killing political opponents and poisoning dissidents and defectors with radioactive chemical weapons. We didn’t speak up when Putin started outsourcing his dirty work to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen warlord, and the mercenaries known as the Wagner Group. We didn’t speak up when Putin first tried to stop a pro-EU government from taking power in Kyiv by poisoning Viktor Yushenko. We didn’t speak up when he invaded, partitioned and effectively annexed parts of Georgia. We didn’t speak up when he started persecuting and imprisoning Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities. We didn’t speak up when he responded to Ukraine’s decision to overthrow his puppet and install a government committed to EU accession by invading and effectively annexing Crimea and the Donbass. We didn’t speak up when he shot down the Malaysian airliner carrying hundreds of Australian, Dutch and Malaysian civilians, including entire families, and then obstructed the investigation and covered up for his goons. We didn’t speak up when Putin started aiding Assad and deliberately created an even bigger refugee crisis that destabilised Europe and contributed to Brexit. We didn’t speak up when Putin’s troll farms and bot factories used social media to help the likes of Trump and the Trans-Atlantic Alt-Right to gain followers and power. We didn’t speak up when he deliberately banned Memorial, a human rights organisation, and stopped its work in cataloguing the atrocities of the Soviet Union. We didn’t speak up when Putin’s disinformation efforts switched towards promoting anti-vax and pandemic denialist conspiracy theories, leading to an excess number of deaths throughout the world.
We didn’t speak up. Now we are all paying the price.
Although all countries are guilty of looking away as Putin became ever more aggressive and tyrannical, it is sickening to hear people continuing to ignore the gravity of Putin’s crimes. He may or may not be the Russian Hitler, but he is a monster. The time for ducking responsibility and changing the subject is over.