Alexander Kynev: “A moment of patriotic joy. I don’t know if there is anything more bogus. Even the Young Pioneer line-ups of my childhood were more natural.”
The video Mr. Kynev has embedded on his Facebook page is entitled “Zapolarye Za Mir” — “The Arctic for Peace.” The activists identify themselves as “residents of the Murmansk Region” (and, indeed, are standing on a hill overlooking Murmansk itself.) In addition to the newfangled Russian “Z” swastika, the hoodies sported by the lead troika of “activists” are also emblazoned with the “We Don’t Abandon Our Own” slogan that featured heavily in Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and has been revived for the new invasion. ||| TRR
“People are to blame…”
I stopped by Perekrestok and was blown away. Bananas were 140 rubles a kilo, pre-washed carrots were 100 rubles a kilo.
The hypermarket itself is open until eleven p.m. nowadays, not around the clock.
“Prices have really gone up. Is this all because of the w*r?” I say to the middle-aged woman at the checkout.
“No, it’s not just because they’ve attacked the neighbors. It’s because of the people.”
“The people who unleashed it all? I hope they will be held responsible…”
“No, because of the people, all of us, who allowed this gang to take over Russia. And each of us will bear our share of responsibility for this. And bananas at 140 a kilo are still just icing on the cake… We are to blame for what happened. Everyone who let this happen. Everyone who ‘wasn’t interested in politics.'”
This is a message of solidarity with Ukraine from Raed Al Saleh, the head of The White Helmets humanitarian volunteers. Today, on the 11th anniversary of the Syrian revolution, it drives home why a democratic Syria – free from dictatorship and tyranny – is part of a global cause that must prevail.
As Ukrainians come under brutal attack by Putin, it is chilling to see Russia using the same strategy and playbook in Ukraine as they use in Syria – attacking fleeing civilians, controlling humanitarian corridors, bombing hospitals and spreading disinformation.
Our volunteer first responders have saved more than 125,000 civilian lives in Syria since 2014, many from direct Russian attacks, and it’s heartbreaking to witness the same tragedies being repeated over and over again. We know the scale of horror that Russian bombings can inflict: no one and nothing is off limits.
In Syria, a concerted Russian disinformation campaign spreads fabricated claims attacking White Helmets volunteers to cover up war crimes. Now Russia is using the same methods to legitimize its attack on the Ukrainian people – using social media to sow doubt about atrocities committed against civilians.
When I saw the aftermath of Russian airstrikes on the maternity hospital in Mariupol last week, including Russia’s immediate disinformation efforts online, it was as if history was repeating itself.
A few days ago I spoke to the Washington Post and shared what we have learnt from our experience in case it can be of any help to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. I told them that the GoPro camera is the best way to fight Russian disinformation and report the reality on the ground.
I also warned against sharing GPS locations of medical facilities with the United Nations. In Syria the Russians used that information to target hospitals. Ukrainians should also establish small medical and civil defense outposts in secret locations around the city to take the pressure off larger hospitals and mitigate the risk of targeting first responders.
There is no doubt Putin has been emboldened by the impunity he enjoyed in Syria. If Putin is not held accountable for his invasion of Ukraine the whole story will repeat itself again.
Today, we need actions not words from the international community. They must pursue justice relentlessly so no dictator can feel able to shamelessly commit such atrocities.
For the last seven years, the Syrian people have stood up to Russia and have yet to be defeated – so we believe Ukrainians can do so as well. At the end of the day, it is the will of the citizens that is the strongest weapon, even against the mightiest militaries in the world.
Source: Email newsletter from The Syria Campaign, 15 March 2022. I inserted the Netflix documentary and the photo of the White Helmets volunteer in Aleppo, as well as the links to the articles by the Washington Post and the Intercept about the organization. ||| TRR
It is very difficult for me to write this letter. I don’t want to say goodbye at all. To my great regret, I was forced to leave Russia and resign as the director of Nochlezhka. Of course, I will help my colleagues remotely as much as I can, but it would be strange to try and run everything from afar. Danya Kramorov, our longtime volunteer, coordinator, and until recently the head of fundraising and PR, will replace me as head of our organization.
Twenty years ago, I came to Nochlezhka myself as a volunteer, and in 2010 I became an employee. Back then it was a lovely and proud little organization. That hasn’t changed, but the scale of our work has. Currently, we are helping 480-490 people in Petersburg and Moscow every day. Together we have opened free showers, laundries, warming-up spots, and rehabilitation shelters. In our approach to helping people in need, we have grown into providing psychological assistance, employment programs, training in new professions, and a dedicated rehabilitation shelter for homeless people suffering from alcohol addiction. Just as twenty years ago, everyone who comes to us for help or provides assistance in any of our current projects is treated like a human being. I’m confident that things will always be like this at Nochlezhka. It is a huge effort by many people, and if you are reading this, you are one of them. I would very much like to list everyone by name, but only last year Nochlezhka was supported by donations from over 20,000 people. Thank you very much!
Nochlezhka is much bigger than Grisha Sverdlin. Nochlezhka is my colleagues, a wonderful, professional team of eighty people. Nochlezhka is the hundreds of volunteers from all over the world who respond to our call. Nochlezhka is the thousands of people who donate money and medicines, food and clothes to us, who read our news and don’t believe the stereotypes [about homeless people and homelessness]. Nochlezhka is the companies that provide their services for free. Nochlezhka is you.
With the help of this huge cool team, just last year we helped 8,165 people in need. No matter what happens, this year we will definitely keep all our projects running so that anyone who turns to us can keep their health and dignity and return to a normal life. Moreover, this summer we will be opening a shelter for elderly homeless people in the Leningrad Region, and in late March we will launch the long-awaited restaurant Street Entrance, where the residents of our rehabilitation shelters will master new trades that will enable them to continue getting their lives back together.
I’m terribly sorry that I won’t be at the grand opening. I had planned to spend most of my salary at our restaurant. It’s incredibly cozy and the food is very, very tasty. But enjoy yourselves there for me, please! And I will wait for the day when we can meet at the bar and discuss the good news.
Nochlezhka will continue to operate even if the earth crashes into the celestial axis. And I will continue to classify myself as a Nochlezhkin, remaining a volunteer and donor of this organization so dear to my heart. Unfortunately, more and more people will need our help in the coming months. And since that is the case, we will continue to help them, of course.
Source: Nochlezhka email newsletter, 15 March 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. I was a volunteer at Nochlezhka and its (now defunct) “street newspaper” Na Dne (The Depths) in the mid-nineties. Although I included the original link in Mr. Sverdlin’s letter to Nochlezhka’s donations page, it would seem that people outside Russia can no longer donate money to the organization, as they could only a short time ago. I tried just now to donate 1,000 rubles using a European-issued MasterCard, but the transaction was declined. However, I immediately got a message from Nochlezhka saying that they could see that I had tried to donate but that something had gone wrong on their bank’s end. I write this not by way of soliciting donations for Nochlezhka but to illustrate the difficulties charitable organizations in Russia now find themselves in. And, although he doesn’t mention this in his letter, Mr. Sverdlin has written on social media that he left the country because several reliable sources told him that he was in danger of arrest. ||| TRR
UPDATE (3.15.22) Nochlezhka’s project coordinator has written to me to confirm that, indeed, it is no longer possible to make donations to them using non-Russian bank cards and non-Russian payment systems. She cited the advice to donors that Nochlezhka published on its website earlier today. The last two paragraphs of that advice read as follows:
Payment via Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay has been blocked for Visa and Mastercard cardholders. This means that one-time and regular donations that were issued in this way are no longer valid. Please re-register your donation if it has been made using one of the methods listed. You can manually sign up for a new donation payment using the form on our website.
Currently, bank cards from foreign banks cannot be used to donate money for our work. We are no longer receiving money transferred through Global Giving and PayPal. We will look for new ways [to donate] for anyone who does not have a Russian bank card, and we will definitely inform you as soon as we find them.
Members of the Europe Beyond Coal campaign stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and condemn Vladimir Putin’s unconscionable war.
This attack by the Russian leadership is leading to a devastating loss of lives, and a humanitarian and refugee crisis in Ukraine. The Russian government is threatening peace and safety for all Europeans and beyond, and has proven that it fundamentally stands in opposition to everyone who values peace, civil cooperation, and social democratic ideals. Its actions must be firmly, resolutely, and permanently rejected.
The fingerprints of coal, gas, and oil are all over this invasion. We are literally funding the war through our continued burning of fossil fuels imported from Russia. It is therefore the moral duty of European political and business leaders to make every effort to urgently end Russian, and all fossil fuel dependence in our economies. Transitioning our energy systems to be more efficient and based completely on renewable sources is an overriding priority.
With the IPCC’s dire update of climate science coming the same week, there can be no more half measures. This is the moment for brave decisions on energy. We can allow no more citizens to be shelled because of fossil fuels, nor any person to face a dangerous and uncertain future due to inadequate action on climate change.
Renewable power and energy savings promote peace. Sanctions and severing ties to the Kremlin’s fossil-fuel economy, coupled with emergency plans to mobilise extraordinary budgets and policy measures to rapidly insulate, heat, repower, and further interconnect EU member states, as well as neighbouring European countries, will help Ukraine by cutting money flows to Putin’s regime, while building energy security and resiliency for all European citizens – including Ukraine.
Every heat pump, every lowered highway speed limit, every new LED street lamp and insulated house, every solar panel and wind turbine, every bicycle ride replacing a trip with a car, every reduced train fare protects citizens from high energy costs and gas shocks in the near term, while promoting peace for Europe and globally.
Europe is united against Russian government aggression – as are many Russian citizens. The best way for us all to stop empowering warmongers like Putin is to work together to end fossil fuel use completely.