Russia’s state sponsored homophobia shame, terrorism and the Ukraine crisis

Final update: 19 June 2015*

* This article will not be updated after 19 June 2015.
I believe the materials curated and presented below create a consistent and damning picture of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to such an extent nothing further could be achieved by adding additional news items.
I wish the people of Russia the best for the future, knowing there are many Russians who are deeply upset by the deterioration of democracy, human rights, and free speech in their proud nation as a consequence of the dangerous policies Vladimir Putin is pursuing. I hope those people who wish for a better and nobler future will be able to affect peaceful change for their homeland.
до свидания!

What does the law and the regulators say?
What were the relevant Olympic rules?
How did Russia explain its anti-LGBTI laws?
How did the IOC respond?
What has been the direct effect of the law so far?
How is the LGBTI community treated in Russia? Is it really THAT bad?!
The truth behind Russia’s ‘Occupy Pedophilia’ vigilantes
What does the world think?

How did the guest nations, athletes, sponsors and the broadcasting partners respond?
    Guest nations and athletes
    The sponsors
    The broadcasting partners
How it all went down
Maintain the spotlight

    Russia’s historical track record with the Tatars and Ukraine
    The Crimea referendum farce
    The Eastern Ukraine referendums farce
    The deeds of pro-Russia terrorists
    The war on the media
    Russia’s accusations on nationalism and anti-semitism
    Russia’s deceit, farce, intimidation, misinformation, propaganda and outright violence
    The responsibility of the Russian people
    Concerns of the ex-Soviet block, neighbours and the world
    Economic sanctions and military response
    Ukraine’s perspective and response


SochiA lot has been said about Russia and the Sochi 2014 Olympics in light of the anti-LGBTI laws passed by Russian legislators in 2013 and the utterly aloof response from the International Olympic Committee, which appeared to be more focused on stage-managing the outfall to their own reputation than the physical well-being and lives of the targets of homophobic bigotry, hate and violence in Russia.

But I felt compelled to add one more voice to the chorus of condemnation this event deserved in light of the legislation banning ‘gay propaganda’ which was passed by Russia’s Duma on 11 June 2013 and signed into law by Vladimir Putin later that month.

The very idea that a young person can be ‘propagandised’ into turning homosexual is ridiculously outdated and contrary to the most basic scientific understanding of sexuality we have. This idea is right up there with the harebrained suggestion that a gay person can be ‘turned’ straight by ‘praying the gay away’. Anyone who suggests it is possible to do so is either terribly misguided, or downright evil.

In addition, on 3 July 2013 Putin signed into law another piece of legislation, passed by the Duma, banning the adoption of Russian-born children by same-sex couples as well as by unmarried persons living in countries where marriage equality exists. This ban of course also flies in the face of all scientific indicators showing that children raised by same-sex parents are as healthy and well-adjusted, as children raised by opposite sex parents, and it is a complete capitulation to uninformed bigotry, hate and homophobia. In a clear display of defiance by Russia to its critics this law formally commenced on 12 February 2014, in the middle of the Sochi Games, by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia’s hysterical reaction to the victory of Conchita Wurst at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest was also highly illustrative of their pathological homophobia on a national scale.

(UN Human Rights, 9 December 2013)

The passing of such hateful, homophobic and discriminatory legislation makes a mockery of the idea of Russian democracy, and highlights that a hallmark of any democracy is the manner in which it treats its minorities and most vulnerable. Russia seems to have chosen state-sponsored homophobia to illustrate its ‘commitment’ to liberal democracy and human rights.

To make the situation potentially worse, Russian gay activists believed that Putin and Russia were likely just biding their time until after Sochi was over to bring in even more anti-LGBTI laws, no doubt emboldened by the underwhelming global reaction to date. And it appears they had been right, just did not anticipate that such steps may be taken prior to Sochi 2014 …

As one of the leading powers in the world, Russia has a global responsibility to be seen upholding human rights at home. If the international community allows Russia, a global leader, to get away with such flagrant breaches of civil rights, what chances does it have to lecture other nations, such as Nigeria, Uganda and many other African and Middle Eastern nations in particular, on their violations of human rights, including LGBTI rights.

Unfortunately, this situation is also a sad human rights reality check for the LGBTI community generally. I assert that if Russia did to an ethnic or religious group what it’s doing to the homosexual community, there would be real global outrage. But the fact remains that in this day of age you can still mistreat your LGBTI community with relative impunity.

As Lewis Black put it, in his usually hilarious, eloquent and irreverent style, holding the Games in Russia in these circumstances was ‘like holding the International Bacon Festival in Iran!‘.

(All Out, 4 November 2013)

Putin appears to be playing a central role in the revival of the fascist/Stalin/Soviet-style behaviour of Russia and the long term consequences could be quite catastrophic globally. He is likely the living proof that while you can take the boy out of the KGB, you can never take the KGB out of the boy …

Russia’s Constitutional Court was called upon to consider whether the anti-gay propaganda law is constitutional, although hopes and expectations were tempered given the significant question-marks hanging over the independence of Russia’s justice system and judiciary. Those tempered expectations were proven correct when the Constitutional Court upheld the validity of the law in September 2014.

It is possible the European Court of Human Rights will be called upon to pass judgment on the issue in due course. Given Russia’s general attitude towards foreign intervention in its affairs and its simultaneous desire for international respect and authority, it’s anyone’s guess what response an adversarial decision by the Strasbourg Court would draw. However, any future judicial decision that may cast the law unconstitutional and in breach of fundamental human rights would leave both Russia and the Olympic movement with deep and lasting embarrassment.

In light of how much Russia has gotten away with, while enjoying utter impunity, the Ukraine crisis was almost a natural progression of the international community’s ‘three wise monkeys’ approach on the deteriorating civil rights situation in Russia, including the plight of its LGBTI community, who, as it turns out, were the proverbial canary in the mine.

Sadly, the unspeakable tragedy of MH17 in July 2014, widely believed to have been shut down by pro-Russian forces, was an unavoidable crescendo of Russia’s impunity and the impotence of the international community to confront Russia, as it piled human rights abuse on human rights abuse and international crime on international crime. Admittedly, in December 2014, Russian investigators of the MH17 crash claimed they had proof from a witness that a Ukrainian fighter pilot was involved in the downing of the flight. This evidence had never been properly presented or independently tested, and what had been released by Russia was systematically and thoroughly discredited as a fabrication.

Arguably, the brazen assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on 27 February 2015, just 30 metres or so from the Kremlin, was the final nail in the coffin of Russia’s pretend democracy, especially in the context of the growing list of dead Kremlin critics.

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What does the law and the regulators say?

So, what does the controversial ‘gay propaganda’ law in question actually say? The Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offences allows the government to fine individuals accused of the ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors’. Article 6.13.1, titled ‘Propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors’ provides that:

Propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors -is punishable by an administrative fine …

In turn, Article 6.21 relevantly states that:

Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that:

      (1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes;
      (2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive;
      (3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations; or
      (4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

Coke canOn 24 December 2013 Queer Russia reported on the ‘judgement criteria for application of the 436-FZ law’ issued by the Russian Federal communications inspection body ‘Roskomnadzor‘ and its Mass Media Expert Council.

The clarification those criteria are intended to provide are anything but … clear, and seem only to support the view that the laws are a travesty and homophobia codified into State law.

Queer Russia points out that the Roskomnadzor criteria list is a part of a larger ‘Concept of informational safety of children’ document, the Glossary of which contains the following statement where it discusses groups of social risks:

The group which is exposed to dangerous negative influences and poses a threat to the life of society. Traditionally, risk groups are alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, whose lifestyle can be defined as a display of disease of the society.

So, there you have it, in Russia homosexuals are ‘a display of disease of the society’ … that’s not homophobic at all.

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What were the relevant Olympic rules?

Quite unfortunately for the Olympic movement, the law also directly contradicts the Olympic Charter, in particular Fundamentals 6 and 7 of The Principles of Olympism:

Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

Principle SixIn light of the Charter, one could reasonably have expected the Olympic movement to be gravely troubled by the developments in Russia. Well, they did eventually … ‘ask for a clarification‘. Although, considering their initial silence and the manner in which they later sought ‘clarification’, one could have been excused to think that the Olympic movement was merely trying to find out how many LGBTI Russia planned to arrest, rape, torture or murder, so they could determine the … public relations budget necessary for glossing over it.

Ironically for the IOC, even though they prohibit athletes from expressing political opinions while participating in the Games (the Charter also provides that the Games are to be nonpolitical), gay rights groups planned to anchor their ‘protests’ around expressly supporting Principle 6, but without expressly mentioning gay rights.

This included at least one conceptually very clever, but unfortunately practically likely to be utterly ineffective, sponsorship deal by an LGBTI rights group named: ‘Principle 6’. After all, the IOC would have been hard-pressed to punish an athlete or a team for merely advocating one of the Olympics’ own guiding principles …

In the context of the now arguably ironic prohibition on athletes to express political opinions it’s also worth noting that, as one journalist put it, ‘IOC sporting events have become one giant political demonstration in which the athletes are a mere plot device‘.

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How did Russia explain its anti-LGBTI laws?

For a while the Russian approach was to issue repeated statements defending Russia and denying assertions that the ‘gay propaganda’ law is discriminatory or homophobic or that it’s contrary to Russia’s international human rights obligation and arguably even its own Constitution:

At one point Russia’s Sports Minister thought the only problem was that the passing of the law was ill-timed.

Once Russia realised that no one was buying those tenuous explanations, they ended the pretence and simply made it clear that Russia does not approve of homosexuality:

Vladimir Putin himself has made many rather curious decisions and statements that are relevant in this context, and indicate either deep-seated homophobia or ignorant stupidity or both. In particular, he made the utterly ridiculous suggestion that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would not have faced trial for having sex with a minor if he were gay and he later personally appointed one of Russia’s most virulent public homophobes to head the state news agency.

Just about three weeks out from the Games, Putin reportedly said one of the stupidest things ever uttered by a world-leader (other than the President of Uganda perhaps), warning gays that they have nothing to worry about in Sochi, as long as they don’t sexually molest children … yes, seriously! Ironically, Russian children’s rights official, Pavel Astakhov, thinks marriages between adult men and teenage girls are okay, because some ‘women are already shrivelled by the age of 27, and look about 50’.

And the closer we got to the Games, the more hysterical and nonsensical he became, at one point even claiming in a BBC interview that some European nations were ‘debating legalising pedophilia’!

Endlessly conflating homosexuality and pedophilia the Russian leadership and Vladimir Putin revealed their uninformed and uneducated bigotry. If that’s not bad enough, at a press conference in Sochi, Putin reportedly stated that Russia must ‘clean-up’ or ‘cleanse’ itself of gay people in order to protect its future.

We all remember what happened the last time that type of language was thrown around in Europe …

1936 to 2014

The very tone of the laws and the comments of various Russian officials, including Putin himself, smack of dated, uninformed, religious views and there can be no doubt about the back-room involvement of Russia’s Orthodox Church which currently enjoys the benefits of a post-communist revival of ‘Russianness’.

Somewhat predictably, a number of US groups had come out in support of Russia’s anti-LGBTI propaganda law. Not necessarily an endorsement you want to have while trying to pinky-swear to the world the law is not homophobic. To make matters even worse for Russia, if that’s possible, previously secret links have been revealed between their anti-LGBTI legislative agenda and a rabid, American hate group. It is now known that Brian Brown, President of the American hate group the National Organization For Marriage, visited Russia and played an active role in the growing Russian homophobic agenda.

There is little doubt that Russia is engaging in the deliberate and systematic denigration of its LGBTI people and is responsible for State-sponsored bigotry, hate and homophobia. The discrimination and violence experienced by Russia’s LGBTI community is approved, and arguably even encouraged, by the Russian government at its highest levels. Due to its cowardly inaction, and mere lip-service to the subject, the Olympic movement, its sponsors and even the athletes and visitors have become silent collaborators.

The true measure of any civilisation is the manner in which it treats its weakest members and minorities. In 2013 there is simply no excuse for any society that considers itself civilised to mistreat its LGBTI people. Any nation that is truly advanced and civilised, treats its minorities with dignity and respect. If you fail this test, you must accept you are not a civilised society, but rather a savage one, not worthy of respect.

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How did the IOC respond?

Despite the best efforts of Russian officials, Russia’s international reputation was taking a dive and it was also tarnishing the reputation of the Olympic movement in the process. But Russia, rather than ‘righting’ a wrong by revisiting its repugnant anti-LGBTI propaganda law, decided that the ‘best’ course of action was to try to co-opt the International Olympic Committee into whitewashing its homophobic hate law. The issue became a real test of character for the IOC. Would it transition from being aloof and ignorant to complicity in blatant human rights violations?

Coke canAn interview with then newly elected International Olympics Committee executive board member Anita Defrantz indicated that the IOC was preparing to tow the Russian line and that it would abandon its own self-declared core principles. Finally, as anticipated, the IOC did consciously chose to sell out. So much for the Olympic principles and spirit: IOC officials refuse to challenge Russia’s anti-gay law (The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2013).

The appalling attitude of the IOC towards this issue was further highlighted when new IOC President Thomas Bach outright refused to meet with LGBTI rights group in Sochi during his visit to Russia in October 2013. Although this should not have come as a great surprise considering his close relationship with Vladimir Putin and the continued ignorance of the issue by the Olympics movement at the time. This left Russian LGBTI rights groups with the only option of putting their case to the IOC at a Paris meeting and presenting President Bach with a letter which put their position to him very clearly:

…The recently adopted ‘anti-propaganda’ legislation, as well as the public debate it has evoked, has already created an extremely hostile climate for LGBT persons in Russia. The ‘propaganda’ law is degrading in its nature, ascribing explicitly, in the national legislation, a fundamentally different status to LGBT persons, affirming their social inequality. This highly discriminatory regime triggered an increase of organized violence against LGBT persons and their allies, which has been extensively covered in the media throughout the past several months.We believe that this legislation and the environment infringe and debase the Olympic values, and the IOC is in the unique position of both power and responsibility to ensure that the Winter Olympics 2014 do not embrace discrimination and violence against LGBT persons….We are aware of and are gravely concerned with the fact that the IOC does not acknowledge the urgency and necessity of this action, reiterating and endorsing vague assurances by the Russian government of non-discrimination at the Sochi Games….

(AP, 31 January 2014)

Despite this, in December 2013, Thomas Bach specifically warned athletes attending the Games to not participate in any political statements or demonstrations. It was good to see the good old IOC holding up at least one of its principles [read with sarcasm] …

But then, on 27 January, he stated that athletes would be permitted to make political statements at press conferences, seemingly drawing a distinction between using the Olympics ‘as a stage for political demonstrations’ and enjoying full freedom of speech at press conferences. However, this was contradicted almost immediately by the Russian head of the Sochi Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko, who said that athletes should not be allowed to express their political views during their news conferences at the Games. Confused?!

Other IOC members also made their questionable contributions to the public discourse on the subject, including a senior Italian member of the IOC who reportedly slammed the US for including prominent LGBTI athletes in its Olympic delegation. And as the hysteria grew among the IOC, Russia and the sponsors in light of the growing backlash leading up to the Games, the very ironically named Canadian member of the IOC, Dick Pound, also opined and very helpfully explained that the ‘anti-gay stuff’ was overstated because in Russia they are not executing the gays …

So, there you have it gays, don’t come and complain to the IOC until you are literally being executed by the State just for being gay.

As the reaction from those associated with the Games became progressively more and more hysterical in face of the growing outrage, Thomas Bach had the audacity to accuse world leaders who indicated that they would not attend Sochi of politicising the event and ‘trying to score political points’! So, the President of the IOC was of the view that standing up for human rights is … political point-scoring! There is not much anyone can say in response to that …

AOCThe gobsmacking irony of the IOC’s position in respect of the Russian Games was further highlighted by the historical fact that in 1996, prior to the Atlanta Olympics, the Olympic torch was diverted so it wouldn’t even travel through a suburb of Atlanta which passed a resolution condemning LGBTI people. Now compare that to the position taken in respect of the Russian Winter Games 18 years later! It appears that the IOC had already taken home the gold in … hypocrisy.

The IOC should have been far more proactive in this matter and as soon as it became aware of the issue, it should have given an ultimatum to Russia: ‘repeal the laws or we move the Olympics as you are in breach of the Olympic Charter’. Full stop.

However, that ship sailed largely due to the unwillingness of the IOC to take prompt, principled, tangible action. The members of the IOC will have to answer to their own conscience on that one.

IOCSadly, both the Australian Olympic Committee and the IOC have blocked me on all their official Twitter accounts over my tweets of news stories published by leading and reputable news agencies, including the BBC and Reuters, highlighting anti-LGBTI hate, homophobia and violence in Russia! That action alone reflected how much they were not interested in being reminded of the subject and of what they were acquiescing to.

In October 2013, in a surprise and symbolic move, the US Olympic Committee updated its nondiscrimination policy to include ‘sexual orientation’, although on a practical level this move offered no assistance to Russia’s suffering LGBTI community and arguably even served to further highlight the hypocrisy of the Olympic movement on the issue.

OlympicsAdmittedly, the Olympic movement had been way too busy to worry about such trite matters as the fundamental human rights and dignity of Russia’s LGBTI community:

This approach by the IOC was particularly ironic in the context of a very clever and poignant analysis in which it was highlighted how ‘IOC sporting events have become one giant political demonstration in which the athletes are a mere plot device‘. The IOC even had the gall to respond to the Sochi protest performed by Pussy Riot by stating that the Winter Games should not be used ‘as a political platform’. Meanwhile, the entire tragic spectacle of the Games in Sochi came about for the sole purpose of being a political platform for Vladimir Putin and his corrupt, megalomaniac regime and its cronies.

I drew two overall conclusions from this sorry state of affairs:

  • first, the Olympic movement needed to get honest about its core principles and just replace the Olympic Charter with a dollar bill if they were going to be perpetually spineless in the face of hate and discrimination; and
  • second, it was clear from what had unfolded that from Berlin 1936 to Sochi 2014, the Olympic movement had learned, well … nothing.

Finally, more than six months after the shameful Sochi Olympics, the IOC had added a non-discrimination clause to its contract with any future host city and IOC members unanimously voted to approve a recommendation which adds non-discrimination language regarding sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter, no doubt to avoid a repeat of the shame and utter disaster that was Sochi.

Nevertheless, I will never look at the Olympic rings the same way again.

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What has been the direct effect of the law so far?

A major problem with the ‘anti-propaganda’ law is that it is extremely ambiguous and potentially wide-reaching; no doubt deliberately so. Terms such as ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ are undefined, meaning that a mere gay rights statement or protest in a public space or even a newspaper article on a LGBTI related matter, that may be seen by a minor, is perfectly capable to fall within the definition of the law and has led to some ridiculous, sometimes downright malicious, complaints and prosecutions:

Admittedly, there have been some acquittals in cases of anti-gay propaganda charges, but the reality is that people were still subjected to charges and the court process, which in itself acts as encouragement to self-censor to avoid being charged and dragged through the court-system, especially in a country where the outcomes often have little connection to justice.

Therefore, another insidious aspect of Russia’s anti-LGBTI law is that it created an atmosphere where fear and self-censorship thrives, not just by individuals, but also both Russian and international corporations intimidated into silent complicity, or even going along ignorantly, much of which will go undetected and unreported, with perhaps a few isolated exceptions surfacing from time-to-time:

The first successful prosecution under the law was reported on 5 December 2013, but it wasn’t the last:

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How is the LGBTI community treated in Russia? Is it really THAT bad?!

As the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so let’s examine Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ pudding! The tragic reality is that the passing of the legislation was followed immediately by a wave of shocking anti-LGBTI violence, censorship, and increasingly regressive social attitudes generally, not just in Russia but also in neighbouring Russia-centric countries, including beatings, torture, murder, and even the gassing of a gay club and a psychotic call for gays to be burned alive:

(Dmitry Kisilev, YouTube, 10 August 2013)

(Human Rights Watch, 3 February 2014)

(Gay activists arrested in Moscow on 7 February 2014)

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The truth behind Russia’s ‘Occupy Pedophilia’ vigilantes

The ‘Occupy Pedophilia‘ movement in Russia was responsible for many of the violent vigilante attacks on gay men. I have a few observations on this group:

  • first, yes pedophilia is a crime, and should be a crime, put simply, because it involves sexual relations with a minor, considered incapable of giving consent, as determined by society, based on science which tells us that a person under a certain age is incapable of giving informed consent to such activities because of their immaturity;
  • second; homosexual does not equal pedophile, just as heterosexual does not equal pedophile; homosexuals are attracted to other homosexuals of the same-sex of consenting age and heterosexuals are attracted to other heterosexuals of the opposing sex of consenting age; on the other hand, pedophiles, both heterosexual and homosexual, have an attraction to minors, considered unacceptable by society and our laws for the reasons noted above;
  • third, pedophilia, being a criminal offence, is a matter for law enforcement agencies and the justice system, not self-appointed, criminal, violent vigilante groups;

(YouTube, 7 August 2013)

  • fourth, I cannot take as undisputed truth the statements of criminal, violent vigilante groups as to what they may have said to attract the gay men or youth who appear to be trapped by their ‘operations’; if any older person in the course of these ‘operations’ in fact responded to clearly inappropriate invitations from underage persons, Occupy Pedophilia should provide the relevant information to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, so they can answer for their actions under the law;
  • fifth, I cannot take as the undisputed truth the ‘confessions’ of the people trapped by these groups either, given anything they might have said was said under the threat of extreme physical violence and torture, and we know that in such situations most ordinary people will say whatever it takes to, hopefully, end the violence against them; and

(YouTube, 26 July 2013)

  • sixth, on the face of it, many of the people trapped by this group in fact appear to be relatively young gay teens, in some cases over the age of 16 which is the age of consent in Russia, rather than older pedophile predators, making the assertions they are fighting pedophiles a mockery, given their victims are invariably young gay teens.

Admittedly, the videos above are disturbing viewing, but they provide context to the situation faced by the LGBTI community in Russia and the real-world effects of the Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law which provides State backing to homophobic, violent, vigilante groups acting with impunity. The videos above are just a couple of examples of an increasing number of similar videos proudly published to YouTube and local social media sites by such vigilante groups, with their sole purpose being to intimidate the Russian LGBTI community.

OMOH or HOMO?! Palpable irony …

The real agenda of ‘Occupy Pedophilia’ is further highlighted by the fact that for a group seemingly so concerned about the evils of pedophilia, we are yet to see a single video from any group affiliated with the movement that aims to target men over heterosexual pedophilia. This is a further clear indication their self-confessed, public ‘anti-pedophilia’ crusade is a mere sham designed to hide their real hateful, homophobic agenda. Considering that Russian children’s rights official, Pavel Astakhov, thinks marriages between adult men and teenage girls are okay, because some ‘women are already shrivelled by the age of 27, and look about 50’, this not all that surprising.

For a moment of comic relief after processing all that hate, I give you the unfortunate mirror image of an OMOH militarised police officer from the Russian Special Purpose Police Squad that is used to break up LGBTI protests and is responsible for the arrest and beating of many members of Russia’s LGBTI community.

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What does the world think?

There have been countless articles worldwide highlighting the practical reality of the LGBTI community in Russia and the growing international concern over this human rights outrage:

(United Nations, 15 April 2013)

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How did the guest nations, athletes, sponsors and the broadcasting partners respond? And what they could have done …

Olympic sponsorsIn light of the above, I was shocked and disheartened by the utter lack of substantive reaction not just from the Olympic movement, but the guest nations, sponsors and others involved. And no, I can’t describe any of their largely symbolic, public relations focused, often tone-deaf reactions as even remotely ‘substantive’ by any stretch of the imagination.

This despite the fact that, among the confusing and often contradictory messages from Moscow, Russia had reaffirmed time-and-time again that it intended to enforce its anti-LGBTI law during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games:

It’s worth highlighting that it was also being reported that Russia’s FSB security service planned to intercept the phone and data traffic of all athletes and spectators at the Games. In fact delegates at the 2013 G20 summit reportedly already got a good taste of Russia’s clandestine capabilities.

However, even if Russia did formally exempt the Games from the operation of the ‘gay propaganda’ law, as touted from time-to-time by the IOC, its appalling effects will still be felt by the Russian LGBTI community long after the Games. Consequently, this whole affair was just absolutely abhorrent and allowing it to continue was an abandonment of the most basic principles of human rights.

So, what could have been done? I understand there were very few options, and none of them were pretty. Unfortunately, the reality of being principled in difficult circumstances is rarely comfortable.

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Guest nations and athletes

The option of a guest nations boycott was available to the Olympic fraternity. The main argument against this was it would have ‘hurt’ the athletes. I never bought into this argument given it was being raised in circumstances where people were being beaten, raped, tortured, and even murdered. I would argue that any ‘hurt’ caused to the athletes by a boycott would have somewhat paled in comparison to the State-sponsored violence that was being, and continues to be, perpetrated on Russia’s LGBTI community. I would consider being beaten, frightened into hiding, oppressed, tortured and even murdered, more of a ‘hurt’ than the ‘hurt’ the athletes would have suffered from a boycott.

In early October 2013, Russia noted that no country has indicated its intention to boycott the Sochi Games, and while this held true:

However, Russia’s flippant response to these announcements highlighted their arrogance and desire to maintain appearances at all costs and the practical insufficiency of the global response.

(Duke University, 7 January 2014)

Athletes could also have chosen to boycott the Games in their individual capacity, especially in light of the moral bankruptcy of their national bodies. This was a matter for their own individual consciences and had to be balanced against the investment they have made over many years to prepare for the Games. In the end, no individual athlete boycotted the Games.

Some athletes who attended chose to make statements and gestures of sorts in support of Russia’s LGBTI community and the true Olympic ideals while attending the Games. While these actions were appreciated, their effectiveness was highly questionable. Such gestures included the ‘Principle 6’ sponsorship deals noted above.

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The sponsors

McDonald'sThe sponsors in particular could have sent a very powerful message to Russia using their sponsorship messages to champion equality throughout the Games. In a perfect world this would have been an ethical imperative for these corporations. The international sponsors included:

  • Atos
  • Coca-Cola
  • Dow
  • General Electric
  • McDonald’s
  • Omega Watches
  • Panasonic
  • Procter & Gamble (Tide, Pringles, Mach3, Gillette, Oral-B, Braun, Duracell, etc.)
  • Samsung
  • Visa

Notably, Atos and McDonald’s have also blocked me on Twitter over my tweets of news stories highlighting anti-LGBTI hate, homophobia and violence in Russia. Admittedly McDonald’s did respond to me, once, with meaningless corporate public relations gobbledygook:

In October 2013 some slight hope remained that Coca-Cola would take a stand, engage in some tangible action and lead the way in a substantive sponsor response. Unfortunately, the top executives at Coca-Cola decided to maintain the tragic status quo between Russia’s State-sponsored homophobia and the Olympic movement’s paralysis over the issue.

The sponsors also chose to ignore direct calls to condemn Russia’s anti-LGBTI laws from the Human Rights CampaignHuman Rights Watch and countless ordinary citizens and respected community leaders.

While the sponsors have shown some concern, that concern was largely over the damage that could have been caused to their brand equity rather than any genuine concern over human rights. However, in the end, the economic benefits of being an Olympic sponsor won out over any pretense of support for human rights and equality. What outstanding corporate citizens they are … It’s tragic how as a species we keep repeating the same mistakes time-and-time again and keep selling out the most basic principles of humanity for commercial and/or political gains and fail to see the long-term damage until it’s too late.

(Queer Nation NY, 23 January 2014)

With Coca-Cola choosing to remain silent, even actively defending the arrest of a gay rights protester during the torch relay, and other sponsors doing the same, it is now clear we can have little reliance on corporate players standing up for the human rights of the LGBTI community when it contradicts their immediate corporate and financial interests. Of course this shouldn’t come as a great shock to anyone.

After all, a corporation’s primary role is not to advocate social justice but to generate value for its shareholders. This is a fact of commercial reality. As a consequence, a corporation will generally support causes that helps its community image and public relations efforts and thus provides a tangible economic benefit and assists the bottom line. For a cause to qualify, it must also have a significant level of community or regulatory support for a company board to be able to demonstrate either a legal necessity or a commercial benefit to engage. These conditions required for corporate support did not exist in Russia. The population of the country was and still is generally hostile towards the LGBTI community and the anti-LGBTI laws created a regulatory minefield.

Unfortunately, the sponsors were facing a classic catch-21 situation as the tension between the cultures of their home-markets and Russia came into direct conflict. The sponsors have clearly made a commercial decision to protect their global commercial interests over advocating social justice in Russia and bet that any public relations backlash in their home-markets would be balanced by the global commercial benefits arising from their sponsorship and the Russian market itself.

Coca-Cola’s inaction during the Olympics and their silent collaboration with State-sponsored homophobia in Russia made their marketing efforts during the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Australia, less than a month after Sochi 2014, particularly ironic and hypocritical:

Coke sign
Coca-Cola’s iconic Kings Cross billboard turns rainbow to celebrate Mardi Gras 2014, seemingly unaware of irony …

Consequently, the huge social media backlash that developed against sponsors by late January 2014, including Coca-ColaMcDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Visa, didn’t come as a huge surprise. It was a well-deserved public relations backlash of their own making and I salute the LGBTI activists involved, including Queer Nation NY and the Facebook Group, Anything but Coke. Admittedly, the public reaction of the sponsors to the outpouring of outrage from the international LGBTI community remained firmly … ‘meh’.

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The broadcasting partners

The official Olympic broadcasting partners also largely ignored, trivialised, whitewashed, and glossed over, the matter, giving it the minimum possible attention. Of course they were operating under the same overriding commercial imperative as the Olympic movement and the sponsors.

(Food for thought on the issue of LGBTI people in sports, by Dale Hansen, Unplugged, WFAA, ABC, Dallas, Texas, 10 February 2014)

The general attitude of the main broadcasting partner, the US NBC network, was made sadly transparent by the fact it chose to cut from the broadcast the part of the Opening Ceremony in which IOC President Thomas Bach spoke out against discrimination. Even taking into account the mind-blowing hypocrisy of Thomas Bach talking about discrimination at the Sochi Games, it was a curious choice (or perhaps not) by NBC to cut that particular part, given the controversy surrounding the issue. Overall, NBC has done a good job of trying to downplay the controversy but it was closely monitored by activists:

In the end, during the wall-to-wall coverage of the Games over two weeks, NBC has dedicated a mere 1 hour, 59 minutes, 42 seconds across NBC, NBC Sports, MSNBC, CNBC and USA to discussing Russia’s anti-LGBTI laws.

This trend of obfuscation on the subject was also demonstrated by Australia’s own Channel 10, long before the Games begun, in the news, on current affairs and even in light entertainment programs, such as on ‘Have you been paying attention’, on 17 November 2013, and Hugh Riminton’s ‘Revealed’, on 14 November 2013, just to highlight a few examples.

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How it all went down

While the IOC and the main sponsors remained silent and continued to collaborate with Russia’s state-sponsored homophobia, some principled corporates and athletes took a stand, did speak up and made their voices heard, however the criticism was overall muted and tapered off fast:

Google Olympics
Google celebrates diversity and reminds the IOC of its principles, 6 February 2014

Meanwhile Russia, the IOC and the official partners stayed true to form and tone-deaf to the bitter end, right through the Games:

(Gay activists arrested in Moscow on 7 February 2014)

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Maintain the spotlight

It will be very important that the world’s spotlight remain on Russia and the Olympic movement after the Games and the circus surrounding the Sochi Games moved on.

As noted above, Russian LGBTI rights activists feared that Putin and Russia were very likely biding their time until after Sochi was over to bring in more anti-LGBTI laws.

The underwhelming global reaction over the existing anti-LGBTI laws is likely to be little deterrent, and Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church continues to stir and had proposed further anti-gay steps in the form of a referendum on banning gay relationships.

Russia’s LGBTI community and other minorities will continue to be vulnerable and, unfortunately, Russia does not have a good track-record on upholding human dignity and equality:

We must also keep up the pressure on the Olympic movement to ensure they don’t make such a deplorable and utterly inexcusable host country decision ever again. This must be the millennium when the line is finally drawn.

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In light of the events that started unfolding in Ukraine less than two weeks after the Olympics, it appears the international community should have taken the warnings from the LGBTI community over the country’s growing aggression far more seriously. It seems the LGBTI people of Russia were the proverbial canary in the mine. Their treatment was a clear signal of the continuing and speedy deterioration of Russia’s democracy, and standing as a respectable member of the international community.

Following the Russian invasion of parts of Ukraine, I wonder if the Olympic movement and its sponsors are still proud as punch of the positive impact and long-lasting legacy of the Olympic spirit on Russia. Especially as Russian military forces had actively used the Sochi Olympics as war propaganda against Ukraine:

The international community trusted Russia to hold the Olympic Games. Not every country in the world is trusted with something like that.

(Igor Turchinyuk, Russian General)

Sochi 2014 looks more and more like a rerun of Berlin 1936, and those involved cannot claim there were no signs or warnings. There were plenty of both, but they were ignored out of pure ego and for the sake of money.

We certainly cannot blame the Olympics and its sponsors for the invasion of Ukraine. But we can blame them for collaborating with, and further emboldening, a regime that was engaging in actions that offended civility, decency, democracy, freedom and the very basics of human rights and was allowed to do so with utter impunity by some of the most respected global businesses and organisations, and the international community generally.

You all equally bear a responsibility for your ignorance and shortsightedness that has provided fertile ground for the growing and deadly dangerous arrogance and petulance of Russia’s regime.

Despite assertions from Russia to the contrary, thanks to brave journalists, it was clear in early 2014 that Russia had its troops on the ground in the Crimea region of Ukraine, in violation of international law and that those Russian troops were also operating in clear breach of the Black Sea Fleet Agreement, under which Russia leased its naval bases in Crimea.

Eventually, Putin admitted to blatantly lying to the international community for months and formally acknowledged that Russian troops were in fact on the ground in Crimea at a time when Russia kept denying its involvement in the unlawful rampage of pro-Russian militias.

And while it seemed that Russia had withdrawn its massing troops from the Ukraine border in May 2014, that official withdrawal was overshadowed by the ongoing clandestine actions of Russia’s military and Russian citizens in Eastern Ukraine who appeared to be actively instigating insecurity and engaging in armed conflict with Ukraine and were allowed by Russia to cross into Ukrainian territory and take hostile action with impunity.

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Russia’s historical track record with the Tatars and Ukraine

Admittedly, there is a large civilian population in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine of Russian ethnicity, but this is a historical anomaly resulting from Russian colonialism and the Soviet policy of ‘Russification’, whereby local Tatars and other groups were systematically and forcibly dispersed and Russians were moved in to replace them. Terrifyingly, reports indicated that the home of local Tatars were being identified and marked again, which can only serve one single purpose: to send a clear and intimidating reminder of what has happened to them and what may come again if they continue their support of Ukraine’s unity.

The Tatars feared that under Russian rule they would once again become unwelcome in their own homeland and consequently they were organising community-watch patrols to protect their families and homes and were protesting against the proposed referendum which was designed to whitewash the Russian annexation of Crimea. Unfortunately, evidence continues to emerge that their fears were not without foundation:

The historical context demands a mention of the Ukrainian famine, a great 20th century crime against humanity and a genocide, deliberately caused by the Soviet regime which had resulted in the death of an estimated 6+ million Ukrainians. The famine, which was accompanied by a culturally devastating purge of Ukraine’s intelligentsia, was manufactured by Russia to undermine the resistance of the people, and to enable the Soviet State to better control and oppress Ukraine. The famine destroyed swaths of local populations and enabled the further ‘Russification’ of Ukraine, by moving in ethnic Russians to replace the perished Ukrainians.

…In the former Soviet Union millions of men, women and children fell victims to the cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime. The Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), which took from 7 million to 10 million innocent lives and became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people….

(Joint Statement at the UN, 7 November 2003)

Forced population transfer is an old, tested, trusted and highly successful method of authoritarian regimes to cement their control and stronghold in occupied and restive territories. A modern day example is China, which uses this technique in occupied Tibet to dilute the ethnic Tibetan population in order to make the ethnic Chinese a majority.

Forced population transfers are illegal under international law. It is declared a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and can constitute genocide and a war crime.

Russians have invariably responded to concerns raised over the plight of the Tatars by saying that many Tatars collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, thus they ‘got what was coming to them’. I would argue this to be an oversimplification of the circumstances in which many in Europe found themselves during WWII.

First, having already suffered Russification, followed by Sovietification under the Soviet regime, Tatars initially saw the Nazis as liberators, admittedly naively so. Later many Tatars realised their fatal mistake as they were also equally oppressed by the Nazi occupiers.

Further, the Tatars, like many others in Europe, found themselves in an unenviable position, forced to make a ‘choice’ between the occupying Nazis, hell-bent on eradicating the Jewish people, homosexuals and any disagreeable intellectuals and citizens, and the previously occupying Soviets, hell-bent on eradicating anyone ideologically opposed to communism. The Tatar experience with the Nazis and the Soviets brings an old idiom to life, namely, being stuck between a rock and a hard place …

It is admittedly not desirable to compare, or grade, crimes against humanity, but it must be noted the Soviet regime, which many Tatars rejected while under Nazi occupation, was ultimately responsible for the termination of over 20 million people (with some lesser accepted estimates going as high as 50-60 million), second only to the death-toll of China’s communist regime and the overall death-toll of WWII, and ten times the deaths attributed to Cambodia’s killing fields.

In light of the above, the actions taken by Putin highlight the utter lack of decency and morality on the part of the Russian State to so cynically exploit the outcomes of their past crimes and inhumanity to try to justify actions contrary to international law and norms today. Sadly, Putin’s recent comments also indicated that Russia still presumes to know what’s best for the Tatar people, despite the unspeakable historical crimes Russia committed against them.

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The Crimea referendum farce

It was evident throughout the Crimean farce that Russia’s military protected and supported the pro-Russian armed thugs, militias and bused in Russian provocateurs.

Presumably the goal was to create chaos and instability as a cover and justification for the full-scale takeover and the rushed referendum on secession, which was illegal under the Ukraine Constitution and possibly even under international law, especially as it has taken place under Russian military invasion and intimidation:


As anticipated, the Crimean referendum indicated and overwhelming support for unification with Russia:

To Russia’s chagrin the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected recognising the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, a year after the annexation of Crimea, its people remained bitterly divided.

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The Eastern Ukraine referendums farce

The ‘referendum’ farce that played out in Eastern Ukraine seemed even dodgier than the one which preceded Crimea’s clumsy annexation and it led only to more trouble and violence, instigated largely by the seemingly lawless pro-Russia mobs:

In these circumstances, for Russia to have demanded a UN resolution on the violence Russia itself instigated in Ukraine, or carry on about its ‘humanitarian concerns’, was the height of arrogance, hypocrisy and psychopathic behaviour laid bare for the whole world to see …

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The deeds of pro-Russia actors

As for the assertions that Russia was ‘protecting’ its poor, helpless, endangered citizens in the Ukraine to achieve self-determination, on the ground it appears clear it was in fact the armed, dangerous, lawless and out if control pro-Russian militias and mobs, or shall I call them terrorists, that were creating chaos, disorder, insecurity and fear:

Is there a more ironic way to illustrate that you want a ‘better and freer’ home than:

  • burning and smashing up buildings and intimidating and killing people;
  • intimidating journalists;
  • blowing a foreign civilian passenger plane out of the sky;
  • murdering foreign diplomats; and
  • blatantly breaching the Geneva Convention?

It’s also curious that while Russia says it supports the ‘self-determination’ demanded by a violent pro-Russia mob on Ukrainian territory, it is far less enthusiastic about demands for self-determination by Siberia.

It’s also interesting to note in this context that Ukraine did beat Russia in the global democracy ranking, prior to the shocking events that unfolded in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

In March 2014, when the out-of-control, criminal pro-Russian mobs started attacking government buildings and burning books in Eastern Ukraine, I was reminded of the poignant and eternal words of Heinrich Heine (1797-1856):

That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.

And sure enough, in May Odessa had happened and in July MH17 was shot down …

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The war on the media

The lawlessness of the armed pro-Russian criminal thugs was further highlighted by the fact they were allowed to openly intimidate the UN envoy with impunity, who was consequently forced to flee Crimea and the continued attacks on, and often violent intimidation of, journalists who were trying to cover events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine:

Unfortunately, history tells us that whenever journalists are attacked and intimidated in the course of a conflict, the truth also falls victim to thuggery and obfuscation. Russia had also taken steps to control media outlets at home and in occupied Crimea, and independent news organisations which refused to fall in line with State propaganda have been on the receiving end of blunt government retribution:

No nation confident in the legality and morality of its actions needs to resort to intimidating and shutting down independent media.

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Russia’s accusations on nationalism and anti-semitism

Russia’s Putin had made ongoing claims of rising and ‘dangerous’ nationalism in Ukraine. I would argue the level of nationalism in Ukraine is a perfectly natural reaction to Russia’s continuous meddling and interference in Ukraine‘s internal affairs, including the active encouragement of, and support for, the violent crackdown on the pro-European Union protests, and the invasion of Crimea. In any event, for Russia to accuse another nation of ‘dangerous’ levels of nationalism in light of its own political landscape, and while undertaking its utterly unwarranted military invasion, is truly the pot calling the kettle black.

Putin also insisted on signs of rising anti-Semitism in Ukraine but, as many of his other attempted diversions designed to justify Russia’s actions, this one had been embarrassingly rebuffed by Ukraine’s most prominent Jews in an open letter to Putin and Ukraine’s Jewish communities. Even Israel have spoken out against Russia’s assertions:

Very embarrassingly for Putin in this particular context, in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which was illegally overtaken by pro-Russian militias, reportedly leaflets were distributed in the name of the new local pro-Russian ‘authority’ demanding that Jewish people register or face retribution!

Putin’s Kosovo comparisons were also completely out of line and without foundations in fact as there hasn’t been any credible threat against ethnic Russians in Ukraine until Russia’s ham-fisted military aggression and their bused in provocateurs pitted Ukraine’s Russian ethnic population against their friends and neighbours. Even then, at least initially, most acts of reported aggression appeared to have been committed not by Ukranians, but by pro-Russian mobs.

In the meantime, pro-Russian protesters were also literally being bused across the border from Russia into Ukraine and were there for only one reason: to cause trouble and create a pretext for Russia to take unilateral action. More Russians were being encouraged, even recruited, on social media to cross the border to take part in pro-Russian protests, in a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

In the past Russia was also accused of handing out Russian passports in Crimea, an old and trusted underhanded Russian technique to undermine the sovereignty of another nation, and it appears  it was doing so again leading up to the invasion.

Further, the sudden increase in cyber-attacks on Ukraine was also a curious ‘coincidence’ and all signs pointed to an obvious perpetrator, given the timing, ferocity and targets.

Consequently, the facts of this conflict contradicted every single claim and excuse Russia, and Putin himself, had raised in order to justify their actions in Crimea and in Ukraine generally.

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Russia’s deceit, farce, intimidation, misinformation, propaganda and outright violence

In addition to the plight of the LGBTI community, Russia continues to demonstrate a propensity to corruption, and a disregard for the rule of law, international law and rulings. There are reports coming out of Russia, in a steady stream, illustrating the deterioration of human rights within the country generally, ranging on a scale from the absurd to the petty and the deadly serious.

In the decidedly one-sided conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it was Russia and Russia’s military that acted provocatively, not Ukraine’s, and it was Russia’s military that invaded, and otherwise interfered with, Ukrainian territory, despite never-ending barefaced lies by Russia’s President and Foreign Minister to the contrary.

It was fascinating to see the facade disappear and hear Vladimir Putin speaking some home-truths after:

… hardly a sufficient legal foundations or ethical or moral reasoning for invading a sovereign country and adding to the long list of Russia’s historical crimes against the people of Ukraine and Crimea.

Crimes which they seem to have picked up right where they left off with a mix of deceit, farce, incompetence, intimidation, misinformation, propaganda and outright violence at home and abroad.

(Human Rights Watch, 29 December 2013)

(Amnesty International, 6 October 2014)

Arguably, the brazen assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on 27 February 2015, just 30 metres or so from the Kremlin, was the final nail in the coffin of Russia’s pretend democracy, especially in the context of the growing list of dead Kremlin critics.

Further, the fact that in March 2015 Putin has openly and publicly contradicted the original story of the annexation of Crimea and awarded a medal to the chief suspect of the Litvinenko murder highlights how much disdain Putin has for the West and how he plays Western leaders for mugs.

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The responsibility of the Russian people

I assert the Russian population bears a strong responsibility for the actions of their leaders. They have blindly submitted to a decade and a half of nationalistic and xenophobic brainwashing and provide popular support for their leadership. Some brave Russian people have retained independent thought and critical thinking, but they themselves have now become targets of derision, hate and the abuse of the rule of law. In the meantime others have fallen victim to mindless and misplaced patriotism …

Regardless, the Russian people have no excuses for their slide into mindless and misplaced patriotism resulting in immeasurable harm to both Russians and the international community and for allowing the rise of extreme nationalism on the doorsteps of Europe yet again. The culpability of the Russian people is highlighted by the fact that despite his abhorrent actions, Putin’s popularity reached a 3-year high during the Ukraine crisis. Just as Germany was called to account in the past for historical wrongs, so will Russia if it continues on its current path of aggression and warmongering and I would assert that in the context of the Ukraine crisis the comparison of Russia’s actions with Adolf Hitler’s in the 1930s is quite apt.

Admittedly, on the eve of Crimea’s sham referendum, 50,000 or so Muscovites have publicly expressed their disapproval of Russia’s Ukraine invasion and some brave, progressive Russians continue to voice their opposition despite the dangers:

Sadly, it appears however that even Russia’s Orthodox Church is playing an active role in stirring up trouble in Ukraine.

And, if the media is correct about rising anti-western sentiments in Russia, I suggest Russians take a good, hard look at themselves and the conduct of their government and armed forces.

It will be interesting to see whether the marches marking the brazen assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov will be a wake up call for the larger Russian populace or the Russian rulers be able to fit the murder within their carefully crafted nationalistic, paranoid political narrative in a manner that will be accepted by an already pacified citizenry.

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Concerns of the ex-Soviet block, neighbours and the world

Ex-Soviet bloc, neighbouring and other countries are also all watching the events unfolding in Ukraine with well-founded concerns and fear over Russia’s growing military aggression and a return to an era of imperial/Soviet view of Russia’s role in the world:

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Economic sanctions and military response

Sadly for Ukraine, the US was initially hamstrung by a combination of ongoing internal political turmoil between the conservatives and President Obama’s liberal administration, and its own lack of global moral standing, especially when it comes to invading foreign countries under a false pretext.

Despite the lack of practical assistance by the global community, not counting Sarah Palin’s bordering on the insane, nuclear weapons reference, at least Ukraine continues to have the overwhelming in-principle support of the civilised world.

Unfortunately, in Europe some governments and certain business interests placed higher importance on energy supplies from, and trade with, Russia than the integrity and liberty of Ukraine.

In the meantime Russia was supported by … Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but I suspect at the time he preferred that the world’s attention focus on events in Ukraine and away from Syria. Enough said.

Nevertheless, over time the dangers of Russia’s clandestine involvement in Ukraine dawned on most of the world’s nations and their responses escalated accordingly:

It must also be noted that the fact the West and Russia continue to discuss, and cut deals about, the future of Ukraine as a nation, makes the concepts of sovereignty and self-determination and 21st century international relations a sad, but poignant, joke.

So, in the end we are very much left with a classic David versus Goliath situation, and we know that Davids usually only walk away victorious in fairy tales.

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The Ukraine perspective and response

In light of the world having heard Putin and Russia’s ‘point of view’ of the Ukraine crisis ad nauseam, here is an insight into Ukraine’s side of the story, noting that despite the incredible difficulties Ukraine faces, it has shown incredible overall maturity and restraint in the face of blatant and violent provocation from Russia:

One can only hope Ukraine will be able to maintain the moral high-ground and resist sinking to Russia’s level, by keeping any:

to the minimum possible in these admittedly difficult and highly provocative circumstances, recognising that such actions is what Russia is very likely hoping to provoke to assist its clandestine plans.

However, we must also be frank and recognise that if an ethnic group dared to behave on Russian territory anything like the lawless pro-Russian mobs’ behaviour in Ukraine, they would have been promptly obliterated by Putin, without apology or handwringing, as common criminals and terrorists, as Putin does not blink when dealing with dissent.

Ukraine must also observe the human rights of all people, especially its minorities, and should avoid, and where necessary investigate and remedy, incidents that may bring its own rule of law and human rights record into question:

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