The last few days have shown us that peacemakers urging the Russian authorities to end the war continue to be prosecuted and imprisoned. Such news no longer comes as a surprise. It has become the norm in Russia for people who did well at school and who take humanist values seriously to become enemies of the state.
What has changed is that we now have a better understanding of whom the state considers to be heroes.
Sasha Skochilenko, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last week by judge Oksana Demyasheva for a supermarket anti-war protest is a criminal, whereas Vladislav Kanyus, a violent murderer who killed his ex-girlfriend over the course of several hours, is an exemplary patriot and a model citizen. If you kill, you’ll be set free. If you call for peace, all hell awaits.
Last year Kanyus was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the brutal murder of Vera Pekhteleva. Not only has he now killed again — this time as a Russian soldier in Ukraine — he’s also lived to tell the tale and has been rewarded with his freedom by a grateful Motherland.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Kanyus had been pardoned, explaining that the murderer had washed away his guilt with blood. What exactly did Peskov mean by “washing away guilt with blood”? In whose blood does one have to bathe to be in Peskov’s good books? Does the Kremlin have a special washroom for that purpose? As a bloodbath expert himself, Peskov might set an example by recording video instructions for violent psychopaths of the future.
Russia is a simple place. Vladimir Putin signs dozens of decrees pardoning murderers in order to repurpose their talents for use in Ukraine, and then gives anyone who survives carte blanche to commit more crime once they’re back home. In recent months alone, former Wagner Group mercenary Igor Safonov was arrested for the murder of six people in the village of Derevyannoye, in Karelia, northwest Russia, while his fellow mercenary Sergey Rudenko was sentenced to 11.5 years for another murder in Rostov-on-Don.
Child murderers can now aspire to careers as executioners in Ukraine thanks to a policy of social mobility put in place by Putin himself. As with the “special military operation”, which Putin launched on 24 February last year, he too has personally signed the decrees pardoning the murderers. The man to have abolished the usual notions of good and evil has a name.
Sergey Khadzhikurbanov. Photo: Baza
Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, one of the men who organised the murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, has also been pardoned, he too having agreed to partake in Peskov’s bloody battlefield ablutions.
Politkovskaya’s children called the pardon an inconceivable violation of law and common sense. With its issue, the state has sent a clear message to Novaya Gazeta, which has for years fought to ensure that Politkovskaya’s murderers were brought to justice: as long as we are in power, the killers will go free and there is no room for you, your newspaper or the truth. I am not a great believer in the arc of the moral universe bending towards justice but I am convinced anybody can see that Politkovskaya was a patriot and Russian hero while her murderers and those who shelter them are responsible for destroying our country.
By switching good and evil, Putin is defiling the nation. War now justifies arbitrary acts of violence and everyday murders are being used to provide fresh meat for the grinder.
Secret pardons are the final nail in the coffin of Russia’s rule of law. Putin is using his power of amnesty to assemble a killing production line. The meaning of the word pardon has been completely distorted, and decrees releasing the likes of Kanyus are irreversible, as Professor Yelena Lukyanova explains. Pardons cannot be appealed and Russian society will simply have to live with these murderers in their midst for the duration of the Putin era.
‘Justice for the mobilised’, ‘It’s time to go home’. Protest by soldiers’ mothers and wives in Moscow. Photo: Telegram
Another group affected by this defilement are the wives of mobilised soldiers. They have begun demanding their husbands return home after 14 months at the front. While former prisoners are free to return home after just six months in the trenches, mobilisation is indefinite.
The women who protested in Moscow on 7 November asked the state for understanding, stressing the “peaceful” nature of their protest, and stressing that they weren’t protesting against the war itself. They stressed their loyalty to Putin, and asked him to bring their husbands home alive. An “historian” then appeared on a pro-war channel in response, demanding that these wives “shut their charming little mouths”. So speaks the patriarchal, fascist state built on humiliating women and anyone unwilling to condone whatever the authorities do.
A society built on such rules is barely a society. You can’t make people celebrate murderers and condemn those who tried to stop them. What’s happening can barely even be compared to Stalinism. The crimes of that era were routinely justified as part of the “party’s historic mission to build communism”, while the Russia of 2023 is being asked to accept the wholesale rejection of human civilisation on the whim of its leader, a man so blinded by the “historical greatness” of events going on all around him that he has no interest in those he’s forcing to live alongside pardoned murderers.
Evil has names, and we should use some of them. Vladislav Kanyus, Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, Oksana Demyasheva and Vladimir Putin.
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