Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign Discusses with Russian Dissident Ilya Budraitskis

On Oct. 2, the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign held a Zoom meeting with exiled Russian dissident Ilya Budraitskis. What follows is a video of the full meeting plus a transcript of Ilya’s comments. Ilya participates in a group whose web site is, which is viewable in Russian and English.

Chair of meeting, Cheryl Zuur
Okay, so thank you for coming to this meeting of the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign, with this extremely important topic today of what is happening inside of Russia. When we planned this meeting, a few weeks ago, no one could have predicted that the explosive situation would be occurring inside of Russia today. So we’re especially happy to have our speaker today who is Ilya Budraitskis, speak on what is happening inside of Russia and related questions. He’s a left oppositionist to Putin, who is currently living outside of Russia. And one of the things I hope, we will spend a fair amount of time talking about and that Ilya will be able to address how we as a campaign, and other leftist in the West can support and connect with and help defend Russian dissidents like Ilya and the entire movement there. So with that, Ilya, go ahead.

Ilya Budraitskis
Thank you so much for this opportunity to speak. As it was pointed out, after 21st of September, this war against Ukraine, came to the new stage of the escalation, because President Putin declared a so called partial mobilization. And it definitely changed the situation a lot. Because if, from the beginning of this war, Russian army was limited by the professional, militaries, and so called volunteers of any kind. For now, it seems that the turn to the full scale war from the Russian side as well, because in Ukraine, of course, you already had this mobilization of the military mobilization of the population some months ago. So when Putin declared this mobilization, it clearly came as the answer as a reaction to the success of Ukrainian army in in the east of the country in the heart area, where the Ukrainian army kicked out the Russians from the huge territory. Nearly 3000 kilometers of Ukrainian territory were liberated in the few days. And it creates a very serious potential danger for the Russian troops in so called Lugansk People’s Republic. So that is the occupied territory in the east of Ukraine.

When it happened, it became clear that the only way to prevent the defeat of the Russian army from the side of Kremlin from the side of Putin was to call for, for the mobilization. But, in fact, it is not clear if this mobilization will be really helpful for Russia to confront the Ukrainian offensive in the south in the north of the country. According to Putin’s statement, some 300,000 soldiers should be mobilized to the to the front and it seems that it will take nearly one or two months to train them to become a really effective force in the in the front. However, the turn, the partial mobilization, which was used by Putin is very problematic. Firstly, it means that the only people who had the previous military experience could be symbolized on the, in the army. But if you look more clear there on this kind of legal document, which was produced by the Russian government on mobilization, you can see that there is no any certain criteria of who exactly could be mobilized to this war. And who is not.

There are even some rumors about the real numbers of this possible mobilization, which could be much higher than this 300,000. When let’s say this mobilization started, in practice, it became clear that it could reach like, anyone. So there are a lot of cases where people who were more than 50 years old were mobilized to the army, some people who who have the chronic illness were mobilized, as well. Of course, a lot of people without any experience of military service were also mobilized. In some areas of the country, it looks like a total mobilization, where all the men who are able to, to take arms were mobilized. And, as I said, already it is not clear how effective, how useful tthis mobilization could could be. The way it was implemented immediately provoked the wide panic reaction. In the Russian society, you can’t say that there was any sort of rise of some patriotic feelings about this mobilization, or that there are a lot of people who were happy to go to the army to, to serve in their, like, duty as the Russian citizens, and so on. But in opposite, just from the very beginning of this mobilization, you had a lot of people who were trying to protest publicly in different ways against this mobilization. You had a lot of people who, who were trying to escape from this mobilization by leaving the country or just hide themselves inside the country.

And also, you can say that this measure became really unpopular, firstly, because the aims of this war are still unclear for most Russians. It seems that the aims of this war from the Russian perspective is not clear for anyone. Because if you remember, from the beginning of the story, the explanation was that Russia is trying to undermine the so called fascist regime in Ukraine. So it was a kind of regime change war, regime change military operation. Then the explanation changed, and moved to the idea that we want to just liberate some parts of Ukraine from so called fascists, and bring back their territories of so called historical Russia, of the Russian Empire. And now you have the sort of explanation that we are fighting not just against Ukraine, but we are in military conflict with the so called collective west, as Putin put it. And we are fighting more than just for the domination over Ukraine. We are fighting for the some kind of New World Order, where the Russian government led by Putin will dictate their own rules, their their own will.

Putin’s Annexation Speech
And if you follow the recent speech of Putin two days ago, when this document of annexation of Ukrainian territories by Russia was signed, in the speech, there was actually were really little thought about these regions of Ukraine. Mostly, it was their kind of global narrative about the conflict between the Russia and the West, the clash of civilizations, a clash of values. There was much more about so called transgender totalitarianism and its danger in the speech then, any explanation of what will be the future for these Ukrainian territories who were annexed by Russia this day. So you can say that most of Russians are a bit of lost on this option of whereas types of propagandistic narratives and the final goals of this war seems for them extremely unclear.

Putin’s Social Contract
The second reason, even much more important of why this mobilization is extremely unsuccessful, for the moment is that if you look back to the 22 years of Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia, you can find that during all this time, it was based on some kind of contract between the government and the people. The contract was very simple: The government control all the political life, all the public sphere. The other part of the contract was that people can live their private lives. So it was, like a radical implementation of very neoliberal governance of the of the society, where society is absolutely fragmented, absolutely depoliticized. And everyone is thinking only about his own own life, because all the forms of public life are criminalized, dangerous and suspicious, let’s say. So, by the start of the mobilization, Putin himself broke this unspoken contract with his own citizens, because from that moment, lpolitics or war, intervened in the sphere of the private life of nearly every Russian, and that is where a potentially very dangerous step for the moment. You can say that you have some some kind of resistance against these bodies, resistance still came from the minority of the Russian society.

Anti-war Protests
I can say that in the protests against the recent mobilization, you can define to two sorts two kinds of resistance: The first one is mostly a student or youth type of protest in the in the major Russian cities In the fields, they have the mobilization, some hundreds of young people came tto the center of Moscow, they came to the center of St. Petersburg, some other big Russian cities. And there were immediately immediately arrested in a brutal way. So these protests were suppressed, nearly in the same in the same way. That’s how it happened in the in the beginning of this war, when, in tlate February and early March, we also had this this protest of young people in the big cities, especially in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekatarinburg and some other major Russian cities. And I can say that these type of protests for now had not so much potential. Because simply because if you are just hundreds or just even several 1000s, it’s not possible to to confront the same, let’s say 1000s of armed police who can do with you whatever they want.

And you should understand that there are no rules for the police at all for their actions, and even much worse than it was in Russia, like a year ago or two years ago. I can give you one example: In Moscow, I think it was 24th of September, there was the small protest of the young people in the center of the city. So one of the activists, a young guy , after this protest, he was kidnapped from his apartment. So police intervened on his his apartment. And then they took him to the police scenter and raped him with a stick. So and then he spent some couple of days in police office and was released. So you can do nothing against these kinds of cases. So, you should hide, you should leave the country. And that’s the only way to escape ffrom this kind of police wild behavior.

Also you have to know that all the Russian cities, especially Moscow, St. Petersburg, were a much secured, so they have the cameras all around. And so even if you’re not arrested immediately in the street, you could be arrested next day or during the night in your own apartment, simply because they immediately can recognize everyone who was in this was this system of surveillance in the in the in the cities like Moscow.

But also from the beginning of mobilization, you had some type of protests which were much more massive, much more, let’s say energetic and much more spontaneous. These were the protests of the people of the woman and men who who are protesting against against their brothers or their husbands or their fathers will be mobilized to the war. For example, such protests happened in Dagestan. So the question is, is the Russian region in the Northern Caucasus and it is populated by non Russian Muslim minorities? So it’s known Now, let’s say Russian region. And as it is very typical for Russia, these type of regions are the most poor regions in the country, non Russian, minorities regions.

So this region of Dagestan already, just before the mobilization was on the first place among the other regions of the country, for the number of losses in the war. The most people were the most soldiers who were already killed in this war were from Dagestan. So when the mobilization was declared, and it started to be, like complimented in this area, it provoked spontaneous protests, which were what quite numberous. For example, people, they’re a big crowd, they blocked one of the biggest highways in this region, despite the fact that this protest was all suppressed by the police in the very brutal way. So for example, the police they even shoot tinto the air many times, just to show the people that they can shoot at them as well. But for now, the potential of the protest in such areas as Dagestan, or some of the rest of non-Russian population, not just in the Caucasus, not just in the in the south of Russia, but also in the East, in Siberia, is very possible.

People fleeing Russia
There are other sides of the of the social reaction to this mobilization in the huge number of young people who are trying to leave the country. For the last week, it was reported that it seemed to be 300,000 people who already left the country during one week. So nearly the same number as Putin wants to mobilize to his army. And these people, they are trying to escape in various directions. All the flights to the European Union were canceled, even at the very beginning of the war. So the only way that you can escape from Russia, is to go to some Asian countries or some Eastern European countries like Turkey, or like Serbia. And the other way, which is more cheap and more easy to manage. I used to go to one of the former Soviet republics and the main part of these people who were trying to leave the country, they were moving to the borders of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic now independent state with the longest border with Russian Federation. So you can enter to Kazakhstan by car or by train from very different parts of Russia. And this process is still ongoing. So you still have have huge lines of people, 1000s of people who are staying on the border with Kazakhstan Also with Georgia, also with Finland, in the north, because they’re the easiest way to escape the country if you live in St. Petersburg.

So that is another side of this mobilization. And it’s not clear what the Russian authorities could do with it, if they will try to close the borders or they will try to limit in different ways the number of people who are trying to leave and so on.

Political Opposition to Putin
So, next important issue is the question of the political opposition. So, you have to know that all the organized political opposition in the country was destroyed, mostly even before the start of the war, but finally, after the beginning of the of the war. Not any public activity of the opposition is allowed. Not any statements that criticize the war are possible. You probably know that even the very term “war” is forbidden, because the official name of what you have now in Ukraine is a “special military operation”. So if you will say publicly “stop the war”, that means that you are distributing their fake information about, about the situation in Ukraine, and you will be prosecuted, even for a statement, not just in some public space, but also in the social media. And you have nearly 20,000 cases from the beginning of the war of the people who were prosecuted according to this distribution of the fake information laws. So, for now, you have such a situation – the deposition, which is possible could exist in the immigration abroad, or in some kind of underground inside the country.

So, of course, most of the people who were already known as the political activists, leave the country, because their life, their freedom, is in danger. And, of course, many of them try to organize from abroad. They’re trying to establish their own media, to develop the social media, and so on a more or less broad audience inside Russia. Among these people, you can find different sorts of liberal opposition. So for example, supporters of Alexei Navalny, the one of the Russian, let’s say, liberal populists, who is personally in jail now in Russia, but his supporters, left the country and they they still were actively doing their propaganda, their development, their networks and so on. Also, you have a number of the, let’s say liberal, anti-Putin, media who mostly exist now outside of the of the country. And also you have a number of the EU anti war groupings anti war networks, which are trying to communicate with people even inside the country as well. So, for example, you have a very interesting new group called the feminist anti war resistance and they are trying to organize various types of non violent anti war protests in the country. They also are trying to help the people to escape. And you have some other types of groups like this. And also you have different left wing, Marxist socialist groups who, who also exist inside the country and also abroad. So, for example, some socialist activists who left the country during this year, started a project, which I’m also part of, which called posle media []. And I think this project will be very interesting for you, because we publish all the materials in Russian and English. So yyou can read every publication on this website, and you can help this website because we really need all type of donation, support, and so on.

So the next question is, it’s like a big one, is the perspectives for Russia, the perspectives for peace. I don’t want maybe to spend too much time now with with my own explanations, and probably it will be better to open the room for your questions and comments. And I will try to develop my view on the perspectives urine during this.

[Ilya responded to a series of question]

Divisions within regime
Yes, thank you for this very important questions. So, probably, I will start with with this questions from a few of you about the possible, let’s say, conflict inside the Russian elite, and if it could lead to some political changes. So of course there are a lot of speculation about it from the very beginning of the war. But of course, we wouldn’t know what was really going on in the Kremlin, and we can’t just follow all type of the rumors that were much circulated also in the Russian speaking media, but for sure they exist. I only can believe in both lines, they could exist.

But it was quite clear that you have a conflict of interests in between the military, in between the Secret Service in between the big business in between the, let’s say, non military part of the Putin’s elite. So the governors, the ministers, who are responsible for the economy, and, and so on and so forth. But, of course, any expression of these disagreements publicly is impossible in Russia.

And you should know also that there is not any, let’s say, radicals, any kind of critics of the Putin from the right, who have any type of political independence. All these people who are doing such statements are very much manageable, there were a much dependent on Putin personally. So, for example, you mentioned Yevgeney Pregozhin, the guy who established the Wagner Military group. This is a person who is totall,y like 100%, dependent on Putin. All his career is based on his extreme personal loyalty to Putin and in the personal links between him and Putin. The same you can say about Ramzan Kadirov, the leader of Chechen Republic, who is also a very kind of flawed person. He’s making a lot of critical comments about the exact generals of the Russian army and so on. But I don’t believe that he represents any kind of real opposition to Putin. I think that it mostly expresses their progressing crisis, and the last have the perspective him on the Russian elite, in general. But why the figure of Putin was so important for all this, for all this parts of the Russian elite, is because he created such a situation where any idea of his disappearance from from his position give much more here than hopes because he created a system where there is not any visible alternative to him. And were all the different groups of interests among the Russian ruling elite, they balanced by him himself personally.

So that’s why his disappearance can reactivate some hidden conflicts and turn the whole Russian elite into the condition of chaos and war of all against all. So that’s why I think they are very careful about about their attacks on Putin personally. But of course, some internal struggles of interest became become much more intense.

The other question is, – and also a part of this question – is the role of so called oligarchs. So you have to know that all this big business people in Russia, who got their property as a result of the redistribution of the Soviet Soviet legacy of Soviet enterprises. In the in the 90s. They were totally politically expropriated by Putin in the early 2000s. So they sacrificed their kind of political independence to their opportunity to get much more from the ongoing privatization of the state property during the Putin support. Yeah, so that’s why even if they are not satisfied with the situation, of course, they’re not satisfied because all their palaces and their yachts abroad, their confiscated the mostly caught from their villas and castles in Western Europe or U.S. Of course, they have no political instruments to somehow develop this dissatisfaction now on the political level. So despite all of this, I can imagine that it is possible that some cut the tie Russia in the moment of the extreme crisis of the position of the Russian army in Ukraine.

Public Opinion on War
So the next question is on the scale of the popular support of the war in in different parts of the country and in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. This is very complicated thing, because, of course, from the very beginning of the war, you have this opinion polls that indicate support of Putin at around 80%. Huge support for so called “special military operation” on Ukraine and so on. But you have to understand that the quality of the opinion polls in the authoritarian, nearly fascist country where any kind of the wrong answer to the pollster could lead you to prison. It’s kind of problematic, to believe this kind of opinion polls, and I have a lot of information from my colleagues, who are working on soldiers in the field work and so on, that the vast majority of people during this opinion polls, they simply refuse to answer. That’s the majority of people. And so even those people who are saying that, “yes, we support our president in this beautiful, special military operation”, you’ll never know what does it really express, if it’s an expression of their kind of genuine support, or it’s just a form of conformism and they are here for the safety of their families or their workplaces, and so on.

Much less we can say about the support of Russian government in the occupied territories. Because even if you have such repressive politics in Russia, in the occupied territories, you can you have like, I don’t know, military state of emergency kind of regime. So you can be even even shot at you know, without without any procedures just because somebody recognize you as Ukrainian agent. So of course people there are wary, or were scared there were very afraid to express any kind of public public opinion. And of course, many of the people from the territories left. There are the most of the refugees from Ukraine that you have in different European countries that you have in Russia as well – they are coming from these territories of so called People’s Republics. And other territories annexed by Russia.

So if you look at this so called referendum that happened a few days ago, it was a very kind of strange event, which could not possibly convince anybody that it is for real. So, for example, there were not even so much of the vote in points where you can come and vote. But most of the people there were voting in their workplaces, or at home in their apartments, because they were visited by the military – Russian guys with the ballot and, you know, books, and the human the quality of this referendum was very questionable. That doesn’t mean that anyone in this area support, let’s say, the Ukrainian government. It’s not a question I think that people there have some doubts about Ukrainian government as well. But what is clear is that, unlike 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, and organized this military involvement, and eastern Ukraine, people in these regions, they have no feeling that Russian troops and Russian power come there for a long, because look what happened in this part of the Kharkiv area, which was occupied by Russians, which also experienced all this type of propaganda that “now you will become a part of the Russian Federation, you are Russians, so you should get the Russian citizenship” and so on. And after a couple of months, it ended then. Ukrainian troops entered this region, and it give a very good example of how fragile is the promise of the Russian Federation to keep this areas as a part of its state.

Integrity of Russian Federation
The next two points: One is about the integrity of the Russian Federation, if it can collapse, split into various independent states or something like this. Even a year ago, I will say that it’s not possible. It’s, like pure fantasy. For now, I see how how Russian Federation under the Putin’s leadership is moving in the very catastrophic direction, also in that they are kind of delegitimizing the very borders of the Russian Federation. So for example, two days ago, Putin signed the act which proclaim the foreign EU subjects of the Russian Federation, in the territories that are not fully controlled by the Russian troops. So he declare a part of Russia, some even big cities, which are not controlled by Russia. So you should imagine that, for example, tomorrow, he can sign the statement that Florida is joining the Russian Federation, you know, and Russia will will secure its national integrity with with Florida which is a historical part of Russian Federation. According to Russian history was the use of the nuclear weapons. No. And, of course, it makes the condition of Russia itself kind of unstable because the current borders of Russia could be a question because they’re not constitutional, they’re not legal in my normal sense of legality. So, in this sense, I can believe that that some kind of regionalist movements can emerge because, of course, Russia is a multinational country, a country with a very high level of inequality in terms of distribution of resources in between such areas as Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Caucuses, for example, or some other areas in the country.

And also Russia is a country which calls itself Federation. But in fact, it’s not a federation, its extreme, centralized, hierarchical type of state where the parts of the Russian Federation of the subjects of the Russian Federation, they practically have no opportunity to elect their own representatives to elect their own authorities and so on. And this lack of real federalism is very much presented and rushed and many people understand it, and take it very seriously.

Red-Brown Alliance
So the other big question is about red brown [alliance], I think it’s a very interesting question. It is very important, because it taught us the very foundations of the, let’s say, Putinist ideology of this kind of very strange eclectic mix of right wing, imperial nationalism, extreme neoliberal rationality, some kind of strange nostalgia for the Soviet times, how all it was constructed. So what are the roots for this mix? And it’s a very interesting question, because we can indicate how during this last, let’s say, two or even three decades, these kinds of ideological cocktails were establishing themselves. And of course, Putin took some ideas from various different sources. And I think that the source of so called red brown opposition from the Russian [unclear] is very important, because for example, you have now such people as Alexander Dugin or Alexandra Rohanav [?] who play an important roll in that times in the red brown opposition. Some 20, 30 years ago, and now, their ideas became like Putin’s ideas. So for example, if you follow the recent speech of of Putin, you can imagine that was Dugin who wrote this speech, even if it was not himself, but some ideas exactly were taken from, from his intellectual baggage, let’s say.

Possible Use of Nuclear Bomb
And the last question, which is extremely, important is the question about the danger of use of the nuclear bomb by Putin, and that this danger is used as the argument to welcome some deal with Putin. Of course, Putin’s rhetoric about the use of the nuclear nuclear weapons is very shocking. And he mentioned that several times, he said that there’s not a bluff, as he said, just a couple of days ago. And that seems that a key is “if you don’t want us to use the nuclear weapons, you should help us to make some deal with Ukraine.” It could be the argument. But the other question arises: what is the conditions for this deal? What kind of proposition from Putin is on the table? Now, because just in the same time, when he proposed some kind of deal, he is signing this declaration of annexation of the part of Ukrainian territory, which possibly make him far from from some kind of deal? And what he really wants from Ukraine, what is his main concern? If his concern is a neutral status of Ukraine, or he really wants to annex exactly that part of Ukraine, or he wants a bit more, maybe some more than two areas of this country to become a part of the Russian Federation. So that is extremely unclear. So his main condition, which is very open, is that Ukraine should surrender in the case of Ukrainian extreme military success, which is also kind of strange thing. If we can imagine the deal with Putin is made under the threat of the use of the nuclear weapons, and the main kind of result of this deal will be the annexation of part of the territory of the other country, because otherwise Russia can use the nuclear bomb? I think, “well, this deal looks very problematic. There is no guarantee that tomorrow, Putin will propose any other type of deal, you know, with with the same arguments. So why not annex the Baltic states, because they were historically a part of the Russian Empire, or otherwise, we will use the nuclear bomb. Why not Poland, which was also part of the Russian Empire in the in the 19th century. It’s very justified to use the nuclear bomb. Poland will not become a part of this way of thinking, You don’t see any limits of this, of this approach.”

And I can easily imagine that if this kind of deal with Putin under the threat of the nuclear boom, with the price of the part of Ukrainian territory will be approved, it will be not the end of the story, it will just open the door for him to develop this approach, you know, made the next year in two years, because this kind of deal will definitely prolong the life of his regime and greater danger for the existence of some of the Eastern European states. And that is where that is a very, very dangerous kind of thing, because you have a nuclear bomb in the hands of the person who has no no limits.

[After a series of further questions and comments, Ilya responded.]

More on use of nuclear weapon
I will start with public reaction in Russia, about the possibility of the use of the nuclear weapons and with the number of losses, which is very, very important question. So you have to understand that during all of last, let’s say eight years, Russian propaganda was extremely militaristic and extremely, extremely aggressive against Ukraine, in particular. So in this sense, you can say that the Russian society, or even some part of Russian society was, more or less, let’s say logically prepared for some kind of dehumanization of Ukrainians – that you have only fascists there. And we should kill them all, and things like this. These sentiments, unfortunately, still were much distributed in Russia, especially among the older generation.

And the other element of their state propaganda during the recent years, was that the use of the nuclear weapon is possible, and legitimate, according to the Russian national interests, and that is, by the way, very different from any kind of the Soviet propaganda. Because despite the rise of militarization, and the late Soviet Union, the official propaganda line of wars was peaceful, and it was full of a variant of the dangers of the nuclear war, that the nuclear wars is impossible, we should avoid that in any way, it will be the end of the humanity and so on. The Putin propaganda in this way is totally different. Because they can openly play with such arguments that we will burn them into nuclear ashes. For example, it was said on the one of the Russian TV shows even before the war. So in this sense, people, like will mostly forget about the danger of the of any sort of even the games of with such rhetoric, and, unfortunately, most of the Russian population, they simply don’t understand what will be the consequences of any kind of use of the nuclear, nuclear weapons.

Russian Casualties
And about the number of losses is a massive thing. Because from the very beginning of the war, Russian officials, tried to hide the real numbers of people who who were killed in Ukraine. The last numbers they gave, it was exactly in the day when Putin announced the mobilization, because just after his speech, there was a speech of the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, who said that Russia lost less than 6000 people from the beginning of this operation. And of course, it’s it’s not true. Of course, much more people were already killed, and these losses are already bigger than Soviet Union, for example, lost during the nine years of war in Afghanistan, in the in the 90’s. And definitely it will create some kind of very serious trauma in the Russian society when that will happen.

I don’t know I think it will happen, even in some coming months that people start to realize how many people they already lost as the society But it definitely will have a very serious effect. Because, yeah, you can imagine how many people how many Russian soldiers who are unprepared, will be killed soon when they they will be mobilized and sent to the frontline, immediately. And there are already a lot of cases when people were sent to the frontline without any training. So it means that these people, they could die very, very soon.

Putin’s Health
The other thing – the health of Putin: Of course, there were a lot of speculation about about it. And they’re also the rumor that probably some of these speculations were organized by himself, you know, just to create some kind of atmosphere of uncertainty about his future and so on. And also to test their reactions. Because that’s the kind of professional KGB person he is, he is enjoying these kinds of things. So when you look at him, like speaking publicly, you can see that this year he turns 70. He’s quite okay. The only thing that probably he is he has some, some political deformations already. Because even if you look, for example, at this famous meeting, with the council of the national security in February of this year, and this meeting was historical, because it was the moment when it became clear that he’s going to invade Ukraine, his behavior was very nervous, and his reactions were very kind of strange.

Military desertions
Briefly, about about the about the number of deserters and the people who are already captured by Ukraine: probably there are a lot, and that could be more, but still, the number of Ukrainians captured by Russians are still bigger than the Russians captured by by Ukrainians. And possibly, some role in this exchange of the of the people because you remember, probably then, when the Russians took Mariupol, the huge, huge number of Ukrainians were captured some several 1000s. And there were amassing like these from the Russian side.

Economic Situation
Next, on the economic situation: I will say that there were all kinds of expectations that after the start of the Western sanctions, the Russian economy will collapse, there will be huge inflation, there will be a huge rise of prices, but nothing like this happened. Of course, there was some certain increase of the prices but it was very far from any kind of collapse because Russian economy is very simple. It his based on the oil and gas export. And if even if you withdrew most of the most of the transnational corporations who are working there for our production or things like this, the Russian economy will survive. And that’s the main base of Putin’s strategy, that despite all that kind of tensions, he will continue to make gas and oil export to Europe mostly. And that will solve all the problems with the Russian economy. So, of course, there will be a certain drop of the economy in the end of this year, but it will not be catastrophic.

Possible opposition among military leaders
Next question is about Putin and the army, Putin and his generals. I also thought a lot about about this, but you know, the main problem that in Russia, and like Turkey, for example, unlike Turkey, in Russia, or in the Soviet Union, or even on the Russian Empire, the army never played any independent political role. So in the whole Soviet history, and Russian history, it was only one case, only one moment, when the army played the political role. It was after the death of Stalin. Now, when I think of your joke of support for chauffeur instead of love NCBS have the Secret Service. So that was the only one way when only one moment when army intervened, like politically, and for now, you have no any kind of tradition of the political stance of the army. But of course, there are some certain dissatisfactions in the high ranking military, even before invasion. In early February, one of the very kind of respectable retired generals of the Soviet Army, Leonid Ivashov, who is known as a very conservative, imperialist guy, published an open letter to Putin, where he tried to warn him from the invasion to Ukraine, because it is unwise, that it will be disastrous for Russia, it will be a huge military and political mistake, and Russia should avoid this kind of catastrophic decision. And that was written by the guy who had the reputation of a Russian nationalist, military hawk of all of his life. So it looks like these feelings, somehow are distributed among the military. But still, until now, we we had no any kind of practical examples of opposition from from them.

Murder of Dugina
Now, the next question: the death of Dugin’s daughter was very strange. And their official version, that she was killed by single Ukrainian woman, sounds not very convincing. And, yes, it’s possible that she she was killed by some group inside the Russian secret service. That is possible, but we, of course, don’t have any sort of information about this.

Putin and Stalin
And to the last to the last two questions about this comparison of Putin and Stalin in terms of repressions. I will say that during all his career, Putin never used any massive serious suppressions against, anyone and especially against his own elite. His repressions were always very selective. And he was trying all the time to keep some kind of atmosphere of security among the Russian elite. You can see that up to now. Most of the people around him are his friends from his 20 or 30, even 40 years back. So he is in this way, much more conservative in his repressive politics than Stalin was.

Contact with Ukraine
And the last moment is about [our contacts with people in] Ukraine. Certainly for a very long period of time we had contacts with Ukrainian comrades from Sotsialny Rukh. I know the prominent activists of this group for a long, and we even met with them in Kyiv many times. And of course, we still have this contract up to now I think that they’re doing a really great job. Their analysis of the situation is extremely correct.

I know Boris Navalny for a long time. And I had a lot of disagreements, like political disagreements with him, especially in 2014, when he basically supported the annexation of Crimea, and the Russian military involvement in Donbass. I think it was his very big political mistake. But for now, he is right and about the current situation. I will say I can mostly agree with with. But, but I have a very complicated opinion about.

Possible use of nuclear weapons
So Putin argument is very ambivalent, because, on one side, he is talking that Russia is ready to use the nuclear weapons only in the case of existential danger, integrity of Russian Federation, and at the same time, he’s talking about that there is already created the precedents of use of the nuclear bombs and his his logic is very kind of strange in the way that a key if US did did any crimes in the recent past. So what it means that there are crimes that are bad because they are crimes, or they are not crimes, but just the windows of opportunity for another to make the same crimes. And this argument is always kind of strange. And it seems that Putin finally, personally understands that in the second way, that the true sovereign power could be expressed in the way that the US did in the past, and that Russia is planning to do in the in the future. So that creates very big problems with the very concept of Russian military doctrine and Russian nuclear doctrine. The other thing is that there is some certain procedure how to use the nuclear weapons. So even in Putin’s Russia, it could not be used in the way that Putin just push the button and then it starts. There are some other high ranking military officers who should confirm the, let’s say, “necessity” of this decision, and it creates some some kind of danger or some kind of risk for Putin. And what would happen if there will be some veto from one of this higher ranking officers? So I think that it could be one of the practical obstacles for Putin to to make any decisions like this [regarding the use of nuclear weapons].

Cheryl Zuur
All right. So we’re going wrap this up. Ilya, thank you so much for your time, and your analysis. And thank you for your courage, and for the work that you do, and thank you for the courage of your comrades and the work that you’re doing. We can’t overemphasize that enough. And I hope that we can stay in touch with you. And you can come back another time at a future public meeting, we will post the link to posle media that Ilya talked about earlier in the meeting, it’ll be in various places on our social media. Again, the recording to this meeting will be posted on our YouTube channel, please share it, I think it was a really important meeting. And we will keep working on getting this email list organized for future events. Until we do that, meanwhile, keep you know, however you found out about this meeting today. Keep looking at our social media, and we don’t have anything planned in this moment, but we certainly will have something planned very soon. So thanks, again for your attendance and your participation and Ilya stay safe wherever you are. Thank you. Take care. 

Oaklandsocialist adds: Just two days earlier, Oaklandsocialist had published this articleCan Putin survive? What might follow if he is ousted? Much of what Ilya said seems to confirm our view. Also contained in this article is some thoughts about the global implications.

Note again: The web site of the group in which Ilya participates is  It is viewable in both Russian and English.

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