Russian Commander: 'I Feel Shame That We Came to This Country'

March 7, 2022

The broken bodies lie in the city's rubble, their suitcases packed for the safe haven they will never get to. In Irpin, the carnage is covered by dirty sheets -- but the world is not looking away. To the mayor's horror, an entire family, including two little children, was killed in front of his very eyes when a rocket hit the local checkpoint. "This is murder," a passionate President Volodymyr Zelensky argued. "Deliberate murder." And the Russian people, who may never have the full picture of the nightmare unfolding in Ukraine, agree.

While the West shuns their athletes, performers, artists, and vodka, thousands of Russians are spilling into the streets, desperate to stop a war they didn't start. More than 8,000 people have been arrested in the government crackdown that's sweeping through protests from St. Petersburg to Serbia. Yulia Zhivtsova was one of them, insisting -- bravely -- that NPR use her full name. She wants future generations to know that she stood up, that "I was out there, I was protesting, I was against this." She pleaded with her countrymen to join the protests, even as Russian police beat and brutalize the crowds. Silence, she argued, won't save us. "If I keep silent, I'm still not safe."

Local monitoring groups warn that "the screws are being fully tightened" against the Russian people, as more anti-war demonstrations break out. Late Friday, Vladimir Putin took extreme measures, threatening any independent war reporting and protesting with his version of "justice," 15 years in prison. For the Russian dictator, who's fighting to keep his propaganda machine intact, the messaging war is as crucial as the actual invasion. He knows social media is jeopardizing his grip on power, which is why the Kremlin raced on Friday to block Twitter and Facebook from spilling the truth to his people. But there are signs Putin's iron curtain of information is cracking.

In one of the more poignant moments overnight, a captured Russian commander said publicly that his troops had no idea what a farce their president's "special military operation" had been. The soldiers were all told that they were being sent to help free Ukraine, because "nationalists and Nazis had seized power." Now, Astakhov Dmitry Mikhailovich urges soldiers to defy their orders. "Be brave," he encouraged. "We should not sow death. We should sow life." Then, quietly, he lamented, "I feel shame that we came to this country. We brought sorrow to this land. I cannot find the words to say sorry to the Ukrainian people."

He, like so many Russians, is just a pawn in Putin's game. And yet, there are calls to expel ordinary Russians from sports, revoke their visas, send their students back home, even erase their athletes from video games. Imagine if we were held accountable for Joe Biden's failures -- including the bloodiest of all, global promotion of abortion on demand? "All sorts of bizarre anti-Russian gestures are being made," Michael Brendan Dougherty points out. "Meanwhile, [as] the American public takes out their anger on bottles of vodka and supremely talented Russian nationals, the United States, Germany, and much of Europe continue to buy Russia's cheap oil and gas, doing more each day to fill Russia's war coffers than anything a conductor and soprano could do in 1,000 lifetimes. All the plans for reducing our reliance on Russia's chief export are for years in the future."

Biden should take his cues from the British dock workers, who refused to unload Russian oil this morning at a port in northwest England. The local union announced to the ship captains that they "will under no circumstances unload any Russian oil -- regardless of the nationality of the vessel which delivers it." Instead, our president's "solution" is negotiating with the world's other killers, announcing Monday that he might ease sanctions on Venezuela (the country who starved and tormented its own people in 2019 to get the election result it wanted) in hopes of pumping more oil into the international market.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was beside himself. "Rather than produce more American oil," he tweeted, Biden "wants to replace the oil we buy from one murderous dictator with oil from another murderous dictator."

The reality, Venezuelan experts say, is that the country can't do that without multi-billion dollar investments from the outside. "There have been no new wells drilled in Venezuela for months," the Wall Street Journal pointed out. "Its production is a 'drop in the bucket in the world oil market,'" one Latin American energy expert explained. "This won't help ease the pain at the pump for American consumers."

Biden's other "great idea?" Travel to Saudi Arabia and beg the crown prince to produce more oil. "So much for 'making Saudi Arabia a pariah!'" Jim Geraghty fumed about candidate Biden's tough talk when was discovered that the Saudi leader gave the order to execute a U.S.-based journalist in 2019. "I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There's very little social redeeming value... in the present government in Saudi Arabia," Biden said back then.

Now, as president, Biden is considering a trip to the Middle East to grovel for oil that we could be producing right here at home. These are the lengths our president will take to keep his extremist base happy: he'll sacrifice American energy independence and security, force us to pay exorbitant prices at the pump, and indebt us to some of the worst human rights abusers in the world. "Remember," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Sunday, "a strength of a nation is not just your military -- it's your ability to have energy; it's your ability of economics. [Biden] weakened America's ability on energy." And now, the whole world is paying for it.