After covering Russia for more than three decades, I leave in despair

Publisher Note: Nick Robertson is CNN’s award – winning editor of international diplomacy, and his experience, knowledge and expertise have established him as one of the media’s best international reporters.

(CNN) – I leave Moscow angry and sad. It feels like a step from darkness to light, but friends trapped behind a man’s mine view are left behind. Russian President Vladimir Putin is destroying not only Ukraine but both countries, condemning the Russians for the isolation they did not choose.

Over the past two months, while reporting from Moscow, I have met many people who were shocked, shocked and stunned by Putin’s unwarranted aggression. Some of them believed him when he said he would not invade Ukraine. Some knew the Kremlin’s inner circle, and thought they understood the president’s red lines, but now they fear that hope is gone and that there is no limit.

What made Putin’s actions even more shameful was the way he carried out his plot in public view. He falsely claimed that with one hand he was diverting attention, focusing on diplomacy, and conducting exercises with his massive forces on the borders of Ukraine.
Even ordinary Muscovites did not disperse when the nation was taken to war and committed this treason.

Putin spent many years with his empire creating a false story. He says the options he was denied, such as the NATO withdrawal from the 1997 taxes or the embargo on Ukraine’s, were the fault of the West. But if Putin believes that Russia’s security is threatened and that the modern Western world contradicts him, then it is true that he has never adapted to the changing dynamics of the 21st century.

Taste of freedom

My first visit to Moscow took place in 1990, shortly after the Iron Curtain began to fall. A year ago, he witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, announcing the reunification of East and West Germany, and was in Bucharest shortly after the ousting of Romanian President Nicolas Sioux.

This is how they defused an unexploded Russian bomb 0:45

Then, American Marlboro cigarettes, imposed on the Kutuzovsky Prospect, crashed on the roadside in front of the CNN office. Moscow was finally connected with the world; As a young engineer I had telephone connections in our office that helped to establish direct satellite extensions to our switchboard in Atlanta.

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During those long, bright summers, the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, gave our network permission to set up a stage in the Red Square in the center of the Russian capital. From the legendary parade ground, meters away from Lenin’s grave, and in the shadow of the Kremlin’s threatening brick walls, we were the first Western media to broadcast the last party congress of the Soviet Union live.

The world was changing, the Cold War was melting, new frontiers were coming into view, and a generation of Russians were about to taste the freedom they desired.

Seven years later, I helped Gorbachev — shortly after our Red Square debut — he was ousted from the regime, ousted in a plot, and defeated by the drunken Boris Yeltsin — who climbed the Iron Stairs. Western Chain Hotel, the place where we covered the election that year. Democracy seemed to be within reach.

Nights in Moscow in ’97 were wild, with dancers dancing in pubs and often on top of them. The country was moving, to gain great wealth, oligarchs became game hunters as new hunters, KGB agents became gangs buying state property, and Putin worked his way to power.

In the final minutes of the 20th century, Yeltsin ousted the Kremlin’s money-laden Putin to replace him as President of Russia, and instead received Yeltsin, who had fought corruption allegations. Judicial immunity.

In July 1991, US President George HW Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands.

After Putin came to power at the beginning of the millennium, there was a hint of a modernization in Russia’s new leader, but that popularity did not last long. With unbridled zeal, he soon exploited nationalism, embraced imperial nostalgia, and the conservatism of the Russian Orthodox Church provoked Western Soviet pessimism and shattered dissent. None of this has been done to make Russia a better place to live; It made it easier for him to rule.

He soon shed all traces of his liberal skin, and he admits that he was never his own: in his view, the collapse of the Soviet Union was a national catastrophe he sought to repair. Although he came to power promising to eradicate corruption, in reality it rose to prominence during his reign.

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This year, as I cover the outbreak of war and the outbreak of war in neighboring Ukraine in Moscow, it has become painfully clear to me that Putin has legislated for his action, as the Nazis did in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Like many of his predecessors, the president of Russia is mercilessly unleashing the self-confident and complicit state apparatus he has built into obedience.

In short, all of your options will be easily fulfilled.

Burning anger in Russia

In recent days, Moscow’s clogged arteries have been filled with glowing blue lights of police vehicles of all shapes and sizes, from low traffic guards to heavy trucks loaded with newly arrested protesters, sounding sirens urging them to deliver other traffic. Make their way.

As Ukrainian cities collapsed under Russian bombing, riot-ready police at home used Putin’s Orwellian orders to suppress sympathy for their neighbors. Across Russia, more than 1,000 protesters were arrested a day during the first week of the war.

We saw young and old, men and women, being beaten, hands folded behind their backs, faces smashed to the ground, and legs stretched out by a well-trained, well-paid, menacing human machine. A branch of the state has grown for this purpose and is now used without hesitation.

This is the mass exodus in Ukraine in the face of Russian attacks 4:01

When you look at what is happening in both Ukraine and Russia, there is burning anger when you see your voice strangled and shouting against the blatantly fabricated nonsense justifying Putin’s war, knowing that innocents will be harmed.

Every morally hateful and outrageous act you see is another coal for that inner fire. Every night that sees protesters being arrested for daring to question Putin’s war turns into a cold flame.

This, like the war in Ukraine, is a challenge of authoritarianism to democracy, where freedom meets brutal power and cynical laws.

Putin has shaped the Russian state as a whole, and this move cannot be easily corrected. Most are intimidated, allies are too humble to change their actions, and their allowed allies are warned to swallow their anger and take losses to the team like true patriots.

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Away from the riot police, in the side streets, anti-war protesters suppressed their emotions when they were torn apart by their pain, “love Russia”, “hate Putin” and “anywhere” but want to be here.

Putin has sown a bitter harvest, and international condemnation strengthens his troops and strengthens his hand by silencing the unwilling. Almost two years ago, the Russian security services allegedly poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Less than a month after Putin’s invasion, I met presenter Ekaterina Codrigots from TV Rain, one of the last independent broadcasters. Then his words were prophetic: “You can never be sure that tomorrow your TV channel will be still alive, broadcast and broadcast.”

A few days after the war began, Putin closed it. Codrigotse, Russia’s Exploited Bright Hope’s Lecturer, left Russia with her publisher husband and their brilliant young children. The country without them is in darkness.

Putin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine is similar to all his previous wars: Syria, Chechnya and Georgia. Lives were crushed, and cities were indiscriminately destroyed by long-range rockets and artillery shells.

It is not known where his anger ends in Ukraine or beyond. Putin insists that Ukraine is not a real country, in fact a part of Russia, but will he stop even if he wins it? Or does NATO, as he says, suggest that the real problem is that it can be stopped within the confines of the Western military alliance? Will there be a new Iron Curtain or will World War III erupt as it did last time?

There is no need to answer that in Moscow. On the way to the airport on Saturday, I saw Putin’s cavalry moving at astounding speed with flashing lights and sirens, blocking traffic in his direction from the highway. It was a timely reminder of an unchallenged emperor in his domain, if he needed to.

Part of the pain of seeing all this is knowing that Russia’s enormous intellectual and resources are not being used. Meanwhile, a man and his allies are destroying the country.

When I leave, I know I will continue to spend all the horrible days that Putin is ready to pay, not his war and Russia’s war. The question facing the world today is how to clarify that distinction.

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