‘The photographs of murdered civilians, their hands tied behind their backs, shot in the head and tossed like animals on to the street… we will not forget, and no one will let us forget,’ wrote Russian journalist and author Yevgenia Albats last week. ‘The guilt for this will lie on our children and grandchildren. Bucha, Irpin, Motyzhin – we will now have to live with them for ever.’
Powerful words and moving nostra culpa for Russian atrocities in Ukraine. But they raise a vital question. Who, exactly, is the ‘we’ who is to bear the blame, guilt and punishment? All Russians? The 70 per cent of Russians who official polls claim actively support the war? Russian soldiers responsible for the atrocities? The commanders who ordered, or at least condoned, them? Or is it just Vladimir Putin and the very tiny clique who conceived and launched the invasion?
Yevgenia Albats is one of the very few Russians who have written publicly of her whole people’s need for ‘repentance’, ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’.