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OPINION

“You can only change someone by showing them a better image of themselves”: Oleksiy Arestovych on the negative impact of demonizing Russians

Oleksiy Arestovych, a former advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, faces criticism in his home country for advocating cooperation with Russians. Despite this, he is the sole representative from Ukraine who agreed to participate in the “Brussels Dialogue,” a recent roundtable discussion in the European Parliament aimed at establishing contact with Russian opposition figures and activists. In an interview with The Insider, Arestovych elaborated on the drawbacks of demonizing Russians, emphasized the significance of reparations, and outlined strategies to counter Putin's propaganda machine.

Interview recorded by Nadezhda Kolobaeva

Читать на русском языке

- Since the start of the full-scale invasion, you’ve been called “Ukraine's therapist-in-chief” who “helps both Russians and Ukrainians fall asleep.” How do you manage to maintain this “neutrality”?

- In psychotherapy, there are no nationalities, oaths of allegiance, or anything else. The sole focus is on the individual who requires assistance. I always focus on the common humanity, on the light in people. Even those who push buttons and fire missiles at us have it. That does not detract from the need to fight them. But you need to understand that, firstly, there are a lot of people in the Russian military who sympathize with me and my ideas. Secondly, as a professional in the military, I have been instilled with a code of honor that prohibits me from demeaning the enemy and mandates treating them with respect.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

There is light and humanity even among the Russian soldiers who push buttons and fire missiles at Ukraine

We are dealing with the Russian military as an organized military force. We fight them, we shoot at them. And if we are dealing with each individual person, we can and need to awaken the conscience in them.

I repeatedly addressed the Russian military on YouTube. I urged them to think about how Putin is undermining the authority of the Russian army and shaming the name of the Russian soldier who liberated Europe, who captured Berlin and finished off Hitler. Many of them sincerely believe that they are fighting for their homeland, for Russia, which everyone wants to destroy. I tell them the following: “You need to understand that you’re committing a crime. Your noble intentions are being manipulated by Putin and the propaganda apparatus to carry out crimes, like the [massacre] in Bucha or the killing of Ukrainian children.”

The Russian military machine and Putin as part of it are the enemy. He is the one to be fought. But to fight does not mean to humiliate, to neglect, to mock. We, as the army of a European nation, adhere to a code of honor. During my time as an advisor to [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky, I repeatedly emphasized the importance of treating prisoners and the enemy with utmost respect, despite their evil actions. Many Ukrainians understand this. Among the military, there are many who have lost relatives and friends, fathers who have lost children. Nevertheless, they fight like Europeans: no mistreatment of prisoners, and Ukrainians provide medical aid to Russians.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

- Do Ukrainians really not have a total hatred for all Russians?

- We have politicians who bet on the trauma of war, they want to capitalize on that: “All Russians are scoundrels, you can't trust them, they’re incorrigible, everyone’s guilty without exception.” But these are standalone political forces. Normal people understand that Putin is one thing, and the people of Russia are quite another. Especially against the backdrop of the opposition, Russian aid to our refugees, the Freedom of Russia Legion [Legion “Svoboda Rossii”, or LSR — The Insider], the Russian Volunteer Corps [Russkiy dobrovolcheskiy korpus, or RDK — The Insider]. If all Russians are bastards, then what does that make the RDK and the Legion, who are fighting and dying for Ukraine, for our freedom and yours?

That's why the RDK and the Legion play a huge role. The [Russian] opposition is, of course, extremely important, strategically important. But politicians or the media understand that. For the common man, everything’s very simple: if you take up arms and fight, then you’re good.

Even during World War II, Stalin first allowed [Ilya] Ehrenburg to write “Kill the German!” and then, a year and a half later he said: “Comrade Ehrenburg oversimplifies.” And that “Hitlers come and go, but Germany and the Germans stay.” So the Putins come and go, but Russia and the Russians stay.

- And what about propaganda?

- There is no anti-Russian propaganda in Ukraine. There is anti-Ukrainian propaganda in Russia, before that there was anti-Georgian propaganda, a lot of anti-Western propaganda, but we don't have it. The average Ukrainian is not “irradiated with hatred” by people like [Vladimir] Solovyov, [Margarita] Simonyan and the whole [Russian] propaganda machine.

We don't need propaganda. We are already highly motivated because we are fighting for the survival of our nation. “If I waver today, my children will die,” is a very simple motivation for a Ukrainian soldier.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

The motivation of Ukrainian soldiers – “If I waver today, my children will die” – works better than any kind of propaganda

On the first day [of the war], February 24, at 7 a.m., there was a meeting on information policy, and the president said: “We will not use information as a weapon. Military censorship will only cover our plans, troop movements, and similar matters.” And we don't use it, although we have the right to do so, in terms of domestic and international law.

And it would be a very big mistake to demonize the Russians all the more. Even if we reason cynically, in purely Machiavellian fashion: confine Russia to a “black box”? For if we do, an even more formidable monster may emerge. We simply cannot afford such an outcome.

- What about those Ukrainians who are against mobilization? Can they be motivated to go to war by anti-Russian propaganda?

- They don't need it. They need to be made to understand that they're not being sent to the front to be “cannon fodder.” We fight differently. They will be trained, they will be prepared, they will have Western arms, they will fight under the leadership of a commander who knows what to do, in an army that is winning – now there is a counter-offensive.

And “hate propaganda” is vicious. In general, the soldier is very bad at “riding” on hatred. General Valerii Zaluzhnyi [Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — The Insider] said: “We are not at war because we are led by hatred of the enemy. We are at war because we are driven by love for those we are defending.” That's the right motivation for a soldier. You can't bet on darkness. Darkness destroys first of all the bearer himself, the one who believes in it.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

Putin, on the other hand, does not feel pity for the Russian people first and foremost. He doesn't care if they collapse – psychologically, morally, mentally. The Strugatsky Brothers wrote of towers that motivated people, but Putin has created towers that corrupt and stupify. That’s the problem. He corrupts people, treats them like garbage: 100,000 here, 100,000 there.

- What do you think of the opinion that Russia needs to be fenced off forever by a moat with crocodiles?

- This is a false idea. I am its first opponent. In the field of psychotherapy, it's understood that when you label someone as a pig, eventually they may start to act like one. You can only change someone by showing them a better image of themselves. That is why we must believe and talk about an open, democratic, free Russia. About a Russia which is no worse than any other country in the world and which can wake up from the heavy sleep of Putin's regime and return to the free family of nations.

I am opposed to talk about Russia’s “historical curse” and the country’s inherent “demonic nature.” Because it’s not a curse, but a choice. Putin chose terror, which first and foremost affects the Russian population. He terrorizes Russia far more than he terrorizes his neighbors. This is why we must fight for Russia's freedom, bet on those who want to live differently in Russia, who want Putin's regime to fall and Russia to become a normal country.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

Putin terrorizes Russia far more than he terrorizes his neighbors

- It’s popular enough. It is unpopular with certain political forces and their supporters. The right-wing nationalists – they have no problems [with it] at all. They’ve always had an excellent relationship with Russian right-wing nationalists. A great many Russian right-wing nationalists served in the Azov Battalion at one time. Ilya Bogdanov, for example.

The left-wing nationalists, embracing “cancel culture” as a method of suppression, love to proclaim Russia as a doomed entity, a dark force that corrupts all who engage with it. Unknowingly, they adopt the same tactics as [Stalin's] NKVD, silencing dissenters, banning, expelling, and condemning opposing voices.

This is an alarming trend that we are actively challenging, as we cannot let our country succumb to chauvinism. Interestingly, it often happens that those who were initially activists, supported by Western grants, eventually adopt a highly nationalistic position. Conversely, those who have experienced the front lines, such as soldiers, recognize that Russia isn’t going anywhere. Ten million Ukrainian citizens have family ties with Russia. So we have to talk to each other.

Once a democratic government takes control in Russia, we can expect a rapid and substantial improvement in our relations. Russia will have to be integrated into Western frameworks and institutions as much as possible — this is an attainable objective. It all hinges on the speed at which Putin's regime crumbles and rational, level-headed individuals assume power in Russia. While the recovery of Russian society may not occur overnight, what are 5, 10, or 15 years in the grand scheme of history? A moment, nothing.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

Once a democratic government takes control in Russia, we can expect a rapid and substantial improvement in our relations

Let's face the truth. Opposing Putin and his repressive apparatus is really very difficult. We witness the harsh consequences faced by those who dare to protest. It's important to acknowledge that not everyone conforms to that system. The Freedom of Russia Legion, with two battalions already established and two thousand more soldiers awaiting evaluation, is evidence of this. That's already another brigade. That's a lot.

Third, a lot of political mistakes are being made. The best thing the Russian opposition can do is create a collective representative body, which will also include military formations (the RDK, the Freedom of Russia Legion), and issue a declaration of mutual recognition. This will instantly enhance your political weight, as you will acquire the attributes of statehood. This will elevate your standing in the West, among Ukrainian society, and even within Russia. Essentially, you would establish an exiled government with its own military.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

The best thing the Russian opposition can do is create a collective representative body, which will also include military formations

So far this has not been done. There are voices of separate authority figures: Navalny, Khodorkovsky, Kasparov... There are petty squabbles, and as a result no one takes the Russian opposition seriously. If [the opposition issued a united proclamation, supporting one another, which would be a prototype of the future Russian parliament, plus civil society – a huge stratum, which is not going into politics, but has a very strong influence, plus an armed opposition – it would be a force. The problem is not that you aren’t fighting — you are. The problem is that you are fighting in isolation. You need to unite.

The issue at hand is deeply rooted in Russian culture, where dominance and control have historically shaped the nature of relationships. In contrast, Western culture emphasizes communication and cooperation, drawing inspiration from the ancient Greek tradition of engaging in constructive arguments.

If I were to bring together the Russian opposition, I would establish an ethical governing body, a commission tasked with examining the framework of relationships: how they are structured, how they are proclaimed, and how decisions are made. This aspect operates at a subconscious level, often going unnoticed by individuals, even those with noble intentions and intellectual capacities. The influence of this cultural paradigm is so ingrained that breaking free from it requires a conscious effort to foster communication and cooperation. The parliamentary principle, the principle of openness – we're building an open, new, democratic Russia, after all – is that I may hate you and you may hate me, but we share a common cause, and despite our different worldviews and our difficult common past, we have to work together even if we have just one common denominator. The entire Russian opposition has this point of convergence: to crush Putin, to build a new Russia. That’s more than enough.

- Some members of the opposition say that they are against the war, but they are also against reparations and dividing Russia.

- Failure to pay reparations means preserving the “rightness” of Putin's regime. It would mean that Putin was right about something. Moreover, it encourages revanchist tendencies in society. And in the end, it is the preservation of Putin's regime itself, even if only partially. Do you really want to abolish Putin as a person and the Putin system as a whole? Or don't you want an open new Russia? That’s the litmus test.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

Failure to pay reparations means preserving the “rightness” of Putin's regime

They need to realize that they are under the gun. They’ll be reevaluated by their own voters when Putin's regime falls and the truth is revealed. When [Nikita] Khrushchev debunked Stalin’s cult of personality, so many people were shocked. When they realize that [what happened in] Bucha is the truth, that everything Putin's army has done is true, when they realize the extent of these crimes, a lot of people will be horrified. And they will reevaluate. And they will go to politicians and ask: “Have you overestimated?” And he will say, “Well, I don't think we should pay reparations.”

Those who stand on the principles on which the Berlin Declaration was signed [a document signed at a meeting of the Russian opposition in Berlin on April 30, 2023 – The Insider] should come together: to firmly denounce the war, to unequivocally demand Putin's removal, and to seek reparations without hesitation. [Garry] Kasparov was right, reparations are the way to divide the elites. You instantly separate the wheat from the chaff: those who are for the preservation of the system — without Putin, but a system that exploits Russia, strangles, robs it, and does not give Russia a chance to grow — and those who actually support a new Russia.

- Most Russians who fled war and mobilization cannot imagine how they will return and live inside a pro-war society from which they so urgently fled. Do you see the possibility of a consensus?

- I do, but the condition is the end not even of Putin, but of the regime he has built. Your “bubbles” have to be constantly punctured – from the inside and outside. Even your opposition can't come to an agreement, and yet they all seem to be in it together. It will be much more difficult with the former pro-war people, but it’s necessary. That's the challenge. But God doesn't give you impossible tasks.

- You once said that Putin perceives himself and Russia as a katechon – a state that prevents the triumph of evil and the coming of the Antichrist.

- This is an Orthodox Byzantine idea. It was established in Russia, along with the idea of the “Third Rome.” Putin was brought it in a folder by those who form his picture of the world. This is partly the ideas of [Alexander] Dugin, but I see more the influence of figures of the Russian Orthodox Church. Kitezh-grad, katechon and his personal affection for Stalin as a statesman and historical figure.

He views the millions of deaths that result from his actions as an acceptable sacrifice in his battle against the collective West, confronting what he perceives as the devil. He holds a deep-seated belief that Ukraine is a traitor, which he considers even worse. And there's no changing his mind — unless a respected clergyman were to visit him in prison in The Hague. But I’d talk to him about it as a psychologist, by the way.

- Why, in your opinion, has no one made an attempt to kill Putin?

- The issue is that there is no guarantee of his total destruction. That’s why he has his bunker – it serves as a secure shelter that can withstand even a nuclear bomb. Besides, that would mean provoking a nuclear war. The destruction of all humanity is too high a price to pay for Putin's life. So I wouldn't count much on him being killed. True, the chances would increase dramatically if he wanted to start a nuclear war. Then the West, together with China and, I suspect, even India, would want to “pacify” him. China has repeatedly and unequivocally stated that not just any nuclear threat, but even talk about it, is unacceptable. And a declaration to that effect was signed in Moscow. However, Putin promptly violated that agreement by initiating talks about the transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus just four days after Xi Jinping's departure. The Chinese reacted very negatively.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

The destruction of all humanity is too high a price to pay for Putin's life

- Who do you think benefits from rumors that Putin is dying, sick with cancer?

- He may be ill, but given the Kremlin's medical resources, one can be ill for 20 years and catch a cold only at the funeral for the entire Russian opposition. These rumors may be part of dishonest propaganda, or they may be part of psychological warfare. Or they may also be true. There are testimonies from fairly serious people that he has a set of illnesses — after all, he’s 70 years old. We can't quite discount the possibility of his imminent death from illness.

- You aren’t going to run for president if Volodymyr Zelensky runs for a second term. But do you plan to monetize your political capital?

- Monetization isn’t my goal. I want to give a chance to my country. Ukraine is full of problems. We have a “deep state” here: judges beat people up almost with impunity, the sons of big shots and “decision-makers” rape their female classmates with no punishment. People make money on blood, on war. Over the 30 years of our country’s independence, the scumbags have won. They managed to create a system that sucks the lifeblood out of Ukraine, milking it like some poor cow. This situation is not unique to our country — it’s prevalent in many post-Soviet nations, including yours. But our country has elements of democracy, while yours has elements of autocracy.

And we want to defeat all these prosecutors, policemen and tax jerks, because they're eating up our future. Especially in the face of constant military danger. Given the “effective” nature of our defense policy, Ukraine’s prospects for a sustainable future seem bleak. Our primary objective is to overcome and dismantle this outdated system.

Freedom is our national idea, we need to defend a free state, not one in which MPs can attack a guy singing [Soviet singer Viktor] Tsoi’s songs on the street. Even though I'm not officially a politician, these tasks are the main goals of my work.

Zelensky came to power on these slogans, but the two waves of Covid-19 and the war “slightly” distracted him. That is why, while he is president, I would not like to talk about my political ambitions. He is human, and he certainly has flaws, mistakes, sometimes big ones. But all support should now be focused on him. He holds the “symbolic capital” of all of Ukraine, serves as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, and leads Ukraine's foreign policy, representing our unwavering spirit of resistance.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

While Zelensky is president, I would not like to talk about my political ambitions

You can't stoop to derogatory criticism. During wartime, undermining the authority of top military and political leaders directly threatens national security.

I understand Ukraine's sensitive response to discussions about my political future. That's why it's not the right time at the moment. We can have those conversations once the war is over.

Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967), was a celebrated Soviet writer. Sanctioned by the Soviet regime, Ehrenburg’s universally read pithy articles proclaimed hate as the only possible response to the Nazis during WWII. One of his most famous pamphlets, titled “Kill!”, was written during the Battle of Stalingrad. A quote from the pamphlet reads: “If you let the German live, he will kill a Russian man and rape a Russian woman. If you have killed a German, kill another one too. […] Kill the German, thus cries your homeland.”

Kitezh-grad

According to a popular Russian folk tale, the entire city of Kitezh (Kitezh-grad) was submerged into Lake Svetloyar (located in the modern Nizhny Novgorod region) by the will of God in the 13th century, to protect its treasures getting into the hands of Mongol invaders. This has led to Lake Svetloyar sometimes being called the «Russian Atlantis.»

In folk tales, the city of Kitezh is said to only be visible to those who are pure in their heart and soul.

Katechon

The term katechon (“he who holds back” or “that which holds back”) appears in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The katechon is the power that holds back the triumph of the iniquity that will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the katechon slows down the apocalypse. Different schools of thought exist as to interpreting the term's meaning – some understand the katechon as the Grand Monarch or a new Orthodox Emperor, and some as the rebirth of the Holy Roman Empire. Other scholars suggest that the katechon is the Holy Spirit or the Church.

towers

Arestovych is referring to the mind control towers described by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in their novel, The Inhabited Island. The plot takes place on the unexplored planet Saraksh, which is inhabited by a humanoid race and governed by an anonymous oligarchy of Unknown Fathers, with police and military omnipresent.

Broadcast towers pepper the landscape of the country, with the mind-altering capabilities of the towers kept secret by the state. Constant broadcasts suppress the ability to evaluate information critically, hence making regime propaganda much more effective. In addition, twice a day, intense broadcasts relieve mental stress caused by the disconnect between the propaganda and the observed reality by inducing an outburst of blinding enthusiasm.

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