'Never have I been so ashamed of my country': Russian diplomat resigns over Putin's war on Ukraine

He raised his concerns earlier but was told to stay silent.

Kayla Wong | May 27, 2022, 02:11 PM

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A veteran Russian diplomat to the United Nations office in Geneva has spoken up about the war his country has waged on Ukraine while declaring his resignation from his post.

"Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians" died for the people in power

In a Monday (May 23) statement in which he announced his departure -- a rare occurence since the invasion started -- Boris Bondarev, 41, wrote a scathing critique of his government's decision to wage war on its neighbouring country.

"For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year," he wrote in the statement, which he emailed to 40 other diplomats, according to AP.

He called the attacks an "aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine" and even went a step further by saying it was "the most serious crime" committed against the Russian people.

He also accused the government of only wanting one thing, which was "to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces" and enjoy "unlimited power and complete impunity".

"Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this," he added.

Slammed the Russian foreign ministry

Bondarev also criticised the Russian foreign ministry, saying "the level of lies and unprofessionalism... has been increasing" and reached a "catastrophic" state in recent years.

"Instead of unbiased information, impartial analysis and sober forecasting, there are propaganda clichés in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s," he said.

"A system has been built that deceives itself."

He further said the Russian foreign ministry today is "not about diplomacy", but rather about "warmongering, lies and hatred", and that it serves the interests of few.

Criticised Russian foreign minister

He also denounced Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as "a good illustration of the degradation of this system", saying that he went from "a professional and educated intellectual" who was held in high esteem by his colleagues to "a person who constantly broadcasts conflicting statements".

"Russia no longer has allies, and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy," he said.

He ended his statement by saying even though the foreign ministry has become his "home and family", he "simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy".

Following his resignation, Geneva-based non-governmental organisation UN Watch called on all other Russian diplomats at the UN and worldwide to follow his "moral example" and quit.

Raised concerns earlier but was told to stay silent

Bondarev told Reuters that he had raised his concerns about the invasion with senior embassy staff numerous times, but was told to "keep [his] mouth shut in order to avoid ramifications".

Eventually, he decided that he could no longer stay at the ministry.

"I went to the mission like any other Monday morning and I forwarded my resignation letter and I walked out," he said.

In his reply to one of the Russian comments on his LinkedIn post, which asked why Bondarev was the only one to speak up publicly when other civil servants had resigned as well, Bondarev said they were afraid of possible persecution by the state.

In addition, some might also feel that even if they speak up, nothing is going to change.

Nevertheless, he stressed that he does not judge them in the slightest and that they are respectable people.

"Not all Russian diplomats are warmongering. They are reasonable, but they have to keep their mouths shut," he told AP.

Bondarev also said he should have left earlier but was deterred by "some unfinished family business" and also because he had to "gather [his] resolve".

Prolonged conflict

Three months since Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine, the invading troops appear to be bogged down in what looks like a war of attrition, with no end in sight.

Despite what was supposed to be a quick offensive, the Russian leadership appeared to have miscalculated the operation by underestimating the determination of the defending Ukrainian troops and overlooking their own operational issues.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians have been killed so far, with many displaced from their homes, which were besieged by Russian forces.

Russia has managed to seize considerable amounts of territory around Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and also the key port of Mariupol.

Despite these victories, Russia is likely to continue the war for many years to come.

This is because the leadership needs a clear result that would allow them to claim victory over Ukraine by seizing large swathes of land, or by installing a puppet government, according to experts cited by Euronews.

While they are looking to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border, they appear to be unable to do so at the moment due to limited forces.

Russian offensive in the east also appears to have slowed down as Ukraine receives more arms from the West, AP reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued to call for aid from other countries to help defend the eastern region. He has also expressed his gratitude for the help he has received so far.

U.S. President Joe Biden has most recently signed a new US$40 billion (S$54.8 billion) package of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, indicating continued support for the embattled country.

Top image adapted via Standartnews and Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images