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Putin on the Ritz: why so few big Russian rats have jumped ship

World

Putin on the Ritz: why so few big Russian rats have jumped ship

Top bureaucrats, officers and business leaders have more to lose than to gain by denouncing Russia’s Ukraine invasion

Leonid Bershidsky

When someone like Boris Bondarev, a Russian counsellor to the UN in Geneva, slams the door on his employer, the Russian foreign ministry, and on his home country, it’s only natural to wonder if Vladimir Putin’s system is showing cracks three months into the dictator’s disgraceful Ukraine adventure. The answer, however, is “not really”. Despite the relative failure of the invasion so far, prominent defectors are remarkably few in number. The Russian establishment is not about to implode.

For most of the Putin-era breed of establishment figure, carrying on has more upside than defecting.

Bondarev, a rank-and-file diplomat specialising in arms control, is the highest-ranking foreign ministry renegade so far. No deputy ministers or ambassadors have made a show of abandoning ship even as Sergei Lavrov, the minister, has cast aside any pretence of diplomacy and joined the pro-war propaganda effort full-time, declaring that Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, could easily be a Nazi because Adolf Hitler — Lavrov alleged — had Jewish blood...

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