A tsar by any other name…would stink as much

And if you tolerate this then your children will be next

I’m a bit worried, I’ll admit it. At times – mainly those trying to get back to sleep at 4 in the morning times – I’m not so much worried as scared.

As a child growing up in the 1970s and 80s, we had plenty to be scared of: IRA bombs in London, talking to strangers, flying kites near power lines, the Cold War escalating to nuclear proportions – I can’t be the only one who was traumatised by seeing Raymond Briggs’ When the Wind Blows.

In the ensuing decades, those fears have receded somewhat, although I’d probably still not be too keen on the old kite/power line combo. Back then, there was always the slightly reassuring thought that these weren’t my problems to sort out, that the grown-ups would handle it. Now, as an adult, particularly in the last few days, it’s scarily apparent that the grown ups haven’t a blooming clue.

So, what am I worried about? Well, there’s the obvious one, that after getting through Brexit, Covid, after everything in the past decades, it could all go up in a puff of very nasty smoke because Putin has taken his small-man syndrome to the extreme. As I write, on Sunday afternoon, he has put his nuclear deterrent on ‘high alert’, and he will claim that it is because he is under threat himself from NATO and the West. Did he really believe that he could just waltz into Ukraine and that all would fall before him, grateful to the Russian protectors? Apparently, yes. Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Skripal, wholesale chemical enhancement of athletes: – this is not a man who likes to be told No.

Selfishly, I’m worried that all this is going to knock our economic recovery off course, particularly with regards to energy costs. But I’m also scared for the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who is now Putin’s public enemy number one, and worry for the safety of his young family.

I have a whole blog in my head about whether Zelensky, actor-turned-politician could be the blueprint for a new type of leader, but I don’t want to jinx things. Suffice to say, that, in all the times I have used the phrase Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man in my journalistic career, never have those words been more apt.

I am scared for the people of Ukraine, for the amount of blood that has been and will still be shed because of Putin’s appalling dictator’s insatiable lust for power. There are numbers bandied about in the media about the number of casualties and losses on both sides, some of which may be exaggerated. But the fact remains that people are dying, needlessly. Every Ukrainian life that is lost, every Russian solder that is killed, represents someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s parent. I’m worried for the future of the ordinary Russian people who didn’t ask for this war and upon whom the worst of the economic sanctions will fall. It’s always the little people who are collateral damage at times like this.

I’m worried about the long term damage to those thousands of people streaming across the borders, terrified, and about how those countries that have opened their borders will cope and for how long.

It didn’t have to be like this. If Ukraine prevails, and they must, they absolutely must, then the UK – has to take a long hard look at itself and its relationship with oligarch money.  Not just political parties, but businesses and sporting institutions. For too long, the UK took the money without worrying too much about where it came from.   Abramovich may have distanced himself from the running of Chelsea FC, but it is only a way of protecting his asset, and anyone who thinks differently is deluded. Roman has long been Putin’s man and until and unless he comes out and condemns the invasion, he will always be seen as such.

I am in awe of the people of Ukraine who are out there, standing in the way of the armoured trucks and soldiers rolling through. And of the journalists who are still there, bringing the news to the rest of us. The news that BP has ended its stake in Rosneft is good, FIFA has, finally, read the room and banned Russia from the World Cup. The West needs to keep up the support for Ukraine. Putin cannot be allowed to get away with this.

Or, in other words, Russian warship – go XXXX yourself



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RIP Vitaly Skakun Volodymyrovych:

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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