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Boris Bondarev told diplomatic colleagues: “Never have I been so ashamed of my country.”
The counsellor at Moscow's mission to the UN in Geneva wrote in a letter to around 40 colleagues that he was leaving after 20 years in the diplomatic service, decrying Russia's invasion of its Western neighbour. He also published the letter on his LinkedIn profile, beginning “Enough is enough” and signing off with the line: “Jobs offers are welcome.”
The resignation amounts to a rare — if not unprecedented — public admission of disgruntlement about Russia’s war in Ukraine among the Russian diplomatic corps.
Mr Putin’s government has sought to crack down on dissent over the invasion and sought to quell narratives that contradict the government line about how the “special military operation” — as it’s officially known in Russia — is proceeding.
In the letter, he condemned “the aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and in fact against the entire western world”.
This, he said, was “not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia”.
He said the letter “Z” — which has been daubed on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine and has come to symbolise support for the war — was “crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country”.
Mr Bondarev said that “those who conceived this war want only one thing — to remain in power for ever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity”.
“Russia no longer has allies and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy,” he added.
He said Russia's foreign service had deteriorated over the 20 years he had worked there, singling out Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as a “good illustration of the degradation of this system”.
“Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred,” he said.
“I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy.”
He complained of “unprofessionalism” in the work of the Foreign Ministry. “Instead of unbiased information, impartial analysis and sober forecasting, there are propaganda clichés in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s,” he wrote. “A system has been built that deceives itself.”
Mr Bondarev's resignation, which several diplomatic sources told AFP was not the first by a Russian diplomat since the invasion three months ago but definitely the most outspoken, drew cheers of admiration.
“Courageous!” tweeted The Netherlands' disarmament ambassador, Robert Gabrielse.
Hiller Neuer, executive director of the advocacy group UN Watch, said simply: “Boris Bondarev is a hero.”
“Bondarev should be invited to speak in Davos this week,” he added. “And the US, the UK and the EU should lead the free world in creating a programme to encourage more Russian diplomats to follow and defect, by providing protection, financial security and resettlement for diplomats and their families.”
Mr Bondarev was a diplomatic counsellor who has focused on Russia’s role in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva after postings in places like Cambodia and Mongolia. He confirmed to AP he handed in his resignation in a letter addressed to ambassador Gennady Gatilov.
A spokesman for the mission did not immediately respond to calls and a text message from the agency seeking comment.
“It is intolerable what my government is doing now,” Mr Bondarev told AP. “As a civil servant, I have to carry a share of responsibility for that, and I don’t want to do that.”
He said he had not received any reaction yet from Russian officials, but added: “Am I concerned about the possible reaction from Moscow? I have to be concerned about it.”
Asked if some colleagues felt the same, he said: “Not all Russian diplomats are warmongering. They are reasonable, but they have to keep their mouths shut.”