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Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev is splattered with red paint by anti-war activists as he tries to lay a wreath at Warsaw's Soviet war mausoleum to mark Victory Day. The 77th anniversary of the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany comes as Russia's war on Ukraine enters its third month. Photo by Wojtek Radwanski / AFP via Getty Images

The Only Right Thing We Could Do: A Sliver of Good On Victory Day

Abby Zimet


As "pitiful, paranoid dictator" Vladimir Putin tried to appropriate Victory Day by likening his atrocities in Ukraine to the Soviet defeat of Nazis in World War ll, he got hit by "an avalanche" of righteous hackers, journalists and protesters saying, as loud as they can through Russia's lies, "No to war." Amidst thousands of troops dutifully assembled in Moscow's Red Square, Putin gave a defiant, delusional speech with "a slight shine of desperation, "blasting "the deathly threat of Nazi ideology" and charging a nefarious NATO -  which makes up 6% of Russia's border - is "surrounding" the "motherland." A muted parade went forward, but a planned fighter jet flyover was cancelled for "bad weather"; given it was clear and sunny, some speculated officials canned when they found out it would have been  Ukrainian tractors flying over. There were other missteps: Pro-Ukraine, protests and parodies were common; the Russian Ambassador to Poland got drenched in blood-like red paint when he tried to lay a wreath for the dead in Warsaw; merch for arms-bearing Ukrainian saints was selling well; and when Russian soldiers tried to light an eternal flame in Mariupol, Ukrainians eviscerated "the grotesque combination of the traditions of the Olympics and the  Ascension of the Blessed Fire at Easter" as occupiers celebrat(ing) Victory Day on the bones of Mariupol residents.”

In contrast, President Zelensky gave a stirring speech as he walked down Kyiv's bleak main street, highlighting Ukraine's defeat of the Nazis and declaring, "Evil has a different uniform (but) but for the same purpose." Despite "the new mask of the beast," he said Ukrainians are again standing for freedom because "they remember what our ancestors fought for and against." His emphasis on truth-telling to cut through Putin's shroud of censorship was echoed by bold, anti-war hackers, part of an unprecedented barrage of hacking activity since Putin invaded Ukraine. In a startling reversal of roles - Russia is known to host many of the world's biggest cybercriminals - a volunteer army of hacktivists, from Ukraine military to Belarusian dissidents, have repeatedly struck Russian sites with waves of distributed denial-of-service attacks. They've taken down payment and food services, the Ministry of Culture, the voice-of-the-Kremlin TV and radio station, Russia's YouTube, called Rutube, the world's largest oil pipeline operator, a pro-war arm of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Petersburg Social Commercial Bank; they've also released hundreds of millions of documents containing "more data of higher value" than ever before - including info on Russia's biggest hacker. For Victory Day, many thousands of Russians as usual tuned into their state-run TV stations and websites, including Yandex, Russia’s Google, where the slot for each program in the schedule was emblazoned with, "On your hands is the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and their hundreds of murdered children. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war."

With Russia now having shuttered almost all independent media and imposed stiff fines or prison terms for spreading "fake" - aka real - news, it took a special kind of courage for two young Russian journalists writing for Lenta, a prominent pro-Kremlin site with over 200 million viewers, to mark Victory Day with a howl of dissent in an otherwise silenced news landscape. Egor Polyakov, head of its Economy and Environmental sections, and Alexandra Miroshnikova, an editor on them, transformed 20 front page articles into a furious, blood-soaked, anti-war treatise they were so sure would barely see the light of day they added the disclaimer: "This material was not approved by leadership, and the (state) is going to rip them a new one...TAKE A SCREENSHOT NOW before they delete it." Their stories, all sourced from (banned) onlline info, call Putin "a pitiful, paranoid dictator" waging "the bloodiest war of the 21st century.” They write,"The Russian army turned out to be an army of thieves and looters" who "abandon its corpses in Ukraine." Putin is "leading Russia into oblivion," is "hiding economic failure with war," is "threatening to destroy the world." Russia has "created its own newspeak" and gagged media "from saying anything that could cause 'social unrest.'" Also, “Zelensky turned out to be cooler than Putin."

As predicted, the articles were swiftly taken down, but are available through a web archive. Citing so many deaths in Ukraine, Polyakov said, "We had to do it remind everyone what our grandfathers really fought for - peace...This was the only right thing we could do.” Both men have left Russia, and are looking for work, lawyers and asylum. They sent a final message: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be silent! Fight back! You are not alone. Fuck war, peace to Ukraine." But with a madman still in power, Russia's atrocities go on, hammering the port city of Odessa even as they leave scores of dead civilians - more war crimes - in their wake. In the insidious name of "planned hunger," farmers charge Russia is also targeting farmlands, grain silos and bridges in an effort to destroy what's long been the world's breadbasket - this time, deliberately leaving unexploded mines in their wake. Like the rest of Ukraine, farmers are doing what they can to resist - towing off Russian tanks, putting in crops regardless, baking bread and donating livestock to feed the troops. In that spirit, even dogs help. Victory Day brought recognition for one such four-footed patriot: Patron, a mine-sniffing Jack Russell Terrier who's uncovered almost 200 explosive devices, gotten his share of glad press - though he fall asleep in one news conference - and become a sweet comic-relief mascot for a grieving nation. Monday, he was given a medal from Zelensky, with Justin Trudeau - minesweepers use Canadian technology - standing by. The award was for "Dedicated Service." At this grim point, surely every Ukrainian deserves one.

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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