Russians for the exits

David Bullard writes on Putin's latest escalation in his disastrous Ukraine war


It’s not much fun living in Russia at the moment, particularly if you are one of those likely to be called up to fight in what appears to be a hopelessly incompetent ‘special operation’ in Ukraine. The news from Uncle Vlad that 300 000 men will be added to the cannon fodder already sent in to die has caused a huge exodus of young men from Russia, heading as fast as they can for the borders in the hope of escaping the draft.

It appears that, despite heavy censorship and a Russian media devoted to spewing propaganda, word has got out on the streets of Moscow and many other cities that the chances of returning from Ukraine in a body bag or, more likely, being left to rot in a forest by your own rapidly retreating comrades is a high.

There aren’t many airlines flying out of Russia these days because of sanctions but the few who do hiked the cost of a one way ticket last week. According to one reasonably reliable news source a single ticket could cost anything from R25 000 up to R155 000 on Emirates via Dubai (but maybe that’s in First Class).

The choice of destinations available isn’t enormous but I suppose that once you’ve made it to Istanbul then you can connect to another destination, always assuming that you have the necessary visa.

Apart from the rapid departure of young Russian men keen to avoid an almost certain death in a poorly equipped and disorganised army there have also been widespread demonstrations against the Ukraine war and against Putin. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Many of the demonstrators are women, some as young as fourteen. It’s difficult to ascertain how many people have already been arrested but one news report said that 724 people had been detained across 33 cities last Saturday. Since taking to the streets and demonstrating against what is happening in Ukraine can carry a 10-15 year prison sentence one can only marvel at the courage of those who are willing to speak out.

One thing that Russia is not short of is thugs pretending to be police. Clad in black full body armour with masks and helmets to protect their identity they wade gleefully into the crowd of peaceful demonstrators to look for a skull to smash in with their black batons. Presumably at the end of another day of beating up their fellow citizens they change out of their uniforms into civvies, merge with the very people they were beating up earlier and go home to wives and children.

There are pundits who are suggesting that the end is near for Putin but that may just be wishful thinking. Last week Vlad told the world that he would use all the weapons at his disposal to protect Russian integrity adding that he wasn’t bluffing.

The problem when you’re dealing with an unhinged madman of short stature is that you don’t want to call that bluff. Vlad is turning 70 in just over a week and while some of us prefer to celebrate such occasions with good food, fine wine and old friends maybe Vlad has other plans such as a spectacular hyper-sonic missile display. When you get to 70 I’m pretty certain that the threat of mutually assured destruction doesn’t bother you nearly as much as when you were 50.

The cover of last week’s ‘The Spectator’ showed a cartoon of a cringing Vlad Putin with the one word ‘Cornered’. Rather like those nutters in the US who go on a shooting spree in a shopping mall and then turn the weapon on themself when the cops turn up, it’s quite possible that Vlad wants to be remembered by any of those who survive a nuclear winter as the ‘man who dared to press the button’.

What we don’t know for sure is whether Putin is a lone nutter or whether he has other similarly inclined nutters who are equally keen to send some missiles over to the NATO countries to pay them back for their support of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, most of his close advisers seem to be of his generation and equally convinced that the whole of the western world wants to see the destruction of Russia so it’s quite possible that they are all just as mad and desperate.

A ‘special operation’ launched in late February to take back land that Putin felt belonged to Russia was only supposed to last a few weeks at most. The fact that it is still dragging on and that Russian forces have been consistently humiliated, despite having bombed large parts of Ukraine to oblivion, speaks volumes for the leadership of Volodomyr Zelenskyy and the determination of the Ukrainian people to defend their democracy. By contrast it shows Putin up as a bumbling buffoon who is about as far removed from his hero Peter the Great as it is possible to imagine.

On the positive side various ‘experts’ have expressed the view that Putin is probably bluffing when he threatens to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and would certainly not use them against NATO countries. Post COVID my respect for ‘experts’ has been somewhat diminished but let’s hope that, for once, they’re right.


It’s not only Russia that has finally seen the people rising against monstrous oppression this week. Iran has also seen citizens take to the streets in their thousands across the country after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who was arrested in Tehran and taken to a ‘re-education’ centre for not wearing her hijab properly.

To put this in context it is necessary to realise that Iran is run by a bunch of guys who believe that if they see a woman’s hair or too much of her body they will obviously be unable to control themselves sexually. In most countries this problem is solved with therapy and frequent sessions with a sympathetic psychiatrist.

In Iran they have approached the problem differently and have ‘morality police’ who patrol the city streets looking for a wisp of hair protruding from an errant headscarf. Only by performing this valuable service can they protect women from the lewd advances of Iranian males.

Mahsa Amini clearly wasn’t keen on the re-education centre so those arresting her decided to beat her up and smash her head against the side of a vehicle. She was then taken into custody in a coma and died three days later. The official lie being put out by the Iranian authorities is that she died of a heart attack.

Her death has sparked widespread demonstrations with at least 30 killed and 1200 arrested and all facing a very gloomy future. But it’s not only the death of Amini and the violent repression of women in Iran that have persuaded people to take to the streets.

There is widespread unhappiness, particularly among younger Iranians, at the geriatrics running the show. Inflation is high at 52% and access to the internet (restricted during the protests) has shown many Iranians that they are living in what the Orange Man would call a ‘shithole’.

As CNN put it:

“But calls for regime change are growing too. People across the country are chanting for “death to the dictator,” in a reference to the Supreme Leader, tearing down portraits of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Remarkable images emerged on Friday night from Khamenei’s birthplace in the city of Mashhad, where protesters set fire to the statue of a man considered one of the symbols of the Islamic Revolution. Such scenes were unthinkable in the past”.

As with Russia though, there is no shortage of thugs keen to join the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard to keep law and order and smash in a few craniums. So taking to the streets isn’t quite the festive activity it is in Western democracies; something we should perhaps bear in mind the next time some climate change loon glues his hand to the road as a protest against fossil fuels.


After billionaire Rob Hersov’s hugely entertaining and somewhat incendiary recent attack on Pres Frogboiler at the BizNews 4th conference there followed a Q and A session which was also broadcast on YouTube.

This brought home to me the rather stark message I wrongly conveyed last week that Rob is the new Messiah when he is obviously a Rob the Baptist character ‘crying alone in the wilderness’ and preparing the way for one greater than he. One, if one can borrow from the gospels, whose Gucci loafers he is not fit to take off.

During his address to his many adoring fans in the audience Rob was asked who he thought would be a better president than the Frogboiler and he reeled off several names as candidates before naming the ‘one’ he thought should be anointed…. Gayton McKenzie.

To be fair this even slightly unnerved the normally unflappable Alec Hogg but Rob went on to explain why Gayton would be the ideal Messiah figure. He grew up in abject poverty and he is coloured so he is neither white nor black which presumably means he is truly representative of the rainbow nation.

The only snag is the prison record which would prevent him from getting a US visa and doing some chin wagging with whoever is running the show by 2024. Other than that and a few xenophobic utterances he is obviously the perfect choice apparently.

Why would a highly educated and well-connected white billionaire lie to you?