Being banned from hell is no dishonour

| June 19, 2022

Being one of 121 Australians whose names have been put on a list by Vladimir Putin’s government that stops us from travelling to Russia doesn’t really affect my life. So, in a narrow, personal way, the Kremlin’s posturing doesn’t mean much.

The list itself is like an Arnott’s biscuit random assortment. Maybe this shows that Russian intelligence penetration of Australian institutions and policymaking is not as deep as we might have expected.

But it tells us one big thing about Putin and his regime: like autocrats through history, he is threatened by free speech and those who use it to expose his crimes and abuses, such as his horrific war in Ukraine and his arrests, abuses and killings of domestic critics and opponents.

The contrast between me sitting here in Canberra having my name on a list and a journalist in Russia or a political opponent like Alexi Navalny having their name appear on a Kremlin list is stark. For those brave men and women it means arrest, psychological and physical abuse, and years in a Russian jail.

For someone like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it means Russian Speznaz death squads being sent to find him and kill him.

Thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children didn’t get put on a list but have been killed by Putin’s military since he ordered his war to begin on 24 February.

So, I think about the courage of those within Putin’s reach who still speak out—and, in the case of Ukraine, who risk their own lives in a battle that matters for all of us.

Freedom of speech and expression is what the Ukrainian people are fighting for and what Putin’s opponents within Russia want for the Russian people too. We have that here in Australia. This latest sign of anxiety from Putin is a powerful reminder of the value of our freedoms and the threat they pose to autocrats like the one in Moscow and his strategic partner in Beijing.

Putin’s barbarity and vindictiveness show why he must lose his war. And people living in freedom who share the values of the Ukrainian people must do all we can to help this happen.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will feel this personal weight if he decides to visit Ukraine when he travels to Europe later this month. I, along with everyone else on Putin’s strange list, will support him in that.

This article was published by The Strategist.