Dear Family and Friends,
This past weekend I received many messages from you expressing your genuine surprise at the brutal slaying of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The sentiment expressed in these messages was mostly shock and disbelief. While I wanted to celebrate you finally agreeing with me, all I felt was anger. Anger that only now -- a little too late -- are you starting to recognize the monster that you collectively elected and stood by for 16 years. This may be harsh, but all I feel is that this is your fault. Yes you, my Russian friends and family members, those of you who supported him and told me things like "He is great for Russia. Look how Russia has prospered in the past few years." To all of you I say that the death of Boris Nemtsov is on your hands, as are the deaths of Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Stanislav Markelov, the thousands of Ukranians that are loosing their lives fighting for their country, the Chechens that were carpet bombed in the name of 'war against terror,' the ten years that Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent in prison, the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and his brother. All of these lives and missed opportunities are on you. You let Putin take away your freedoms one by one and as willing observers you watched your country turn racist, bigoted and, finally, become a fascist state.
I am angry with you because you traded in freedom for a little bit of comfort; you ignored all the warning signs or, even worse, knew what was happening but decided not to get involved. Putin got elected based on two factors: a growing economy and the war in Chechnya. The growing economy allowed him to buy from you all the alternative sources of power. In the first few years of his presidency, he obtained control of the media, then oil and then gas. In the process, he imprisoned Mikhail Khadorkovsky and used him as a scapegoat while you stood by and watched.
With his anti-western rhetoric, Putin isolated you and slowly stripped you of hope replacing it with cynicism and aggression. He made you believe that Russia is not capable of becoming a democratic state and along the way he took away all democratic principles -- making it so.
He made you paranoid, promoting the idea that enemies are everywhere and no one is allowed a noble motive. Litvinenko gave his life trying to prove to you and the world that the 1999 Russian apartment bombings, that killed more than 300 people and resulted in the war on Chechnya, were coordinated by FSB. You shut him out swallowing what I imagine was a bitter pill and buying Kremlin's now familiar rhetoric that "the West did it to destabilize Russia and its leader."
I, like many, hoped that Anna Politkovskaya's assassination would bring about change. She was gunned down in an elevator of her apartment building on Mr. Putin's birthday. Instead of infuriating you, Putin's mocking words that "the degree of her influence over political life in Russia was extremely insignificant" gave you comfort. He used your lack of awareness to incapacitate you and you allowed him to do it.
He brought out the worst in you. You cheered while police stopped Georgians on the subway to check for their papers, thinking "good riddance." Lately, you observed your leader slay thousands of your neighbors in Ukraine, watching it and thinking to yourself, "perhaps I'll vacation in Crimea this year." So I ask you again, how are you surprised when you allowed this to happen? This is on you.