“A new wall has been built around Russia and the propaganda is now free.” Dutch journalist Dirk Sauer, publisher of the Moscow Times, is bringing a core team of his journalists to the Netherlands. “Our journalists want to continue. We talked for a long time and decided to bring people to Holland who make the site every day.”
But it wasn’t an easy decision. “Our editor-in-chief has three children and a wife. He let his family down like that… God we don’t know how it’s going to go on. This could take months or years. Can these journalists go back? To Russia? If they don’t, can their children and wives travel abroad?” Maybe they’ll say goodbye to their families for a very long time? This is a decision you have to make in a few hours. This is almost inhumane.”
He speaks with great sadness and emotion. “How naive are we? I get friends crying on the phone. Their lives are ruined. No one saw this coming. Their country was destroyed in a week. This war is destroying two countries: Ukraine and Russia. It is destroying the young generation who have hope for a better future and who are doing things And they want to develop themselves.”
Having spent 32 years in Russia, Sauer has many contacts, including with people close to the Kremlin. Did these people see this coming?
A friend, a businessman close to the Kremlin, said this way yesterday: “This is the way for Putin. This is his coup. Putin has led democracy for years Parliament and elections. The emergence of Western democracy. But there was more and more resistance. The elections had to be rigged, And the press has become much more difficult. With this war he can deal with “the baldness of democracy” at once. Now it’s time for Rem to become the ruler. In war everything is allowed and so power can be taken completely. I think there’s a lot in that,” says Sawyer.
Staying for that is not an option. Russians who spread “false information” about the war in Ukraine can now face up to 15 years in prison. The Russian parliament approved the crackdown and Vladimir Putin signed the law into law last night.
It was the last straw, Sawyer says. “We were, of course, in an impossible situation because we are prohibited from using words like ‘war’ and ‘invasion’ and you are officially only allowed to publish handouts from the Department of Defense. We didn’t commit to that anyway.”
For the Russians, there is no war. “The effect of that propaganda, day in and day out, 24 hours a day, you see pictures on Russian TV that contradict what we see. You see nothing of the bombings. No refugees crying. You only see pictures of Russian soldiers walking around so friendly,” he said. Sawyer says.
Many Russians hardly realize that a major war is underway. They were told that there was a “limited military operation”.
This is how the Russians see war
“If this propaganda is coming to you, day in and day out, then somehow you start to believe it. I see that in my environment as well,” Sawyer says.
But escape is still a big task. “It is a race against time, because there are fewer and fewer flights from Russia. A few hours ago it was announced that all Aeroflot flights had been stopped. We have already booked seats but they will not pass. And everything is full. Thousands of Russians want to leave now.”
“Infuriatingly humble social media buff. Twitter advocate. Writer. Internet nerd.”