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Life in the 'Evil Empire'

Last year, in 2017, it was my honour to become involved with a charity based in Kiev in the Ukraine. They asked me to edit the English in a newsletter, which you are probably holding in your hands right now!

The name of the charity is ‘Soul of the Ukraine: International Support Fund for the Ukrainian Nation’. They have the support of various illustrious personages, including His Holiness Filaret, The Patriarch of Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Here is the link to the charity’s website:

I would like to add a disclaimer here; the website is still a work in process; pretty soon, it will all be in perfect English thanks to our Oxford UK-based company at This is not a plug for our company, so I will let our website speak for itself.

The newspaper in question is about the heinous, evil and despicable act of placing explosive devices inside children’s toys and then allowing these children to play with these toys. The results can be seen in the graphically shocking photos included in the newsletter. This act, by the way, is nothing new, it has been done by various regimes in various ways throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, including ISIS and the Russian military, as you can see here, and it must be stopped right now!

I would like to appeal to your common sense of humanity, whether you are British, Russian, American, Dutch, Ukrainian, whatever!

Russia has had a terrible press recently on many fronts, whether fake media or otherwise, so I would like to try to make some small steps towards making that right. They say that the first casualty in any war is the truth, so here is my modest attempt to encourage people to come together and speak on the basis of the truth of common humanity.

I lived in Russia from December 1996 to February 2009, working as an English language teacher, so I met Russian people from all walks of life; from submarine designers to local government officials to multi-billionaire businessmen. I worked in various parts of Russia: in a small town called Obninsk in Kaluga Region; at the British Council in St Petersburg and Moscow; and even in a beautiful city called Cheboksary on the banks of the River Volga. Everyone I met all over the country were ordinary, decent, kind, everyday human beings. No ‘Evil Empire’, no marauding hoards of violent people, just normal, decent people.

I would like to finish this blog with three events that appeared in the media recently and which illustrate this point.

1. On 23rd November 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, former FSB agent, and at that time living in the UK, was poisoned, ostensibly with polonium-210. Before he died, Mr Litvinenko named Vladimir Putin as the person responsible for his death. Whoever was responsible, I cannot imagine that any of the hundreds and thousands of my students performing a similar act. My point is that, out of a so-called ‘Evil Empire’, comprising millions of people, very, very few could have even contemplated carrying out such an act.

2. On 17th July 2014, Malaysian passenger plane MH17 was shot down while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur somewhere over Eastern Ukraine by what was later established to be a Russian-made Buk missile. 283 people, including 80 children, lost their lives that day. That the Russian regime was guilty of this terrible crime is almost undisputed, while its breath-taking lack of remorse is most certainly under no dispute at all. We will never know precisely what happened, but my point, again, is that none of the Russians I know, let’s say in this case, the dozens of people in my extended family, could have contemplated carrying out such a trigger-happy act. The Russian regime was guilty, the Russian people were not.

3. This brings me to the absurd and bungling attempt by one of the Russian security service agency’s attempts to murder an ex-KGB officer and his daughter using the deadly nerve agent Novichok. The two men involved, captured on CCTV on the day of the murder attempt in Salisbury, once they were safely back in Moscow claimed they had been in Salisbury to see the world-famous cathedral spire. Really? This ridiculous excuse for their presence in this English town not only insults the intelligence of the victims and their families, but of anyone following this peculiar news story.

I repeat my point for the third and final time. Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB spy and notoriously anti-traitor in his outlook, had the means at his disposal to carry out this assassination attempt, messed it up in spectacular fashion and then put the blame elsewhere. No Russian I ever met would have behaved in such a bungling manner, although it seems that the Russian regime might well be perfectly capable of doing so.