As the world speculates about the seriousness of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear threat, a Russian citizen says the only thing stopping Putin from starting a nuclear war is a personal fear of what could follow.
In an interview with The Atlantic OceanAnton Shalaev, 38, who recently fled Russia in the wake of Putin’s conscription announcement, said that as the invasion of Ukraine began, “it became clear to me that the old man [Putin] had nothing to lose.”
“He’s a psychopath and he doesn’t care what happens to all of us, to our economy, to our future,” Shalaev said. “My only hope is that he has a self-protection instinct that will keep him from destroying us all.”
On Wednesday, Putin raised international concerns that the Kremlin could launch a nuclear attack as the war in Ukraine escalated again after Russia announced a “partial mobilization” of some 300,000 reservists. In response, waves of Russian men have fled the country to avoid being drafted into the war.
In a rare pre-recorded speech, Putin addressed the nation, accusing Ukraine’s western allies of blackmailing Russia with nuclear weapons and warning that “the wind could turn in their direction, too.”
“If Russia feels that its territorial integrity is under threat, we will use all the defenses at our disposal, and this is not a bluff,” Putin said.
The Russian president’s comments caused intelligence and defense officials to rush to give assurances that Moscow would not escalate the war to that level at this point, though some have expressed concern that authorities may be underestimating Putin.
The Russian public’s reaction to this week’s developments has shown that most citizens are unwilling to go to war for Putin.
Shalaev, for example, swore never to fight in the war in Ukraine.
“I would rather go to jail than fight against the Ukrainian army. I openly embrace my anti-war stance. I urge my social media followers to donate to Ukrainians,” he said. “This whole war is a crime against humanity.”
Shalaev described Russia’s leaders as his “personal enemies” who “steal my country from me, occupy foreign territories and murder innocent people.”
“A few old men and an army of zombies will lead us to hell,” he said. “I say that because the people around me in Russia acted like they had been bitten by a zombie and dragged my whole country into a terrible war. All I saw was Russian loser men beating their wives, while the whole rotting house of the state system has turned my people into an army of the dead.”