“Ukraine Must Win”: A Kremlin Defector Tells All

Russian military officials gather at the Kremlin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
May 24, 2022

On Monday, Boris Bondarev, counselor at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, made international news by resigning in protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year,” he wrote in an email to his colleagues that he then posted on Facebook and LinkedIn. “The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia.” 

His resignation, he admitted, was “long overdue.” Still, I highly recommend reading his full—and very powerful—statement. It is the first such public resignation from a Russian government official over the war. It is especially notable in that it comes from someone from the Russian Foreign Ministry, which has been the international face of Putin’s imperialism. 

I reached Bondarev today in Geneva, where he is now out of a job and fearing for his safety. His LinkedIn is “bursting” with messages and offers, Bondarev told me, and the Swiss government was providing security for him and his family. They also suggested that he apply for political asylum. But like many Russian émigrés I’ve spoken with since the war began, he isn’t sure he’s ready to take such a drastic step, even though he knows that it won’t be safe for him to return to Russia any time soon. “Right now, I’m in a state of uncertainty, and I can’t say it’s really great,” he said. “But I’m grateful to the Swiss.”