The Red Army’s savagery in the current conflict is how Russia has always waged war
There might still be a few naive people with a rose-tinted view of the Red Army and its latter-day incarnation under Vladimir Putin. But after events in Bucha – and Chernihiv and Kharkiv, and Mariupol – there can’t be very many, as evidence mounts that the Russian military’s ineptitude is matched only by its depravity.
Rape, murder and torture of civilians by Russian troops in Ukraine is on the front pages, where it should be.
We’ve seen it all before, though. Pick a decade.
In the 40s, the Red Army brutalised the civilians of Baltics states Poland and Finland. Following the Winter Offensive of 1945, the Red Army committed mass rape in all cities it took.
In Hungary in 1956, Soviet forces were said to have randomly fired on “defenceless passers-by”.
During its occupation of Afghanistan, from 1979–1989, Soviet forces displayed a new level of savagery. Two million Afghans were killed. Rape by and mass murder by Soviet soldiers was commonplace and rarely invited any comeback.
The USSR collapsed. One of its old security apparatchiks called Valdimir Putin took over. And nothing changed, although the West kidded itself otherwise.
In 2000 (5 February), Russian forces went on an orgy of killing, arson, rape and looting in Aldi, a suburb of Grozny, as part of their war on the breakaway republic of Chechnya. The victims included an 82-year-old woman, and a one-year-old-boy with his 29-year-old mother, who was eight months pregnant.
Human Rights Watch, in its report on the outrages, Russia/Chechnya February 5: A Day of Slaughter in Novye Aldi, criticised Russian authorities for failing to make a credible investigation into the massacre of at least 60 Aldi Chechen civilians, which was preceded by (illegal) use of cluster bombs on civilian targets.
A day earlier, Russia began bombing the Chechen village of Katyr-Yurt in an attempt to stop the Chechen rebel retreat from Grozny. Russian forces blitzed the village for two days and then targeted a refugee convoy under white flags, wiping out 363 people according to some estimates. But this was all in a little Russian republic 1,500 miles from Europe’s borders. Despite the indignation of human rights campaigners, the West insisted Putin was a man it could do business with.
During the civil war in Syria, the Putin regime happily kept the monstrous regime of Bashar al-Assad in power, to increase Moscow’s sway over the Middle East. Putin allowed the frequent use of chemical weapons against civilians by the Assad regime. The West’s “red line” was crossed without retribution. According to the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Russia engaged directly in the bombing of Syrian civilian targets in 2019-2020, including hospitals.
Two years on, in 2022, Putin’s military is shooting abducted Ukrainian civilians in the back of the head and dumping them in mass graves.
The degeneracy of the Russian military is a grim reflection not only on its foot soldiers and generals and Kremlin officials, including Putin, who sanction it, but also the West’s foreign policy. Before the current conflict in Ukraine, London, Paris and Berlin were only too happy to look the other way in their eagerness to do energy deals, or launder oligarchs’ filthy billions. Russia has always targeted civilians to terrorise its conquests into submission.
This time, in Ukraine, the tactics are the same, but they are generating the outrage they deserve. And thanks to Ukrainians’ remarkable bravery, they don’t appear to be working.