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Russian diplomat in Switzerland resigns over invasion of Ukraine

Cemetery workers in the village of Staryi Krym, on the outskirts of Mariupol, on Saturday Keystone / Alessandro Guerra

A Russian diplomat at the country’s permanent mission at the United Nations in Geneva has said he is leaving his post because of his disagreement with Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. He hopes the Swiss government will help him.

This content was published on May 24, 2022 - 09:33
Reuters/ts

“I went to the mission like any other Monday morning, and I forwarded my resignation letter and I walked out,” Boris Bondarev, 41, who identified himself on LinkedIn as a counsellor at Russia’s permanent mission to the UN who worked on arms control, told Reuters.

“I started to imagine this a few years ago but the scale of this disaster drove me to do it,” he said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24.

Boris Bondarev Keystone

He said he had raised his concerns about the invasion with senior embassy staff several times. “I was told to keep my mouth shut in order to avoid ramifications,” he said.

Later on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov said that Bondorev had “declared himself against the predominant public opinion in [Russia]”. The diplomat was “no longer on our side, and is rather against us”, Peskov said.

Ignominy

Earlier Bondarev announced his departure on LinkedIn. “I studied to be a diplomat and have been a diplomat for 20 years,” he wrote. “The [Russian foreign] ministry has become my home and family. But I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy.”

Ukraine had urged Russian diplomats to resign in a UN Human Rights Council debate in March. However, Bondarev said he did not expect others to follow. “I’m afraid I am the only one.”

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists. The West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia and provided Ukraine with military support in response.

Political asylum?

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaperExternal link on Monday, Bondarev said Moscow had already ordered diplomats last year to take more and more aggressive positions, which became increasingly hard for him.

“I represent my country in Geneva, but as a diplomat I have to try to find common solutions with the organisations on the ground at the same time. So I made counterproposals internally, but it was all brushed aside and ignored. In December I couldn’t take it anymore and asked internally: do you want war?”

Of course he was worried and afraid, he said, and he didn’t know how things would go on in his life. He said he was getting help from diplomatic colleagues in other countries – “I have to stay somewhere for a while” – but he would “definitely not go to Russia”. Bondarev said he hoped for help from the Swiss government.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said he had been informed of the case. Asked whether Bondarev could expect asylum, Cassis replied: “Every person has the right to apply for asylum. The application will then be examined individually.”

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