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My Fellow Russians, Our Children Will Pay (Literally) For Putin’s War Crimes

Just look at post-War Germany and the reparations that had to be paid out for generations. Russian-born writer Michael Sheitelman notes from Kyiv, where he is documenting events and reflecting on the war and its aftermath.

Soldiers walking by a shopping mall after it was hit by a missile strike carried out by Russian troops in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv

Soldiers walking by a shopping mall in Kyiv after it was hit by a Russian airstrike

Michael Sheitelman

KYIV — Russian soldiers and officers treat Ukraine as a free shooting gallery.

The other day, they blew up a shopping mall in Kyiv with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile. In Kreminna, a city in the eastern Luhansk Oblast, a nursing home was shot at from a tank for fun, killing 56 elderly people. In Mariupol, a maternity hospital and a theater shelterting children were bombed.

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There was also the shelling of homes in Odessa by Russian warships, with the names and registration numbers of the vessels plastered over — naive Russian officers expecting to dodge responsibility for war crimes.


There are also the Russian soldiers and officers who treat Ukraine as an open shopping spree. They steal cars, televisions, vacuum cleaners, toasters and carpets across the border with Russia. They export stolen meat and pasta. They steal cows. In the Russian-controlled Donetsk region, for the first time in eight years, Ukraine’s hryvnia currency was allowed to circulate, only because Russian military are looting ATMs and cash registers in the occupied villages and need somewhere to drink away the money.

What "Russian officer" will mean

And there is also the question of how Russian soldiers and officers treat the women of Ukraine . According to a representative of the Ukrainian presidential office, rapes of Ukrainian women and girls in the occupied territories, which used to be sporadic, have become widespread.

Each Russian family of three already owes the Ukrainians $20,000.

I understand that there’s no point in my telling the Russian military to stop. The word "Russian officer" will now and forever be associated exclusively with looting, robbery, rape, murder, and other varieties of barbarism.

But the civilians of Russia should think about this. Do you realize that you, your children, your grandchildren, and even your great-grandchildren will have to pay for all this? Pay, literally.

Photo of shards of glass on the floor as people walk by in Kyiv, on March 21

Destruction in Kyiv, Ukraine

Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA/ZUMA

Trillion-dollar reparations

Russian soldiers, officers, and the military and political leadership will be responsible for the crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine. But it is you who will have to compensate Ukrainians for the material damage. Your dead colonels and generals will not pay for it.

A relative of mine who was a child in a German concentration camp still receives compensation from Germany. Monthly. They are paid by German residents for the crimes their great-grandfathers committed. Great-grandfathers!

If you can't pay either, then your children will have to.

To date, according to very rough estimates, Russian soldiers and officers have shot, robbed, and raped in Ukraine for a value of $1 trillion. That is, each Russian family of three already owes the Ukrainians $20,000. At the current black market rate (there’s no more operable legal rate), that’s four million rubles. Each. Even the family of your penniless neighbor. And if he cannot pay, you will have to pay his share. And if you can't pay either, then your children will have to pay — but with interest. And the interest will be paid by your grandchildren.

Send in the lawyers

And the amount grows. A Dagger missile on a shopping mall. That's another $140 million you owe. One dollar per Russian. Doesn't seem like much. But how many more missiles will there be? Why don't you ask your military to miss their targets? It'll be cheaper.

If there are some Russians who think that it will not be possible to collect this money, I will tell you: After World War II, obtaining compensation from Germany became a whole industry. Without exaggerating, millions of lawyers around the world, until the last days of the 20th century, were engaged in this business, which became one of the most profitable in the world because success in an international court was guaranteed! Before or since, we’ve never seen so many lawyers in the world. But they’ll be back, and it will be Ukrainians this time thanking Grandpa for the paycheck!*

*This is a play on a Russian phrase that has gained popularity over the past decade: "Thank you Grandpa for the victory!" reflecting pride in the Soviet military that defeated Nazi Germany.

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