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Putin calls for ‘cleansing’ Russia of dissident ‘scum and traitors’

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a Kremlin meeting, March 16, 2022. (Screenshot)
March 17, 2022

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. and other western nations are trying to divide Russian society and provoke civil unrest, and that Russia should cleanse itself of dissident “scum and traitors.”

In a Kremlin transcript of a meeting on socio-economic issues in Russia, Putin said, “The collective West is trying to divide our society using, to its own advantage, combat losses and the socioeconomic consequences of the sanctions, and to provoke civil unrest in Russia and use its fifth column in an attempt to achieve this goal.”

Putin said the goal of the west is to “destroy Russia.”

“But any nation, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth, spit them onto the pavement,” Putin said. “I am convinced that a natural and necessary self-detoxification of society like this would strengthen our country, our solidarity and cohesion and our readiness to respond to any challenge.”

Putin did not specify what a “self-cleansing” or “self-detoxification” of Russian society would entail, but his remarks come as Russian authorities have already around thousands of protestors opposing Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

According to the independent Russian human rights organization, OVD-Info, Russian authorities have arbitrarily detained more than 13,500 people since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. Multiple people have been arrested in Russia for merely holding blank signs, Newsweek reported.

Some Russian citizens have already begun to leave their country, citing concerns of increasing Russian government crackdowns and worsening economic conditions from international sanctions.

Business Insider reported several Russian citizens said they left fearing martial law, border closures and detention.

One Russian woman, who fled to Georgia, said she had experienced heckling, including by a restaurant owner who recognized her Russian accent.

“At the start, I was embarrassed but also wanted to share that I was against the war. But I understand he had anger,” the woman told Business Insider. “I would be angry too.”

Another Russian woman described leaving Russia for Istanbul, Turkey with her husband. She told Business Insider that Turkish locals shouted at her and her husband after they were overhead speaking to each other in Russian.

“I have never had anything like this happen to me,” she said. “But don’t think I can blame them.”

Last week, Axios reported that since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has become the most sanctioned country in the world, surpassing Iran.

On Thursday, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — who currently serves as deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council — said the U.S. had led a “Russophobic” effort to destabilize Russia but warned his country is strong enough to put the U.S. in its place.