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LILLEY: Rise of Putin supporters across the West a disturbing trend – Toronto Sun

The Russian dictator isn’t a leader to be celebrated or supported

How can we celebrate a hockey player who backs a murderous dictator as he invades another country?
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 29, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) holds a certificate, along with Russian national ice hockey team member Alexander Ovechkin (2nd L), thanking Ovechkin for his efforts to help Russia win the 2012 World Championship. Photo by AFP PHOTO / RIA NOVOSTI / POOL / /Toronto Sun

The support that Vladimir Putin has in this country, across the Western world in fact, is truly disturbing.

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A man who opposes everything that makes Western democracies great — the most successful societies in the world — has admirers in Canada, the United States and elsewhere for all the wrong reasons.

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They are wiling to overlook his genocidal war in Ukraine, the way he has invaded other countries from Chechnya, Georgia, South Ossetia and his annexation of Crimea in 2014. They are willing to overlook his murderous ways that ensure his political opponents meet an untimely end and that protest movements are shut down immediately.

In the Cold War era, there were plenty of people who thought Moscow was superior to Washington, London or Ottawa in terms of how the government was run. These tended to be hardcore communists who thought we missed out in not having a glorious workers revolution.

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Today, support for Putin, and his government in Moscow still comes in part from the far left, but increasingly it is the far right or the politically disaffected who look to the would-be strongman with a glint in their eye.

Support for Putin is where the extremes meet.

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I’ve heard from Putin backers for years, it was a phenomenon I noted about a decade ago. Those who thought he was standing up for the real Western values because he backed the resurgent Orthodox Church and against modernism in any way. The reality is Putin supports the Orthodox Church in the same way many American politicians support the Evangelical Church – he uses it and abuses it for political gain.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there’s been no shortage of people willing to stand up and say Putin is right, that NATO countries threatened him by trying to put a member on his borders. The truth is, Russia — and the USSR before it — has had NATO on their borders for decades. Putin simply covets controlling Ukraine, which is why he invaded.

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Since writing again recently about Alexander Ovechkin’s disgusting and ongoing support for Putin, I’ve heard from even more supporters of the dictatorial regime.

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Some see Putin as superior to elected leaders

Kevin wrote to tell me that my latest column was a pile of horse manure but then went further in a way too many do.

“Our prime minister is just as much as a bastard as Putin is,” he wrote.

“Trudeau is way more genocidal than Ovechkin,” Rory wrote. “You’re an idiot who deserves to be sent into war against the Russians.”

Randy Hillier, the former Ontario MPP, one-time leadership contender for the PC Party, said he’d stand with Putin over Trudeau.

“I would proudly stand beside Putin before being seen within 10 ft of Justin Trudeau,” Hillier tweeted in reply to a column about Ovechkin supporting Putin.

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I have a lot of problems with Trudeau’s policies, his ethics, and his treatment of fellow Canadians, but the idea that he is worse than Putin is preposterous. Even critics of Trudeau’s handling of COVID, the convoy and the invocation of the Emergencies Act would have to admit Putin’s oppression is far worse.

Trudeau’s opponents don’t mysteriously fall out of hotel windows or get poked with an umbrella and die of a rare poison, yet this is what happens to Putin’s opponents. Any reaction from Putin to a convoy protest-type situation would have been much harsher, deadlier and oppressive.

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Putin is an evil man, not a great leader

To many Putin backers though, Western governments — be they led by Trudeau, Biden, Bush, Trump, Harper, Johnson, Cameron or Blair — are all worse than what we see out of Moscow.

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It’s a fallacy on par with the fallacy that the old Soviet Union was morally equal to Western Democracies. Some people just hate their own government so much, they can’t assess the situation fairly or accurately.

Many have also fallen prey to Russian disinformation campaigns, it’s clear as you watch their arguments. Dating back to 2016, Russia’s play in the U.S. Presidential election was not to make sure Trump won but to undermine trust in governments and institutions in the West.

It continues to this day.

It’s why they see Ukraine, the country that Putin invaded as the aggressor in this fight. Seeing Kremlin talking points show up in emails or tweets in reply to columns has become far too common but is still jarring.

Putin is not a great leader, he’s not a good leader, he is an evil man who should be shunned as should those who support him. That too many are willing to back the butcher in Moscow shows his disinformation campaign has been effective.

Thankfully most people can still see the truth. Let’s hope those on the side of Putin will see the light one day.