Human Rights

In defiance of regime, Iranians denounce Putin and his Ukraine invasion

By Al-Mashareq

Iranians and Ukrainian nationals rally in front of the Ukraine embassy in Tehran, on February 26, to show support for Kyiv and protest the Russian invasion. [AFP]

Iranians and Ukrainian nationals rally in front of the Ukraine embassy in Tehran, on February 26, to show support for Kyiv and protest the Russian invasion. [AFP]

Though the Iranian regime has expressed its continuing support for Russian president Vladimir Putin amid Russia's assault on Ukraine, the majority of the Iranian public has openly taken the opposite view.

Inside Iran and online, Iranians have been expressing a deep-rooted hatred for Russia and for Putin, in stark contrast to the regime's official position: supporting Putin while "condemning" the ongoing war.

Since 1813, when the Golestan Treaty was signed as a result of the first Russo-Persian War, most Iranians have detested Russia, and have believed that its agreements with Iran are against the nation's interests.

During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Russia sold its dilapidated weapons and tanks to the Islamic Republic at colossal prices, and it continues to do so, sparking further resentment inside Iran.

And with the onset of Russia's war on Ukraine, some analysts and members of the public have warned of a potential Russian attack on Iran.

On February 24, hours after Russia launched its assault on Ukraine, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi called Putin to express support for Moscow's actions.

Iranians mocked their president for supporting Putin, especially in light of the belittling way he was treated by the Russian president when he visited Moscow in January.

On February 25 and 26, a large group of Iranians gathered in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran to protest the war on Ukraine, clapping and chanting "Death to Putin", before they were dispersed by the Tehran police's "Special Unit".

The slogan "Down with Putin" was spray painted on the Russian embassy's exterior walls overnight.

Apology to Ukraine

Several political analysts and former political figures who are not affiliated with Iranian leader Ali Khamenei or Raisi posted pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia content on social media.

A few "sincerely apologised" to the Ukrainian people for the Iranian regime's position.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy "is to blame for the current situation in his country".

In a Tuesday (March 1) speech, Khamenei said he is "against any war in the world". While avoiding any mention of Russia, he blamed the West, and the United States in particular, for the Ukraine war.

This was all unfolding as a large number of Iranian citizens who live in Ukraine were struggling to leave Kyiv. Many went to the Polish border but were not let in.

Tehran was so busy fighting internal dissent, oppressing anti-Russia Iranians and accusing the West of causing a war in Ukraine, observers noted, that its last priority was how to get Iranians out of Ukraine.

After the government's slow response to the crisis caused an uproar on social media and in the news, Tehran finally sent a plane to evacuate its citizens -- most of whom are students -- from Ukraine's border areas.

It announced that "most Iranians who wanted to leave Ukraine have been evacuated", adding that the rest will be evacuated soon.

Russia: a fickle friend

Domestic news outlets and dailies run the gamut from West-bashers to neutral outlets and anti-Russian websites and newspapers.

Certain publications in Iran have been criticising the regime's position toward the war in Ukraine, while outlets affiliated with Khamenei, Raisi and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have taken the opposite approach.

Observers say the Iranian regime is likely supporting Russia so that Moscow will back Tehran in the ongoing marathon of talks over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Many Iranians say Russia never has been supportive of their country, and took the side of the West with regard to nuclear and missile restrictions on Tehran, since it wants Iran to continue depending on it for weaponry.

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