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  • Writer's picturePeter Pomerantsev

What happens when leaders disregard the truth? Putin and Trump are about to find out

A novel approach to holding Russia accountable for atrocities in Ukraine could ensure that lies and mass murder do not go unpunished

Getty Images/The Guardian

The powerful were meant to be afraid of the truth. Journalists were meant to “hold truth to power”. Evidence was meant to destroy wrongdoers as sunlight does a vampire. Find the evidence, the logic went, and the powerful could be shamed and brought to justice.

Historically, the powerful would try to censor and suppress the facts. The Nazis tried to keep the truth about their atrocities hidden. The Soviet leadership would howl with embarrassment when dissidents passed information about conditions in the gulag to the outside world. Richard Nixon was brought down after the facts of his bugging his political opponents, and his ensuing cover-up, were brought to light.

But what happens when the powerful stop being scared of the truth, indeed flaunt their disregard for it – as we see in the behaviour of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and America’s Donald Trump? Why has shame disappeared and why does impunity reign? Are we now helpless to hold the powerful to account?

Read the full story in The Guardian here.


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