One of the weirder expat phenomena are expats who’ve come to free and affluent European countries such as the Netherlands from oppressive countries and start propagandizing for authoritarians such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Of course, hypocrisy isn’t a crime and most countries in Europe guarantee free speech. But there is that pesky moral dilemma of granting a long-term visa to someone who actively works to harm the host country instead of to someone who contributes.
Take Amsterdam-based Russian expat “journalist” Anna Fitisova, who writes regularly for Moskovskij Komsomolets, a Russian newspaper claiming a 1-million daily circulation. Fitisova’s specialty is documenting Dutch doctors’ passion for practicing euthanasia on healthy patients.
She took a break from that beat to write a 24 March post, “Chaos ensued due to coronavirus in the Netherlands: nobody helps anyone,” exposing the Netherlands as a dystopian hellhole that falls far below the glorious ideal of Holy Mother Russia.
I might point out that about the time Fitisova was posting her account from the Netherlands, Putin’s People were assuring the world Russia was immune from the pandemic. Then, the story changed to “well, we might have a few cases.” Then Anastasia Vasilieva, director of an independent doctors’ union, revealed what was really going on – in the time-honored Russian tradition of deception, the government was labeling COVID-19 cases as “pneumonia.” Shockingly, Vasilieva disappeared and Putin’s People are scrambling to stop the virus.
Rest assured that Putin has a friend in Fitisova, who is alerting Russians to how dysfunctional and bleak corrupt, capitalist Netherlands really is. Her post makes for some entertaining reading, and contains the following insights.
• The Dutch are bent on killing off their “useless” elderly:
People are buried in “special villages where pensioners live, as in Italy”? Wait … what?
• The streets are empty:
Our streets are reminiscent of shots from horror films – cars do not drive, people do not drive, public transport is unlucky, and even postmen work only because they were promised to increase their salaries.
This is a particularly bizarre assertion. The problem where we live is that the streets are not empty because the Netherlands’ coronavirus measures are largely voluntary. I posted about our ill-advised trip to Maastricht in March to see our daughter. We expected tumbleweeds blowing across the squares, but it was just another weekend.
• The stores are empty … except the Russian ones:
There is still nothing to feed cats, since cat canned food has disappeared too. Maybe they are stocked up to eat later, when nothing else is left? So far, basically, they are buying very cheap products.
Fortunately, Fitisova’s family was able to buy “herring, gingerbread and sauerkraut” (yum!) at a Russian store.
• The rich live in luxury, the poor in Dickensian slums:
… those who sit in large houses can afford not to go out for weeks, and the poor who live in social apartments of ten people each, who do not have a place for food stocks even for a few days, and the chances of contracting such crowded conditions are much greater.
Russia’s gross national income per capita is $9,232. That’s one-fifth the Netherlands at $46,000-plus.
Where do you think people are living 10 to a hovel with no food? (One of my favorite Russia quotes is from Henry Kissinger, who once described the Soviet Union as “Upper Volta with nuclear weapons.”)
• You can’t trust those treacherous Dutch, who won’t do anything without getting paid. Not like selfless Russians!
There are no volunteers, as in Russia. Nobody is unselfishly helping anyone. The Dutch have to pay, otherwise they will not budge.
• You can’t trust those treacherous Dutch, redux
Taking into account Dutch carelessness, I expect a lot of idiocy, connivance and appeals to the Lord. By the way, they say that at the height of the epidemic, local residents began to run to church more often and visit religious sites.
This from someone living in one of the most areligious countries in the world. Whatever.
Russian expat Facebook communities lit up with comments after Fitisova’s account posted on the Moskovskij Komsomolets website and she got considerable blowback and very little support .
From the original Russian on her personal feed courtesy Google Translate:
• Anna, which country do you live in? If this is about the Netherlands, the article has a lot of inaccuracies … on the edge of lies.
Quotes: ” Our streets are like footage from horror movies – cars do not drive, people do not walk, public transport is not lucky…”.
Debunking: The city of Tilburg where I live: cars ride, people walk, trains not as often as they used to, but walk.
” Almost all stores are closed…”.
Debunking: was in 3 stores yesterday, closed mostly restaurants.
• Anna so if it’s so bad here why are you here? Go back and you will be happy!!!! Respect for yourself and the country!
• ” no one helps anyone?!” It really should be changed, because it’s an insult to those who are ALWAYS (helping).
• Anna Fitisova, do you want to apologize for yourself? For your lies and slander?
We’re thinking the answer is, “No.” For the record, we reached out to Fitisova for comment, but got no reply. If she decides to comment, we’ll update this post.
In the end, Fitisova’s piece is so amateurish that it actually has some entertainment value in a couple of cheap laughs as well as insights into how much trouble Putin’s propaganda machine will go to distort reality. Russia strong! Europe weak … and you know, as long as Puty is happy, who cares right?
Fitisova is a prolific writer, clearly dedicated to feeding anti-Western sentiment in Moscow. But she’s just one of dozens of Russians in the Netherlands connected to Russian state media including Sputnik and RT, and Baltnews has operations in Hilversum, near Amsterdam, covering the Baltic States.
This is focused and global effort, according to the New York Times and the World Health Organization. The Times quotes analyst as saying Putin “has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.”
In my opinion, allowing Putin’s People to stay in the Netherlands as “journalists” is in no one’s interest other than Putin’s. There really needs to be a special immigration status created for the Fitisovas of the world, acknowledging they’re paid by Russia to blatantly mislead and misinform.
About the author
Terry Boyd is co-founder of Dispatches Media, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Boyd has been a military reporter, business reporter and an entrepreneur, selling Insider Louisville, a pure-play digital news platform, in 2013.
Boyd & Family are long-time expats and have lived in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.