As Ukraine bleeds and sanctions take hold, Russia wants outsiders to come and understand its position. For me that meant having to revisit the country where I had once suffered two years of KGB (secret police) harassment simply for the sin of trying to learn the language and know the people. But when they said I could meet and talk freely with people in charge, mainly division heads in the Russian Foreign Ministry, I agreed, but at my expense.

In the Ukraine context, they are worried about the fate of the Russian-speaking minorities in the three Baltic States. In Latvia, for example, Russian-speakers are classed as "non-citizens" denied electoral, language, job and information rights. In Lithuania and Estonia they face similar restrictions. And as in Ukraine, they now also face the rise of pro-Nazi, extreme right-wing, anti-Russian movements. Complaints to the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe get no response, they say.

I suggest some of these rights abuses are revenge for the anti-nationalist repressions that I had seen in Soviet days. My interlocutor does not deny, but insists that what the Nazis did was far worse. Today, as a result of the chaotic Soviet breakup some 30 to 36 million Russians have found themselves on the wrong side of the fence. It was not their fault. They have rights like everyone else.