-OpEd-

BERLIN — Europeans and Americans have known for a long time that Russian troops are aiding Ukrainian separatist rebels. Europe and the U.S. possess countless statements, photos and video that prove how deeply the Russian army is embedded in this conflict.

The latest evidence comes from a posthumously released report by slain Russian political opponent Boris Nemtsov, which was finally published in Moscow last week. It reveals that Russian troops streamed into Ukraine "on a huge scale" starting last August, and have participated in all essential military actions since then.

Last August alone, 150 Russian soldiers were killed. So now, those in Russia who would like to know the truth can hear it from their very own (politically opposed) fellow countryman. It appears that President Vladimir Putin lies just as well as he rides and shoots.

But the West can scarcely get its hopes up now, even if this is a saddening prospect. The fact of the matter is that, politically speaking, the voice of the political opposition is being heard about as attentively as the orchestrated cultural tripe of the Don Cossack Choir at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Putin supporters in front of Moscow's St. Basil's cathedral — Photo: Anna Sergeeva/ZUMA

The West has deluded itself long enough in believing that Russia would become a democracy after the downfall of the Soviet dictatorship because the majority of the Russian people truly wanted democracy. After the chaotic Boris Yeltsin years, which many saw as humiliating, Russians were longing for order and a return to greatness.

Putin has achieved a kind of cult status with his own people. Not only are a vodka brand, a lollipop, an ice cream label, and a freeze-resistant tomato named after him, but also the youth of Russia is apparently amazed by their all-powerful president.

And we must understand that this is because of, not despite, his actions in Ukraine, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel with good cause characterized as criminal.

More than 90% of 18-to-24-year-olds are celebrating the political strategy of their president. And 70% of all Russians praise him for having made their country, once again, one of the great powers on earth. Caught in this thrill of victory, who wants to hear the truth?