I leave Moscow angry and sad. It feels like a passage out of darkness to light, but left behind are friends trapped in one man’s tunnel vision. Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t just destroying Ukraine, but two nations, condemning Russians to an isolation they didn’t necessarily choose.

Putin has sown a bitter harvest, with international condemnation reinforcing his tropes, strengthening his hand by silencing the unwilling. Independent media, on life support since Russian security services allegedly poisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny almost two years ago, is suddenly suffocating under harsh new media laws gagging any criticism, punishable with up to 15 years in prison.
Less than a month before Putin’s invasion, I met anchor Ekaterina Kotrikadze of TV Rain, one of the last independent stations. Her words then were prophetic: “You can never be sure that tomorrow your TV station will still be alive and on air and broadcasting.” Days after the war started, Putin had it shut down. Kotrikadze, an eloquent voice of Russia’s dispossessed bright hopes, is now on the run, outside of Russia with her editor husband and their smart young children. The country is darker without them.