Talking to my cousins in Poland, there is no doubt in their minds that there is something rotten in the DNA of Russians.
Who can blame them? Look at the way Russians have behaved for decades. They were carrying out ethnic cleansing in Poland and Ukraine in the 1930s, long before Hitler unleashed his genocidal policies. An estimated 200,000 Poles lost their lives during the Great Terror of 1937-38.
During their occupation of Poland in the Second World War, they arrested two million Poles and deported them to the Gulag Archipelago; within a year half were dead from starvation and the extreme cold.
They cold bloodedly executed over 20,000 members of the intelligentsia - my grandfather among them - in Katyn forest in 1940 and then tried to blame the Germans for the slaughter.
And now look at their behaviour in Ukraine: rape, torture, murder, relentless bombing of civilian targets and all accompanied by lies and yet more lies.
Of course, Putin is the chief architect of this brutality (just as Stalin was before him) but there are an awful lot of ordinary Russians prepared to do his bidding.
There was an interesting article in The Times (28.4.2022) by David Aaronovitch in which he argued that the Russians have never come to terms with the evils of Stalinism. Nobody was ever tried, convicted, or punished. The victims never had justice. And so, casual savagery has become part of the Russian soul. He ends by saying:
"The young soldier sent to Ukraine was never taught in school about the Great Terror. It's not on the curriculum. But what he has almost certainly absorbed, even if subliminally, is the great national lesson that brutality is simply inevitable and that it works."