I completely agree with you, except for your closing statement.
Keeping asking them to admit it themselves isn’t going to help. Reaching out to them will help them come out of their shells rather than push them into their “fight or flight” instinct.
Oligarchs, dictators, power-hungry or whatever you want to call them, are never satisfied with a fair distribution of power, wealth or well-being. By definition they always want more than the other has, otherwise they are not happy and they go to war. And for some, the warpath is a fundamentalist choice, a path they will never leave.
You are always the one who is forced into the “fight or flight” position. If you give them a finger, they’ll take your whole hand. If you shake their hand, they’ll cut your whole arm off.
They will never relinquish any power you give them. Any favor you give instantly disappears into a black hole. You’ll never get anything in return for it later.
Exactly this: “Yes they were//are wrong, and everyone already knows that.”
Why doesn’t a rich and powerful country just admit this? Perhaps through a diplomatic detour? Is those few million in damages the problem?
The truth will always be denied. Opposition is always smeared with lies, imprisoned or killed. Even if opponents flee abroad and remain silent in silence, their lives are not secure.
The Russians themselves can do nothing about it, any opposition ends up in jail. But precisely in the face of the dictator himself, democracies will have to stand their ground. As soon as you don’t do that, the limit is immediately shifted. For the dictator, the world is just an eternal war to maintain power.
The closer democracies get, the greater the fear of losing or even sharing power. The only guideline that a dictator considers sufficient is to cooperate in preventing a democracy from ever developing in a neighboring country.