Article by Yuri Makarov – a journalist, TV personality, documentalist and writer.
Editor in chief until 2008, and now a reviewer of The Ukrainian Week magazine
World-renowned Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov confirmed that the money that he received for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 will be donated to the needs of Ukrainian refugees. In an interview with another opposition-oriented journalist Alexey Venediktov, he stated that the prize money will be transferred through the use of the Heritage trust fund, and the given intermediation costs of UNICEF will be donated to child refugees – regardless of where they ended up. ‘Unfamiliar refugees do not exist’ Muratov, who until recently was the chief editor of Novaya Gazeta but subsequently halted its operations indefinitely due to the impossibility of providing objective information on the war in Ukraine (forced by state censorship).
Muratov is known for his consistency in opposing Putin’s regime as his signature is among the 206 of Nobel laureates that issued a joint statement in letter form in support for Ukraine on 02.03.2022, as well as his countless other public statements on the issue. In early April, he was assaulted on a train: the perpetrators have thrown red paint in reaction to his anti-war statements. In its time, Novaya Gazeta was almost the only Russian newspaper which persistently abided to democratic values and was always critical of the Russian regime throughout the entirety of its existence. A total of six employees of the news agency were killed for their journalistic activities, among whom were some of my friends. From what they told me, Dmitry Muratov is a good man and a sincere and principled journalist. However, this was not enough for me.
I probably should have felt gratitude for the solidarity and honest work under the Russian totalitarian regime. But I cannot. When I place myself in his shoes, all I can see is that for him it is a lot easier, as that would be the only way to explain his lower level of horror and shame that is felt by many honest and struggling Russians (under the totalitarian regime). In other words, he has no choice but to act this way, so I will not judge him as it also does not really concern my case. Alexei Venediktov, who was the chief editor of the recently closed ‘Ekho Moskvy’ radio station, and recently labelled a ‘foreign agent’ by the regime, subsequently asked Muratov: ‘Why did you, as a nobel laureate yourself, not address Putin directly?’, to which Muratov replied ‘To sign another letter? Why? The presidential administration knows my position on the issue very well’.
Solidarity is a phenomenon which requires mutual consent. I know that individual Russian citizens attend demonstrations, but the police then resorts to repression with all its might. In terms of human feelings, there is no way I cannot feel sorry for them. However, after seeing the events of the last 58 days on top of the overall 8 years of conflict in Ukraine, after expecting more of the same to come, I really do not feel sorry for them. There is no way to reverse this.
Muratov was and still is an active participant of political life in Russia. He was (or maybe still is) a member of Yabloko (political opposition party) and the same goes for his membership of a local jury which defends the case of another brave Russian figure – Alexei Navalny. The same Navalny that once said that ‘Crimea is not a sandwich’ (referring to Crimea supposedly being a part of Russia). Venediktov once asked Muratov ‘Why are you still here?’ and Muratov responded ‘My place – is right here’. This is a truly patriotic stance for a person who is clearly in pain and who hopes to reform his country internally. I do not believe he will succeed.
I do not believe that the land of my ancestors (yes, that would be Russia) is subject to any potential improvement in its internal situation as a whole. All that we know as of now, is that after every crisis, Russia returns to its old and familiar self: a country of tyranny at the top and obedience at the bottom. A country that is aesthetic at the top and archaic at the bottom. All the energy, talent and resources are used to essentially produce death: tanks, guns, airplanes, guided missiles, rockets, balistic missiles, hypersonic missiles and more bombs, bombs bombs… and not to forget barbed wire as well. This is the last existing remnant (by any social contract established) of palaces, yachts, London flats and bank accounts on the Cayman Islands – but is still a rather a recent phenomenon. I no longer see any signs that Russia, in its current shape or form will be reborn into something new, or find itself a new role in the global community upon reflecting on its dark past. For now and the coming years that I have left, I will always associate my country with hate, distrust, jealousy and an inhumane desire to humiliate, punish, take over, destroy and what not.
I can remember an American post-war (World War Two) ironic saying – ‘A good German’. For us, the dichotomy of good/bad Russians starting in 2014 and especially in 2022 is not relevant anymore. In modern Russia, without any doubt, exist a certain number of people who have not emigrated, but are pained and ashamed for the actions of their country. How many of them exist is a difficult question to answer, but we one can consider this amount to be a few percent. Every one of them, one way or another, tries to protest and outline their non-participation in the collective crime of war. We value their position, but in a way that we value the standpoint of separate and decent human beings, not that of a hypothetical ‘different’ Russia.
An attempt to reconcile us with that ‘different’ Russia happened last week by the Vatican: two immigrants who worked as nurses in a hospital in Rome with one being from Russia and the other from Ukraine, were supposed to carry a cross together during the annual procession on Good Friday. The PR representatives of the Holy See explained the idea as an ‘attempt to search for peace’. The patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church Sviatoslav responded directly: ‘First, it would be good to stop killing us, and then we can talk about any further steps. In order to make peace, one must at least be alive’.
Meanwhile, Russia is preparing for a mass adoption of Ukrainian children who were deported by Russian forces – against all international conventions and laws. The so-called ‘evacuation’ has taken place in orphanages in Donbas (as if orphanages have been emptied out in Russia) as well as filtration camps and hospitals, where children were physically separated from parents. There is already mounting evidence of this atrocity. The devil is capable of an evil irony: it is rather interesting if the gold nobel prize will ever be inherited or owned by the ‘evacuated’ children.
You cannot be the citizen of an aggressor state and be innocent when it comes to crimes against humanity that were commited by that state. The world is full of different attitudes. Alongside with the absolute, unprecedented and invaluable support that we have received, we are also being prepared to make peace with a future ‘different’ Russia. A Russia that is safe, non-toxic, humane and such that does not carry the responsibility for the atrocities of the ‘old’ Russia. I will believe this when I see it. As things stand now, Russia = Putin. As had been stated before.