interview with a Russian opponent who fled to Uzbekistan

Constantine is Russian. He is 34 years old and currently lives in Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Until March 6 we could have met him in Moscow, where he lived with his wife in his dream apartment. The couple made the difficult decision to leave, because Konstantin is in the Russian opposition.

“In Russia there are only two options: Vladimir Putin’s party [Russie unie, ndlr] or opposition “explains the 30-year-old, contacted by telephone by Konbini news. “I had to go”, He adds. If his situation was not simple before the war in Ukraine began, on February 24 he reshuffled the cards.

“I have always lived with the fear of going to prison, but this is another level. If you write on Facebook that the Russian army killed 300 people in Boutcha, you risk fifteen years in prison, because you are ‘lying’ about the army. Russian. If you walk down the street with a ‘stop war’ sign, we will find you and you will be fined from 300 to 500 euros. And if you start again, you will go to jail “He explains.

Indeed, for most Russians, there is no war in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin talks about it“special military operation”. According to the young man’s estimates, 60 to 80% of Russians are convinced of the cause of the former KGB agent. Only a small part of the population has access to international information. “For months most of the media is in the pay of the government. On television, all channels are pro-government. Most Russians only know the government’s position.”recalls Costantino.

Able to telework, she as a developer and he in digital marketing, the Moscow couple decided to leave. Plan A was to take advantage of the anniversary of their meeting to escape. Before the war they had booked tickets to Egypt. Their trip was scheduled for early March. The idea was to never come back. But their flight is canceled the day before departure. They therefore turned to Uzbekistan, first for economic reasons. “With the war, all destinations became too expensive. Tickets to Uzbekistan were really cheap.”recalls Costantino.

But this is not the only advantage of Uzbekistan. This Central Asian country is a former Soviet republic that now belongs to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an international organization that brings together nine states of the former USSR.

As such, Konstantine does not need a visa to enter the territory. In Uzbekistan he also feels protected from russophobia, of which some of his exiled friends may have been victims here and there.

“On paper, Georgia offers good reception conditions for Russians. But, in Georgia, there are also many Ukrainians and I have heard stories. For example, if you book something on Airbnb and we learn that you are Russian, we can ask you to leave. . Also, I don’t know if that’s true, but it seems like when you cross the border into Georgia, you have to sign a paper that says ‘I’m against the Russian political system, I won’t send money there’ … “

Alice in Wonderland

Vladimir Putin and the media in his pay tell the Russians that their missiles are so accurate that they never hit civilians. “Everywhere it is said that the army only kills military and fascists and that it tries to free citizens from a Nazi regime. After the destruction of the maternity hospital in Mariupol, they said it was the army. It’s Alice in Wonderland: all black becomes white and all white becomes black “, complains Constantine.

As for the knowledge of the value of the sanctions that the Western world has been inflicting on Russia for several weeks, Constantine could not be more cynical. “Russia is a poor country with a very rich Moscow. Most of the people in this country are poor. They don’t care if we shut down Ikea, Zara or Spotify. In absolute terms, I agree with the sanctions. on the other hand, it allows to restore the wealth gap, on the other hand, Vladimir Putin uses it to unite people by pointing the finger at Westerners “, analyzes the young Russian.

For him there is only one solution: “You have to stop buying gas and oil from Russia. It’s the only way to deal a real blow to the economy.” For the moment, the member countries of the European Union, more or less dependent on these resources, are unable to find an agreement.

It remains to be seen why Vladimir Putin waged this war. Konstantine also has a specific opinion on the matter. Contrary to what we have heard here and there, this has nothing to do with the fear of NATO. “Latvia, Estonia … are part of NATO and are countries even closer to Moscow than to Ukraine”remember.

According to him, Vladimir Putin is only taking action to raise his popularity index, somewhat scratched by the 2020 constitutional reform, after which he will be able to govern until 2036. “Most Russians are fine with Putin, but not to the point of leaving him in power for another fifteen years,” explains Costantino. A military victory would therefore have allowed the Russian leader to strengthen the image of an emperor that he already cultivates among his people.

“Vladimir Putin is like a cosmonaut”

That’s when his advisers come into play. For Konstantine, there is no doubt that the Russian president’s generals lied to him. They sold him a decadent Ukrainian army and a Ukrainian people won his cause, in a context of endemic corruption.

“The top of the hierarchy has no idea what’s going on at the bottom. The army budget is colossal in Russia. Vladimir Putin had every reason to believe that his army was in excellent health because he spends a lot of money in this direction, but three districts are subtracted from the generals “, explains Costantino.

Add to this the aging of the Russian population and a certain nostalgia for the former USSR and you have the elements to understand the beginning of the conflict. “Vladimir Putin is like a cosmonaut. People around him tell him he is right about everything. He turns on the television, he only sees people who support ‘the special operation’. He lives in a bubble.” He adds. As for how this war will end, Constantine is very pessimistic:

“Unlike Hitler, Putin cannot be defeated, because of the atomic bomb. I do not see positive results for Russia in the years to come. Our best chance is that someone will kill him, but even after that many people around him are criminals. who risk going to prison without him Maybe the new president will not be a dictator, but he will always be someone from the party and therefore not someone Even if Alexei Navalny becomes president, the price of compensation for Ukraine will be enormous, and the sanctions against Russia they will not disappear overnight “.

Today Konstantin is convinced that his ticket to Uzbekistan was one way. His personal belongings are then kept in his mother’s home. sine die, while preparing for career change.

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