Russia will continue to be plagued by apathy until Putin departs.

Investigative reporter Roman Anin warns that if you constantly display apathy, there may come a time when someone will come to your doorstep, seize your husband, and within three days, send him to [Ukraine] where he will meet his demise. Anin emphasizes that this is the consequence individuals face when they show indifference towards their own destiny and the future of their nation.

The Moldova-born Russian is one of this year’s recipients of the Free Media Award from Germany’s Zeit Foundation. And this is only the latest in the string of accolades and awards for the 36-year-old, who is a member of multiple international investigative networks, including the team behind the Panama Papers investigation.

In Russia, Anin’s Important Stories ( website first drew headlines in 2020 by looking into procurement of ventilation machines during the COVID pandemic. In the same year, they also published a report on one of the most sensitive topics in the country — apparent corruption linked to the family of Vladimir Putin. He was forced to leave Russia the following year.

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In a conversation with DW in Hamburg, Anin mentions that his audience in Russia remains interested in understanding corruption at a high level. However, he notes that overall, Russian society shows little concern for this issue and has become apathetic towards it.

Russia’s corruption and ‘colossal misery’

Anin himself shows no sign of apathy. He moved to Russia as a teenager, studied journalism in Moscow, and in 2006 started working as a sports reporter with the Novaya Gazeta, a paper known for seeing several of its reporters killed under the Putin regime. In 2008, Anin was sent by Novaya Gazeta to cover the brief war between Russia and Georgia, when he joined the outlet’s investigative unit.

He held a position that gave him the opportunity to investigate significant events, such as tax fraud exposed by Sergei Magnitsky and corruption related to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Additionally, he conducted investigations into individuals closely associated with the Putin regime, including Sergey Roldugin, a friend of Putin and a billionaire cellist, as well as Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft. In 2016, Anin published an article revealing that Sechin’s wife owned a yacht valued at $100 million (€94 million). As a result, Sechin filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper and emerged as the victor.

Anin acknowledges that comprehending the extent of corruption within the Russian elite is challenging for many individuals.

“I cannot reword”

“I cannot reword”

Peace in Ukraine as a starting point for Russia

The reporter suggests that putting an end to the Ukraine war is just the initial phase in raising awareness within Russian society. He believes that it would require several decades of engaging with the people to bring about reforms in the country. This transformation would only occur following the demise of Putin and the group of individuals surrounding him, known as the “collective Putin.”

Anin states that breaking the apathy under the Putin regime is extremely difficult. He emphasizes the importance of revealing the truth about the war to the public, so that people can understand the horrifying events that occurred over the past 30 years, which they silently witnessed. These atrocities were carried out with the people’s complete approval. Anin suggests that only after acknowledging these horrors, Russia might have a chance to overcome apathy and embrace a new way of living.

In 2021, Anin was taken into custody by Russian authorities, who also searched his home in Moscow and confiscated many of his belongings. The reason given for his detention was his potential involvement as a witness in a privacy invasion case. His colleagues at Novaya Gazeta believe that this was a retaliation for his 2016 Sechin story. Both Anin and his media outlet, Important Stories, have been classified as “foreign agents.” Anin is currently continuing his investigative work outside of Russia. Despite being deemed “undesirable” under Russian law, Important Stories remains active and resilient. This designation makes it illegal to share or engage with their content online.

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Apologies, but we are deserving of it.

According to Anin, he can still connect with his audience in Russia, evident from the high number of YouTube views. In the event that all communication channels are severed, Anin believes it would not be the most significant tragedy compared to other ongoing tragedies.

Anin states that our objective is to inform individuals about the true events, the real nature of the government, and the actual situation in Ukraine. We aim to expose the criminality of this war and shed light on how the Russian authorities disregard the lives of their own people by sending them to their deaths in large numbers.

“The fate of the individuals lies in their own hands. If the citizens of Russia are unwilling to embrace change or seek the truth, there is little we can do.”

Anin states that he has never encountered any lack of trust from his Ukrainian colleagues when it comes to the perception of Russians in relation to the war. However, he also mentions that he would not feel offended.

“I cannot reword”

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