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

Investigative reporter Roman Anin warns that if you continuously show 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 face death. Anin emphasizes that this is the consequence people face when they remain indifferent 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 followers in Russia are still interested in gaining knowledge about corruption at higher levels. However, he states that overall, the Russian society shows little concern towards this issue and has unfortunately succumbed to apathy.

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 had the opportunity to work on significant stories, such as the tax fraud revealed by Sergei Magnitsky and the corruption related to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Additionally, he conducted investigations into influential individuals within the Putin regime, including Sergey Roldugin, a close friend of Putin and a billionaire cellist, and Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft. In 2016, Anin published an article about Sechin’s wife possessing a yacht valued at $100 million (€94 million). 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.

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Peace in Ukraine as a starting point for Russia

The reporter suggests that ending the Ukraine war is just the initial phase in bringing about change in Russian society. He believes that it would require many years of engaging with the people to bring about reforms in the country. This transformation would only occur after the passing of Putin and the influential group surrounding him, known as the “collective Putin”.

Anin states that breaking the apathy under the Putin regime is extremely challenging. He believes that it is crucial to reveal the complete truth about the war, allowing people to understand the horrifying events that occurred over the past 30 years, which they silently witnessed. These atrocities were carried out with the people’s unquestioning support. Anin suggests that only by acknowledging these horrors can Russia have a chance to overcome apathy and embrace a new way of life.

In 2021, Anin was arrested by Russian authorities, who raided his home in Moscow and confiscated many of his possessions. 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 labeled as “foreign agents.” Anin is currently continuing his investigative work outside of Russia. Despite being officially deemed “undesirable” under Russian law, Important Stories is still operating successfully. This designation makes it illegal to share or engage with their content online.

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Apologies, but we have brought this upon ourselves.

Anin claims that he can still connect with his audience in Russia, evident from the large number of YouTube views. Furthermore, he states that even if all means of communication are severed, it would not be considered as the most significant tragedy in today’s world.

Anin states that our objective is to inform individuals about the true events, the actual nature of the government, and the real 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, to seek the truth… there is little we can accomplish.”

Anin states that he has never encountered any lack of trust from his Ukrainian colleagues when it comes to their perception of Russians amidst the war. However, he also mentions that he would not take offense if such distrust were to occur.

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