Russia will continue to be plagued by apathy until Putin departs.
Investigative reporter Roman Anin warns that if you remain indifferent and apathetic, there may come a time when someone will come to your door, seize your husband, and within three days, send him to [Ukraine] where he will face certain death. This serves as a stark reminder of the consequences that people face when they show indifference towards their own destiny and the well-being 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 (IStories.media) 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.
In a conversation with DW in Hamburg, Anin mentions that his followers in Russia are still interested in understanding corruption at a high level. However, he states that overall, the Russian society shows little concern towards this issue and has become apathetic.
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 cover significant events, such as the tax fraud exposed 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 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 can be challenging for many individuals.
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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 bringing about change in Russian society. He believes that it would require many years of engaging with the people to bring about reforms. This transformation would only occur once Putin and his close associates, known as the “collective Putin,” are no longer in power.
Anin claims that breaking the apathy under the rule of Putin is an insurmountable task. He emphasizes the importance of revealing the complete truth about the war to the public, as it would make people aware of the horrifying events that occurred over the past three decades, which they silently witnessed. These atrocities were carried out with the people’s unwavering support. Anin suggests that only by acknowledging these horrors can Russia potentially overcome its apathy and embark on a new path of living.
In 2021, Anin was taken into custody by Russian authorities and his residence in Moscow was searched, resulting in the confiscation of many of his possessions. The stated reason for this action was his potential involvement as a witness in a privacy invasion case. His colleagues at Novaya Gazeta believe that this was a delayed retaliation for his 2016 Sechin article. 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 officially deemed “undesirable” according to Russian law, Important Stories remains active and resilient. This designation makes it illegal to share or engage with their content online.
Apologies, but we have brought this upon ourselves.
According to Anin, he can still connect with his audience in Russia, evident from the high number of YouTube views. He also mentions that even if all communication channels are severed, it would not be the most significant tragedy compared to other current 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 citizens 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 to influence them.”
Anin remarks on the perception of Russians by Ukrainians and people from other countries during the war, stating that he has never encountered any lack of trust from his Ukrainian colleagues. However, he adds that he would not take offense if he did.
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