Andrei Loshak: «He is the bloodiest criminal of the 21st century»

Andrei Loshak is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who worked on television for many years. Together with Leonid Parfyonov he made the program "Namedni" on NTV. He is the author of TV programs from the series "Profession - Reporter". Since 2010, he has been on a free float. June 2022 saw the release of Andrei Loshak's documentary Breaking the Ties, about families torn apart by war. Can the supporters of the war wake up? Are opposition journalists capable of changing society? Is Putin capable of pushing the red button? Andrei Loshak discusses this in the "Eyewitnesses" project.

Tell us about yourself.

- I worked for many years on television, at NTV, together with Leonid Parfyonov. When Leonid Parfyonov was fired, I stayed on for another six years. I did the program "The Profession of Reporter," and before that I did "The Other Day" with Leonid Parfyonov. Then they fired me, too, I think, in 2010. Since then, I've been free-floating. I've drifted from reporter to documentary; now I would call myself a documentary filmmaker. And a journalist. I still consider myself a journalist. 

Your first thoughts and feelings on February 24?

 - I remember that day very well, even I would say that night. Because it was so funny and sad that I spent the whole year 2021 shooting a documentary series about Russian hackers for the Kinopoisk platform. It was a complicated story, we had a lot of trouble with it. The premiere of the series was scheduled for February 23. It came out in the evening. The most successful premiere of my life, so to speak, in quotation marks.

I couldn't sleep all night, and at five in the morning I got on Telegram and saw that the war had started. I wrote on Facebook that this was crazy and we had been cut off from the future. I instantly had a clear realization that I was going to leave. I don't usually have such clear-cut decisions. Usually it's hard for me to make a decision at all, but here it was absolutely clear-it's time to go. 

It was a sign to me that fascism had arrived. They hadn't closed anything yet, but I was well aware that they were about to close everything. I understood that this was aggression, this was crossing, as they themselves are very fond of saying, the red line. Yes, that was the red line, beyond which I could no longer exist in this country. I knew that if I stayed, I would either go to jail or I would just die, get my hands on myself. I couldn't sit and be silent. 

"Breaking the Connection." Why did you choose this theme for your first film in exile?

- Everyone in the world has more or less figured it out about Putin. They just see him, it seems to me, as a patient. No one talks to him, no one negotiates with terrorists. Everyone in the world is now very interested in what the Russians think.  

Very actively, after the war, scientific humanitarian thought investigated the phenomenon of German behavior. What actually happened to them? They seemed to be civilized people. And the same thing is happening to the Russians. There is enormous interest in the world, in academia in particular. I've spoken to students at Harvard, and I've spoken to students at several other colleges in the Boston-area. We've had joint demonstrations and discussions.

People are interested in what is going on in the minds of Russians, how they were able to allow all this, how they justify it all, what predictions can be made, will there be any movement at all in the Russian mentality, which allowed all this horror and justifies it. That's very interesting. It's very interesting to me, too. That's why I made this film. I had a chance to talk to supporters of the war, to ask them questions. 

Why do so many people in Russia support the war?

 - Of the great variety of factors, we can probably single out the social ones. A huge number of Russians live very poorly. There is an American sociologist, Inglehart, who has a theory of values. There is even a certain scale of values. He moves it from the value of survival to the value of self-expression. The more civilized the country, the more prosperous it is, the more developed the institutions of democracy, the more people live on the scale of self-expression. When the values are survival, it is a country with a low standard of living, and people are accordingly immersed in this "survivalism.

I wrote on Facebook, - you come to any city in Russia, to a town, to a district center, to a village, and you ask, - how do you live? Everyone tells you that we're not living, but surviving. People have a very negative perception of their lives. Very few people say, "Everything is great, we're happy, i.e. Fine, as they say in America. No, people live badly. People complain, they have very low salaries. They are afraid of any changes, because they are already balancing on the edge of survival.

If something suddenly goes wrong with the changes, and there is always a high probability that at the moment of systemic upheaval, people's lives worsen, then for them it will be tantamount to death, a really hungry death. They're scared, they think that this shit they've been dipped into is life, it's generally good, it's stable, and thanks to Vladimir Vladimirovich. 

And on the other hand, there are some things that Putin started pushing as soon as he came to power. The whole Soviet resentment, that's what they call it. When people were all living equally badly, but in the same way, it seemed to them that this was a good thing. Somehow they managed to infect people who watch TV with the idea that we are miserable, humiliated, but we have a huge country, and everyone wants to conquer it. It's not our fault, it's the fault of our enemies. They want to take us over. We are so rich, both materially and spiritually, as a country. It's a shift in focus from how you live, the shit you're in, to geopolitics. There's the great Putin, restoring the Soviet Union, and then there's the bad Americans, that shitty Ukraine, who keep trying to stick a shiv in our side. And people have really shifted their focus to that. It's an amazing manipulation.

How could this happen when you see how bad everything is, how everything is stolen from you, you are cheated, and they take away, take away, take away your rights without giving anything in return, but yet you live in another reality where there is a Great Russia, which is rising, and everyone is in its way. Something terrible has happened to people. They turned into zombies, and it's very scary. In the film I show this. It's very easy to show how people are zombified. They don't have a coherent picture of the world in their head, no coherent reasoning. It's absolutely all mosaic, and when you poke at it, it crumbles. 

What needs to happen for people in Russia to wake up?

 - Nothing will help, no appeals from the outside will work. Even, as we can see, the direct destruction of these people does not work. He has already gone so far as to destroy his electoral base, it is these people, above all, who become victims of the war on the part of Russia. I understand that for them this war is justified. This is what we are seeing, unwarranted insanity, unjustified aggression. And it is an absolutely invasive, unrighteous war, which will be a curse in the history of Russia. For them, it's the opposite. It has been explained to them that this is a pre-emptive retaliation. How this can be, it is incomprehensible. These are two contradictory notions. Repulsion is when you are attacked, but pre-emptive means that you are attacked. That's the lack of logic they live in, and they're fine with it. This has always amazed me. It was the same with the Germans. Unfortunately, there is probably no other example that is so close to Russia right now. Only Nazi Germany. It was the same with the Third Reich. Right up to the time when the allied forces of the USSR invaded Germany and began simply bombing it, the Germans supported (Hitler). There was virtually no internal resistance in Germany. 

Can opposition journalists have any effect on society?

 - You've been driven into the perimeter, into the lagoon for opposition journalists, where there has always been little money and very little influence, because you can't get on these buttons that broadcast this official narrative, you've been cut off from it and made dangerous, in a leper pen. People feel it very much, they're afraid to go near it, and that's the enclosure we lived in. Few people managed to get out of it, to break through to the shirnarmasses. I think Dudya was the only one who managed to do it. I respect him infinitely for the fact that after launching his show, launching clips about YouTube heroes, he then began to tell more serious and important things, getting his audience hooked. He was able to do this by reaching out to the general public through young people and telling them the right things. This approach worked, but on the whole, few people were able to reach an audience of millions. 

What kind of man is Putin?

- The bloodiest criminal in the history of the twenty-first century. Just people invaded a peaceful country, and started killing other people there. Of course he's a criminal, he's a serial killer, he's scarier than any maniac in existence. To me, he's just absolutely evil. I no longer perceive him as a human being. 

Just a black entity that has ruined and ruined the lives of people who are still alive. Not only in Ukraine, which he is simply destroying, but also in Russia. He brought the giant country to the disaster, and continues to drag it into the abyss. And he will drag it into the abyss. He ruined Russia, he deprived it of a chance to rebuild itself, to renew itself, to be competitive, working, aiming at the future. Now I don't think it will make it out in one piece. I think Russia has a very sad future ahead of it. 

If Putin is a maniac, why is he invited to the G20 summit?

- Objectively, it is a giant country with a huge concentration of energy resources, simply by virtue of the fact that it covers such a chunk of the planet. It is impossible to cross it out. Besides, it has nuclear weapons, and as long as it has them, Putin will have to be reckoned with. But I think, in a good way, we should do as they started to do since the spring, chase him away from everywhere. Of course people like Erdogan, who has as many questions as Putin does, as a person with very peculiar moral values, will parasitize on that, but in general, in a world that tries to defend democracy and represent moral values, it's impossible to sit at the same table with him anymore. So I think he will be an absolute pariah. He is already an outcast, but nevertheless some politicians will, and probably rightly so, cling to the possibility of stopping this war. But on the other hand, we know that he cannot be negotiated with. He is an absolutely despicable, treacherous, cynical, black man who will take this as a weakness, and will still come with strength at some point. It's just that now he's losing that strength, he has almost none left. It turns out that the Russian army is just as fake as everything else in Putin's Russia. It's just as fake.

It is completely incomprehensible how Ukrainians can sit down to negotiate with Putin. I can't imagine how you can sit down to negotiate with the man who killed and dismembered your child. It's probably impossible to talk to him, to agree on anything. You would wish nothing but death and the worst for this man, you can only strangle him at this table. 

Will he or won't he press the red button? What is your prediction?

- I expect the worst from him. That's the worst thing a man can do, he'll do it. Therefore, I think he will press on. The question is, what happens next? But I expect it, honestly. I'm not an optimist, I don't believe that there are people who won't comply with this order. I think it could come to that. I'm not very reassured by what a lot of people reassure themselves with: he's a man who walks around with so many doctors, who gets pooped on, loves himself like this, these long tables, the environment cares about him so much. It seems to me that the moment he realizes that his power, his authority is coming to an end, he will choose the very death he spoke of - why do we need a world without Russia, meaning, of course, a world without him, Putin. Why a world without Putin? No, he would rather choose the "delete" function - "then I will erase everything and there will be nothing at all. 

What are you most afraid of?

- All my fears had already come true. I was afraid of a lot of things, I was not afraid to talk about them. And all this is happening now, I even feel like a bit of an Old Testament prophet in this sense. Many of those who thought along these lines and who have long been in irreconcilable opposition to what is happening now feel like these Old Testament prophets who shouted things while everyone pointed at them: "Look, the Demschiz, everything is great, they built new bicycle paths and opened another bar.

Of course, these are fears from my childhood. I remember them. These fears were in my Soviet childhood, about nuclear war, when we lived during the Cold War, we all lived with the idea that the Americans would drop a nuclear bomb on us. And those fears are kind of archetypal. And now they're back. And it's amazing. 

This scenario, frankly, is the last thing I expected. I didn't think about it at all. I thought that he would build a gulag, put everyone in jail, build the country crazy, but that there would really be World War III, and he would throw nuclear bombs, that, frankly, in my gloomy fantasies and premonitions I did not get to. But now I have this feeling.  

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