This is moral emigration

Alexei is a specialist in the film industry and an active citizen. He went to rallies in support of Navalny and considered it his duty to come from Moscow to his native Tomsk to observe the vote count in elections. But after February 24, Alexei acknowledged the triumph of the regime and left for Armenia. The dilemma of the end of Russia and horror without end is in the new issue of February 24 Eyewitnesses.

Tell us about yourself.
- I am originally from Tomsk, which is my favorite city. I graduated from Tomsk University, then moved to Moscow and have been living here for the last 11 years. I work in the film industry.

Your first thoughts and feelings?

- First of all, it was a shock. Just the day before I had been on a visit, I had met with a friend, and there had already been statements that we would recognize these people's republics, but I still had the feeling that this was where it was going to stop. I found out about it like everyone else - in the morning, when I woke up. I had to go to work, so I drove to work with a stone face.

Why did you leave Russia?

- It was a moral emigration, not a financial one. Financially it would be easier for me to be in Russia now: when I left the dollar exchange rate was exorbitant, I did not know whether I would be able to keep my job. Because I could no longer be in this country. If I stayed, I would have to shut up for good, because I think what's going on inside Russia right now is still just the flowers.

How did your loved ones feel about your departure?

- With understanding and, in general, with support. My parents always supported me, even if they didn't agree with something. When there were rallies in Moscow, my mother didn't discourage me, she just told me to report it and said: "The main thing is to take care of yourself.

Whose fault is it that the lives of millions are ruined?

- Well, Putin, of course. Everything is tied to him. If it weren't for him, there would be none of this. It is clear that he is not the only one to blame, that there were, are and still are a lot of people in power who could somehow prevent this, and should have been, but the source of all these troubles is one man.

Feeling guilty about what's going on?

- I don't feel any guilt. Because if we accept collective guilt, then we will spread that guilt thinly over everyone. I understand that I, as a citizen of this country, will share some of the responsibility in one way or another. But I take it calmly, like a weather phenomenon. I may not like something, but it is inevitable.

Participated in protests in Russia?

- Honestly, I no longer took part in anti-war rallies, because it was hopeless. I felt very sorry and, if I felt any guilt, it was in front of the few thousand people who did come out to these rallies. But I realize that it's like moths flying into the light-it won't do anything. And before that, yes. The last thing I understood after which I realized that there was probably nothing much to catch was last year's rallies in support of Navalny. I was at all of them. Even when Navalny arrived and the news broke that he was in the Khimki police station. And I used to live in Moscow, also in the north. I was literally half an hour away from Khimki. It was a Monday, a day at work, and I thought that if I did not go now, having all the conditions for a trip - then what can we talk about at all? So I took a cab and drove. It was a cold day, minus twenty, but I am a Siberian, so I put on warm clothes and stood outside for eight hours until they took him out of the police station. I saw him being taken out and shouted something like, "Lekha, we'll get you out. Before that, in '20, after the poisoning of Navalny, I went to Tomsk for the election, to the observation point. I was very happy with the results, even encouraged at the time. At the very least, our city is the last bastion of anything honest in this country. In the end, it turned out that this was the last honest election of anything in Russia.

Why was war possible?

- Because they are stronger. Because they can. Because they are not shy in means, they are not shy in anything. Because the law is unwritten for them - they change it to suit themselves as they want, adopt a new constitution, whatever. But all the same we shouldn't forget that one way or another the West helped this regime. Simply by co-operating with it, by doing nothing at all. There were some sanctions that were more for show than for something effective. Even after the poisoning of Navalny, nothing much has changed, let alone Crimea. Only now are they starting to do something - it took a war to do that. And we see that this regime can only be stopped with weapons in hand. We don't have weapons in our hands in Russia. My point is not that I would definitely take one. I would probably be scared, but somebody would take one. If we had, as in the U.S., the right to own guns, maybe all this wouldn't happen. Well, what is there to talk about now. I mean, there was no chance in the first place.

What news from Ukraine shocked you the most?

- Bucha, of course. The very fact that this happened is a complete nightmare. But in addition to this it frightens me that many people in Russia simply dismiss it. They immediately take for granted some version that suits them from the Russian side. First of all, as usual, it didn't happen. Second of all, it wasn't us. This is understandable and explainable - the psyche simply refuses to accept such a thing. If you accept such a thing, it means you have to change your whole worldview. It's like with an illness-the sooner you cure it, the easier it will be, because otherwise it will be harder.

What are you afraid of?

- My greatest fear is that when the hot phase is over, all this evil will crawl back in and be preserved there. Right now I see two options for Russia: either a terrible end or a horror without an end. The terrible end is preferable, because it is also the end of the horror. But if this does not happen, and the probability of this happening is very high, then I just can't imagine... This is bad for everyone - for Russia and for the world.

What do you think is in store for Russia?

The picture I had before my eyes on the 24th was what Remarque described. It's a zig-zagging, cheering crowd for who knows what. They've already invented a symbol for themselves. I am, of course, surprised. How? You can't make it up on purpose. On the other hand, there is the terrified population, who will be thinking about how to survive. And they will not care about any moral turmoil. And complete isolation, of course, from the world.

Will you come back if Putin's regime falls?

- Never say never, of course, but yes, this is my distant plan for the future. If at least something changes, not necessarily Russia will already be prosperous, but only the necessary first stage will happen, we all understand which one, for this change - then yes.

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