New Lines speaks with Michael Masri — a young man from St. Petersburg who staked everything on a dangerous crossing through the Texas desert at the height of summer last year — about his journey and fear of retribution from Vladimir Putin's regime should his U.S. asylum claim fail.
While Memorial has worked under Kremlin intimidation for years, the intensifying of the dictatorial state in the wake of the war in Ukraine has created an entirely new reality for an organization pursuing a mission to investigate Soviet-era crimes and expose present-day political abuses.
Across Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the war in Ukraine has pitted states against their people, stoked long-standing border tensions and thrown historic alliances into sharp relief.
The current wave of emigration presents an agonizing catch-22: The political thinkers and artists best equipped to analyze, criticize and hold up a mirror to the dictatorship can now see their country only from the outside and don’t know when, or if, they will be able to return.
The full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 triggered a surge in national movements among Russia’s ethnic minorities, but their grievances with “Muscovy,” as many members of the movements refer to the central power in Russia, are decades, and some might say centuries, in the making.
For his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine, the rapper Oxxxymiron has been labeled a “foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry, under a law which has targeted individuals and organizations critical of Vladimir Putin’s regime, including the recently imprisoned opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza.
Faced with increasingly hard choices, Muscovites may be trying to will stability back into reality. But their studied indifference is only skin-deep and, as the Kremlin’s war reaches uncomfortably close to home, Russia’s urban middle class is rattled.