‘The world needs to hear the sound of war’

Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov comments on his speech at DW’s Global Media Forum in Bonn that was interrupted by air raid sirens. Read the speech in full

Dear colleagues!

While I was giving my speech at the DW Global Media Forum, Ukrainian journalists turned on air-raid alarm sounds on their phones.

Standing on the podium, I thought it was a technical problem. It was not.

Had I known this, I would have interrupted my speech and asked to turn up the sound of air-raid sirens.

The world needs to hear the sound of war, and any place is appropriate for that.

I have no issues with the organisers of the forum and sympathise with the Ukrainian journalists’ action.

Sincerely, D. Muratov

I live and work in Moscow, and I do not have an export version of this speech for you. Since the word “war” is banned in Russia but the word “hell” is not, I will be using the latter.

Yesterday, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office labelled the human rights group Agora “undesirable”. That is, an enemy of the people. You will now face prison for cooperating with it. This means that hundreds of people who were defended by Agora may be left without lawyers.

Yesterday, while I was on my way here, yet another trial against opposition politician [Alexey] Navalny began. He is being tried while in prison. He faces several dozen years behind bars for his political activity. The trial is closed to the press.

Since 2012, the number of court proceedings closed to the press has increased 25-fold. There used to be 1,000 closed court proceedings a year, and now there are 25,000. The acquittal rate in Russian courts is 0.01%.

Any more questions about [Russia’s] judicial system? This is one of the consequences of what they call the “special military operation” — the dismantling of the judiciary.

The “special military operation” is still ongoing, but many of its outcomes are, oddly enough, already clear. I will name some of them.

Never again will Ukraine and Russia be together. They will never be “fraternal nations” anymore. Not when one brother always considers himself to be the eldest.

There is one more consequence.

A great geographical discovery has been made in Russia. I’ll tell you if you haven’t heard. Russia is no longer part of Europe. The window to Europe is closed and barred.

And another consequence. There has been a change of God in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church supported the “special military operation” and started endorsing death. I believe they will soon declare the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment to be deeply erroneous. The new religion is to die for the fatherland, not live for the motherland.

Here’s a single quote from a Russian cleric — please try to take it in. Archpriest Vasiliev is explaining to mothers why they cry over the bodies of their murdered sons. He says: ”If you hadn’t used contraceptives, you would have had more children, and it wouldn’t be so hard to lose him if he had not been an only child”. And this gets shown on TV.

Meanwhile, Father Ioann Koval gets defrocked for substituting the word “victory” with the word “peace” in his prayer. I have a suspicion that Father Ioann has moved further away from the church and closer to God.

Another consequence is the loss of a generation. The generation born under Gorbachev and a little later isn’t ready to sacrifice itself. This generation is building the future while the Russian authorities are trying to embellish the past. It is an amazingly unique generation, they are professionals, they are people with high empathy. Many of them have left their home country, oftentimes for good.

This might interest you, my dear colleagues. We can tell who has likely left for good. It’s the people who took their pets with them. There has been a 26-fold increase in the number of pet chips, because people are leaving for good. 700,000-1,000,000 people, most of them young, have left Russia. They do not want to kill or be killed. I think it is very important to save this generation — not only for Russia’s sake, but for all of us. They need to be helped, supported as an endangered species, not have their bank cards blocked.

The most difficult question — and one that I often get asked — is, why are Russians keeping silent? Why aren’t they rebelling? Are all Russians slaves? I will not shy away from this question and will pose a counterquestion. Where can they speak up? Where can they protest? Demonstrations are banned. 600 political prisoners are currently behind bars. 20,000 cases have been opened against those calling for peace. 300 non-state media outlets have been shut down. There is not a single pro-peace MP in parliament. Those who are imprisoned should command our respect, compassion, and desire to help them.

In truth, I came here to tell a few short stories, seeing as I still have time for that. I have made an official appeal to the Red Cross, taking advantage of the fact that [Novaya Gazeta] has won the Nobel Prize.

Dear Red Cross, please help stop the in-prison torture of Alexey Navalny, leader of the non-parliamentary opposition. Out of 2.5 years behind bars, he has spent 165 days not just in prison, but in a prison inside a prison. 

It is a place where people are made into living corpses. The Red Cross said it could not interfere in this and that their head was now in Syria. In fact, their head was in the office of [Russia’s] Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the time.

Moscow MP Alexey Gorinov was sentenced to 7 years in prison for using the three-letter-word that shall not be named in Russia — the first word in the title of Leo Tolstoy’s famed novel where the second word is “peace”. Gorinov is 61 years old. He is a scientist. He has serious health problems. He dared to say that it was not the time to hold children’s drawing contests while there were bloody battles going on. That got him 7 years in prison.

Shortly before his sentence, he picked up a stray dog in the street. After his conviction, the dog wouldn’t let anyone near it and died of grief and starvation. Is it appropriate for me to talk about one dog during this terrible tragedy? I believe it is. Because in this story, animals are nobler than the judges and the executioners.

Evan Gershkovich, our mutual colleague, a Wall Street Journal reporter, is well-known in Moscow. He loves the country where he works, and he is a great journalist. He has never, not once, been a spy. Yet he was imprisoned for espionage. Earlier, journalist [Ivan] Safronov was sentenced to 25 years [sic: actual sentence is 22 years]. I want us to finally speak up: dear politicians, are you going to exchange political prisoners for those jailed in your countries?

Politician Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in a prison camp. He is one of the creators of the Magnitsky Act. You may remember the story when corrupt Russian officials were put on a sanctions list. Magnitsky had found out that they had stolen $280 million. Vladimir Kara-Murza drafted that act. Judge Sergey Podoprigorov was on that list. He was the one who sent Magnitsky to his death. I entered the courtroom [during Kara-Murza’s trial] — it was a closed trial, but I was a witness there. And who do you think I saw there? Judge Podoprigorov, presiding over the Kara-Murza case. He sentenced Kara-Murza to 25 years. What is this if not revenge? Kara-Murza’s legs are failing, he has lost twenty kilos. He has not even been allowed to call his three children, not even once during the whole year.

[Then there’s] Liliya Chanysheva. She is a beautiful 40-year-old woman. Her crime was being involved in politics within Navalny’s organisation. She hasn’t killed anyone, she hasn’t stolen anything. She’s not a rapist. She’s a civil rights activist. Have you ever seen anyone go mad with love and injustice? I have. That’s what’s happening with her husband, Almaz Gatin. He waits for her every day at the prison gate with flowers. In her last word in court, Liliya did not talk about herself. She said only one phrase pertaining to herself: “If I am sentenced and put in prison, I won’t have time to have a baby. Give me the chance to be a mother.” Judge Bekchurin did not give Chanysheva that chance. She got 7.5 years behind bars. Cruelty is now the epitome of state patriotism. Evil has become a heroic act.

Zhenya Berkovich and Svetlana Petriychuk were thrown behind bars on charges of terrorism. Their play won Russia’s highest theatrical award, The Golden Mask. But some expert wrote that they were going “against the androcentric Russian state”. What is an androcentric state? A male state. [The expert wrote that] Berkovich and Petriychuk are against the building of a male state in Russia. Feminism and pacifism are considered a crime. Both women are currently in prison, facing draconian sentences.

Moreover, numerous far-right Nazis now freely discuss Berkovich’s Jewish origins. There hasn’t been any state anti-Semitism in Russia for over 30 years. Putin is certainly not an anti-Semite. That’s something nobody can accuse him of. But neo-Nazis have begun to participate in shaping Russia’s political agenda. They have come out of the underground.

Someone asked me today: is political repression already as large-scale as it was under Stalin?

Certainly not, if we look at the numbers of arrests and executions. But there is one specific thing about repression. Repression is when no one knows who they are coming for tonight.

I should be finishing up. There is a battle for the future right now. A battle for what kind of society [Russia] will be. Who will win, the junta or the free citizens. The junta program was formulated by perhaps the most popular PMC head, billionaire, and supermanager Yevgeny Prigozhin. I remind you of the program that he has laid out:

“Enough with building bridges and theatres. All Russians should work in military factories. For a while, Russia must become North Korea. The children of the elite must be brought back from abroad. A general mobilisation must be announced. The borders must be closed.”

Truly, this is the program of a military junta. I’d like to point out that this will be a new type of junta. It will occur without having to overthrow the current president. It’ll be a coup d'état without any change of power. I can tell you right away: when some people say that Putin does not have any support in the population, they are wrong. The older generation supports Putin. The older generation is his pillar. He has them to lean on. It is a generation of abandoned old people who want to experience life again, who want to once again contribute to the greatness of their motherland. Putin understands this perfectly well.

So who can oppose a looming junta, oppose these armed men? Strangely enough, only the ability to speak the truth allows us to stand up against the armed men who claim power. Please, don’t let YouTube and Wikipedia be shut down! This is the last opportunity to deliver the content that journalists create. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, carrier pigeons were poisoned so that the enemy army wouldn’t get reports. Similarly, [the Russian authorities] can and want to destroy YouTube, Wikipedia, VPNs, and other services for accessing blocked websites. Engineers are now the backbone of the fight for free speech. Engineers against dictators — that’s what matters in the anti-war movement.

And lastly, I ask for exactly one minute, please. Can you give me one minute? Thank you. UNICEF, the UN child protection organisation, is ready to get involved in returning Ukrainian children. I know that Russia and Ukraine endorse this. Let’s support UNICEF’s efforts so that Ukrainian children can return to their parents and to their homeland.

One more thing. Here is Ukraine, and here is Russia. Only two of their officials can talk to each other. These are Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets and his Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova. Someday, a movie will be made about how these two people, both very different, serving different presidents, existing in violent conflict, have nonetheless already exchanged hundreds and hundreds of POWs. These people don’t like each other, but they are doing an immense and important job. Let us support both commissioners. Even in this hell, we should strive to reduce the number of widows and orphans.

In the last two weeks, Russian TV has mentioned the possibility of using nuclear weapons 200 times. 200 times in a fortnight. That’s the frequency of a dog-food commercial.

None of us know whether Vladimir Putin will push the button or not. Will we have the opportunity, as [Jaroslav Hašek’s character] soldier Schweik said, “to meet at 6 PM after the war”? When will that “after” come? Will we have that opportunity? Whatever time we have left, let us live it as human beings.

I have something to ask of you. The brilliant Ukrainian reporters Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka and their crew have made an amazing film titled “Twenty Days in Mariupol”. They were the last journalists left in this dying city. The fate of the reporters and the fate of the people they filmed was one and the same. They could have died every second. They were not observers. They were inside the disaster. Now, they want to establish an award for Ukrainian documentary filmmakers — the people who are now filming on the front line. Those who are recording the struggle through hell. Filming the tragedy of this hell. Let's support them. I call on Deutsche Welle to support the idea of Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka.

Maybe then we will finally have our “6 PM after the war”.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.