“Proceedings against non-Russians in Russia”. Russian authorities have threatened to revoke the citizenship of the country’s most prominent climate activists.

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Arshak Makichyan is a Russian climate activist and ally of Greta Thunberg. On the day the war began, Makichan was married to activist Polina Orenikova. Their wedding turned into a public statement against the war (Makichan’s shirt had the word “Fuck the War” on it), and the couple later left Russia. In May, Makichyan learned that Russian authorities were trying to revoke his citizenship. He is currently in Europe and continues to fight for a more sustainable planet and Ukraine’s sovereignty, but his future is uncertain as his visa expires.

Unlike many European countries, Russia has few modern environmental movements. this is, Suspicious idea Russia is standing gain More than that lose From climate change, or perhaps it is the result of Russian authorities’ hostility to general protests. In most cases it is a combination of the two. The climatic activity it has is largely due to the work of one person: born in Armenia and moved to Russia with his parents to escape the first Nagorno-Karabakh war when he was 1 year old 28 Year-old Arshak Makichyan.

Makichyan organized a chapter on Russia Friday for the future, 2019, an international movement to support government action on climate change. Over time, weekly protests took place in five to seven cities in Russia, where participants sought clarification from national leaders and emphasized their life-and-death nature. problem.

“We have begun to call climate change a climate crisis,” Makichan told Medusa. “We have begun to connect the points between climate change, wildfires, and the rise of natural disasters.” Like many countries, protests consisted primarily of young people. “Many activists have been kicked out of college, and if people are willing to endanger their freedom due to such issues, you know it is an important issue. “He said.

Talking about youth activities on climate change is impossible without mentioning Greta Thunberg, the founder of Fridays for Future, and Thunberg is certainly one of Makichyan’s greatest influences. In fact, she served as an introduction to Makichan on the topic of climate change. This is a disturbing indicator of the Russian people’s perception of the scope of the problem.

“They don’t talk about climate at all in our school or in the greenhouse. [I attended]”Makichan said. “I happened to read something about Greta and was interested in the topic and tried to get an understanding. I realized it was a very important issue and protested every Friday like her. I started going out to. “

Toonberg paid attention. After she reached out to Makichan to express her support, he felt he was “part of the community”, even though he was often a lonely protester in Moscow. He continues to be a worshiper of her and is impressed with both her perception of her privileges in Sweden, a “relatively rich country” and her way of speaking about human rights abuses in other countries. I am. Addiction Alexei Navalny’s support by Toonberg

Makichyan and Thunberg have worked together several times. Share the stage At the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 and COP26.

“We think of her as a friend, but we don’t talk much or meet each other very often,” he told Medusa.

Wedding of the statement

Despite the early optimism, the Russian authorities’ pandemic crackdown threw a wrench on Makichan’s work.

“”[Initially,] I’m afraid, but it’s no exaggeration to say that it was fun. ” “But what happened in Russia during the pandemic? They started arresting people even in one protest. Then the crackdown began: they banned everything and banned people. Declared “foreign agent” and “undesirable organization”. Many of my friends left Russia a year or two ago. Activism has become depressed. “

In the summer of 2021 Protest In support of Pussy Riot, Makichan met activist Polina Orenikova. Their main interests were slightly different — Orenikova was more interested in opposition politics, while Makichan was more focused on environmental and human rights issues — but they defeated it and I quickly found a way to cooperate.

In January 2022, Oleinikova, who had been filed with multiple administrative lawsuits against her at that time, was detained at a rally after she hung up. Signs Details of cases of political crackdowns on government buildings.

“They released her fine, but the next day police began trying to break into her house,” Makichan said. “They completely surrounded it — they decided to sit outside until Polina came out, but that night I helped her escape from the building.”

Shortly thereafter, the two decided to get married.

“We wanted to do that for our own safety, so that we could meet each other while in prison, even if there were criminal accusations,” he said. ..

Coincidentally, their wedding took place on February 24, when Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“It has become more similar Political statementPolina wore a blue dress with yellow flowers because she wrote “Fuck the War” on her shirt, “Makichan said. Only a few weeks later, the couple fled the country.

Unprecedented retaliation

The day Makichan spoke to Medusa, he was on a train from Lyon, France to Paris. However, he spent most of his time in Germany, where he was able to get a visa.

“My wife and I left Russia around March 20th,” he told Medusa. “After the war began, we started protesting in Moscow virtually every weekend. There was a large rally in the first few weeks, but about a week before departure, we I went out and didn’t find any crowds. Police arrested virtually everyone. “

The first decision they made to leave was more about survival than strategy.

“With 15,000 arrestsTerrible oppression, and New law We needed to find a new approach to “damaging the credibility” of the military, “Makichan said. “I decided to take some time to figure out what to do next, and I just wanted to breathe fresh air.”

Makichyan and Oleenikova initially planned to eventually return to Russia. But in late May, Russian authorities found a way to make their lives even more complicated.

“You are now logged [Russia’s government portal] Gosuslugi, “Makichyan told Meduza. “There was a message that there was some proceeding against me. I saw it belong to a citizen. I asked some friends to go to court and find out more. Eventually, they sent me a legal claim, and I read it on my way home from the store. I read it and they wanted to revoke my citizenship. I noticed that. “

The grounds for the state’s unprecedented move are vague. All Makichan managed to learn was that in 2004 some “misrepresentations” were made to the government about him. But he doesn’t know what this means.

It is true that Makichan was not born in Russia, but in Armenia, but he spent his life there, graduating from high school there and studying at the Russian Conservatory. He is also married to a Russian.

Despite the fact that Makichyan has a previous misdemeanor in the record of the protest, the legal allegations do not specifically mention anti-war rallies or climate protests. This made him believe that it was more related to the fact that he was not ethnically Russian, as it was easy for authorities to prosecute him for his political activities.

“I don’t know why they chose this route,” he said. “Maybe they want to scare all Russian citizens who are not ethnically Russian, and I’m the boy on their poster. Obviously, they decided they needed some new tools. did.”

If the state decides to set an example from Makichan, he believes it could be a good thing.

“I think it’s millions of non[ethnically]-Russians of Russia who don’t think politics is related to them, “he said. “Because the case is political, the proceedings are not just the revocation of my citizenship. This is a proceeding against all non-Russian people in Russia.”

Keep fighting

Makichan doesn’t think he can return to Russia soon. “It wouldn’t be ideal to return home so that I could be deported as a non-citizen,” he said. But even if he and Oleenikova remain in Europe, the future is uncertain. Their visas expire on June 20th.

In the meantime, they have been active.

“I’ve said quite a bit in Europe, call Because of the fossil fuel embargo, “Makichan said. “I held a rally in Germany. They know me pretty well because I was involved in the International Friday for Future Movement from the beginning.”

In the dark, the import of German fossil fuels from Russia is the perfect combination of politics and environment, which are the problems of Oleinikova and Makichyan respectively. Makichyan organized a number of rallies calling for a European ban on fossil fuels and attempted to meet between German politicians and Ukrainian, Polish and Russian activists, but with little help.

“Initially, someone agreed, but the meeting never happened,” he told Medusa. “This is strange, because Germany is still funding the Russian government. It has been doing it for decades by buying fossil fuels. They are in Ukraine. They pay for lip service, but looking at their behavior, they support Putin and continue to talk about financial risks. “

But in the long run, Makichan is cautiously optimistic about the future. He didn’t realize his first hope that “someone would kill Putin” when the war began, but he saw the country’s domestic opposition become smarter and the current regime. Do not believe that he will survive the war.

“Currently, there is a guerrilla movement in Russia,” he said. “There are all sorts of anti-war movements. Feminist anti-war resistance.. People who have never been involved in politics are participating. […] It gives you the feeling that we have not lost Russia. “

interview To Sasha Sivtsova

Summary translation by Sam Breeze Ale “Proceedings against non-Russians in Russia”. Russian authorities have threatened to revoke the citizenship of the country’s most prominent climate activists.

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