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First person: Leaving Russia to avoid war in Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers help a fleeing family crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)
Ukrainian soldiers help a fleeing family crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Listen: Historian Timothy Snyder on how war ends in Ukraine.

On today’s program, we talked about the possible ways the war in Ukraine might end, with scholar Timothy Snyder.

Timothy Snyder says Russian President Vladimir Putin is vulnerable at home, as Russian men leave to avoid being sent to fight in Ukraine.

Dmitry Grigoriev is Russian man living in Georgia to avoid mobilization. He shares his story:

DMITRY GRIGORIEV: I’m from Moscow. And all my life I’ve lived in Moscow.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Dmitry is 25 years old, but he’s now living across the Russian border in Georgia. He knew a lot of people who left Russia in the spring. And last month he decided to check out Georgia, just in case he felt that he could no longer stay in Russia himself. And then Russia announced mobilization plans for young men like Dmitry.

GRIGORIEV: My position was before the mobilization that I should stay in Russia and to take, you know, my responsibility for what was going on there. But the mobilization was the red line. I just needed some free air of freedom to breathe in. You know, Russia became like police and military government very quickly.

CHAKRABARTI: So what began as a short trip to Georgia for Dmitri has now lasted for more than a month, a month where he has reflected on how his country got here and when he may be able to go home.

GRIGORIEV: Personally, I’ve realized, and many people realize, their position and those who are not supporting this war, that we are not able to do in this regime, to fight this regime strongly. We realized in March that the protests are being repressed and etc. and since then the atmosphere got harder every month.

As we know from our history, from the Soviet Union and from Stalin period, where every doorbell, which you don’t expect, makes you sweat and makes you fear. I know people who were in the army and the government is looking for them. … I mean, calling their relatives, coming to their addresses.

And they’re hiding.

They don’t go online. They don’t go out on the street. And they sit somewhere in the house or out of the cities, or where there are no cameras. For me, it’s really difficult since, you know, I didn’t plan. I wasn’t going away, like for living. The only thing which helps is that I’m not the only one. You know, I’m not the only one. There are lots of people who are against the war. I mean from Russia, who came here.

Actually, sometimes we even have jokes that it’s like little Moscow or little St. Petersburg here. It’s in the air that Russians are not welcome. Before the war, I’ve talked quite a lot to those who were for Putin or not against him. And their argument in supporting him was that when Putin is in power, there would be no war.

He is strong enough to keep everything in his strong hands and not to put our country into the war. And when this last … and the strongest argument just broke down one night, I predicted that those people would see that Putin is not our choice.

But it didn’t happen. I think that after Putin dies, we who don’t want a dictatorship, who don’t want to live in war and in military, would have a chance to make changes in Russia. We have many talks about when he dies, we discuss how we’re going to celebrate when he dies. I don’t exclude the option that I would come back before he dies.

I don’t know how things are going to be because, you know, it’s a very complex thing to leave your country. … It’s quite hard, but we don’t complain. There are things in Russia and in Ukraine which are going on with people who feel of course, much harder and much more difficult to live.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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