Journalists Yegor Polyakov and Aleksandra Miroshnikova, working for Russian online newspaper Lenta.ru, told CNN that the idea to publish dozens of articles critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine came about because they couldn’t continue working as usual with the war in Ukraine raging on.
The articles were published to Lenta.ru, a pro-Kremlin news outlet in Russia, on May 9. It coincided with Russia’s Victory Day, a major national holiday in the country that celebrates the surrender of the Nazis in Berlin during World War II.
The two journalists published a number of articles with headlines such as, “Putin unleashed one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century” and “Vladimir Putin lied about Russia’s plans in Ukraine.”
“The idea came to us almost at the same time,” the two told CNN in a statement. “We did not even have to discuss with each other the need for this decision. It was simply impossible to continue to work as usual when people are dying in a neighboring country.”
“Some people say, ‘We had no other choice but to keep working,'” the two journalists said. “We had no choice but to do what we did. It was the only right decision for us.”
Fearful of reprisals against their families in Russia, the two journalists would not go into details of how they published the articles. But said they have been hard at work for the last week, only sleeping two to five hours a day.
“The articles that we have published are not just catchy headlines, they are well-thought-out materials, with all links, with visual inserts,” the two said.
It’s unclear whether the two journalists have been fired from Lenta.ru, but they say that they no longer have access to the site’s publishing tools.
“Our bosses deleted all correspondence with us,” they said. “Yegor had a rather unpleasant conversation with them, but they didn’t even bother to say a word to [Aleksandra].
They realize that the risk, and the potential repercussions, they may face for publishing the articles.
“Perhaps this will have serious consequences for us,” they said. “I can’t exclude the possibility that our actions will also have consequences for our colleagues, who did not participate in this, but who can become just demonstrative victims so that no one else dares to repeat this.”
They hope their action will inspire others in Russia to do the same. For now, the two say they are no longer in Russia.
“I don’t know what’s next,” Miroshnikova said. “I am in another country, completely alone, I have some small savings to live on for a few months. But I have no idea what to do, where to go and how to live on. Hope I will figure it out.”
Both have also received a positive response from some readers thanking them for setting an inspiring example.
“Some stranger people abroad even wrote that they were ready to shelter Yegor and [Miroshnikova] on their couches,” the two said. “It was very heart-warming and such comments make me feel less alone.”
Some even offered to shelter the two of them while they figured out what to do next.
“It was very heart-warming and such comments make me feel less alone,” Miroshnikova said.
However, the responses from some, namely colleagues and family members, were not supportive.
“For me personally, the situation is quite difficult, because many of my relatives did not approve of my decision at all,” Miroshnikova said. “Someone considered it a betrayal, someone – just stupidity, because of which I will be left without a job and any future.”