Singers, TV show hosts, comedians among a host of people who have denounced Putin and left Russia on ‘vacations’.
A host of Russian celebrities are facing the wrath of their fellow citizens for denouncing Russia's attack on Ukraine and moving out of their country, raising questions over their acceptance if they decide to return in the future.
The number of cultural figures who have left Russia is increasing, especially since the opposition in Belarus, an ally of the Kremlin, released names of Russian celebrities in show business who have left Russia since the Russian army entered Ukraine.
"They fled the country!" and "Traitors!" are some of the terms being used to describe the celebrities by their fans, who are even calling themselves “ex-fans”—clear signs of anger among a section of Russians.
Experts are of the opinion that many of those who have left will have to return to their homeland for different reasons, including financial ones. But the big question is how will they be received in the homeland afterwards.
The stars’ "planned vacation"
Perhaps more than anybody else, Russians are discussing the departure of celebrity couple Alla Pugacheva and Maxim Galkin, who left for an undisclosed location with their children. There are speculations that they could be in France though many point to the pop icon Pugacheva’s frequent trips to Israel.
The 72-year-old artist didn't say anything for a week, but then she got back in touch: " Don't celebrate just yet! Vacation and treatment don't count as emigration! When I come back, we'll figure it out!"
Her husband, a 45-year-old comedian Maxim Galkin, was also attacked by former fans who took umbrage at his anti-war political comments.His concert in Arkhangelsk was cancelled after fans returned their tickets. In response to an Instagram post where the artist briefly congratulated his subscribers on Quinquagesima Sunday, he was viciously trolled.
"We love the Motherland, not its traitors," wrote an angry fan.
A lot of hatred was vented on the family of TV host Dmitry Dibrov as well. He was accused of going to the Maldives at a difficult time for the country while he has always called himself a hereditary Cossack. Last year, he was accused of calling 80 percent of viewers idiots for "watching soap operas" and other "hardly intellectual” and, most importantly, meaningless television programmes. Dibrov's wife, Polina, explained that the family vacation had been planned long ago, and cancelling it would have been like throwing away money. Nevertheless, the family returned to Russia earlier than they had planned.
The situation has also heated up for fashion expert Alexander Vasilyev, who is the host of the popular program "Fashion Verdict". When it became known that the show had been pulled out, Vasilyev hastened to comment on the situation from his apartment in Paris, saying that shooting had become impossible against the backdrop of closure of foreign brand stores.
However, the people are of the opinion that now is the time to start advertising domestic designers and clothing companies, and the programme has been cancelled because Vasilyev is afraid to return to the place where he spent many years making money. "If you’ve left, live where you are. Nobody needs you or the show. Make a show where you live. Alexander, we have already changed our minds about you. Stay for the permanent residence where you are now," wrote one of the angry users.
The show "Evening Urgant"(«Вечерний Ургант») was also taken off the air. TV host Ivan Urgant left Russia, which he reported on Instagram. "Baza" reported that he and his family had left a few days earlier for Israel.
Zemfira and Renata Litvinova are also staying in Paris. This city was chosen by the couple for a reason. Litvinova is the owner of a chic two-story apartment in the French capital. Renata's daughter lives in Paris, which is why she purchased real estate in the city. It is said that the artist and the singer bought one-way tickets.
Soon they will come back
The stars' departure was painfully received not only by their fans but also by their colleagues. The television channel RU.TV announced that it was going to stop working with the artists, who had made harsh remarks about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. They included Ivan Dorn, Max Barskikh, Potap and Nastya, MONATIK, Nadezhda Dorofeeva, Svetlana Loboda, Vera Brezhneva, Valery Meladze, 2Mashi, and Aquarium bands.
Actor Stas Yarushin, on his Instagram account, shamed the stars for their lack of patriotism. He believes that they are guided solely by their emotions and after a while, they will come to their senses, but it will be too late: they have already shown their true face. What's more, "everyone will begin to flip-flop soon. "Someday it will be over. Someday many will come to their senses. But it will be too late to come back. Personally, I will be against your comebacks and flip-flopping!" Yarushin wrote.
Yana Poplavskaya, the actress who once starred as Red Riding Hood, thinks that such behaviour on the part of stars is the highest form of betrayal. She said she did not understand people who are now thinking not about the world but only about their personal comfort. On her Instagram page, she explained to the public why many stars have chosen Israel as a destination — to find a way to the United States. It was easier to criticise Russia from the US, she added. Except that after everything they have already said, they will not be welcomed back home.
Yulia Mikhalkova, star of "Uralskiye Pelmeni", warned her colleagues who have gone abroad that they won't be happy in the West. "You will always be strangers there - second-rate people who can be hunted down and thrown out in the cold at any moment". She noted: "Russia is different. It's sometimes difficult, sometimes incomprehensible. But it is our home. Our beloved home. And we will always belong here.”
Society will judge
State Duma deputy from the faction “Yedinaya Rossiya”("United Russia"), Sultan Khamzaev, proposed a ban on those actors and businessmen who left the country.
"I believe that we need technology to block the return of escaped guest performers. Those who leave their country at a crucial time, apparently consider another state as their homeland.” Khamzaev was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency: "We must prohibit everyone who has run away from Russia to come back into the country.” According to Khamzayev, the situation in the world has shown that a group of alarmists has appeared in the country, trying to destabilise the situation.
In Russia, there is even a website called "Traitors" with the names of stars who opposed the "special operation" in Ukraine. The authors of the project said that they noticed the activity of some "persons who oppose the prosperity and security of our homeland," and promised that they would do their best to make people on the list accountable for their actions.
“Komsomolskaya Pravda” clarifiesd that the stars have not committed any crime. After all, there is no article in the Criminal Code for “fleeing the country”, it said. And all Russian citizens have a legal right to return home at any time without hindrance. "But society has leverage over all these "celebrities". And we all have it in our own hands. It might cost them a pretty penny, if we don't listen to, don't watch, don't buy any of their products," the paper wrote.
Unscheduled departures of journalists
However, the departure of independent journalists from the country is more often tolerated by Russians.
"Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported that journalist Alexei Pivovarov, who made films about Bolotnaya Square and the leaders of that protest - Navalny, Yashin, Nemtsov - is now in the UAE. Journalist Mikhail Zygar is also there.
Tikhon Dziadko, editor-in-chief of the Dozhd TV channel, confessed: "After the illegal blocking of the Dozhd website and Dozhd's accounts on several social networks, as well as threats against some of our staff, it is obvious that the personal safety of some of us is menaced.
Host Denis Kataev, who worked at Dozhd for more than ten years, also spoke about his departure from Russia: "This decision was hard for me... It is impossible to work as an independent journalist here now," he said.
Since the events in Ukraine began, at least 150 journalists have left Russia. According to media reports, almost the entire Moscow editorial board of Meduza, Ekho Moskvy, and Novaya Gazeta have recently left Russia, as well as many staff members of foreign media correspondents and bureaus.
The spotlight is still on journalist Ksenia Sobchak, who was travelling with her child to Türkiye for a "planned vacation”, but they were eventually spotted at Tel Aviv airport. We must give her credit though since her Telegram channel continues to publish the most poignant moments, which no media outlet in Russia dares to do at the moment.