Aimar Ventsel: The awakening of the 'good Russians'

Aimar Ventsel.
Aimar Ventsel. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

One does not have to be an FSB agent to complain about credit cards not working or Russian singers being unable to perform in Europe. Millions of Russians hit by these sanctions feel they are unfair. And so, they try to play the "good Russians," Aimar Ventsel writes.

Does anyone still remember Aleksey Valentinovich Ulyukaev? He was the minister of economic development for the Russian Federation until November 2016. Before he was thrown in prison for corruption. Allegedly, he accepted a bribe of a few million dollars. No one really believed it as Russian ministers are not offered such minute bribes.

Minister Ulyukaev was known for making harebrained statements. For example, after the ruble plummeted following the annexation of Crimea, he said the ruble to dollar exchange rate does not affect prices in Russia because they are in rubles. The minister of economic development?!

But that is beside the point. Before Ulyukaev was locked up for a good number of years, he gave a heartrending last speech in the courtroom. He told people in the room and those watching the live broadcast that only now does he understand that he has been lying and ripping off the Russian people all along.

I had a strong sense of déjà vu when a brave woman who crashed a live news program of a Russian state television network with an anti-war poster was suddenly all the news. Turns out she had unexpectedly discovered that she is forced to broadcast lies working for a state-owned network. Even worse, lies about Ukraine where her father was born.

Marina Ovsyannikova is proud of her Ukrainian roots, which is why she is seen wearing a necklace sporting both Ukrainian and Russian colors on her social media avatar. When Russia's aggression against Ukraine was launched, she suddenly discovered that she does not want to participate in the false game.

I don't know how long Ovsyannikova worked for the number one news show "Vremya" of the number one state network of Russian state media, the Pervyi Kanal. What is clear is that her career took off before the end of 2013, which is when the Euromaidan protest in Kyiv did.

A comprehensive smear campaign that included outright lies was launched against Ukraine in Russian state media at around that time, if not sooner. Ovsyannikova either failed to notice these lies or found them to be not all that serious. Until the fateful day Russia attacked Ukraine.

At least three other journalists of Russian state networks have publicly announced their resignation. While the news did not stick in Estonia, one of these "recently enlightened" was Pervyi Kanal star journalist Zhanna Agalakova who announced her resignation in Paris where she worked as a correspondent.

Some have suggested that the "awakening" of Ovsyannikova and Agalakova is a Russian special services operation. Many seem to believe this is clearly reflected in the former's slap on the wrist punishment (she was fined a few hundred euros during a time when people are thrown in prison for years for trifling social media posts), as well as the fact that both women immediately became vocal critics of sanctions and started demanding an end to the boycott of Russian artists and athletes.

It would be preferrable if they really were Russian special services agents tasked with ending Western unity and demonstrating that "Putin is to blame, not all Russians." The status of special agent is at least romantic. Especially in the case of female Russian agents, harking back to the glamorous KGB spies in James Bond movies.

If they are not special agents, both the two women and many other "awakened" are simple opportunists trying to escape a sinking ship. The question of why are the people being punished for one man's crimes, to which one usually adds that they have never voted for Putin, has become oh so popular in the wake of sanctions pressure and worsening quality of life in Russia.

One does not have to be an FSB agent to complain about credit cards not working or Russian singers being unable to perform in Europe. Millions of Russians hit by these sanctions feel they are unfair. And so, they try to play the "good Russians" who are not to blame for anything and are themselves victims.

When the role of victim of the system is being played by employees of Russia's propaganda machine, it merits a shrug at most. For years, these people didn't have any qualms about their jobs that are among the best-paid public gigs in Russia. Now, they suddenly discovered that things are about to get serious.

Best distance oneself from Russia's state networks now if one wants to vacation and buy real estate in Europe in the future. Better yet, do it with a big bang as it's more convincing that way.

We have no reason to believe people like Ovsyannikova or Agalakova have gone through a spiritual metamorphosis. Playing the "good Russian" is very much in their interests. Ovsyannikova recently gave a long interview to Italian television where it turned out her biggest concerns were largely financial in nature. Defunct credit cards and difficulty traveling.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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