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 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 statement 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 they said they have been hard at work for the last week, sleeping only 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.
“Perhaps this will have serious consequences for us,” they said — but added that they hope others in Russia will be inspired 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.”
While both have received positive responses from some readers thanking them and offering them shelter, others — namely colleagues and family members — were less 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.”