Dissident Russian writer vows to keep speaking out

Dissident Russian writer vows to keep speaking out


Russian writer Dmitri Glukhovsky insists he will not stop speaking out against Moscow despite facing years in prison after being charged with criticizing the war in Ukraine.

The author of the popular dystopian novel Metro 2033, set in the rubble of the Moscow subway after a nuclear war, has been in the crosshairs of authorities for months.

Even in the heart of the European Union, where he attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, Glukhovsky admitted he didn’t feel safe.

But the 43-year-old – who says he lives in Europe but won’t specify where – told AFP he would continue to voice criticism if he felt it necessary.

“If something outrageous happened in Russia, I have to comment on it,” said the author, who was accompanied by security forces during some of his presentations at the fair.

Glukhovsky, who has opposed Moscow’s invasion in social media posts and opinion pieces for Western media, said the way he was attacked would have been “unthinkable” a few years ago.

“The regime is turning into a real dictatorship. Even a voice against it is already a danger,” said Glukhovsky, whose other works include Tales From the Motherland, a collection of political satire, and Text.

“When the regime was authoritarian, it was much more flexible.”

– ‘Absurd, grotesque’ –

Glukhovsky became involved in an increasing crackdown on dissidents launched after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Authorities have enacted a law that provides for heavy prison sentences for publishing information about the military that the government deems false.

In June a Russian court ordered his arrest in absentia. He says he has been accused of discrediting the Russian military and acting out of political hatred of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The author and former journalist says he now faces up to 15 years in prison if he returns home and is convicted, plus a hefty fine.

Earlier this month – after criticizing Russia’s partial mobilization to support its military’s stalled efforts – Moscow labeled the author a “foreign agent”.

The term, reminiscent of the Soviet-era “enemy of the people,” was used extensively against opponents, journalists and human rights activists accused of conducting foreign-funded political activities.

“Reality becomes absurd and grotesque much faster than we could have ever imagined,” Glukhovsky said at the annual book fair, the world’s biggest publishing event, which ended over the weekend.

The writer does not see himself as a “foreign agent” but as a “patriot”.

Glukhovsky said he just wanted Russia to “become a normal European country, abandon its old imperial ambitions and modernize (to) just stop oppressing its own people and causing trouble for its neighbors.”

“That’s the most patriotic thing you can come up with, in my opinion,” he added.

– ‘Based on Lies’ –

As for the recent legal actions, Glukhovsky concedes that they have made him “more vigilant” about potential threats, even outside of Russia.

“You can’t really feel safe,” he said, citing the poisoning of dissident Alexander Litvinenko in Britain, which London blames on Moscow.

“The previous rules no longer apply.”

The author sees no prospect of returning to Moscow in the near future, fearing arrest as soon as he arrives.

And even if he does go back, Glukhovsky believes much will have changed as Russia undergoes a radical transformation.

“I will not find the country I love,” he said.

And while Putin’s hold on power seems unassailable, Glukhovsky says it won’t last forever — urging people to hold on “until this rotten, bogus dictatorship collapses.”

“And it will inevitably collapse,” he said. “Because it’s based on lies.”

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