In September 2022, Putin decided to conscript hundreds of thousands of troops for the war in Ukraine. 21-year-old Irina Selisheva felt she had to act and joined a protest in her home town of Novosibirsk. After two minutes, the police came and arrested everyone and Irina was fined. Her offence: dancing in a ring and singing ”Let the Sun Always Shine”.
Irina Selisheva is 21 years old and lives in Novosibirsk, Russia. She works in customer service for a local shop selling mobile phone components. Since September 2022, she has been active in Vesna, Russia’s largest peace movement, and she took part in a protest against the mobilization of Russians.
”Neither I nor other citizens of my country want to let Russian men murder Ukrainians, or die in this war,” Irina tells us.
Irina has a Ukrainian friend called Denis. They have known each other since 2013 and used to send each other gifts before the war started. In March, Russian forces attacked the town where Denis lives.
“I was really worried about him. But despite the war and everything that happened to him, Denis did not change his attitude towards me,” says Irina.
“This war is deceptive, unfair and murderous. The only person who needs it is Putin. They are lying to me – and everyone else – and the regime is trying to silence us. But I will never tolerate injustice, and I will do everything I can to save as many people as possible,” Irina continues.
”I was just taking part in a ring dance with other participants singing ’Let the Sun always shine’, a song about peace. We danced for about two minutes and then the police came and arrested us all. We are not allowed to criticize the war. Not even tell people that Russia is waging a war. If you do, you can receive a severe fine.”
Irina was charged with a so-called administrative offense in which she and the other dancers allegedly prevented people from entering a theatre.
”In court, I insisted on the fact that I did not try to block the entrance to a theatre which was situated near the location of the protest. But there was no acquittal by the judge, and I received a fine.”
Others who took part in the same demonstration received harsher sentences. Several of the participants were detained for several days.
“What this demonstrates is that we can’t participate in non-violent protests. Both my mother and my grandmother understand that it is not my fault that I was arrested. But they still ask me to keep quiet. However, my colleagues are inspired by my courage. All my close friends and my sister have supported me all the time,” says Irina.
Irina has a list of things that those of us who are not in Russia can do to support those who are against the war:
• Stop trusting Putin’s propaganda. We don’t support this war but we can’t openly say we are against it.
• Raise awareness of Putin’s crimes against both Ukrainian and Russian citizens.
• Explain to the authorities in your country that they support the war if they trade with Russia.
• Accept refugees from Russia.
“I am so grateful for those who continue to accept Russian refugees. Every person who is allowed to stay in a safe country will not be joining Russia’s the war against Ukraine. This is something that Ukraine will benefit from,” Irina concludes.
Irina is one of several members of the youth organisation Vesna that Global Bar Magazine will follow. Russian authorities have banned Vesna, declaring it an ”extremist organisation” that ”threatens Russian authorities and authorities”. Despite being banned, many young people continue to fight the regime through their Telegram and Twitter channels. There are still activists left in Russia. All those who feature in our publications are aware of the risk of visibility but still want to share what happened to them.