An interview with the journalist from the “hit list”.
Famous Crimean Tatar journalist Ayder Muzhdabaev met with Editor-in-Chief of the website Charter97.org Natallia Radzina and gave her an exclusive interview.
- A journalist under guard has become today’s realm and the characteristic feature of the present time. Journalists got killed in Ukraine, in Russia, in Belarus but it never happened so that there were dozens of journalists in the hit lists. Why did it happen?
- I don’t know what this list is. No one has ever seen it in the original. However, I asked about it in the SBU. They said I was on the list in the “Babchenko case”.
And once again, I don’t know what it means. The point is, they wanted to murder Arkadiy Babchenko for real. This is not some joke or funny stuff, not the reason for the journalists to have a good laugh. Now I came across with the fact that, for instance, Poles came, very good people, but they don’t understand what happened. I tried to explain but they were quite slow to get it. But then people started to realize it was real crime. And it’s not about the informational message. If a good product was badly wrapped it doesn’t mean the product was bad.
You can not please everyone. I myself see shortcomings in the information and media coverage, but this does not denyl the fact that the crime is real. All these indirect factors do not change the essence of the matter.
If we continue to consider journalism as a way to get to the bottom of the truth, then we should not allow that indirect things obscure the main things. There was a real order from Russia to eliminate Babchenko. Maybe someone else from this list. The list could be either an indication from the Kremlin, or a “menu”. A signal that they are ready to pay for the murder of these people.
Arkadiy would have never get involved into this case if he hadn’t felt the threat was real. It wasn’t something like “let’s play a game”. The operative officers showed Babchenko the working out, showed that he was in real danger. Everything was monitored in the real-time regime. He knew the ways he could be murdered. They discussed the time, the place etc. This is not funny at all.
- Of course it is not funny. It’s absolutely obvious that Arkadiy’s life was endangered. However, did you know it was a special operation?
- No, I did not know anything. Certain doubts have crept in my head for the second day, closer to the afternoon. But these were doubts. I assumed that even if it was staging, it could go wrong anyway. It still could. Until I saw Arkadiy on TV, I did not believe it all.
I'm so happy that I do not even have claims, even jokingly, against him. Some wrote things like “you owe me beer,” I understand that people write it from the heart, but for myself I think it's impossible to joke about this. No way.
This situation was very close to me, it's hard to abstract from all this. I do not want anyone to approach this line, but you need to understand that this can happen to with other people.
- I talked with Babchenko on the phone and he said that, unfortunately, he could not meet with me, and joked he was “in a bunker under the guard of aircraft carriers”.
- It’s almost like this indeed (laughs).
- Did you meet with Arkadiy? How is he?
- I met with him twice. The first time - when he stopped by our studio at the ATR channel. The second time we met in the city. Arkadiy was very seriously guarded, and the meeting was held secretly.
I am now under guard as well, and this does not add to my comfort, and Arkadiy is not only guarded, but also in a secret place. He does not lead the usual way of life for him, everything has changed.
Arkadiy is very sociable and open-minded, used to seeing friends every day. It's good that his wife and baby are next to him, he doesn’t feel such a melancholy. I think that he had a great deal of stress and continues to experience it.
Today, Arkadiy went online on skype during the show on our TV channel. He said that only now he began to eat more or less normally ...
As for me, I will say that I have not fully resumed my sleep regime yet. I get up and go to bed not at the time I'm used to. More gray hair, poorer eyesight. This is what I feel and what my relatives noticed.
- Stress manifests itself. Your being under guard is the continuation of Arkadiy’s situation.
- This is all the same. I don’t know which media I can trust, where they get information, but there have been reports that only 6 people out of 47 who got on the list in the “Babchenko case” are seriously guarded.
- Why so few? Did many refuse?
- I think that everyone agreed, or almost everyone. At least, I saw no sparkle of laughter in the eyes of those seventeen who were immediately summoned to the SBU to get acquainted with the information. No one laughed.
Everyone feel very serious about the case, but apparently, according to the estimates of the special services (I do not know how they assess the level of threat), someone has been granted protection, but someone has not. Yet. But, apparently, if several people are guarded and I am among them, it turns out that the threat towards me is higher than on average. Again, I myself do not know anything, I judge only by external signs.
- Probably the whole situation affects the performance of professional duties?
- No. No way. It affects my communication with people. But, see, you and I found an opportunity to see each other today. It’s been a bit hard in terms of logistic, but still, I go to work every day, I write. Recently, I’ve written an article for the Ukrayinska Pravda, it was about the standards of journalism.
I will continue working, continue speaking on air, but Arkadiy, unfortunately, does not have such an opportunity so far. He doesn’t have the special services’ permit to come to work. I have not such a prohibition. I move around the city with external and personal guard.
- I know that you are a die-hard journalist, but has this situation influenced your colleagues?
- I think that it influenced everyone. If someone says that they do not care, they are lying. It doesn’t matter what you are trying to show of yourself, I think that after getting into this situation it becomes not funny for you.
Regardless of the pushback with which some write, the threat hangs in the air. And it exists for more people than are on the list.
It became clear to everyone, and it was clear to me before that Russia would not resume more active military actions (although they are constantly continuing in the Donbas), but a year before the presidential elections in Ukraine it will try to destabilize the situation.
I do not understand in detail what Russia wants to bring to power, or what they want to do. I have not fully solved this puzzle yet. But they want to have a political ram in Ukraine, and for this tactic of targeted terror, personal terror, some kind of terrorist attacks is used. All this has been repeatedly used in Russia and it has been quite successful there.
First, chaos was created, people were put under threat, and then the tactics of the state changed. They want Ukraine to be the same. To make Ukraine take decisions in an extreme situation. They think that there may be decisions in favor of Russia.
The fact that the SBU managed to reveal this “trick” is just fine. I repeat that the Russian special services wanted to kill at least one or two more people. And not only in Ukraine.
- In Europe. This applies to Russian political emigrants. There is a reason to believe so, this is not my opinion, Arkadiy said in an interview that he was not immediately chosen as a target. Special services of the Russian Federation wanted to kill another person, and then, it is unclear for what reasons, switched to him. Arkadiy believes that this person could be me. We do not see the whole puzzle, we need to know the full information for this. You can only guess.
- However, killings of Russian political emigrants in Europe would automatically show it was Russia which did it, not Ukraine.
- They don’t give a damn about it. They already killed 40 journalists and keep saying “this is not beneficial for us”. Russia commits one murder after another in England. It’s clear to everyone. However, they seem to have some different logic. All arrows point on Russia, but Russia seems to be okay with it.
- In any case, I think that you got into this list because you are not only a journalist, but also one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar people.
- I don’t regard myself as a leader. We have Mustafa Dzhemilev, Refat Chubarov, Lenur Isliamov.
- The more leaders a nation has the better.
- I am not a leader, I just say what I think. This refers to Russia as well. Recently, I have written less about Russia, it doesn’t interest me any longer. I think that the processes that were going on there are finally completed. However, I criticized them rather sharply. We are absolutely likeminded people with Arkadiy on this point. He writes only about Russia, I write less. However, our opinions on what is happening there are absolutely identical.
- What is the situation in which Crimean Tatars remain at the occupied peninsula?
- It’s gross. It’s a kind of a hybrid ghetto. I can tell a lot about this, but there is one Crimean Tatar woman, who came from the occupied peninsula, and she described the situation in the best possible way. She said: “We live as if the door is always open”. The people do not feel protected. Anything can happen to anyone any moment. They work with the Crimean Tatars starting from nursery school. They write denunciations on the kids who said something wrong, in order to influence their parents. They abduct people and put them in jail demonstratively.
I think the situation will deteriorate after the farce called “Football World Cup”, when Putin will think he has deceived the whole world again.
- How do you think, when will the liberation of the Crimea happen?
- It can happen tomorrow, or in ten years. It's not a matter of time, it's a matter of conditions. So far, the world has quarreled for various reasons: the US and Europe, there are conflicts within European countries. And Putin uses this and plays like a villain.
I think that it surprises him a lot, he did not expect that such processes will take place within Europe, that there will be contradictions between the US and the EU. He’s the one who benefits from this.
- What are the perfect conditions for the liberation of the Crimea?
- The perfect conditions are harsh sanctions and the oil and gas embargo. So far, we have not seen it. The President of France and the Chancellor of Germany come to Russia without setting conditions of release of political prisoners, make commercial agreements. Guys, where are we going to?!
- Sometimes it seems to me that the leadership of Ukraine behaves the same way with Belarus, by cooperating with the Lukashenka regime.
- This real politics will kill us all. But I do not think that Poroshenko somehow cooperates with Lukashenka. I criticized the Ukrainian authorities for allowing over-curtsey on Lukashenka's regime. Dictators do not understand these curtseyes, they do not perceive this as a sign of goodwill, but they consider it a weakness. This is their psychology.
Europe and Ukraine need to understand that they are not like us, to communicate with this world. Dictators rejoice at any manifestation of respect for them. They believe that this is a license for further crimes.
This real-politics is actually a surreal politics. It is invented by us, dictators do not think so. We should not replace their heads with ours, they act according to their own logic. We need to take into account their reactions, which have been repeatedly tested.
No dialogue with Putin will make him change himself. He takes it as a proof that he does everything right, while everyone else breaks down. Putin does not believe that this is some kind of guide to correction.
No criminal-type regime ever changed by good will, or came round of caresses. A hard will is needed here. Only then the liberation of the Crimea can become real. So far, this reality has been very vague. When the Soviet Union in 1979 sent troops to Afghanistan, the world was more united than now. Although there was no EU, there was the USSR, more powerful than today's Russia, but then the world showed solidarity. Boycotted the Olympics in Moscow, imposed embargo. Today's world, which seemed more principled and solidary, in fact has not passed the test. Yet.
- Let us hope it will pass it.
- There’s nothing to hope for, time to act.