The star of one of Vladimir Putin’s favourite films is facing serious backlash after making a series of bombshell statements slamming Russia.
In a recent interview with Russian publication Novaya Gazeta, Artur Smolyaninov – who is widely known as “Russia’s Rambo” due to his appearance in a string of local action films – was scathing in his criticism of the invasion of Ukraine.
Smolyaninov appeared in 2005 flick Devyataya Rota (The 9th Company) set during the Soviet-Afghan war, and it was such a hit with Mr Putin that he invited the entire cast and crew to his private residence that year.
He also publicly praised the movie at the time, telling reporters it “takes the soul” and was “very strong”.
But despite their history, Smolyaninov began speaking out against the invasion of Ukraine several months ago, labelling it as a “catastrophe”.
According to CNN, last October, the 39-year-old was fined for discrediting Russia’s military, and he has been living in exile after fleeing Russia on foot in recent months.
However, he has now doubled down on his stance in the new, controversial interview, revealing he felt “hatred” towards his homeland as a result of the invasion.
“I feel nothing but hatred to the people on the (Russian) side of the frontline. And if I were there on the ground, there’d be no mercy,” he told Novaya Gazeta, adding that an ex-colleague was fighting for Russia.
“Would I shoot him? Without any doubt! Do I keep my options to go fight for Ukraine open? Absolutely! This is the only way for me. And if I were to go to this war, I would only fight for Ukraine,” he continued.
In response to Smolyaninov’s inflammatory comments, the Russian Ministry of Justice classified him as a foreign agent, with Russia’s Investigative Committee chair Alexander Bastrykin also ordering a criminal case against the star after confirming in a statement that Smolyaninov “made a series of statements against Russia in an interview to a Western publication”.
But speaking to Russian- and English-language independent news website Meduza about the case against him, Smolyaninov continued to lay into his motherland.
“For me, the laws of this state do not exist. They, like the state itself, are inherently criminal, which means that have neither moral nor legal force,” he said.
Meanwhile, NEXTA has reported that Russian authorities are considering adding the title “traitor” to films featuring actors who condemned the war in Ukraine.
The idea emerged in the wake of Smolyaninov’s interview, although there have been other high-profile Russians who have similarly condemned the invasion.
The latest development comes after Vladimir Putin replaced the Russian general in charge of the war in Ukraine after just three months in the top job, in what has been seen as yet another sign of Vladimir Putin’s growing desperation.
The infamous Sergei Surovikin – dubbed “General Armageddon” – was appointed as overall commander of the Russian army in October 2022.
But now, the Kremlin has announced that he is already being replaced by Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, with Surovikin to serve under him as a deputy.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Russia’s defence ministry announced that Gerasimov’s appointment was a “raising of the status of the leadership” of the military operation in Ukraine, with the decision made to “improve the quality … and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces”.
While the wording was deliberately both vague and optimistic, it has been seen by Russian watchers as an obvious demotion for Surovikin – and a sign of Vladimir Putin’s increasing anxiety over the stalling invasion, which has been raging since February 2022.
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