As It Happens·Q&A

Russian anti-war protester says invasion of Ukraine is 'stupid and insane'

'Russian people do not want a war... we want peace and we want a normal life,' activist Arshak Makichyan told Carol Off, just before leaving for an anti-war protest in Moscow on Thursday.

'Russian people do not want a war,' says activist Arshak Makichyan

Russian activist Arshak Makichyan, pictured in January with a sign he brought to an earlier anti-war protest, which reads 'the new war stole the new year.' (Submitted by Arshak Makichyan)

Story Transcript

Russian activist Arshak Makichyan woke up on Thursday feeling compelled to make his voice heard. 

Following an early-morning attack by Russian military forces on Ukraine, anti-war protests sprang up in several cities in Russia and around the world. 

Makichyan was preparing to join the Moscow protest when he took a call from As It Happens host Carol Off to explain why he opposed the attack. 

According to the OVD-Info protest monitor, close to 400 anti-war protesters were detained in the Russian protests — though Makichyan was not among them at the time of publication. 

The following is an excerpt from his conversation with Off.

I understand you are on your way to an anti-war rally in Moscow. What are you expecting there?

There should be a lot of people, I hope, because the war that's happening now, it's terrible. It's like a crime. It's our crime, because we are Russians. And we are against it and we're going to protest — even though protesting in Russia is dangerous.

Most of our political activists were arrested in Russia. They [have been] prosecuting everyone the last few years. But we should protest against it — because if we don't, the situation will be worse and worse.

The Russian authorities gave an extra warning today, saying there will be negative legal consequences for anyone who protests. Is it possible you will be arrested today if you go to this rally?

Maybe I will be arrested today or tomorrow.

It's not that important, because they [are] killing people in Ukraine, and they are invading countries. If we don't do this protest, we will feel terrible, because it's our country and it's our responsibility to protest against this. I think at the end, we will win because what they are doing, it's insane.

We shouldn't wait for Putin to do the next step, we should stop him, because what he's doing is a crime.- Arshak Makichyan, Russian activist

Is this Russia's war, or is it the Kremlin's war?

Of course, it's [the] Kremlin's war. Russian people do not want a war, because we do not need these lands or anything. We want peace and we want a normal life. We want to protest for climate, to protest for our future. And now we don't have a future. We have just these terrible days.

But do you think that there are many Russians who don't see it your way, who believe that NATO expansion is a threat?

Propaganda in Russia is working quite well, they own almost all media in Russia. And most of our independent media have been declared foreign agents, and it's quite difficult for them to exist.

But I think most of the Russian people do not want a war, because there will be terrible consequences for Russia, like economic consequences and historical, because it's a mistake to invade another country. What Putin is saying is so stupid and insane that you cannot imagine that such things [are] happening today, but it's happening.

Police officers detain a demonstrator with a poster reading 'no war' during a protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine in Moscow on Feb. 24, 2022. (Denis Kaminev/The Associated Press)

I think there are a number of people in Russia commenting that it's a limited war, [that] if the Ukrainian soldiers surrender, it will be not much bloodshed. They're saying that it's just to demilitarize Ukraine, not to occupy it. What do you say to your fellow Russians when they tell you that?

It's the same things they were saying that when Russia was invading Crimea, or when we had war in Georgia. Russia continues to invade more and more countries. So we shouldn't wait for Putin to do the next step. We should stop him, because what he's doing is a crime.

I do not want for my friends in Ukraine to live under Putin like we do. 

What message would you give to Canadians tonight?

That we all should stand with Ukraine and we should fight against Russian regime, because what they're doing, it's not just against Ukraine or Europe, it's against the world.

Like in 20th-century Germany, when it started, they invaded Austria, then Poland, and somewhere else. And we should stop it — because it's going to continue if we don't stop it. 

Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Written by Kate McGillivray. Interview with Arshak Makichyan produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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