RIGA - Ukrainians are fighting the war against Russia not only for themselves but for all of us who believe in freedom and open society, Riga-born dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov says in a letter posted on the Facebook page of the Riga New Theater.
The artist notes that nearly 50 years have passed since he left Russia to live in a free society. "However, I grew up in Latvia - a country that was a part of the USSR. My father was a Russian military officer. My family represented the occupying country, but even in these circumstances the occupied Latvia was more open and European than Russia at that time," Baryshnikov writes.
He admits that since the Putin army's invasion of Ukraine, he has been feeling deeply horrified and knew that this will be a bloody conflict. "I knew right away that this move of the Russian army was more ominous than the so-called annexation of Crimea and separatist insurgency in the Donbas region," the world-renowned ballet dancer says.
"I cannot understand why people trust and follow a leader like Putin, but the Russians have historically been fighting under oppressive and brutal governments. How they end up with such leaders, I have no answer," Baryshnikov says.
Baryshnikov underlines that he refuses to "paint all Russian in one color" and thinks that Putin appeals to those who are afraid. Putin lets such people feel safe, just like all authoritarian leaders make their subjects feel protected. This, however, is a false sense of security, because protection can easily turn into persecution, Baryshnikov warns.
"I cannot influence politics or throw Molotov cocktails, and I am not competent to express my opinion or provide advice as to what assistance the US, NATO or Europe should provide to the Ukrainians, but the least I can do is help as many refugees as possible," Baryshnikov says, adding that he feels honored to be invited by writer Boris Akunin and economist Sergei Guriev to join them in the creation of the website truerussia.org.
"I do not know if Russian citizens will see the humanitarian appeal of True Russia, but the beauty of the cyberspace is that it is possible. They need to know what is being done on their behalf," Baryshnikov writes.