‘All of My Family Had to Leave’

I am an opposition journalist. I was fired many times for my statements. In 2008, I founded Russia Behind Bars, an organization to help prisoners and their families. In December 2011, I was the host of the largest protest rally in the history of modern Russia.

I fought a lot in public for political and civil rights, for the release of political prisoners and against the annexation of Crimea and the war with Ukraine. Authorities have searched or harassed me many times.

About this project

Journalists who've reported on repressive regimes sometimes have no choice but to flee for their safety. But exile is no shield for loved ones back home. The threat of family reprisals puts journalists in a fraught corner. Here, they tell their stories:

Jessica Jerreat,
Press Freedom Editor

I left Russia in 2017 after a series of searches at Russia Behind Bars, but the persecution continues.

My foundation continues to work from Berlin. Employees at my organization are harassed from time to time. They are all former prisoners or relatives of prisoners. 

From Russia to Germany

When we first founded the organization, there were many attempts to persecute our employees. Now they have all left and are living abroad. All of my family also had to leave Russia. The foundation’s bank accounts were seized, but we continue to work using Bitcoin and PayPal.

I have flown to Russia several times in the past three years. It has always been dangerous. After the poisoning of [Russian opposition leader] Alexey Navalny [in August 2020], I do not think I will fly to Russia again. It’s too dangerous.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.