‘Russia’s Rambo’, once Putin’s favorite, says he will now fight for Ukraine


Russian actor Artur Smolyaninov is the star of one of President Vladimir Putin’s favorite films – about the last stand by Soviet troops against Afghan insurgents Fighting story. Now he is listed as a “foreign agent” and faces a criminal investigation.

Smolyaninov is the protagonist of the 2005 Russian feature film “Devyataya Rota” (The 9th Company). He played the role of the last soldier in the decade-long Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He’s often described as the Russian Rambo, a nod to the American action films starring Sylvester Stallone.

Things have changed a lot since then. Smolyaninov, who is in exile, said in a recent interview that he was prepared to fight on Ukraine’s side and kill Russian soldiers. “I have nothing but hatred for those on the other side of the front (Russia). If I am on the ground, there will be no mercy,” he told Novaya Gazette last week.

He said a former colleague of his had fought on the Russian side. “Will I shoot him? Without a doubt! Do I keep the option to fight for Ukraine? Absolutely! That’s the only way I can. If I’m going to fight this war, I’ll only fight for Ukraine. ”

Days later, Russia’s justice ministry listed the actor as a foreign agent.

The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, also ordered criminal proceedings against Smolyaninov.

Smolyaninov has been highly critical of the Ukrainian election campaign. He recently recorded a Soviet-era song — Temnaya Noch (Dark Night) — and rewrote the lyrics.

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Among them are lines like: “Occupier, look at how shelters are cut off, how children are sitting in shelters. And how books are flooded. Russian night has spread to schools and hospitals.” ”

Another poem refers to “a bunker where a Führer hides, and a little bald cook who feeds the Führer with a spoon”. The chef was referring to Yevgeny Prigozhin, who ran Wagner’s private military company and won a catering contract from the Kremlin.

When he spoke out against the war for the first time last summer, when he was in Russia, Smolyaninov told an interviewer that it was “a catastrophe, everything fell apart: ash, smoke, stench, tears. ”

In October last year, the Moscow District Court fined Smolyaninov 30,000 rubles ($430) for defaming the Russian armed forces. That same month, he left Russia and is currently thought to be in Latvia.

Smolyaninov recounts how he crossed the Russian border into Norway. “I crossed the border on foot…you just walk 30 meters, and there are completely different people in front of you. They are soft. Even the expression is different.”

The film “Devyataya Rota” was so popular that Putin brought the cast and crew, including Smolyaninov, to his residence outside Moscow in November 2005, where a special screening of the film was held.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to film director Fyodor Bondarchuk during a tour of the Lenfilm film production studio in St. Petersburg in June 2016.

After viewing the film, Putin spoke with director Fyodor Bondarchuk and key actors, including Smolyaninov, the Kremlin said.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported at the time that Putin declared that the film “takes away the soul, you immerse yourself in the film”.

Putin said at the time: “This film is very powerful, a real serious thing about war and people who found themselves in extreme conditions in this war and showed great value.”

Russia’s justice ministry has added others to its list of foreign agents in recent days, including music critic Artemy Troitsky and several journalists.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, “these individuals are registered under article 7 of Russian law on controlling the activities of persons under foreign influence.”

There were also reports this weekend that two prominent theater actors had been fired from the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater for criticizing the war in Ukraine. Dmitry Nazarov and his wife Olga Vasilyeva were fired by theater artistic director Konstantin Khabensky, who blamed actors They have “anti-Russian sentiment”.

State news agency TASS confirmed the two had been fired, but did not say why.

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