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Russian news agency publishes unauthorised interview with Svetlana Alexievich

Russian news agency publishes unauthorised interview with Svetlana Alexievich
Svetlana Alexievich speaking in Cambridge in 2016. Image: Chris Boland under a CC licence.

21 June 2017

A Russian news agency has published an interview with Nobel Prize winner in literature Svetlana Alexievich, without her authorisation.

According to local reports, Alexievich asked for the interview with Delovoi Peterburg not to be published, after she claimed that the interviewer “behaved not like a journalist, but like a propagandist”. She added, “After his question: ‘Why do you support Ukrainian bandits?’ everything became clear.”

The publication of the interview will undoubtedly aggravate the already strained relationship between the writer and media practice in Russia, after Alexievich, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2015, quit the Russian PEN centre in January of this year, joining 30 other writers who protested against the expulsion of journalist and activist Sergey Parkhomenko. In her statement, Alexievich lamented: “We now live through times when we cannot win over evil, we are powerless before the ‘red man’. But he cannot stop time. I believe in that.”

The interview published in full (in Russian) by Regnum news agency on 19 June, covers the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, the Maidan protests as well as Russia’s ongoing support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Moments of tension arose throughout the interview, with the writer in question rarely seeing eye to eye with her interviewer. For example, as the interviewer provocatively defined what happened in Ukraine as a coup d’état, Alexievich responded wryly suggesting he’d been watching too much TV.

In the heated exchange, Alexievich also commented on the current lack of political freedom in countries such as Belarus and Russia as well as the huge disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor. Alexievich argues that those who are free, are people living in countries with a more “European perspective”, with a greater focus on humanitarian ideals as opposed to “tearing up a country” and leaving people with nothing.

The interview ends with Alexievich stating, “You know, I have not enjoyed our interview and I forbid you to print it.” According to reports, Sergey Gurkin, the author of the interview with Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, has now been dismissed from Delovoi Peterburg.