Of course, just as it feels like the pandemic might be showing signs of fading into endemic territory and allow us to return to normal, Putin decides to throw the world into war by invading Ukraine. And, of course, he does it with Trump’s full approval.
It seems like a no-brainer to conclude that Putin is the aggressor here, that we should all be throwing our support behind Ukraine. Yet there are plenty of republicans, particularly those still in the Trump camp, who are cheering Putin on. Indeed, perennial jackass Tucker Carlson did a segment extolling the virtues of Putin, before walking it back.
But hey, what do we know? This writer doesn’t live in Russia or the Ukraine and never has done. So we went straight to the horse’s mouth and spoke to two musicians who relocated to the United States from Russia: Nika Comet of L.A.-based alt-rockers Chase the Comet, and Nina Friday of Detroit glam-punks The Ruiners / horror-punks Bat Hearse.
Chase the Comet consists of Nika Comet and Alex Crimson, both of whom moved to the U.S. from Russia in January 2016.
“Our names are Nika and Alex and we are Russian citizens,” says Comet. “We took a one-way ticket to the U.S. back in 2016 and it was a time when immigration from Russia had reached its all time high. We always claimed we didn’t leave Russia because of the regime and we never wanted to apply for political refuge, but the slowly-showing-its-teeth totalitarian regime had been the phantom menace.”
In 2012, Comet and Crimson protested the falsified election in Bolotnaya Square. Clearly, protesting Putin in any way, shape, or form is risky.
“Older people already started realizing what was going on — Putin didn’t plan on leaving,” Comet says. “Ever. After two consecutive terms (2000–2004, 2004–2008) allowed by the Russian constitution, he put Medvedev, his puppet and homie, on the throne while being the Prime-Minister. After that, he kept falsifying the elections while controlling the media and re-writing the Constitution in such a way that it would allow him to stay president, well, technically forever. In the meantime, all serious political opposition leaders were either killed or discredited and sent to jail (exactly what happened to Navalny last year after an attempted murder attempt — and he proved it was ordered ‘from above’).”
To Comet and Crimson, people who have experienced this first-hand, Putin’s period in charge has been one riddled with cruelty. People have been beaten, arrested, poisoned, and jailed for speaking against him.
“During his rule Putin and his gang have destroyed the Russian [people] and stolen sooo much they wouldn’t be able to even spend it,” Comet says. “But that was not enough. He’s gone completely mad. He decided he’s the conqueror. He didn’t just start now. He’s been doing it for years trying to get back the territories that belonged to the USSR — he wanted Georgia, he got the Crimea, then Lugansk and Donetsk regions. Now he’s invaded the territory of a sovereign state of Ukraine.”
Comet is keen to point out that she and her friends did not want this war — or Putin.
“All our friends are shocked by this and terrified by what’s to come,” she says. “ We have friends and relatives in Ukraine and support them with all our heart. We did NOT choose Putin and his regime, we can’t imagine how a war is possible in the 21st century and when this… I can’t even call him a person… Putler would be a good name, would rid the world of his madness. Ukrainians and Russians are brothers and Putin’s actions are a crime against humanity. I have to implore once again, Putin does not equal Russia. We are Russians and we want peace for Ukraine and freedom from a tyrant for our Motherland!”
Nina Friday’s sentiments are very similar, stating, “The entire world should be repulsed by this.” She’s also keen to point out that the Russian citizens did not want this.
“Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of misplaced hate directed at all Russian people in general—including those who became United States citizens,” she says. “It is the human temptation to hate an entire group of people for the sins of a few. But I know what it is like to live under a cruel Russian dictatorship. I was there. Freedom was limited and poverty was rampant.”
This is no empty sentiment. Friday’s family suffered massively under Putin.
“I was there to see this government throw my father in prison without cause, when I was a teenager,” she says. “They beat him and starved him when he would not surrender his restaurant business over to the corrupt government mafia. Eventually, they murdered both of my parents and took it all anyway. They took everything my father built. They took everything from me. I scraped together what money we had saved and fled with the clothes on my back, like many Ukrainian people are being forced to do now.”
Friday stresses that there is nothing romantic about war. Again, many, if not most, members of the public do not want it.
“It’s important to understand, a great many Russian people are totally opposed to this invasion,” she says. “They protest with great danger of consequences. The country is divided from within over this issue. My sister (whom I still hope to meet one day), is stuck there and totally heartbroken about what this will mean for years to come as lines of tanks go by. I fear she will face the food lines like I did, often leaving empty handed after waiting all day. I fear I won’t meet her.”
Friday is now settled in Michigan with her husband and bandmate Rick Ruiner, and is a U.S. citizen. But it came at great personal cost — emotionally and financially. She suspects Ukrainian people will relocate with very little.
“This Ukrainian invasion has caused me so much personal anguish in my heart,” she says. “I hope the refugees from all wartorn or impoverished countries are greeted with compassion, dignity and respect. I hope they do not face some of the awful kinds of people and situations I did when I fled.”
I stand with the Ukrainian people in their darkest hour,” Friday says in conclusion. “I stand also with my Russian countrymen who oppose this unwarranted invasion and this unmerciful killing. I fear they too will also pay a terrible price for this. I also stand with my fellow United States citizens who protect and respect those who have lost everything, as they try to find their way through this darkness.”