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Meet The Russian VIPs Defying Putin To Say No To War

Russian pop starts, artists and athletes are speaking out against the war in Ukraine, with some already suffering the consequences.

Meet The Russian VIPs Defying Putin To Say No To War

Miron Yanovich Fyodorov, aka Oxxxymiron, speaking out for peace

Laure Gautherin & Shaun Lavelle

Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is proving more difficult than he envisaged on the battlefield. But since last Thursday's invasion, there are increasing signs of domestic anger of his attack of a neighboring country where many have friends and family.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage. Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In addition to repeated public protests in cities across the country in defiance of a ban on anti-government opposition, Russians are seeing some of the country's most prominent personalities speak out against the war on Ukraine. They join an international chorus of celebrities condemning the war, including Monday night at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, where prize winners sent messages of support to both Ukrainians and their fellow entertainers in Russia who are speaking out even at the risk of arrest and an end to their career.

From pop singers to artists and athletes, here are some of the Russian VIPs using their platform to oppose Putin's war.

Vladimir Urin

Vladimir Urin

Vladimir Urin

Emile Alain Ducke/DPA via ZUMA Press


Vladimir Urin is the head of Russia’s cultural pride: the Bolshoi Theater. He has been a President Putin loyalist… until now. Urin has joined a group of artists who signed an appeal to stop “the special operation in Ukraine”. The message was posted on Facebook by Maria Revyakina, director of the Art Theater of Moscow. “We call for preservation of the highest value — human life.”

Vladimir Urin’s team also helped choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, to quickly leave Russia.

Alexei Ratmansky

Alexei Ratmansky

Alexei Ratmansky

Facebook/Alexei Ratmansky


Though Russian born, Alexei Ratmansky grew up in Kyiv, where his family is still based today. Now living in the U.S. he was preparing a new ballet at the Bolshoi in Moscow. As soon as the news of the invasion spread, he chose to flee the city along with his wife and international crew. “I doubt I would go if Putin is still president,” he told The New York Times when asked if he could go back to finish his projects.

Elena Kovalskaya

Elena Kovalskaya

Elena Kovalskaya

Facebook/Elene Kovalskaya


Elena Kovalskaya has been the director of the Meyerhold Center, a theater known for its experimental take on the sixth art, in Moscow since 2020 after serving as its artistic director for seven years. On Facebook, she announced her resignation from the state-financed theater in an act of protest over the war. “It’s impossible to work for a murderer and receive your salary from him,” she wrote on Facebook.

Oxxymiron

Oxxxymiron

Oxxxymiron

Facebook/Oxxxymiron


Miron Yanovich Fyodorov, aka Oxxxymiron, is a very popular hip-hop artist. In protest against Putin’s invasion and assault on Ukraine, he announced on Instagram the indefinite cancelation of six sold out concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “I cannot entertain you when Russian missiles are falling on Ukraine,” he said. “I know that most people in Russia are against this war, and I am confident that the more people would talk about their real attitude to it, the faster we can stop this horror.” Born in Leningrad, raised in Germany and the U.K., he has opposed the regime on many occasions, such as in 2019 when he organized the Get Jailed for a Text protest.

Valery Meladze

Valery Meladze is one of Russia’s most famous pop singers. On Instagram, the 56 year-old star called for an end to the war. “Something happened today that could and should never have happened {..} Now I’m begging you to stop military action and sit down to negotiate,” he says in his video. “People must be able to negotiate. For this we have a language, for this we have been given all the abilities. People must not die. This must be stopped.”

Fedor Smolov

Fedor Smolov

Fedor Smolov

Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via ZUMA Press


Fedor Smolov is a soccer player for Dynamo Moscow. He was the first on the Russian national team to publicly condemn the attack on Ukraine. A few hours after the beginning of the Russian move towards Ukraine, he posted on Instagram a black screen captioned in Russian “No to war!!!” followed by a broken heart and a Ukrainian flag.

As a consequence of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, the UEFA's Champions League stripped Saint Petersburg off its role as host of the final set for May 28. The game will be held at the Stade de France in Paris instead.

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin warming up on ice before a match

Alex Ovechkin

Kostas Lymperopoulos/CSM via ZUMA Wire


Alex Ovechkin is an ice hockey star who plays in the US as Washington Capitals’ winger. After days of silence, he addressed the invasion during a press conference. The athlete said he had family and "lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine" and that he was hoping for peace. "Please, no more war," Ovechkin concluded. As a vocal pro-Putin celebrity, his position regarding Russia’s move was under scrutiny. This opinion was both acclaimed and deemed as too little too late, especially since he still hasn’t changed his Instagram profile picture where he poses with the Russian President doing a V sign.

Danill Medvedev

Danill Medvedev

Danill Medvedev

Prensa Internacional via ZUMA Wire


Freshly crowned world number one tennis player and winner of the US Open last year, Danill Medvedev spoke on the day of the invasion, calling for peace. "By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world,” he said during a press conference, right after winning his match at the Mexico Open. “It's just not easy to hear all this news. I'm all for peace.”

Andrey Rublev

Andrey Rublev

Andrey Rublev

Oscar J. Barroso/AFP7 via ZUMA Press Wire


A day after Danill Medvedev, World No. 7 Andrey Rublev also took a stand against war. After his win on the courts in Dubai, he wrote the message "No war please" on a camera lense. "In these moments you realize that my match is not important. It's not about my match, how it affects me. Because what's happening is much more terrible," Rublev later said during an interview. "You realize how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what and to be united... We should take care of our earth and of each other. This is the most important thing."

Ivan Urgant

Ivan Urgant on his show

Ivan Urgant

Instagram/Andrey Rublev


Ivan Urgant is an evening talk-show host on the popular state-owned TV station, Channel One. To oppose the war, he posted a black square on Instagram with the caption “Fear and pain. No to war.” His show has not been broadcasted since, but the channel's spokesperson insisted the decision had nothing to do with his Instagram post. Officially, Urgant’s program and others were removed to be replaced by news and political shows “because of the current situation”.

Boris Akunin

Boris Akunin in 2012

Boris Akunin in 2012

Igor Kubedinov/ZUMAPRESS.com


Best-selling thriller author Boris Akunin – the pen name of Grigori Chalvovitch Tchkhartichvili – fled Russia in 2014, when it became clear to him his country’s regime was evolving towards a “dictatorship”. One of Russia’s most famous and prolific writers and historians, he has criticized Putin on many occasions. On the day of the invasion, he wrote on his Facebook: “The madness has prevailed. People are dying, blood is spilling. Russia is ruled by a mentally abnormal dictator, and what is most terrible, it submissively follows his paranoia.”

Daria Zhukova

Daria Zhukova in 2011

Daria Zhukova in 2011

Future-Image/ZUMAPRESS.com


Daria Zhukova is a prominent contemporary art collector who can be counted among Russia’s famous oligarchs. In 2008, she and her then-partner billionaire Roman Abramovich – owner of Chelsea FC – opened the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. In a statement published on its website, the institution announced that it would stop all activities and put on hold every exhibitions that were programmed “until the human and political tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine has ceased.” “We are categorically opposed to any and all actions that sow division and create isolation. We see ourselves as part of a wider world undivided by war,” the statement reads.

Sofia Abramovich

Sofia Abramovich

Sofia Abramovich

Instagram/Sofia Abramovich


Meanwhile, Roman Abramovich’s daughter Sofia, a student and professional horseback rider in the UK, also took a stand against the invasion of Ukraine, clearly mentioning the name of Vladimir Putin, which is rare. She posted an Instagram story insisting that the Russian people do not support his stance on Ukraine.


As for Roman Abramovich, after handing over "stewardship and care" of Chelsea to the club's charitable foundation, he would currently be in Gomel, Belarus, to take part in negotiations with Russia, reports the Jerusalem Post. He responded to Kyiv’s call for Russian mediators and is “trying to help”, says his spokesperson.

Danila Kozlovsky

Danila Kozlovsky

Danila Kozlovsky

Instagram/Danila Kozlovsky


Former model turned actor and director, Danila Kozlovsky found fame in Hollywood by acting in Vampire Academy or more recently Vikings. On Instagram, he first posted a quick message expressing his disagreement with the attack on Ukraine. His post, a black square, was captioned “Fear and shame… Agree! Stop! NO WAR”. Later on, he shared a deeper analysis of his own complicity-by-passivity to the conflict that had started years ago. “I didn’t see, didn’t understand or didn’t want to see and understand... I was indifferent, interested exclusively in my life, when it was necessary to call for reason and peace by all means. I naively thought that all this would end and that they would definitely agree at the top, because smart people are sitting.”

Evgeny Lebedev

Evgeny Lebedev

Evgeny Lebedev

Ash Knotek/Snappers via ZUMA Press


Evgeny Lebedev is a British-Russian media magnate and a member of the House of Lords. Son of billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev, he wrote in the Evening Standard — which he owns — a direct call to Vladimir Putin for an end to the war. “Please, Mr Putin, stop this war,” he begs. “As a Russian citizen, I implore you to stop sending Russian soldiers to kill their brothers and sisters in Ukraine.” Coming from an oligarch, this stance is particularly revealing of the concern now shaking Russian VIPs abroad. Lebedev is also the owner of The Independent which has relaunched its Refugees Welcome campaign calling on the UK to welcome refugees from Ukraine without the need for visas.

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