Vitaly Mansky, a prominent Russian documentary director, remembers the moment when he decided he needed a safe haven outside Russia because life in his homeland was becoming untenable.
It was the spring of 2014, and Mansky was watching the news in his hotel room during a film festival in Spain. A dispassionate anchor on a Kremlin-controlled news station reported that Russia’s parliament had authorized President Vladimir Putin to use the army to protect compatriots in other countries, in effect legalizing the annexation of Crimea and providing a rationale for the support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“I remember very well the day, hour and second when the decision was made,” said the director, speaking during a recent winter’s morning in the Latvian capital Riga. “After this announcement, ensuing events became obvious. … This was the end. At that moment, I phoned my wife, returned from the festival, we arrived in Riga and after three days we left with a residence permit.”
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Inga Spriņģe and Sanita Jemberga are investigative journalists based in Riga. Ilze Jaunalksne in Riga, Olesya Shmagun in Moscow and Elena Loginova in Kyiv contributed to the report. The research project involved the collaboration of Re:Baltica, The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and EurasiaNet.org