Conflicts & War

We are not traitors: Russians in Florida’s Little Moscow

By Alvaro Blanco

Miami, Mar 19 (EFE).- Russian migrants living in Miami say they are not traitors after President Vladimir Putin lashed out at ex-pats who are critical of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Ekaterina Vasilchenko, 39, a United States resident, said that Putin’s outburst was “as ridiculous as anything else he says”.

In a chilling televised address, the Russian president on Wednesday said Russian people knew how to distinguish patriots from traitors and scum and warned they would “spit them out like flies” amid a “necessary cleansing of the nation”.

Putin spoke of Russians living in the French Riviera and Miami “who cannot do without foie gras, oysters or so-called gender freedoms” and feel they belong to a “superior race.”

“I don’t feel like a fifth columnist,” said Vasilchenko, visibly angry as she spoke to Efe in a small shopping center full of Russian shops and cafes in the city of Sunny Isles, near Miami Beach.

Russians are the largest migrant community in Sunny Isles, or Little Moscow as it is also called, making up 9.6% of the population.

“Here we all live together, Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians and we all try to support each other, now especially the Ukrainians because of the horrible situation they are experiencing” Iuliia Pash, who left Russia less than a year ago to settle in South Florida, tells Efe.

The mood is one of solidarity and unity.

A sign pasted onto a rubbish bin next to a store that sells Russian products reads: “Putin kaput” (Putin is finished). Even the fire hydrants are in the yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Russian businessman, Alex Konanykhin, who co-founded tech company Transparent Business, has offered a $1 million bounty for Putin’s arrest.

The ex-banker and member of former-President Boris Yeltsin’s political circle said he would continue to help Ukraine in its heroic efforts to resist Putin’s assault.

Vasilchenko says Putin is afraid ex-pats will talk to their families about what is happening in Ukraine, challenging the Kremlin’s propaganda.

Despite Vasilchenko’s efforts to disrupt Moscow’s narrative via an anti-propaganda blog, she says it is “nearly impossible to do” because Russians have been hearing one version of history for years and it is “extremely difficult” to convince them that “the world is not Russia’s enemy (…) and there is no need to protect Russia by killing the neighboring country”.

Pash says she cannot talk to her family and friends in Russia because their information is so dissimilar to what she tells them, discussing the subject is impossible.

“I’m not a bad Russian for living in the US, just like there are no bad Russians in Russia, but they have to watch only one TV and they don’t have any other information, because all the channels are closed,” she says.

Vasilchenko says that they are Russians who decided to leave their country for myriad reasons and that they have a right to do so without being accused of treason. EFE


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