An actor who was the star of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite movies said he feels “nothing but hatred” for his homeland, adding that he is prepared to fight for Ukraine.
Artur Smolyaninov told Novaya Gazeta that he would even be prepared to shoot a former colleague who went to fight for Russia in Ukraine, adding that there would be “no mercy” towards his homeland’s soldiers if he was on the frontlines in Ukraine.
Smolyaninov was once a beloved actor in Russia, known as Russia’s “Rambo,” a reference to the action movies starring Sylvester Stallone.
He played the heroic lead in “Devyataya Rota” (“The 9th Company”) — a 2005 movie set during the Soviet-Afghan war and loosely based on a successful Soviet battle in the Afghan mountains.
The movie is said to be one of Putin’s all-time favorites. Putin invited the director and stars of the movie, including Smolyaninov, to meet with him for a special screening of the movie at his Moscow residence in 2005, CNN reported.
“The film is very strong, such a real serious thing about the war and people who found themselves in extreme conditions in this war and showed themselves very worthy,” Putin said of the movie, back in 2005, per CNN.
However, since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Smolyaninov has been critical of its offensive. Last summer, he told a journalist that Russia’s war was a catastrophe. “Everything collapsed: ashes, smoke, stench, tears,” he said, per CNN.
Smolyaninov was fined 30,000 rubles ($439) for discrediting Russia’s military in October 2022, the media outlet said.
Later that month he crossed the border into Norway by foot and started living in exile. He is thought to now be in Latvia, CNN reported.
Following Smolyaninov’s comments last week, the Russian Ministry of Justice classified him as a foreign agent, according to CNN.
Alexander Bastrykin, the chair of Russia’s Investigative Committee, also ordered a criminal case to be launched against the actor for past remarks against Russia, according to a statement issued by the committee on Telegram.
And in a statement provided to Novaya Gazeta, a Kremlin spokesperson said that “no one in the Kremlin is thinking anything good about this actor.”
In contrast, Putin has a track record of using prominent actors to push Kremlin propaganda. US-born actor Steven Seagal has regularly advanced Russian talking points, notably when visiting the site of a destroyed Ukrainian prison in Donetsk last August.
French actor Gérard Depardieu, however, who once praised Putin after accepting Russian citizenship, was criticized by the Kremlin last year, after he accused Russia of a “fratricidal” war.