— On February 24, we didn’t understand what was happening, there was complete uncertainty. At first, I was in denial, I asked myself: How is it possible? We are all sane people, who needs a war? Then I got scared, of course — for myself, for my family, for the people, for the Earth as a whole.
On that day, we had a team meeting. We discussed the main news, we realized that we had to cover the beginning of the "special operation" in Donbass, but we didn’t understand how. Back then, there were no laws [limiting the freedom of speech] yet. Finally, we decided to use information from the Internet, mainly from Novaya Gazeta.
At first, the hostilities had no effect on our editorial policy. But on March 4, the laws [on "fakes"] were passed, and then I was charged with two administrative offences on discrediting the army. I got the first one as an individual for a VKontakte post, where I expressed my anti-war position, and the second one as an office holder for a column in the "Personal opinion" section. It was an expression of my personal position on what was happening. I was fined 50,000 rubles for that column.
After that, we realized that our hands were tied and that we had to live and work in that new legislative environment, whether we like it or not. From that point on, we started sending all our materials, including for the "Personal opinion" section, to our lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova prior to publication. I now sleep badly on the night from Tuesday to Wednesday — when the newspaper is printed — as I keep checking the texts over and over in my mind.
Among our audience there are many people who support the "special operation". But they too were confused that I was fined, as there was no [army] discreditation at all in my statements. Those who support Ukraine were also perplexed.
I received a lot of messages after I was fined. People wrote that they understood and supported me, but one elderly woman wrote: "It's a shame! Why are you behaving like this"? She said that I didn’t understand what I was doing, that I stuck a knife in the back of our guys who were dying so that we could live in peace. I invited her to meet and talk, asked if she knew at all what I was fined for. After that, she quickly deleted her messages.
We are not on the front line. We don’t know the details of the offensive or retreat. We focus more on local news and partially cover the federal agenda as well. One of our first materials on the events in Ukraine was the text "Economic Echo", which analyzed the consequences for Kudymkar. We wrote about what was happening in our town due to newly imposed sanctions and what we should expect.
We have been writing, for example, when a native of our district dies. The soldiers' relatives react to this in different ways. Some are ready to tell everything so that the whole world knows what their boy was like. Others want to close themselves off, spend some time alone, so that no one digs into the details of their personal lives. I respect people’s feelings, and if close relatives say "no, thanks", we don’t write anything.