Hello. My name is Roman Koksharov.
My whole life I have been always telling the truth and have not been scared to tell people
what I think. Sometimes I suffered a lot because of that, since oftentimes people did not
want to hear the truth. One of the biggest problems that, in my opinion, have been
destroying Russia and its people is racism. It has been one of the biggest issues that has
not allowed my country to be acknowledged by the international community. It has been
so scary for me that there are so many xenophobic and nationalistic organizations in
Russia that are ready to kill the people of other ethnicities and races.
In 2014, when Ukraine experienced difficult times and change of power, our President
Vladimir Putin took advantage of the situation and annexed Crimea. He also initiated the
war in Donbass, the eastern part of Ukraine. I disagreed with that and did not conceal my
opinion. Many of my coworkers were very happy about Russia’s becoming even bigger
and more powerful country and admired the President’s ideas and actions in annexation
of Crimea and war in Donbas. I, however, disagreed with them and openly said that, in
my opinion, what our President was doing was disgraceful. They argued with me, saying
that I was not a patriot enough and that I had to be proud of my country and its President.
In or about September 2014, my manager called me to his office. He told me that he had
heard my opinion about our President and disagreement with the actions of our President.
He asked me whether I had forgotten who I was working for, and who were our clients.
He said that if someone from the President’s administration found out that a dissident was
working for their company, no one would be ordering souvenirs for the President and
other government officials anymore, and that the company would have very bad
reputation. He told me that I would better think about it and change the attitude to our
President and stop expressing my opinion everywhere.
I was very upset after the conversation with the manager. The government officials of our
country always said about the freedom of speech and about the democracy in our country.
However, these principles have not been followed, and the people who disagreed with the
government had to shut up their mouths without saying bad about the authorities,
otherwise they would be subjected to mistreatment.
I also read multiple reports about the attitude towards Crimean Tatar in the new Russian
Crimea. A lot of them were literally kicked out of their homes or were physically
attacked on the streets. Many of them had to flee Crimea. They were provided shelter in
the Western parts of Ukraine or even in foreign countries. This made me even more
outraged, because I could not imagine how the President allowed such attitude to the
people who lived in the territory that he had recently annexed. I could not keep silence
about it. The people blindly believed to Putin without even thinking how arrogant and
careless that person is to its people and the future of the country. I could even judge by
the attitude to the people in the provinces of Russia, many of which lived in beggary and
hunger. I resented about this and decided that I did not want to keep silent.
Despite my manager’s words, I kept openly disagreeing with the politics and strategies of
our President. I said that while Putin and his like-minded people were at power, our
country would never be living well. Because I was outraged, I did not want to follow the
advice of my manager to refrain from the comments about our President.
On one occasion, in early 2015, I almost had a fight with one of my coworkers during a
lunchbreak. He was watching news on his phone and explicitly made comments
regarding the situation in Ukraine. He said that Putin had to involve more soldiers into
the war with Ukraine and occupy the eastern part. I could not refrain from comments. I
said that it was unfair to occupy the eastern part of Ukraine and kill the innocent soldiers
who had families and who were too young to die. He said that he did not care as long as
our country was getting bigger. I told him to imagine himself in the place of the soldiers
who were sent to the war knowing that they could be killed and being unable to do
something about it. He approached me and punched me on the face, saying that he would
never be on their place, and instead of fighting against Russians, those people just had to
give up the idea of holding Donbass any further. In response to his punch on my face, I
wanted to grab him by his shirt, but suddenly other coworkers approached us.
Even though it was me who was beaten during the argument, the manager called me to
his office and asked about the circumstances of the incident. I explained that I did not
initiate a fight with my coworker, and it was me who was actually a victim. He accused
me of continuing to say bad things about our President openly. He said that I had to stop.
He told me that he valued me as a good specialist, but told me that if I continue openly
accusing the President and the government, who in fact “feed” our company, of bad
things, he will have no other choice but fire me from the job. He was very serious at that
I got scared that because of my open statements I could lose my job. Moreover, my wife
started experiencing problems at work because of me. Soon after my conversation with
the manager, she was removed from the position of a supervisor which she had occupied
for a few years, and was returned to the position of a regular jewelry setter. I resented
about it and went to speak to the manager. In response to my complaints, he asked
whether I did not like something and whether I wanted both me and my wife to be fired. I
said that everything was fine, but I did not know the reason why my wife was treated so
unfairly. The manager told me that next time he finds such a reason, we would both be
fired. I realized that, in order to save the workplace for me and my wife, I had to keep my
I decided for myself that I would not be expressing my political opinion at my workplace.
Instead, I decided to start a blog and write my thoughts about our President and his
politics there. Besides, I expressed my opinion on the forums and chats. I also decided to
register in the human rights organization.
While writing on the forums, I noticed that there are a lot of people in our country who
did not support the policy of our President. However, like me, those people were scared
to express this in person and used forums to express their opinion anonymously.
A couple of months after I started my blog, I noticed that my posts disappeared from the
website a few days after I wrote them. I posted them again, but in a couple of days they
appeared again. I decided to change the website to write my blogs. However, soon my
posts disappeared again.
In or about August 2015, I noticed that one person consistently wrote encouraging
comments to me. He said how much he agreed with me, and he said how Putin was
unfair. I liked the way how this person framed the thoughts. Besides, there was a lot in
common about our political opinions. In a couple of months, I decided to offer this
person to meet and discuss the possibility of creating our joint project or even our own
human rights organization. Surprisingly, this person agreed.
In early November 2015, we decided to meet in the park. I was supposed to wait for him
on the bench. I had a couple of new newspapers with articles about our President that I
was going to discuss with him. Suddenly, at the time when we were supposed to meet, a
guy appeared. He was of medium height, wearing a cap and glasses. He told me that he
liked my blog and was ready to discuss everything with me. He offered me to go to a
On our way, a group of three people attacked us. They pushed me on the ground and
kicked me several times on my body so hard that I felt that I was bleeding. I covered my
face with my hands to avoid being injured there. They guys hit me several times, after
which they said that if I say something else like this, they would rip out my tongue. The
guy, whom I met, turned out to be a setup. I got scared that by staying there I would
attract the public to myself and someone would take a picture of me. I decided to take a
taxi and get home as soon as possible, despite the pain I had. I tried to hide my face from
the taxi driver, who constantly asked me if I was okay and whether I wanted him to take
me to the hospital.
When I arrived home, my wife was there. She got scared when she saw me. She asked me
what was going on. When she provided me with the first assistance and I told her, she got
scared for me. She said that it was not a good idea to meet with a stranger and discuss my
political opinion with him. We both realized that it was dangerous for me to go to the
I changed the website where I wrote my blog again. My posts still gathered public
attention. However, soon I noticed that the guy who had written the comments to my
posts and who eventually set me up started posting comments quite to the opposite. He
openly threatened me and said that if I did not shut my mouth and did not close my blog,
I would experience serious problems. Luckily, I did not tell that guy where I lived,
otherwise I would have to move to another place. However, when I went outside, I put on
sunglasses and a hat to hide my face from the possible attack by the people who had
attacked me before.
In or about April 2016, my wife told me about one of our coworkers, who tried to find
out from her whether I still said any bad things about Putin. My wife said that I did not
say anything and that I was a good and diligent citizen. The guy said that thanks God I
closed my mouth, otherwise I would cause terrible attitude towards me. He told my wife
that I was a good guy, but if I continued saying something bad about our President, I
would cause a mass of problems against me.
In or about July 2016, around two months prior to the Parliament elections in Russia, the
pre-election campaign started. The people’s opinion disappointed me a lot about the
upcoming elections. A lot of people said that the President’s party, “Yedinaya Rossiya”
(“United Russia”) had to win, because our President and his party were the best. Other
people did not fully support the President and his party, however, they did not believe
that something would change about the situation in the country and that their votes would
change anything, so they decided not to go to the elections anyway.
The human rights organization, where I was registered, decided to hold a rally against
“United Russia” party. The rally was supposed to take place in August 2016 in the center
of the city. We made posters and prepared chants about the President. We also announced
the event in social networks. However, when we arrived at the event on the day assigned,
we saw about ten police cars and about fifty policemen, who asked us where we were
going. They threatened that if we made any further step or said something, we would be
immediately arrested and sent to jail. We had no other choice but turn away and leave.
In the evening of that day, I posted my recollection of the events. I was outraged that the
police forces supported the President in everything. I received a lot of comments about
my post. Some of the posts, however, openly laughed at me and my political opinion. As
I expected, around two or three days after I made a post, it disappeared.
In early September 2016, our boss announced that on the following day we were going to
the rally in support of Putin’s party. I decided that my wife and I would not go. We
stayed at home and did not go to work on that day. In the evening of the same day, my
boss called me and informed that my wife and I were the only people from our company
who did not come to the rally. He ordered us to write explanation notes for him outlining
the good reason why we did not come. We had no other choice but explain that our child
got sick. When we showed the explanation to the manager, he looked suspiciously at us.
He told us that if he found out that we continued openly expressing bad opinion about our
President, we would regret.
Despite the oppositionist parties’ efforts to occupy more seats in the Parliament, the
“United Russia” party managed to win the elections. I am almost positive that this
happened because a lot of people who in fact did not support Putin did not believe that
any oppositionist parties would win the elections.
One of the neighbors in our building, with whom I had discussed this situation before,
met me in the building in late September 2016 and told me, “You see! I told you that this
would happen!” I told her that maybe if she and her friends voted for another party at the
elections, maybe the outcome would be different. She just gave a wave of the hand on
that, meaning that this would not change anything.
Around a month from that day, when I was returning from work, I was attacked by one
guy, whom I had not seen before. He leaned me against the wall and punched me hard on
the face. He called me names like “sonofab..ch,” “jerk” and others. I asked him who he
was, and he asked whether it was me who had told his mother to vote for oppositionists. I
asked him, “So what?” And he said, “This is why!” Then he removed a “United Russia”
party member ID out of his pocket. He asked me whether I had anything against our
President. I did not have a chance to say anything as he kicked me on my stomach with
his knee. I felt terrible pain. He told me that he remembered me and if I say something
similar to his mother or to someone else, my family and I would have bad problems.
I got very scared. When I came home, my wife got scared. She provided me with the first
assistance again. She told me that this time I should probably stop, because I would not
change anything. I had nothing else to say.
I stopped writing posts to my blog for a couple of months. I was scared for my family’s
safety, so for a couple of month my instinct was that I had to give up on the idea of
opposing Putin’s policy. I was scared that if something happened to my wife or children,
I would never forgive myself.
However, in or about February 2017, someone from the human rights organization where
I was registered sent me a link to a video showing the fortune of the Crimean Tatar who
had fled the Crimea and another video about the life of ordinary people in the Russian
villages, who were literally dying of hunger. The video asked, “What are you doing,
Putin?” I was so outraged about this that I decided that I could not stop at that and that I
had to write about it.
I posted my thoughts about Putin’s attitude toward the people living in the Russian
villages. A lot of people supported me. One comment, however, said only the words,
“We’ll catch and kill you!” I decided not to tell my wife about it in order not to worry
In May 2017, when we were home in the evening, suddenly someone knocked on the
door. When I opened the door, I saw three police officers. They demanded that I let them
in. They told me that my neighbors had complained that a child was crying very loudly in
our apartment and they wanted to check in. We showed them that our children were not
crying and were actually playing very well. They said that since the children were
involved, they had to search our apartment. I asked them what they expected to see, and
they responded that they knew what they were looking for.
They turned everything upside down in my apartment and found a lot of newspapers with
the articles about Putin. They also demanded that I take the hard drive out of my
computer and hand it to them. They literally ordered me to do that. I did not even have a
chance to copy the contents of my hard drive anywhere. They took all the politically
oriented books from my home. The search lasted for about four hours. The police officers
told me that I was on the hook and they would contact me if they needed something from
I could not eat or sleep. I was very scared that something bad would happen to me or my
family. Finally, in about two weeks, I received a phone call from the police who told me
to appear at the police station as soon as possible. I got scared.
I told everything to my wife. She could not believe that this would happen to us. I
understood that it was a bad idea for me to go to the police precinct as ordered, because I
would subject myself to serious problems.
We decided to flee Russia. Prior to our departure, I received official summons in the mail
that I had to appear there, otherwise I would be announced wanted and would be sent to
jail. I only hoped that everything would go well in the airport and we would leave the
country safely. Luckily, the date when I was supposed to appear as summoned was later
than the date of our leaving Russia.
Luckily, we managed to arrive in the United States safely. We are happy that in this
country nothing bad is threatening us.
I am scared that if my family and I are returned to Russia, the country of my citizenship,
we will be subjected to terrible harm and mistreatment that can even lead to our deaths.
The situation in Russia is very terrible, and the people are scared to express their political
opinion. Those who express their opinion of the President openly are subjected to
persecutions. Currenly, the law enforcement authorities have everything on me, which is
enough to send me to jail till the end of my life. I am scared for myself and for my family