If you’re Russian, it can take some serious guts to protest Putin’s war in Ukraine. In a state that cracks down harshly on protest and dissent, thousands have been arrested at anti-war demonstrations across the country. You’ve no doubt already seen videos of protesters appearing to get dragged away for holding up placards which simply say ‘two words’ – or even signs which are totally blank.
While celebrity activism can sometimes feel a bit empty, disconnected or even a bit silly, it can also have a real impact on millions of people. Famous people often have legions of fans, and therefore quite a bit of power and influence. These days, people might be more likely to be influenced by respected celebs than politicians and journalists.
That’s where Oxxxymiron comes in. This rapper is one of Russia’s most influential musicians, and now he’s trying to use his platform to turn public opinion in the country against the war. First he cancelled six sold-out concerts in Moscow and St Petersburg, saying he couldn’t perform for Russians while missiles fell on Ukrainians, and now he’s gone a step further, organising charity concerts in support of the besieged country.
Oxxxymiron was born Miron Yanovich Fyodorov in St Petersburg (then called Leningrad) in 1985. He moved to the UK aged 15 and, naturally, went on to get a degree from the University of Oxford, all while keeping up a career as a rapper and songwriter. He became known for taking part in rap battles, becoming one of the most-watched battle rappers in the entire world.
On Tuesday, he held a live-streamed concert in Istanbul to raise money for Ukrainian refugees. Between songs, he pleaded with Russians who support the war (or, as it’s officially known in Russia, the ‘special military operation’) to reconsider their position. He was careful not to order people to think certain things (after all, no one likes being told what to do), instead asking pro-war Russians to ‘investigate the alternative’.
It was a brave move, but Oxxxymiron isn’t the only Russian celeb showing their opposition to Putin. Plenty of others, from tennis players Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to Bolshoi ballerina Olga Smirnova, have voiced criticism of the war. Oxxxymiron isn’t the only musician, either: the likes of Kasta, Shym, Vladi, Khamil, Zmey and Noize MC have all condemned Putin’s invasion, too.
While many of these celebrities are safe from arrest or imprisonment because they’re based abroad, speaking out against Putin’s regime and the invasion of Ukraine is still an incredibly courageous thing for them to do.
If you’re based in the UK and want to support Oxxxymiron’s attempts to change the hearts and minds of pro-war Russians (while raising money for Ukrainian refugees), he’s got an upcoming charity concert at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London called ‘Russians Against War’. You can buy tickets here.
Want to do your bit? Here are 18 ways to help the people of Ukraine right now.