The Israeli-American filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky was born 50 years ago in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, one of the republics of the former Soviet Union, where he lived until he was 18 years old. Seeing no future as an artist there, he left the USSR in June 1991, a few months before its collapse. Because of his Jewish roots, he took advantage of a repatriation to Israel and, years later, he chose to go live in the United States, where he was naturalized and where he currently resides.
“When Maidan won, in February 2014, Putin realized that he had lost control of Ukraine because the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, left the country.”
Afineevsky, who speaks perfect Russian and who never forgot the part of the world where he was born, He is one of the top promoters of the Ukrainian cause. After the latest events, he is convinced that Vladimir Putin’s regime, which in the past tried to poison him, according to what he said, “has already partially collapsed,” he said in an interview with La Nación in Argentina.
Nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy for his documentary winter on fire (2015), on the Maidan Revolution at the end of 2013-2014, with which the Ukrainians said enough to Putin’s puppet governments, Afineevsky presented a few days ago in Rome Freedom on fire, Ukraine’s fight for freedomhis latest film about the ongoing war, which he considers the continuation of the so-called Ukrainian “Revolution of Dignity”.
“The 93-day Maidan protest – which I witnessed firsthand and was fascinated by how the idea of democracy and freedom can unite everyone, rich and poor, race and religion, despite differences – changed not only Ukraine and the lives of those patriots and heroes who died for those ideals. When Maidan won in February 2014, Putin realized that he had lost control of Ukraine because pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych left the country. And then decided to start the war: Russian soldiers at the end of that month entered the Crimea, initial kick of the aggression. But the world was silent then ”, evoked the filmmaker.
“The world continued to close its eyes for eight years, in which many people lost their lives in Donbass, until on February 24, 2022 Putin launched a full-scale invasion that is a Third World War,” he added.
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It was then that Afineevsky – who in 2020 made Francescoa documentary about Pope Francis, whom he often sees in the Vatican, and before that one about the civil war in Syria, Cries from Syria-, he felt that he had to make a second part of his documentary about Ukraine. And I had to show the world the current war through the concrete people, children, soldiers, journalists, doctors, mothers. People whose lives have been turned upside down, but who don’t give up.
“The documentary became my exploration of the courage of Ukrainians, who are fiercely determined to resist to the last drop of blood. They have shown an impressive ability to unite as a people to defend the sovereignty of their country and an impressive resilience, despite being surrounded by death, destruction and heinous crimes,” he explained.
What do you think of the recent rebellion by Yevgeny Prigozhin?
What we saw is just the beginning and we will see more in the coming months. This rebellion made it clear that the Putin regime is very weak and in a dead end. As we saw a few days ago, Prigozhin would still be in Russia, just like his people. He prepared his rebellion-march in absolute silence and with many allies within the Government and the military establishment. So I wouldn’t be surprised if now, quietly, he was preparing his next move and his next chapter in this rebellion. And this time it could be the end of the regime.
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Don’t you think there could be reprisals against him and the Wagner group?
Nothing is going to happen. As we could a few days ago, Prigozhin and his group were still in Russia. No one was punished nor will be.
Do you think Putin has been weakened by the failed coup?
This rebellion 100% proved that the Putin regime is very weak and has its back against the wall.
Do you think it can collapse in the short term?
The regime has already partially collapsed. The Kremlin propaganda machine, which was the regime’s strongest tool to control the people, could not justify anything that happened to the putsch (coup) and could not explain the fact that nobody was punished and that everyone is free and moving inside Russia. It is a matter of a very short time before Yevgeny Prigozhin or someone like him attacks Putin and the rest of the members of this semi-collapsed regime again. But this time it will happen unexpectedly and from inside Moscow and they will simply overthrow it.
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What do you think of Pope Francis’ peace mission, which sent Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to kyiv and Moscow?
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has very close relations with the Community of Sant’Egidio and was very involved in peace negotiations and conflict resolution in various countries around the world. The Community of Sant’Egidio also created many humanitarian corridors and evacuated civilians from war zones. This gives Cardinal Zuppi great credibility and I applaud Pope Francis for choosing him. But I think everyone knows that in the current World War III situation there are many limitations and very few possibilities for negotiations at this time.
Do not see any possibility of negotiation?
From the position of Ukraine and Russia, the answer is no. Ukraine did not start this war and did not annex anyone’s territory. The country is fighting Russian invaders inside its own Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is defending her motherland and the Ukrainian people from a brutal and inhuman aggression by Russia. Therefore, Ukraine is not going to come to the negotiating table to discuss anything until the last Russian soldier is shooting or walking inside Ukrainian territory. And I mean also the territory occupied as of 2014, such as the Crimean peninsula.
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So how can the Church help with the pope’s peace mission?
The Holy Father’s mission can help save the lives of the innocent victims of this war, that is, the 19,493 children who have been stolen and deported to Russia from the Ukraine. In addition, he can help with prisoner exchanges and evacuate civilians and soldiers from war zones, creating humanitarian corridors, as he did last year in Mariupol with people trapped at the Azov steel plant. I know that President Zelensky asked the Holy Father and Cardinal Zuppi for help in this life-saving mission, which are noble and humble gestures that the pope continues to do every day in different ways.
How do you think this war will end?
Ukraine has already started its counteroffensive. It may be slow, but it is happening and sometimes it is better to do things slowly but surely. I think that when Ukraine retakes the Crimean peninsula and the other occupied territories, the Putin regime will be finished. I think the other part of Putin’s end will be an internal rebellion that will take place in Russia, as he mentioned before. For a semi-collapsed regime like Putin’s, managing two wars -one internal and one external, in Ukraine- is absolutely impossible. Therefore, I believe that the war will end and Ukraine, with the help and support of the international community, will win.
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