Top film director apologizes after rift with Putin over breaking up Russia
Russian film director Alexander Sokurov has written to the head of the country’s Human Rights Council (HRC) apologising for causing a scandal after suggesting Moscow cut off the North Caucasus to protect the country’s cohesion.
Earlier this month, during a meeting with the HRC, Sokurov told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the country would be better off letting Russia’s southern republics go it alone.
“It seems to me that more and more Russians are beginning to dislike the Federation,” he told the president. “Many young people in the Caucasus … told me openly: you Russians don't really deserve respect.”
“Let's let go of everyone who no longer wants to live with us in the same state. Let's wish them luck. Let's wish good luck to all,” he concluded.
The director’s speech drew an indignant reaction from Putin, who called the rant a “manifesto” and a “set of problems and fears,” suggesting that Russia would dissolve like Yugoslavia did in the 1990s.
“Don't stir up trouble,” Putin told him. “Are the Russian people, about whose interests you just spoke, really interested in the disintegration of the Russian Federation? … Do you want to turn us into Moskovia?”
Following the broadcast, and the subsequent backlash, Sokurov wrote to Valery Fadeyev, the head of the HRC, apologizing for his outburst. In the letter, he expressed regret for causing trouble and dubbed himself a “dilettante,” agreeing with a suggestion by Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, that he does not have the expertise to engage in political discussions.
The director, apparently scared of a violent reaction from locals in the Russian Caucasus, also went on to ask for protection against the Chechens.
“My friends warn me of the imminent danger to my life,” he said. “The only guarantee I have for my life may be that the president will prevent such a radical denouement.”
Earlier, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called Sokurov a “bazaar aunt” and a “corrupt bastard,” and called for his words to be investigated by law enforcement for extremism.
Following the apology letter, Peskov dismissed Sokurov’s rant as a “very interesting and informative discussion.” He rejected the premise that Sokurov needed to repent, and that his life could be in danger.
“So there is nothing to apologize for here. There was a discussion and the president reacted. The president argued with him, and disagreed with Sokurov's point of view. Yes, they disagreed, but that is normal, there is nothing to apologise for,” the spokesman said.