Who is the Russian journalist who was not allowed into Georgia? Story of Vasily Krestyaninov
Russian journalist not allowed into Georgia
Because of his oppositional views, Krestyaninov was persecuted in his homeland even before the start of the war in Ukraine. He moved to Georgia in November 2021 and has since lived in the country’s capital, Tbilisi, working for independent media Associated Press and The Insider.
At the end of August, Kristianinov went to Vilnius to participate in the “Congress of Free Russia”, and on September 3 he returned to Tbilisi via Yerevan. According to the journalist, he was not asked any questions at the Tbilisi airport, the border guard took a picture of his passport and sent it to the authorities.
An hour later, a policeman approached Krestyanov and said that he had to return to Yerevan. The journalist was not provided any explanations as to why he was being denied entry to Georgia. The document handed over to him by the police said he was denied entry to Georgia “for other reasons.”
A copy of the document was published by The Insider.
In March, JAMnews prepared an article about citizens of Russia and Belarus who decided to leave their countries and moved to Georgia. One of the main characters of the report was Vasily Krestyaninov.
Here is an excerpt from the article where the photojournalist tells his story:
In principle, the citizens of Russia today do not have much choice in where to go. Europe and the USA are closed to them if they don’t have a visa. Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Israel, as well as the countries of Central Asia are the destinations where most people “fly” from Russia.
Citizens of Russia and Belarus do not need a visa to enter Georgia. They can live there without leaving for a year.
Georgia is also attractive because the cost of living is relatively low and the local climate is pleasant.
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Citizens of Russia and Belarus told JAMnews why they decided to come to Georgia.
One of the arguments in favor of choosing Georgia is the hospitality of local people.
However, this time those who come to Georgia see a different picture. Along with the flags of Ukraine fluttering all over the city, on the streets of Tbilisi, one can often see the inscriptions: “Russians – go home”, “Russian ship – go to hell”, etc.
“Now my home is Georgia”
Vasily Krestyaninov, 24, left Russia a few months before the war. He has been living in Tbilisi for four months now.
Vasily is from Moscow, he was born and raised there. Today he does not know when he will return to his country and whether he will return at all.
It all started a year ago, on Vladimir Putin’s birthday. On that day, 23-year-old physical education teacher Vasily Krestyaninov participated in an anti-government rally in the center of Moscow.
Krestyaninov was detained, fined $200 for participating in an unsanctioned rally, and released, but from that moment on, his life turned into hell.
He was called to the police station along with his father, who has been working as the director for 30 years in the same school where Vasily taught physical education.
The police called Vasily a disgrace to the country and a traitor and told him that they knew everything about him – with whom he is friends, what he posts on social networks, and so on.
“In Russia, you should not be called to the police. If you are called, it means that things are really bad. It doesn’t matter the reason – even if it’s a small matter if you get called to the police, this is it for you”.
Vasily quit his job so that his father would not lose his position, and took up photojournalism.
“I have filmed for various international media. I didn’t come out to protests, but I tried to fight this system by covering the rallies and spreading information”.
During the year, Vasily filmed all the rallies that took place in Moscow.
“In Russia, a banner can be unfolded for only 30 seconds, so you need to take a good photo in those 30 seconds. Even if you are holding a blank banner, the ambush cop will come up within 30 seconds at the most and drag you into the car. What will happen next, no one knows.
If you only go to a rally once, you will be followed everywhere. If you write a comment on social media that, for example, you do not like Putin, the next day a policeman will come to your house. If you write words like ‘Putin is a thief’, the door of your house will be broken”, says Vasily.
Later, his brother was called to the police and ordered to follow Vasily.
“I already wanted to leave then, because my whole family was in danger, but I stayed anyway. I still hoped that we could make a difference”.
In November 2021, he was contacted by the police. This time he was offered cooperation.
Vasily sat in the department and watched himself on video recordings: how he walks along the street, how he takes pictures at rallies. The police said that if he did not cooperate, they would find drugs on him and put him in jail.
Vasily refused to cooperate. This meant that he could not stay in the territory of the Russian Federation for a single day more. As soon as he left the police building, he bought a ticket and flew to Tbilisi.
“I won’t be able to return to Russia until the end of the Putin regime”, he says.
Now Vasily is a freelance photographer collaborating with various media. He rents an apartment in the city center with his girlfriend, who, along with her family, also fled the Russian regime.
Vasily and Liza love to walk in nature, in the mountains – every week they go out of town and visit places that are not popular with tourists.
“I went to shoot in Kazakhstan and when I returned, I had the feeling that I was going home. Now my home is Georgia. However, I will never forget that I am a guest here. Nobody should forget that we are guests in Georgia. Often the citizens of my country forget about it, and problems with the Georgian people can arise only in this case”.