In a candid interview with the Vsemu Golovin Youtube channel, Artemi Panarin spoke out against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the current state of affairs in his homeland.
In the interview, which was helpfully translated from Russian to English by Russian journalist Slava Malamud, Panarin openly criticizes Putin's policies and spoke out against the corruption in Moscow, the nation's capital:
"I think he (Putin) no longer understands what’s right and what’s wrong. Psychologically, it’s not easy for him to judge the situation soberly. He has a lot of people who influence his decisions. But if everyone is walking around you for 20 years telling you what a great guy you are and how great a job you are doing, you will never see your mistakes."
Panarin, who signed a seven-year, $81.5M contract with the New York Rangers on July 1, bemoaned the state of politics in his native country.
"There is still this belief in our society that you can’t say bad things about the government or you will be killed or poisoned. This should not be happening. [In America] a star or an athlete can directly badmouth the president, and nothing will happen. They can refuse to go to the White House. But here, it’s impossible."
The entire interview, for those who speak Russian:
Says Malamud: "This is quite an unprecedented thing to happen in modern-day Russian sports where athletes (such as Panarin’s colleague Alex Ovechkin) often seem to be competing in groveling before powers that be."
People are asking what might happen to Panarin now. I honestly have no idea and nobody in Russia does either. This has never happened before. Putin could always count on jocks to have his back.— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) July 19, 2019
I am not sure even he knows how to proceed. Or if to proceed in any way.
The Blue Jackets were almost left out of the interview, though not quite. In a Mt. Rushmore-level backhanded compliment, Panarin said the following:
“We have two cities that are developing, Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but the rest of them are a joke. I lived in Columbus, which isn’t even in the top 10 American cities, but look at the pictures and you will see how nice it looks. Everything is clean, safe, everyone is calm. It’s great. American cities are developing thanks to local taxes which stay in the state. But here, a lot of money goes to Moscow, so people everywhere work for Moscow’s benefit. I always thought it’s unfair.”
Malamud joined Sportsnet 590 to offer his thoughts on the situation.
Panarin admitted that he was afraid of facing backlash or even punishment for the interview and said that he should be able to express his thoughts whether they're positive or not. As Malamud mentioned on twitter, it will be interesting to see if Panarin is able to play for Russia in international competitions moving forward.
"I think you have to respect me somewhat, because I have the money, I have everything, I could just sit and be mum and happy that my ass is warm. But what I say, I say for the people, to make sure there are changes. I am not an American agent. I have just seen how things work in another country and I want some things, like the rule of law, to be transplanted here. I want all people here to say what they think, to be able to build their small businesses without interference and so on.
Many will hear what I am saying now and think I am some kind of a (foreign) agent or something. But I am simply stating my opinion. I may be wrong, but I want people to think that I am being sincere, with good intentions."