Dissidents speak out from Lithuania after fleeing Putin's Russia | 60 Minutes

Dissidents Expose Putin’s Russia in Outspoken Interviews from Lithuania on 60 Minutes

Today marks election day in Russia, but the outcome holds no surprises. Vladimir Putin, at 71, is set to claim victory once again, continuing his 24-year reign. His path to victory this time, as in the past, has been cleared in a chilling manner, with his opponents meeting untimely deaths; one perished in a plane explosion, and Alexey Navalny, Putin’s main adversary, died last month in a prison camp in the Arctic. Putin has effectively eliminated nearly all domestic opposition to his unprovoked aggression towards Ukraine. Despite this, a brave group of Russians persists in their fight from abroad. We encountered some of these resilient individuals in a city that could be considered the heart of free Russia.

This city is Vilnius, situated 500 miles west of Moscow, in Lithuania, a country that harbors no fondness for Russia. Lithuania is a democratic nation of around 3 million people and a proud NATO member. The capital, Vilnius, stands in solidarity with Ukraine, its streets and buildings adorned with Ukrainian colors. The city has even renamed the address of the Russian embassy to “Heroes of Ukraine Street,” sending a clear message to Putin, who is also facing an arrest warrant from the international court in The Hague. Since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Lithuania has opened its doors to over 2,500 Russian exiles seeking refuge.

Mantas Adomenas, who served as Lithuania’s deputy foreign minister until last August, emphasized the country’s commitment to offering sanctuary to all those fighting for freedom. He highlighted the strong connection Lithuanians feel towards Ukraine, recognizing that the battle for Ukraine’s independence is intrinsically linked to their own security and freedom. Adomenas assured that Lithuania is prepared to welcome and support more Russian dissidents, offering them opportunities to work towards freedom and democracy in Russia.

Among the Russian exiles in Lithuania is Anastasia Shevchenko, a mother and activist who fled Putin’s regime two years ago. She describes the Russian government as a terrorist regime, using threats and intimidation against its own people and other countries. Shevchenko became an activist driven by the challenges she faced in securing care for her daughter, Alina, who was severely disabled and neglected by the Russian healthcare system. Despite the risks, Shevchenko spoke out against the government’s failures, leading to her arrest and house arrest, during which her daughter tragically passed away.

In 2021, Shevchenko received a four-year suspended sentence. However, the invasion of Ukraine in the following year compelled her to leave Russia. She now resides in Vilnius with her two surviving children, continuing her activism through a YouTube show and supporting political prisoners back in Russia.

Sergei Davidis, another Russian dissident now in Lithuania, spoke about the increasing arrests and violence against political opponents in Russia. Davidis, who was involved with one of Russia’s largest human rights groups, Memorial, highlighted the government’s crackdown on independent media and the prohibition of dissenting opinions.

In Vilnius, Tatyana Felgenhauer and Aleksandr Plyuschev, former Moscow radio hosts, continue to speak out against the war and the Russian regime through their YouTube channel. They emphasize the importance of honest reporting and the need to counteract the feeling of isolation created by the Kremlin’s propaganda.

The story of these courageous individuals and their fight for freedom and democracy serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against authoritarianism. Their resilience and determination to speak out, despite the risks, offer hope for a future where truth and justice prevail.