Russia’s top YouTuber speaks out against the war in Ukraine
One of Russia’s most popular YouTubers, Ruslan Usachev, has spoken out against Vladimir Putin and his decision to invade Ukraine.
Usachev is one of many Russian social media stars whose livelihoods have been affected by Google’s decision to demonetize YouTube videos in Russia, but he thinks even heavier penalties could come from the Russian authorities themselves. .
Usachev, 32, has more than 4 million followers on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Born and raised in Russia, he strongly opposes his home country’s recent actions in Ukraine. Addressed exclusively to Newsweekhe called on countries and governments to settle their differences through “diplomacy, commerce and the power of their culture – not with rockets and hatred”.
While Usachev broadcasts in Russian, the nature of his travel videos posted online means he has not been based in Russia since June 2021. Newsweek from Dubai, he expressed his feelings on the Russian-Ukrainian war, Google’s suspension of ads on Russian YouTube and how it affects influencers like him.
Usachev’s position on the war
When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Usachev was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, filming a blog. Although he is aware of how attitudes towards Russians may have “deteriorated” following the invasion, he says he personally has not encountered this.
“When it all started I was in Rio and the people there were quite sympathetic towards the Russians who have been hit hard by US sanctions for what our government has done. It all depends on what part of the world you are in. you find,” Usachev said.
Confirming his stance against Russia’s violence and actions in Ukraine, Usachev told Newsweek: “I am against any military action that results in the death of innocent people. If countries or governments have geopolitical ambitions, they must achieve through diplomacy, trade and the power of their culture. Not with rockets and hate.”
“It’s a naive attitude, I know, but they can’t stop me from dreaming.”
Putin calls the invasion a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine, a justification rejected by Ukraine and Western countries. Recent opinion polls have shown that Putin’s popularity has increased among Russians since the invasion.
Based on recent events, Usachev says he is unlikely to return to Russia anytime soon. He previously traveled around the world for his YouTube channel.
“I made videos and tried to figure out if this was the place I wanted to stay permanently. It looks like Vladimir Putin decided to speed up that decision for me,” he said. .
Usachev hopes that the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine will end soon, but he predicts that the final outcome will remain uncertain. “Now I suspect it will all end in a week or two with some kind of peace deal or a freeze on the conflict.
“Each side will declare themselves the winner, but in reality both will have suffered huge losses from these horrific events,” he said.
Become a Russian YouTuber
Ruslan Usachev, or as his native subscribers call him, Руслан Усачев, joined YouTube in 2010 and amassed 2.66 million subscribers and 444 million views during that time. His ambitious travel blogs and humorous videos have remained popular, and he regularly collaborates with the Russian blogging community ClickKlak.
He admits he originally joined YouTube because it turned out to be a great “free platform where anyone can find their voice”, despite not being monetized in Russia at the time. . He calls his own success on YouTube a “miracle”.
Its more popular video (see below) is a 47-minute adventure featuring him and his friends on a $40,000 cruise to the North Pole. It has been viewed over 8.5 million times online.
All that success is now under threat, according to Usachev. He thinks the Russian authorities are likely to impose a total ban on YouTube because it can be seen as an “information warfare tool”.
“It won’t just hurt bloggers, whom many Russians see as parasites with no real job,” Usachev said. Newsweek. “YouTube is the nation’s largest online video platform and such a move would mean companies can’t promote their services, people lose access to alternative information and opinions, and things will just get boring. “
Google’s decision to suspend ad monetization in Russia has not proven disastrous for businesses so far. Usachev says he and many other top bloggers rely more on brand partnerships for their primary source of income.
“Perhaps canceling ads and monetizing YouTube in Russia is Google’s way of distancing itself from the conflict [in Ukraine]“, said Usachev.
“Now YouTube has blocked all channels linked to the Russian government, which had previously managed to get through Western sanctions. It seems that any agreement between the Russian government and the [Alphabet] society have become void. So YouTube may well be blocked in the near future,” Usachev predicted.
More recently, Usachev’s videos have seen him comment on world news stories, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
YouTube bloggers, social media influencers and internet celebrities have become such a pillar of global culture that their actions and words now often have major political repercussions.
When Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine, Usachev made a joke on Twitter about the negative economic impact the decision had on Russia. As a result, he was banned from entering Ukraine and put on a list of people who pose a threat to Ukraine’s national security. He said: “I think that ban expired last summer, but I haven’t had a chance to check. And now I have no desire to find out.”
Ruslan Usachev was speaking in Russian and Newsweek translated his remarks.