Tracking cookies

To make our website even easier and more personal, we use cookies (and similar techniques). With these cookies we and third parties can collect information about you and monitor your internet behavior within (and possibly also outside) our website. If you agree with this, we will place these tracking cookies.

Yes, I give permissionNo thanks
{aantal_resultaten} Resultaten

“We wrote that a former war criminal's family lives in the house” - how anti-war activists are fighting Putin in Spain


Fierce opponents of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been forced to flee  abroad to avoid participating in the aggressive war unleashed by Putin's regime.

Media Loft correspondent Katya Kobenok is working on a series of interviews with Russian activists in Europe who are organising protests against Russia's invasion of an independent state.

This time Katya spoke to Alexei Nesterenko, president of the Association of Free Russians in Spain, who talked about the specifics of anti-war protests in Spain, local freedom of speech and how Putin's ex-wife was frightened by the activists' visit and immediately afterwards ,unexpectedly  put her luxury villa in Marbella up for sale.

"I gave Russia a second chance"

Alexei himself is originally from Khabarovsk. He says that ever since the late 1990s, he has understood that Russia is on the wrong track.

"I took part in the protest movements in 2010-2013 in Russia. I stood on Bolotnaya [square in Moscow]. I supported Alexei Navalny," Alexei recalls.

Alexei first left Russia - for Thailand - in 2013. But then he decided to return, hoping to make a difference in his home country.

"I gave Russia a second chance. There were protests and Navalny was becoming well known. It was 2017,  I was going to rallies in Sochi and in 2018 I took part in protests before the presidential election. When Putin was re-elected in 2018, my wife and I just packed our bags and left," Alexei recalls.

Alexei actively supported Russian opposition leader Vyacheslav Maltsev, who called for the overthrow of Putin. Maltsev was prosecuted under the article "Establishment of an extremist community" in 2017. He and many of his supporters emigrated.

Since 2018, Alexey has been living in Valencia, Spain, where he repairs electric bicycles and electric scooters.

A global community of activists

The Association of Free Russians in Spain has been in existence for more than two years. Alexei says he decided to organise his compatriots when Alexei Navalny was arrested at Sheremetyevo airport in January 2021.

"They are arresting Navalny. I started writing in Russian-speaking chat rooms: 'Guys, let's organise a rally' and people supported it. They started looking for a way to organise a rally. That's when the whole global Russian protest movement started. People just gathered in different cities," Alexei recalls.

After the call, 120 people took part in rallies in Valencia alone. Activists began to contact compatriots in other Spanish cities.

"Then we started coordinating not only across Spain, but around the world.  We met guys from the USA, from Germany, from France and after that, a global community of activists was formed," Alexei recalls.

"Putin is not your friend"

Alexei says anti-war activists in Spain are constantly fighting Kremlin propaganda.

"Spain is a very peculiar country. There are local leftists, they have a direct hatred of NATO, a hatred of America,  so there is a strong sympathy for Russia, for Putin.  We try to explain to them that Putin is not your friend at all and he will not help you with NATO. He has his own aims," says Alexei.

Activists recently prepared material about the notorious pro-Kremlin project "Union of Organisations of Russian Compatriots in Spain".

"The organisation Rossotrudnichestvo is under sanctions by the European Union. But at the same time on the website of this union there is information that they are holding a children's festival "Balaganchik". It says on the website: "With the support of Rossotrudnichestvo". Why? How? They write it in Russian, but we translate it all into Spanish, send it to the authorities and say it's a banned organisation and it is organising festivals in the country," says Alexei.

Another stage in the activists' fight against pro-Russian sentiments takes place in May. In Spain, as in many countries around the world, they are holding an event called the Immortal Regiment.

"Last year, we wrote an application to the authorities for them to be cancelled. In the end they did not take place in Alicante and Barcelona. But they did in Madrid because the Russian embassy is there," Alexey recalls.

A visit to Putin's ex-wife

Some time ago, activists paid a visit to one of the villas of Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, who is the former wife of Vladimir Putin. Both villas are in the luxury residential complex Lomas del Rey, located in the resort town of Marbella in southern Spain.

"She and Artur [Ocherenny, Lyudmila's new husband] have two luxury villas  in Marbella and we went  'for a visit'. We went there with cameras, filmed the material and put up a notice saying that the house was home to the former family of war criminal Vladimir Putin," Alexei recalls.

The activists documented the trip and posted it on their channel.

"A few days later this duplex was put up for sale. They got a little scared there. We wrote statements, sent them to the prosecutor's office, which forwarded our statement to Marbella. There is some movement at the local level," says Aleksey.

The Ochery people are already under sanctions by the UK, but not by the EU. The Ukrainian government, Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and some other groups are demanding their inclusion on the EU sanctions list.

In February 2023, it became known that the Ocheretnyes are still trying to sell their property in Marbella. The media believe that the reason for the sale may be the fear of falling under EU sanctions, which provide for the seizure of real estate.

Protests in Europe are important

Alexei believes that even in Europe, Russians need to come out to protest against Putin's regime. This is the way to stop the propaganda policy that the Kremlin is trying to spread among Europeans.

"We need to maintain the theme that there is a war going on, that we are against the war. Recently it was the anniversary of the war. Many people came out because it was important to show the world that there are Russians who are against the war and do not support Putin's regime," says the activist.

Regarding the reality of the situation in Russia, there is freedom of speech in Spain, Alexei explains.

"If you read Spanish Twitter, there are so many different opinions out there. They have complete freedom. Those who oppose the current government can say it openly," he says.

Spain will hold parliamentary elections at the end of the year, and there is a real political struggle going on in the country right now, says Alexei.

"When the law on mobilisation was passed in Russia, everyone voted because it was necessary. But here in Spain, if they want to pass a law, everyone discusses it. There are coalitions, on the left, on the right, they do not let each other down, they discuss it," he admires.

An entire country is suffering

Alexei says he will fight the Kremlin regime to the end.

"The war has motivated a lot of people, because this is no longer a problem  of corruption, of lack of fair elections or of political prisoners in Russia. Now the whole country is suffering. You have to do something to make it stop," he says.

Alexei's wife is Ukrainian and calls her family, who lives under Russian shelling, almost every day.

"When the bombing starts, we worry together. We are constantly in touch with her family, trying to support them," says the activist.

Russia's military invasion of Ukraine has continued for more than a year now. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, there are almost 22,000 documented victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The UN also notes that the real number of victims is probably much higher, as information from places where intense fighting has been taking place has been delayed and many reports have yet to be confirmed.

This is the case in cities such as Mariupol, Lysychansk, Popasna and Severodonetsk, where first accounts suggest that many civilians have been injured by Russian forces.

The Association of Free Russians has been active in anti-war activities in Spain. At the beginning of June, activists joined a worldwide campaign in support of politician Alexei Navalny. The Oliva Live channel also frequently publishes activists' investigations into Russian propaganda.

Recently, with the help of the association's activists, journalists were able to investigate the story of former Russia Today editor Inna Afinogenova, who is actually engaged in propaganda on the far-left Spanish TV channel.

By: Katya Kobenok

Photos: from the personal archive of Alexei Nesterenko


"It is important to shout about this war as loudly as possible": interview with Pussy Riot participant Olga Borisova


"You are not alone": large-scale actions in support of Alexei Navalny took place all over the world on 4 June