News / 31.05.2014

Andrey Mironov, journalist, fixer, translator, and a human rights activist

The following day deaths of Andrea Rochelli (aged 30), Italian freelance photojournalist, and Andrey Mironov (aged 60), who was acting there as Andrea’s interpreter were confirmed. Andrey Mironov also contributed to the Novaya Gazeta, his last article being published there just a few days before the death.

The article by Andrey Mironov was entitled “We are not animals. Don’t, please, encircle us with barbed wire”[1]. The photos were made by Andrea Rochelli. It was their last team-work. The article voiced situation and opinions of two local families with many children, also adopted. They were hiding in cellars. Children were taught “what to do in case of shelling”. Andrey Mironov quoted those people as saying, “We don’t want our children see all that. It is important that all the victims from both sides be the last. Peace, only peace!”

Late afternoon Andrey and Andrea together with a French photojournalist William Roguelon were in the car driving in the direction of the bridge near Andreyevka village at the outskirts of Slavyansk. Christopher Chivers, a reporter for New York Times who also worked in Slavyansk, happened to have warned about this particular location as extremely dangerous a few days before the tragedy. He wrote in his Facebook post from May 15, “The rebel barricade on the east side of the bridge to Andreyevka appears to be registered by the Ukrainian forces as a mortar target. The barricade is a few empty railroad cargo wagons sitting on the tracks and blocking the road. One of the larger Ukrainian positions in the area is atop the hill on the far side of the bridge, near the large broadcast tower. From this position, the Ukrainians have intermittently fired mortar rounds down at the barricade and the area immediately behind, where rebels and journalists used to park their cars[2] Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist who is also now near Slavyansk, wrote on May 25, “They happened to be in the most unfortunate place at the most unfortunate time”[3]. Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Media Representative, in her statement to mourn the perished journalists, also stated that her office also has information that the same day, May 24, three Belarusian journalists with BelSat TV, came under mortar fire but no injuries were reported[4]

Andrey Mironov worked in various conflicts, a fixer, a translator, a journalist and a human rights activist. His path of a human rights defender started when he as a boy living in a small Siberian town of Izhevsk joined “young pioneers’” history unit and got an assignment to interview a person who participated in the shooting of the Tzar Nicholas’ family, his brother Alexander told me. “He must have been shocked with what he heard then,” Alexander recollects. After finishing school, he found a job of a restorator with Izhevsk town history museum. To study methods of restoration, he was sent to Tartu in Estonia. Then Andrey got to know the oral history of Estonians and started to interview its keepers.

Gradually Andrey Mironov entered Soviet dissident movement. He was involved into publishing and disseminating “samizdat” literature. Alexander tells, “It was 1982 when Andrey went under severe KGB surveillance. In summer 1984 he went underground. He had been in hiding for more than 2 months before finally caught by KGB. The investigation was very long: they interrogated more than 100 witnesses. And only two of them got broken and agreed to testify against Andrey”.

Andrey Mironov was finally sentenced to four years of camp and three years of probation term. He served his sentence in one of the detention camps in Mordovia. Freedom came with Gorbachov’s “thaw” or rather thanks to the USSR need to find some consensus with the West. They demanded that Academician Sakharov be free. He demanded freedom for all. In February 1987 150 Soviet political prisoners, including Andrey Mironov, returned home. His brother remembers those days, “He brought six more people from the train to our flat in Moscow. That year was the most peaceful year for Andrey. He was not bothered much by the authorities and could concentrate on studying languages, his main devotion after history”.

Andrey Mironov worked in Abkhazia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Chechnya and now Ukraine. Colin Peck, brother of Rory Peck killed in Moscow in October 1993, recollects how he and Andrey worked in Tajikistan. He writes, “ I had the great honour of sharing a cell with him having got us both into trouble. Rather than discussing our exit-strategy he went into a trance: “No this window is not the regulation height from the floor. Look at this: the width is wrong too”. A terrifying glimpse into gulag hell and the resistance of turning imprisonment upon itself”. Colin Peck will also light a candle for Andrey Mironov.

There is a specific group of people who are inseparable part of Andrey’s legacy. These are all the people who he had been helping all these years. Andrey never had much money. But he never hesitated to share his irregular earnings with the ones who were in trouble. He did more than that. He told their stories to others. He motivated other people, also journalists and human rights defenders, to come to their rescue. The list of those who Andrey Mironov helped in his life is very long. There is a Chechen girl, Madina by name, who was wounded with a shrapnel during the horrific cleansing of the Chechen Samashki village in 1995. Andrey brought her to Moscow and arranged an eye surgery for the little victim of the war. There is a family of Gataevs on the list too. Andrey helped the orphanage evacuation from Grozny in the beginning of the second war in Chechnya in 1999.

When you met Andrey Mironov for the first time, he would have never impressed you as a man of courage. He was soft-voiced, calm man, with devotion to Italian singer and poet Viniccio Cappossela and Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. But it was his inner character which made him fearless fighter for the truth and dignity. During the first Chechen war it was Andrey Mironov who collected evidence of the Russian army using banned weapons against civilians. He found a splinter from a vacuum bomb, for instance, packed it into his backpack and brought to Moscow. He collected unexploded pellet bombs in the market of the Chechen town of Shali. Andrey’s brother Alexander tells, “He once told that he had learnt to identify what exactly was the cause of death. Especially wounds caused by mortar shells. They can’t be mistaken for anything else”...

Andrey Mironov is to be buried in his native town of Izhevsk on May 31. The memorial services for Andrey in Italy will be held in Rome and Moscow.

Oksana Chelysheva





See also

All news

Reporters Without Borders and UJF: safeguard journalists and reporting in Gaza

The war in Gaza has brought untold suffering and destruction to civilians over the past nine months. Gaza has become a media black hole. The true extent of the humanitarian catastrophe and human suffering cannot be understood without active reporting by journalists. It is therefore essential to ensure that journalists can work as freely and […]

UJF Council: cuts to public broadcaster a threat to Finnish security

The media need support, not cuts. Yet some parties are calling for a weakening of the conditions for journalistic work. The impoverishment of the media field threatens Finland’s overall security and democracy.

UJF Council: top concerns of delegates include workplace harassment and pay equity

Delegates wanted to know what the union intended to do to prevent the continuation of abuse and harassment in the workplace. They expressed the hope that the union would promote a positive working culture in the media sector.