Behind Enemy Lines: Russian musician N0trixx on protesting Ukraine invasion from Moscow


"Can I trust you with my face?" N0trixx asks, which isn't a usual ice breaker for a regular artist interview - but what follows is far from a regular artist interview. What N0trixx is here to promote isn't an album or a tour; it's the dire message that the walls are quickly closing in on Russian citizens who are speaking out against Putin, and the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“I’m here for the truth, for the sake of truth,” she explains. “I hope that the situation right now resolves in a way that can make a change…There will not be any second chance for it.”

N0trixx has made a career out of anonymity, often using her hip-hop / metalcore hybrid music as a tool against oppression and injustice. That said, given the current climate, she has even more reason to hide her identity while speaking publicly. On March 8th, International Women’s Day – N0trixx was arrested. Her crime was a peaceful demonstration, N0trixx herself armed with an A4 paper that read “Peace, Friendship, 8th of March.

An hour before her court appearance for the charge, N0trixx spoke to BLUNT about the situation faced by those who protest the war within Russia’s borders. “I’ve always been a fighter for justice.” She says, “What’s happening right now is making me so angry that I just cannot keep it inside anymore.”

“When I was arrested after so-called protesting – which wasn’t even protesting, I was just trying to explain how the situation is right now. I couldn’t believe that people are getting arrested so easily.”

“The last time I protested was in 2018. Things were not that bad because you could just get lost within the crowd. Right now, how it happens, you take it to the streets, you go into the centre, there is no one there. Literally no one there. There are no protests, even though there are already 15,000 people arrested after protesting. How does that happen?”

Russian activists have slowly had their voices choked well before the invasion started officially on February 24th. Through a deliberate process, Russia’s government muted all sorts of free media, N0trixx recalls. “I always refer to that case where an activist got 2.5 years jail term for just reposting Rammstein’s Pussy music video. So, you can expect anything from the court.”

The very same court which N0trixx was moments away from facing after police allege she was protesting on the street, “Shouting out slogans, ‘No to war, I am against”, a charge she categorically refutes, as does the video footage from the day.

N0trixx is cautious of complaining about her situation, as frightening as it may be, given that across the border, Ukrainans are being slaughtered but admits, “I haven’t been sleeping much at all. I’m anxious.” Russians protesting the war from Russia face a grim reality – that as the international community issues punitive measures against the regime, before too long N0trixx and her peers forming a direct affront to Putin’s dictatorship on Russian soil, will be cut off from the international anti-war movement entirely.

The feeling of isolation is beginning to kick in: “When the whole world is against you, when you feel it in any sorts of ways…”

“I don’t have the right to complain, but I can tell you this: first and foremost, everyone I know is having panic attacks. People are trying desperately to grab any sign of certainty and they’re finding none, because they don’t understand what’s going to happen. Everyone is losing jobs. I lost mine last week.”

Already, Russian citizens have lost access to Instagram, PayPal, online credit card services and many more on-ramps to the global conversation. Caught in a tug-of-war between businesses boycotting Russia’s government, and Russia’s government further clamping down on free speech, for Russian activists the chill of defeat is already starting to sink in.

“This little protest of mine just proved how useless it is. Already 15,000 have been arrested, even if it’s one million, it still doesn’t help. It all goes into the void. It goes all into the court system. That’s it. That’s where it stops. People don’t get heard.”

They only need to look to their other neighbour, Belarus, to be further deflated following failed protests against Putin ally and president, Alexander Lukashenko. “[Belarussian activists] failed, unfortunately. I know people from there who tried hard, and they protested much harder than we did. A lot more people got jail terms, but they failed to change anything, and that actually also made us feel more desperate because we realised that we cannot do it.”

Making matters worse, Russiaphobia is reaching fever pitch as many attempt to paint the entire Russian population with the same brush – as blindly Pro-Putin. “I also have quite a few problems stemming from the fact that I’m Russian. There was a playlist curator, 50K audience playlist, that didn’t want to work with me because I’m Russian…” and other examples of her and her fellow Russian creatives being deplatformed.

For Russians to effectively fight back against their government, to the extent of ending the invasion, and ensuring one doesn’t happen again, N0trixx believes international help is essential. Expectations from western onlookers of a mass civil uprising are shortsighted, given that the Russian population is one that knows all too well there are fates worse than death.

“That’s what can happen when people don’t get food – When famine starts. That’s when people would take it to the streets. Big Macs or IKEA furniture, whatever, imported goods, they will not risk their lives for those.”

Critical mass is required, but a long way off. Much of the Russian population remember the struggles that preceded Putin’s reign, and therefore associate him with the progress since. The Russian government continues to lay on the pro-Putin propaganda thick and fast, to an egregious degree resulting in high-profile protests, and severe punishments.

N0trixx explains that without the support of the general population, no change is possible and getting the average Russian citizen to the point of acceptance will still be a process: “They will deny it, then they will go angry, and then will understand. That critical mass isn’t likely to build unless there is more suffering sent to them. So, that layer of population isn’t ready for that just because they’re weak from the years before.”

Once the general population turns against Putin, it’s only a matter of time before the final straw, law enforcement does “The policemen, all the officials and everyone…At some point, they will understand that they have also been tricked. There will come a point when they will get it, and then it might eventually lead them to turn their backs against Putin.

“But that’s a long process,” and one that can only be achieved by “A combined effort of the whole world.”

Despite providing supporting evidence, the court found N0trixx guilty, and issued her with a fine. Further sentences for protesting will most likely result in imprisonment. Feet-on-the-ground protesting in Russia might no longer be an option, but N0trixx looks forward to continuing her activism, and returning to her music career, from the safety of abroad. “That’s one reason why I decided that I have to leave the country, because at some point, it might just go all North Korea-style and then you just cannot leave the country. I’d rather take my chances now than just lose all of them.”

The key focus will be working to maintain the momentum picked up by Russia’s anti-Putin activists, and to ensure it doesn’t slow until he’s removed from power, “For instance, if, for some reason, Putin will now agree to stop war, then it might lose the momentum.”

For now, N0trixx looks on with hope for the people of Ukraine, “That’s amazing,” she says of the global effort to support the embattled nation, and condemns Russia for its actions. “In the end, they’re going to be able to get out of this stronger because they’re being supported, and the whole world will help rebuild Ukraine.”

Though for those actively speaking out against Putin and the invasion from within Russia, help is looking less and less likely.

Visit Red Cross to find out how you can responsibily and effectively donate to causing providing relief to Ukraine.