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Killed in Slovyansk, Andrey Mironov Sought Out Truth Despite the Costs

Published: May 31, 2014 (Issue # 1813)




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Andrey Mironov, of one of the Soviet Union's last dissidents, was buried on Friday.

Mironov, who after the Soviet Union's collapse became a dogged observer of the Chechen wars, was killed on May 25 in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk when he and an Italian journalist, Andrea Rochelli, came under bombardment, allegedly from Ukrainian forces.

In some of the first news reports that emerged, Mironov was named as the Italian reporter's translator. But he was much more than that.

Mironov was imprisoned in 1984 — Orwell's year — as he would call it, for photocopying and distributing banned books. His friend, journalist and former Irish Times International editor Seamus Martin, recalls how he was tortured by the KGB.

"One interrogator made a rope from a towel, said he would hang him and asked him to write a suicide note. Andrey refused," Martin explained.

"The interrogator strangled him until he collapsed. When Andrey came to, he said that he felt he had won. "They were the weak ones. I was the strong one," he said.

Mironov was sentenced to four years in prison but released under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's administration after serving 18 months. As he told Martin, "At the Reykjavik summit with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, he announced there were no political prisoners in the Soviet Union. I watched him say this on the only television set we had in the Gulag."

After he was released, Mironov went on to work as a human rights activist, including as a member of the human rights group Memorial. He witnessed how the dissidents' struggle moved above ground after the fall of the Soviet Union and citied Russia's newly independent media as a major force for change.

"They are scared," he told Baltimore Sun reporter Deborah Stead, referring to the government authorities." A Kalashnikov has a barrel of only 7.62 millimeters, whereas the 'barrel' of a television camera is bigger. That is the difference."

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