In January, I covered a story that could have stepped out of a movie: A former Russian reality TV star-turned-anti-Putin opposition member, Diana Makieva, who I met once when she lived and worked in Ukraine, was trapped in Moscow when the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began.

Refusing to submit to Putin’s war machine, she was forced to flee her homeland via a circuitous route that led to her illegally crossing from Mexico into the US, where she was arrested by immigration authorities. However, upon her release she said she intended to put all of her time into fighting Russia’s authoritarianism.

She reached out to me, while held in detention and told me her incredible story. At the time, living in Kyiv amid sustained blackouts due to Russia’s bombing of Ukraine, I could do little to help her - I had left the US in 2010 and rarely return.

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According to her story her aunt, who lived in New York, came up with bail for her and the Russian woman was freed from immigration detention.

It sounds like Hollywood: Sacrifice and suffering, against a tyrannical regime, solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and finally crossing into the Promised Land to realize the American Dream where she could now stand-up to Putin.

However, recently, thanks to another journalist who reached out to me for clarification of key aspects of the story, I have dug in deeper into what I had been told by Makieva to try to gauge how politically active, if at all, she had been in Russia.

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Covering someone’s story requires a balance between verifying the claims and giving the benefit of the doubt to someone’s first person narrative. Substantiating events in Russia, especially today, is no easy task.

I reached out to several well-placed members of the Russian democratic opposition, none of whom were aware of Makieva’s participation in any opposition activities during her time in Russia.

When, on two occasions, Makieva was confronted about this, it became apparent that she had actually only attended a single protest in Moscow, in 2011, and was never a significant figure in the democratic movement. Makieva, who seems to take photos of every little aspect of her life, was unable to produce even a single photo or other documented evidence to corroborate her claim to have attended the 2011 protest.

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The Putin regime is harsh but being one of tens of thousands of people at a protest, more than a decade ago, is unlikely to cross the threshold of branding someone as a “challenger to the Putin Regime” such that the FSB would still be harassing them 12 years later.

Makieva explained to me that she had “left [Russia] because I wanted to live! And I don't regret at all that I oppose Putin and support Ukraine. The Putin Regime must fall – and it will.” She then assured me that “I am not a scofflaw [US term for someone who flouts the law - Ed] - I just wanted not to die for my political beliefs.”

So, after being free in New York for a year, what active steps has Makieva taken to oppose the Putin war machine or to back Ukraine? According to her, she was unable to find any time for trying to save Ukrainian lives or to go fighting Putin, because of her many other commitments.

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Those I reached out to, associated with the Russian democratic opposition in the US, confirmed that they did not even know of Makieva’s existence.

She has, however, found time to circulate and present herself as a member of the Russian democratic opposition, persecuted for her beliefs. She does this through frequent posts on social media of professionally taken photographs of herself claiming just that.

Incidentally, after I did not confirm parts of her story to a journalist, a recent social media post decried me for “abandoning her,” in that US detention center after she illegally entered America.

If she had been cruelly cast to her fate in a cold jail cell, by me, it is odd that she had no ill-will when we worked together to produce the January article. It is also odd that she has been unable to provide me with any correspondence where I ever made her a promise to help secure her release while I have a full record of our communications.

The earlier parts of her story are now unravelling: Why would she have been dependent on me for help, from Kyiv, when she had US-based relatives who seemed to have had no problem assisting her secure her release? Why did she not speak-up, for more than 11 months about this travesty, despite having multiple opportunities via her US press interviews?

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At present, aside from a splatter of posts on Makieva’s social media, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is no evidence that she has ever been involved in anti-Putin activity, nor that she is presently engaged in work to oppose the Putin Regime, or to support Ukraine.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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Comments (3)

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Ігор
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The article is total B.S! Not a single piece of evidence and only accusations!
It's immediately clear that Jason is a character assassin. He says nasty things on behalf of Republicans before elections, throwing mud at an honest woman who survived two suicide attempts and the repressions of Putin's cruel system.

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Ирина
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Редкий Мерзавец Джейсан! Обливать людей грязью - твоя работа! Топтать и уничтожать - это часть тебя. Тебя гонят изо всех стран и нигде ты не нужен. Даже в родной Америке. Ты настолько примитивный и тупой, что не понимаешь как твоим мнением управляют люди из ФСБ! Которым надо, чтобы такие как ты обливали грязью российскую оппозицию! Благодаря своей тупости ты и по жизни неудачник! Именно такие ФСБ и нужны! Продолжай топтать тупостью свою же репутацию!

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Есенин
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Какой-то невнятный блеф человека у которого нет абсолютно ничего на Диану. Просто человек который бросает девушку гнить на тюряге... человек? Это животное. Не мужчина. Какой-то позорище ей богу

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