One of the NHL’s top Russian hockey players broke ranks with his countrymen to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview published Thursday on a Russian language YouTube page.
Artemi Panarin, a 27-year-old left wing newly signed by the New York Rangers, decried the lack of freedom of expression in his home country, complained the nation was rife with “lawlessness” and said Russia had better people for the presidency than Putin, who has served as the country’s president or prime minister since 1999.
“In America, you have two four-year terms, and that’s it,” he said. “You can’t come back. You’ve done some good for your country, haven’t grown fat on anything, and you leave without a fuss, letting young blood in. This is what I think.”
“Yeah, I may look like a foreign agent right now, but it’s not like that,” Panarin added. “I think that the people who hush up the problems are more like foreign agents than those who talk about them. If I think about problems, I am coming from a positive place, I want to change something, to have people live better. I don’t want to see retirees begging. I saw a normal-looking grandma in the metro yesterday, singing for money.”
His statements were a break from the stances of many current and former Russian NHL players, who have either taken public stands to back Putin or have carefully avoided commenting on political affairs.