The former preacher went north in his big white truck until he got to Michigan. The Great Lakes were a nice break from the hot weather in Texas.
Denis Sharonov spent years figuring out how to get things done in the complicated Russian provinces. Now, he drives a truck on the huge US roads.
“It is heavenly up here in Michigan.” In an interview, Sharonov, who used to be the farm minister of the Komi Republic in northern Russia, said that “Texas was too hot.”
Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has caused a huge number of his own people to leave the country. People think that hundreds of thousands of Russians have left the country since the attack began. They did this because they didn’t like the war and didn’t want to be sent to the front lines. Many have struggled to find jobs and make plans for their new lives while living in exile.
But Sharonov’s unusual job move was leaving Russia in September 2022 after getting his draft papers.
“A lot of people don’t understand my choice. They mock me. They say I downshifted, from a regional minister to truck driver,” Sharonov said.
“But I don’t see it that way at all. I am proud of what I do,” he added.
Sharonov’s Instagram used to be full of pictures of him in a suit and tie meeting with officials and local farms in Komi. Now, it looks more like the Instagram of a travel writer on a cross-country road trip.
In 2020, he became the minister of agriculture in Komi, a rural area in the north of Russia that is almost as big as California. He had never worked for the government before, but he said he was given the job after more than a decade in the farming business.
“I was curious to see how government works,” he said, but “rampant corruption and bureaucracy” in his office quickly turned him off.
In Russia, the main reason people get into politics is to steal money. Corruption has ripped my country apart. Either you participate in it or you get tossed out,” Sharonov said.
He said that Vladimir Uyba, the head of the region, stopped liking him after Sharonov refused to take part in shady land deals. In January 2022, Sharonov was fired.
A month after he was fired, Russian troops went into Ukraine, which “deeply disturbed” him.
The last straw was when he got a draft order to join the war during Russia’s mobilization drive last fall.
“When military enlistment officers came to deliver a draft summons to my registration address, there was nothing left for me to do but leave the country,” he said.
Sharonov, who was 48 and too old to be called up by Russian law, said that the draft notice was related to his “drawn-out conflict” with Uyba. He said that Uyba had tried to get rid of him by sending him to Ukraine.
Seeking Refuge Abroad: A Choice Made Amidst Putin’s Conflict
Not wanting to fight in Putin’s war, he decided to leave the country. After studying in Vermont during an exchange in 1995, he chose to try his luck in the US.
Sharonov took a long trip that included stops in Kyrgyzstan and Dubai. He ended up in Mexico, where he crossed the US border on foot and asked for refuge.
Since the war started, there has been a huge increase in the number of Russians leaving the country. In the last six months, more than 8,600 Russians have sought refuge at the US-Mexico border, which is 35 times more than the 249 who did so during the same time period before the war.Sharonov looked for ways to make money while he was waiting for the answer to his refuge request. He said, “Working as a truck driver seemed like the most straightforward way to make a living.
Using the weak rouble, which reached its lowest point in 16 months this week, he stated that the money he made operating a truck was comparable to that of a regional minister in Russia, though he swiftly added that the majority of officials found other methods to make money.
He said that in six months as a truck driver, he had been to 45 US states. He went into depth about how beautiful California’s west coast was. “Sometimes, traveling around the country feels like one big adventure.”
He hopes to use his skills to get a job in the agricultural field.
Sharonov is one of the few former Russian government leaders who has spoken out against the war. Shortly after the full-blown attack, Anatoly Chubais, a veteran reformer and former Kremlin climate ambassador, quietly quit his job. Chubais is still the highest-ranking official to leave the Kremlin since the start of the war.
“Many officials are against the war but are gripped by fear,” said Sharonov. “They get up every morning and convince themselves that they have no other choice.”
Sharonov doesn’t worry about these kinds of things because he’s ready to hit the road again. Alabama was his next stop.
Source: The Guardian