(Screenshot Всему Головин/ YouTube)

After signing with the New York Rangers on July 1st, it appears forward Artemi Panarin is ready to stay in the United States for the long-term.

Panarin criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with Russian journalist Alexander Golovin published Thursday.

Panarin explains that he wasn’t interested in politics when he first came to America and admitted that he really didn’t have an issue with Putin 3-4 years ago. He was focused on hockey and what he wanted to accomplish in the NHL. It was only two years later that he thought: “Something is not right here.”

After spending time in the USA, Panarin says he started to understand the importance of law. He got caught speeding and said that the process you have to go through is really tiring. He got summoned to court and had to pay a $2K fine. He said he never wanted to go through that again, so he stopped speeding. Panarin explained that in Russia you just pay off whoever is needed to be paid, and move on.

The punishment for speeding in America made Panarin say he would never do it again. It’s an immediate lesson, as getting caught once is enough to not want to do it again. The Russian lawlessness was a main talking point in his interview.

“The most painful topic for me is the lawlessness that is happening here”, Panarin said. “We have no laws, we have no agencies that would regulate big companies. Everything is bought. I don’t like it. Regular people suffer from this… I would still have a tougher time living in America, since I am Russian and I am used to this country… but, again, lawlessness is very painful for me. No freedom of speech, you can’t point out any negatives. This is what I don’t like.”

“I do like our people, though. But, yes, they are angry sometimes, but I can understand them. This is the kind of environment we have in the country. Everyone is being turned against the rest of the world. So, whether you want it or not, you will be walking around angry.”

Russia’s parliament raised the possibility of changing the constitution as speculation grows that the Kremlin is considering ways to allow Putin to remain in power beyond the end of his current term, when current law requires him to step down. Russian Constitution has a limit of two consecutive terms. Putin is now in his third (non-consecutive) term which ends in 2024.

“I think he no longer understands what’s right and what’s wrong”, Panarin explained. “Psychologically, it’s not easy for him to judge the situation soberly. He has a lot of people who influence his decisions. But if everyone is walking around you for 20 years telling you what a great guy you are and how great a job you are doing, you will never see your mistakes. In America, you have two four-year terms, and that’s it. 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.”

“I am not saying this because I see any kind of profit for myself in this. I want the people to live better, for teachers and doctors to have better salaries. I don’t want some ballerinas to say, “If you don’t like it here, you can leave!” This is raving madness! Everyone has left already, all the brains are gone. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Panarin believes Putin’s time in power should be over.

“Yes, probably. He has been in power for almost 20 years and we haven’t seen any rule of law, really. He has been sitting there too long, he isn’t letting anyone else in.”

Panarin also had some interesting thoughts on why people in Russian are still overwhelmingly voting for Putin.

“This is also true, unfortunately. This 70%, they don’t really need the truth anymore. Many will hear what I am saying now and think I am some kind of a [foreign] agent or something. But I am simply stating my opinion. I may be wrong, but I want people to think that I am being sincere, with good intentions.”

“People are voting for him because there are no good options, because there is no freedom of speech, no channels which would tell the grandmas the truth. Only “Ovalny” with his three million subscribers.

“Listen, I am at the point where I just want any changes at all. Not bad ones, preferably, but something new. I am for the people, the same people who vote for [Putin]. I just have a different opinion, and time will tell who is right. Though so much time has passed already, they should really know by now who is right. But it’s hard for people to understand without seeing other societies.”

“There is still this belief in our society that you can’t say bad things about the government or you will be killed or poisoned. This should not be happening. [In America] a star or an athlete can directly badmouth the president, and nothing will happen. They can refuse to go to the White House. But here, it’s impossible. You will immediately be hit with a wave of negativity. But it’s your choice, why should you do it if you don’t want it?”

Panarin also stated in the interview that he feels Russians show too much defence to Putin.

“Our mistake is that we treat him like a superman. But he is the same as we, and in theory serves us. I have no relation to him that he is a superman.”

Despite speaking up against the powerful Russian president in nearly an hour-long interview, Panarin doesn’t seem too afraid of the consequences of his words.

“I am. But, I just don’t understand how I, speaking the truth, can suffer just for that. If a person just has a different opinion… I mean, where the hell is this question even coming from: will I get in trouble for it or not? This shouldn’t even [arise]. No trouble should come for this.”

It’s very rare for a Russian athlete to speak out against Putin, so props to Panarin for sticking to his values.