Dmitry Spirin is a good pal of mine from the Russian band Tarakany! (Cockroach). If you’ve watched Raw Travel, you’ve heard Dima’s music. He’s a very talented and popular songwriter and musician. I met him on my trip to Moscow in 2010, and we released Tarakany’s album “Russian Democrazy” together in 2013, just as Raw Travel was launching (so yes, I was losing my head). But get this: we sold some actual records!

Russian DemoCrazy Cover Art


An American citizen and musician living in Moscow, Travis Leake, helped Dima translate some lyrics back then. I’d had a few digital interactions with Travis on social media, email, and the like, and he’d reached out to me just after Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine in 2022, asking me to “help” with his career, which I found off-putting and odd given the circumstances of the war.  I gave Travis the brush off as a quick scan of his Facebook page convinced me he was not an opponent of Putin’s war crimes, or at least was publicly saying so.

Rob was in Moscow in 2010, just before the FSB harassed him and his guide.

Today, Travis Leake is rotting in a Russian jail, arrested last summer (2023), and accused of “drug dealing” as Putin collects Americans for his future hostage exchanges. I was in Ukraine filming “My Summer in Ukraine” at that time, but search the web, and you can find Dima talking to David Muir on the ABC Nightly News about the incident somewhere on the internet.


Unlike Travis, Dima is a staunch anti-war advocate. In the summer of 2021, while I was in Croatia, I received a disturbing email from Dima that the Russian government was harassing him. He was looking for a place to relocate potentially. Ironically, just an hour or two before receiving this email, I had one of those loony conversations that stick with you years after, not just for its lunacy but for its timing.

It was with a young, local Croatian in Zagreb (who was half Ukrainian ironically), who said she “admired the way Putin stood up to the West.” She was a typical case of someone easily swayed by internet propaganda and disinformation (she also thought covid was a global conspiracy and was an anti-vaxxer), so common in parts of Europe and increasingly here in the U.S.


In the meantime, Dima knows better from real experience. He has been anti-war in Ukraine since 2014 (but always had to be cautious in his approach, with songs that talked more about the horror and sorrow of war but didn’t directly criticize you-know-who. But that wasn’t good enough, as Putin’s purges began before the full invasion, and he had to find a place to live.

I helped him relocate, and now Dima, estranged from his band and home, has embarked on a solo career in a strange country with a strange language and food. As a result of his stance, he has lost countless friends and fans. But he doesn’t complain because he knows many Ukrainians have had it much worse.

Still, Dima is doing his part. His first single, “I Will be With You,” as a solo artist, is aptly anti-war and more strongly worded now that he has shed the shackles of Putin’s repressive censorship. Here is his first solo music video dedicated to the people of Ukraine, whom he has vowed never to abandon (as have I).


I respect Dima so much for his stance. It was not easy, I know. It would have been easier for his career and life to do like so many and keep his head down and say nothing. But then again, he’s a principled human and a punk rock musician—and a good one—and I’m proud to know him.

I bet he’d appreciate a follow, a view, a like, or a word of encouragement.

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