Russia might pretend to be a democracy but the rest of the world knows far too well that is far from the truth. Besides being the perpetrators of an illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian state has long enacted violence against its own citizens. One former inhabitant in question is content creator Nikolay “Nekoglai” Lebedev, a popular streamer, YouTuber, and TikToker responsible for the recent viral tribute to Ukrainian soldiers using Manu Chao’s legendary song ‘Me Gustas Tu’. You must have seen one of the trend’s videos on your FYP, but did you hear about the incredible reason that led Nekoglai to go after Russia in the first place?
So, why was the streamer brutally expelled from Russia in 2022, and did he really join the Ukrainian army to fight his oppressors on the battlefield? Here’s everything you need to know about Nekoglai’s inspiring story.
Nekoglai is a streamer and content creator, as well as an amateur hip-hop artist. The Moldovan born rapper was living in Russia up until his expulsion from the country in November 2022, a move that would drastically shape his career going forward.
At his peak, Nekoglai was responsible for breaking streaming records on Twitch for Russian-language broadcasts, having amassed a viewership of 578,000 people in December 2021 during a co-stream with Russian content creator IvanRofel2004.
Nekoglai has amassed an impressive following ever since and today has 13 million followers on TikTok, 2.5 million on Twitch and 713,000 on YouTube. A lot of his recent growth can be attributed to the awful event that happened to him in Russia, and his subsequent support for Ukraine, which has propelled him to TikTok stardom. Read on to see how Nekoglai became a beacon of support for all victims of Russian aggression.
After parodying a Russian soldier throwing a live grenade in November 2022 to the tune of Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’, Nekoglai was quickly sought after by Russian authorities.
The video exploded on the platform and was soon flagged by Russia’s Safe Internet League, an organisation dedicated to censoring the internet in favour of pro-Russian rhetoric. The streamer was detained and on 9 November, he appeared in Babushkinsky court in Moscow and was fined 5,000 rubles, as well as facing deportation to Moldova, after it was discovered that he wasn’t a Russian citizen.
The detainment of the content creator was followed by the posting of a strange video on 10 November, showing him off with a shaved head, bruises and tired eyes, and in which he apologised profusely for the tame parody video. He would later reveal that he was forced to film the apology under threat by Russian police in another video uploaded to YouTube on 4 December.
Titled Exposing the Ministry of Internal Affairs. History of lawlessness of the Russian Federation, the video is a one hour and 20 minute dialogue with viewers where Nekoglai details how he was detained by Russian police, beaten and cut, and even more horrifyingly, sexually assaulted. Little mercy was offered to the streamer, who stated that he was denied access to his lawyer and forced to spend a week in solitary confinement.
Thankfully, Nekoglai is now thriving back home in Moldova, and has since taken a decidedly anti-Russian/pro-Ukraine stance, even going as far as to create a viral TikTok trend that became a symbol of hope for the Ukrainian people, who are currently suffering at the hand of the aggressors, just as Nekoglai had.
If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, there’s no doubt that you will have come across Nekoglai’s ode to Ukrainian soldiers on the video-sharing platform. The clips have managed to capture the attention of millions of viewers, bewildering some and inspiring others. In the first video, posted on 14 June, the creator can be seen dancing in a military uniform adorned with the Ukrainian flag, placing a flower behind his ear and humming along to the popular song ‘Me Gustas Tu’ by Manu Chao.
The clip caused an immediate chain reaction, and saw numerous users fighting in the Ukrainian conflict donning their military gear to jump on the trend.
Despite a visit to the country and the adorning Ukrainian flags in his videos, it is unclear as to whether Nekoglai actually participated in combat within the region or not. Pictures on his Instagram account reveal a trip to Ukraine, the support for men in combat gear, and even the donation of a car. However, there does seem to be some discrepancies in his other content.
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The videos on his TikTok make things a little more confusing. Many of them are tagged with the hashtag #airsoft, a form of military roleplay that involves the use of pellets rather than bullets. To justify this many of the streamers’ dedicated fans suggested that the use of the tag is simply to avoid having the videos removed from the platform for content violations.
It was even pointed out that real bullets can be seen being loaded in the background of this next video, suggesting that Nekoglai may well have gone to support Ukraine in some capacity, the details of which are unclear.
A military enthusiast in the comments posed to uncertain TikTokers: “Why would a Moldovan have Canadian and American patches? Not to mention a Crye AVS vest the Ukrainian army doesn’t use.” The commenter went on to state how that would be a move that would be highly unusual in real armed combat.
It seems likely that the pointedly anti-Russian creator did not see any extensive combat, but his videos remain nonetheless inspirational to those suffering in Ukraine. Moreover, it was reported that Nekoglai had donated $100,000 to support the battle against the Russian regime—a move that makes his TikTok success feel all the more sincere.