Paweł Krawczyk

Ukraine

For a few decades now there was an interesting model of #Russia statehood discussed inside the country, called the “theory of opers and operators”, created by Aleksandr Volkov.^2 Its name is a game of words: “operators” was allegedly term used by FBI to describe financial managers of KGB assets in the West. “Oper” is a Russian slang word for KGB officers.

Quoting directly from one of recent articles that describe the theory:^1

The gist of the theory is that in the early 1970s the KGB of the USSR set up a network of offshore companies to help foreign trade missions circumvent Western sanctions on the purchase of high-tech equipment. The oil crisis and the increase in the US discount rate to 20% under Ronald Reagan led to the accumulation of considerable sums in the accounts of #KGB offshore companies, which ended up in a grey area: the party organs no longer controlled them, while from the Western perspective they were normal capitals. Having both large sums and understanding of how they could be disposed of, officers in Soviet foreign offices began to invest money and make profits within the framework of Western economy. As a result, in the 1980s, the KGB's offshore capital rose to its feet and became independent of cash infusions from the Union.

While Soviet Union existed, the cash was kind of frozen – KGB officers couldn't spend it completely at their will, only steal fraction on various service-related expenses. But then comes 1991 and everything changed:

After the fall of the #USSR, these funds are partly returned home and used to buy up assets. In the framework of the theory, the nineties are a period of struggle between the KGBists, who have settled in the West, and the party-economic elite of the former USSR – a struggle for control of the assets of the communist empire. The Chekists, as a more consolidated group, having at their disposal large capitals, financial infrastructure and, most importantly, close ties with the security/law enforcement agencies on the ground – won this struggle by gobbling up both the “red directors” and the “new Russians” from the organised crime. By the late nineties and early 2000's, the process of redistribution of big business was complete. The offshore Chekists had taken control of the biggest assets and could have stopped their careers at this.

But history never stops at any given moment — the “old guard” could have earned billions by merely working in KGB/FSB, then why not us, thought young aspiring officers? The financial success of the KGB created a huge demand for jobs in the security services, but there were no longer any secret KGB stashes abroad. Another solution was found:

By that time, a mechanism had been developed for taking over businesses through quasi-legal mechanisms and, most importantly, a large layer of operatives had grown up who perceived racket as an organic part of their career development. Since the youngsters could not repeat the success their ancestors, they turned for the regular people: they started stealing first medium and then small businesses. In fact, the devouring of businesses by low-ranking Chekists (hungry operatives) is the main content of 2000-2010's. It is typical that during this period Putin systematically called for an end to the crackdown on business, but in fact did nothing about it, because he simply could not go against the backbone of the regime.

Widespread racket, takeover and stealing of businesses in Russia in 2000-2010's is a fact: all private media and TV stations were taken over this way — cases of Vladimir Gusinsky^3, VK^4, Hermitage Capital Management^5 were most reported, but there were thousands of other smaller and less known companies taken over this way.

The authors of the “theory of opers and operators” believe that this wave of cannibalistic takeovers, often carried out by people with zero experience in business, led to gradual decline of Russian economy and decline of its competitiveness.

There was nothing more valuable left to be taken over, but appetites of the “opers” were still high, and their cadres were still growing in numbers – I remember statistics where at some point ~15% of the working population in some regions worked in some kind of security services.

Grab for Ukraine

The authors believe the conflict with #Ukraine that started in 2014^6 is largely influence by the economic motives among the Russian security apparatus running out of businesses to steal in their own country, as described above. Having said that, authors interestingly point out that while annexation of #Crimea logically seems to be an extension of this “economic grab”, they argue motivation behind specifically Crimea was entirely political.

If we stick to economic determinism, we can assume that the return of Crimea was dictated by a desire to expand the fodder base of the KGBists. In fact, this (inherently Marxist) assumption is flawed. If Putin had been guided by this consideration, he would have taken not a single (and very small) region, but all or a significant part of Ukraine, redistributing property there and distributing fodder. This, as we know, did not happen.

I cannot but notice, that the article contradicts itself in this specific part: the authors argue that “the new aristocracy” (FSB) had no motives to start the whole “Crimean affair”, thus hurting their own interests, only to satisfy the appetites of their younger colleagues. Firstly, the economic decline in 2010's Russia was a fact, as was declining ratings of Putin (record low 62% in 2013), and constantly growing security apparatus.

In 2013 there was a strong pressure on Ukraine for “economic integration” with Russia and the very direct cause for #Euromaidan was specifically the surprising decision of Yanukovych to turn away EU association agreement^7 and instead join Russian economic zone. If the latter happened, FSB could simply continue expanding their “fodder base” into Ukraine unhindered, as it did in Russia. But that was prevented by mass-scale protests of Ukrainians, by order of magnitude larger than Russian protests against Putin's “re-election” in 2012.^8

And as the fodder has been taken away from FSB, they had a strong motivation to at least grab Crimea, which would both provide some consolation to the hungry elites, punishment for Ukraine, and rating boost for Putin.

Crimea certainly provided a wealthy trophy, as wave of business takeovers demonstrated shortly after it was annexed, with plenty of new private, fenced beaches in the most attractive places.^9 How does war in #Donbass fit into this hypothesis? It's interesting case, because politically war in Donbass has been a complete failure, leading to no political wins and instead a lengthy, frozen conflict and plenty of troubles for Russia.

Was there anyone gaining from war in Donbass? Of course — only in the first two years of the war over 50% of large industrial enterprises have been looted by occupiers^10 and, noted by many people, the absurd separation into two — Luhansk and Donetsk — “People's Republics”, has no political purpose or explanation. But it creates perfect “zones of exclusive economic rights” between organized crime controlled by FSB and GRU respectively. And, as with every organized crime groups competing for resources, there were a number of assassinations of top LPR/DPR heads and even shootings between LPR and DPR militias.

FSB and the war in Ukraine

Returning to the Ukrainian extension of the “theory of opers and operators”, authors believe this orientation of Russian elites exclusively on its own wealth and welfare explains lukewarm attitudes towards the victory. Make no mistake, the authors represent 100% Russian nationalist view and definitely support the idea of forcible submission of Ukraine, they are just critical of how Putin does it.

They believe what others call “incompetence” is simply result of different than official actual goals of the conflict: they argue, the “economic vector” explains the vague and frequently changing official objectives of the “special military operation”, lack of any specific description of what “victory” would mean for Russia in this war, but also demoralisation inside Russia itself — widespread corruption in the army, theft of military equipment that would otherwise help war effort and even shutting down of specific military industries when they are most needed.

In essence, the Chekist regime seeks not so much to win as to adapt to conditions new to it (in fact, the conditions of a forced and unnatural confrontation between bees and honey). Within this logic, the population and the economy continue to be viewed solely as fodder (and hence there is nothing strange about the sawing up of a factory needed for the front), and the military defeat and destruction of Ukraine does not look particularly attractive.

The advantage of an extended war, for Russian “elites” following this logic, is not only the mobilization effort which allows continued theft on the generously allocated military budget (30% of overall state budget now!), mobilization of the poorest parts of the society (who had been likely kept in this state for the last decade for purpose) with the perspective of generous military compensations^11 but also unrestricted looting of the newly occupied territories.

Looting on mass scale allows to at least for a while satisfy not only individual “entrepreneurs” on all levels, from regular soldiers stealing electronics or jewellery from Ukrainian homes, large scale theft of Ukrainian grain and up to professionally organised theft of artwork from Kherson museum^12, but — most importantly — the FSB that likely takes share of every item brought back to Russia.

— Paweł Krawczyk https://krvtz.net/ Fediverse @kravietz@agora.echelon.pl

Oleg Pshenichnyi from The Insider made a great collection of quotes from leaders of #Russia, #Ukraine and international politicians related to the war. Unfortunately, so far it has been only published in Russian. Here's the collection in automated DeepL translation (with a few manual tweaks). I have posted a similar analysis back in June (Russian deception and denial of war in Ukraine), and it indeed shares some of the quotes with this one, but of course Pshenichnyi list is much larger as it spans over the whole year. I find these quotes to be very valuable evidence of rapidly changing Russian narratives and justifications.

January: “Russia is not going to attack anyone!

UK Foreign Office: “We have information indicating that the Russian government is seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kiev as it as it considering the invasion and occupation of Ukraine”.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “President Putin created this crisis, by gathering 100,000 Russian soldiers along the Ukrainian border. We have reached a level of level of tension that Russia is ready to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine at any moment.”

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley: “Given the kind of forces assembled – ground manoeuvre forces, artillery, ballistic missiles, air force – if all this is used together against Ukraine, something very serious will happen that will lead to a significant number of casualties. Can you imagine what it would look like in densely populated areas, near roads and so on. It could be just nightmarish.”

Sergey Lavrov (to US Secretary of State): “You claim that we are going to attack Ukraine, even though we have already explained many times that this is not the case.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov: “There is no risk of a large-scale war that could break out in Europe or elsewhere. We do not intend to take any aggressive actions. We do not intend to attack or invade Ukraine.”

The Russian Embassy in the US: “Once again we emphasise: Russia is not going to attack anyone. The practice of moving troops on our own soil is our sovereign right. We urge that there be no more hysteria and no more tension around the problem of Donbas. And most importantly, do not encourage “hotheads” in Kyiv to new provocations”.

Vladimir Zelenski: “What is the news, exactly? Hasn't this been a reality for 8 years? Didn't the invasion begin in 2014? Isn't the threat of a large-scale war appeared only now? This danger has been around for more than a day. And they haven't become bigger. The hype around them has gotten bigger. And now they're actively attacking not our but on your nerves. So that you have a constant sense of unease. All of our citizens, especially the elderly, need to understand that. Breathe out and calm down. Don't run out for buckwheat and matches. What should you do? There's only one thing to do. calmness, a cool head, confidence in your forces, in your army, in our Ukraine. <...> And I am sure that in my New Year address I will say: “Dear Ukrainians! Didn't I tell you? We are good!” We did not panic. We were not provoked. We were calm and strong and we are greeting the next New Year. Without panic. Without no horror. Hopefully without viruses. And I sincerely believe – without war.

Boris Johnson: “We have agreed that we will respond in a coordinated manner to any Russia's attack on Ukraine. In a co-ordinated way, by imposing tough joint sanctions, which will be tougher than any we have ever imposed on Russia before.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “Ukraine poses no threat to Russia. It is the idea of a democratic, stable Ukraine that is a problem for [Kremlin]... The risk of conflict is great. Russia's aggressive actions undermine security in Europe...NATO will engage in substantive dialogue with Russia in a spirit of benevolence. However, one must be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy will fail... Aggression against Ukraine will have will have serious consequences for Russia”.

February. “Russian warship”.

Vladimir Putin: “Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force. We will strive demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenski: “The battle is happening here. I need arms, not evacuation”.

Alexei Navalny: “This war is designed to distract attention from Russia's problems... I think those who started this war are bandits and thieves”.

Boris Johnson: “This is an attack on democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe and around the world. world. We will make sure that this terrible, barbaric adventure by Vladimir Putin will fail.”

Genichesk resident: “You are occupiers! You are fascists! You fascists! Why the fuck did you come with guns to us? Put some sunflowers in your pockets, when you're down here...!”

Ukrainian border guard: “Russian warship – fuck you!

The mate of a Georgian refuelling ship (to a Russian ship): “If you run out of fuel you run out of fuel – you can use your oars”.

Dan Watson of the Red Cross: “For ordinary people, the situation is apocalyptic.”

Miloš Zeman: “I said the Russians are not crazy and will not attack Ukraine. I admit that I was wrong... A madman must be isolated”.

Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to the Ukrainian president's office: “According to our data, the first Russian Federation's strike has failed.”

March. “This is where we bury them.”

Vladimir Putin: “Saving people from a genocide is the main goal of the special operation in Ukraine.”

Vladimir Zelensky: “The strike on Kharkiv is a war crime, state terrorism of the Russian Federation. After this, Russia is a terrorist state.”

Pavel Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk region: “The town of Volnovakha no longer no longer exists”.

Mariupol deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov: “In the bombed out Drama Theatre building there were sheltering 1,000 to 2,000 residents [...] 80-90% of the city was bombed. Not a building is without damage. Either destroyed or damaged”.

Ramzan Kadyrov: “We should go into Kiev and take Kiev away. If we had been left near Kiev, we would have gone into Kiev and cleaned up”.

Alexander Lukashenko: “And now I will show you from where Belarus was being prepared to was being prepared to attack. And if six hours before the operation there had not been a preemptive – I'll show you a map – they would have attacked our troops.”

Alexei Arestovich: “The Russian army is not strong. It is just long. Eight out of Putin's ten armies are here. This is where we bury them...”

Lyudmila Narusova: “ were forced to sign a contract or were signed for them The conscripts were made to sign the contract or they signed it for them. But in the end only four of the company of a hundred men survived”.

Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova: “Russia is an aggressor country. And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person. And that person is Vladimir Putin... Unfortunately, for the last few years I have been working Channel One, doing Kremlin propaganda, and I am now very ashamed for that”.

Joe Biden: “Two hundred thousand Russians have already fled from Putin [...] God knows this man man cannot stay in power.”

April. “How do you negotiate with a crocodile?

Volodymyr Zelenskyy: “We will establish the full truth about all these atrocities . No matter how much time and effort it takes, we will find them all.”

Sergey Lavrov: “As a gesture of goodwill, changed the configuration of troops in Chernihiv and Kiev oblasts, but this was not appreciated. Immediately there was a staging in Bucha. This plot was played out in the same way as the plot with Skripals, with the Malaysian Boeing, Navalny, Litvinenko”.

Alexei Arestovich: “Those who attack don't usually take trophies. You don't go to Kiev with a carpet under your arm... When they realised they were going to retreat and there's nothing to lose, they started to execute it all...”

Boris Johnson: “How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it has your leg in in its jaws?”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German president: “My commitment to the “Nord Stream 2 was clearly a mistake. We were holding on to bridges that Russia no longer believed in, as our partners warned us.”

Sergei Shoigu: “The US and Western-controlled countries... are demonstrating intentions to provoke the Kiev regime to fight to the last Ukrainian.”

Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odessa military administration: “The missile cruiser Moskva went exactly where our border guards sent it today on Snake Island.”

The sunken cruiser Moskva

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General: “I was shocked when I was told that two rockets exploded in the city of Kiev, where I am. This is a dramatic war and we absolutely need to end this war, to have a way out of of this war.”

FSB CJC: “A group of members of the Russian-banned neo-Nazi terrorist organization National Socialism/White Power – Russian citizens – have been detained. By orders from SBU they planned assassination of a well-known journalist Vladimir Solovyov. During a search of the detainees, we found and seized an improvised explosive device. an improvised explosive device, a rifle cut from a hunting rifle, pistols and cartridges, Molotov cocktail type incendiary devices, a grenade as well as forged Ukrainian passports”.

May. “Russia is here forever”.

Andrei Turchak: “I wanted to say once again to the residents of the Kherson region that Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about that”.

Alexei Navalny: “You will suffer a historic defeat in this stupid war, that you have started. It has no purpose and no meaning”.

Lithuanian Seimas (unanimous): “The Kremlin regime seeks to destroy the Ukrainian. Therefore, such actions must be recognized as genocide, and Russia is a State which supports terrorism. A state that supports and carries out terrorism”.

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, AFU Commander-in-Chief: “Informed my American counterpart I have informed my American colleague about the transition of Ukrainian defence forces to counteroffensive actions in the Kharkiv and Izyum directions”.

Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany: “Militarily, Berlin has simply abandoned Ukraine. They probably lack leadership and courage”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “Already now Vladimir Putin has failed in all his strategic goals. A Russian takeover of the whole of Ukraine is even less realistic today than than at the beginning of the war. Putin cannot be allowed to win his war. And I am convinced that he will not “he will not win it.

Vladimir Zelensky: “Mr. Kissinger, for example, emerges from the deep past and says that it is allegedly necessary to give Russia a piece of Ukraine. Such It feels like Mr. Kissinger has 1938 on the calendar, not 2022, and he thinks he's talking to an audience not in Davos but in what was then Munich.”

Sergey Lavrov: “Zelensky is making an argument: what kind of Nazification if he is a Jew. I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites tend to be are usually Jews. “There's always a Jew in the family”, as we say.

Alexander Lukashenko: “I absolutely believe that the use of nuclear weapons on the territory of Ukraine is inadmissible, also because it is close to us. Not exactly here, but not across the ocean, like the United States.”

Yuri Shevchuk, musician: “The homeland, my friends, is not the president's asshole that you have to all the time, you have to kiss it. The homeland is a pauper granny at a train station selling selling potatoes. This is the motherland.”

June. “A gesture of goodwill”

Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage: “On the one hand, war is blood On the other hand it is the self-affirmation of the people, the self-affirmation of the nation. Every man wants to assert himself. And in his position on the war, is undoubtedly self-asserting itself. And we've all been brought up in the imperial and an empire unites many nations.

Max Pokrovsky, musician: “If the colour of the nation is so rotten that it cannot get together and sing one anti-war song (and, as we know, many do the exact opposite), what can we expect from the nation?”

Vadim Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol: “Our cautious figure, while we could still It is 22 thousand civilians killed by the occupation troops. This is many times more than Nazi Germany did in two years of occupation.”

Vladimir Putin (on the missile attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchug with dozens of casualties): “Yes, there was no terrorist act, no explosion. No one just shoots and strikes just like that in the fields, as a rule it is done against targets we've been exploring. I am sure that the same thing happened in this case. The Russian army doesn't strike any civilian objects.”

Igor Konashenkov, Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman: “In a move of goodwill, the Russian Armed Forces have completed their tasks on Snake Island and withdrawn the garrison there.”

Emmanuel Macron: “We must not humiliate Russia so that when the fighting so that when the fighting stops, we can find a way out through diplomatic solutions.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister: “Calls not to allow the humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France or any other country that would to call for it. Because Russia humiliates itself. We are all better off concentrate on putting the Russian Federation in its place. This will bring peace back and save lives.”

Colin Kahl, US deputy defence secretary: “The HIMARS will give the Ukrainians more capabilities to confront them. Right now, they have the howitzers that we've already given them, and the range of the HIMARS is more than twice as long, which will allow them – even with fewer launchers – to be more successful against [Russian forces].”

Grigory Yavlinsky: “Smart Voting” at the behest of the “leader” [Alexei Navalny], which was announced as a protest vote and became mass among people who called themselves liberals, in reality it turned out to be a vote for representatives of pro-government parties that supported, support and will continue to support the war.”

Leo Tolstoy (quote for which Moscow MP Pavel Yarilin): “And stupefied by prayers, sermons, proclamations, processions, pictures, newspapers, cannon fodder, hundreds of thousands of people uniformly dressed, with a variety of murder weapons, leaving their parents, their wives, their children with a longing in their their hearts, but with a youthfulness in their hearts, go to the place where, at the risk of death, to do the most terrible thing of all: killing people they don't know and who have done them no harm.”

July. “We will pick up and take away. Ukrainian children will be ours”.

Vladimir Putin: “It was not Russia who unleashed the war in Ukraine, but the collective West... Everyone should know that we, by and large, have not started anything serious yet.”

Putin: “Everyone should know that we haven't even really started yet”.

Unnamed US DOD official – CNN: “Russia has sent about 85% of its army to invade Ukraine. Russian casualties amount to thousands of lieutenants and captains, hundreds of colonels and many generals.”

Alexei Arestovich: “I have one answer: 'You haven't started, but you're already finished'. Everyone can see these endeavours have very little time left. A month and a half and they will stall quietly. They won't be able to advance any more”.

Anton Krasovsky, propagandist: “There was a discussion whether a tear of our Russian child is worth the tear of a Ukrainian child... When we take back these lands and the children will be Russian, then we will protect them.... We will take back, take back, take back – and these children will be ours.”

Anna Kuznetsova, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation: “The evacuation of more than 2,000 orphaned children has been carried out since the start of the special military operation (SSO) from the territory of Ukraine to Russia”.

Vladimir Zelensky (on the strike on Nikolaev): “It is a double crime to It is a double crime to destroy pedagogical institutes, so that there is no educational institution, and new teachers can't be taught. But don't let the terrorists hope that this that it will do them any good. We will definitely rebuild everything they have destroyed, every one of more than 2,000 educational institutions, all kindergartens, all schools, institutes, universities, and most importantly, we will preserve our humanity and civility.”

Ukrainian army general staff: “Explosions in Olenivka, which led to the deaths of Ukrainian prisoners of war are a deliberate provocation and an undeniable act of terrorism by the occupier's armed forces. According to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's GUR. Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, it was committed by mercenaries from the Wagner PMC. The organization and execution of the terrorist act was not coordinated with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defence. The main purpose of the terrorist act is to conceal the facts of total embezzlement of funds allocated for the Ukrainian prisoners of war. It is known that a commission from Moscow was due to arrive at the “facility” on 1 August.”

Ramzan Kadyrov: “We are already developing a plan for the demilitarisation of NATO countries, and the first The first one after the capture of Kiev is Poland <...> Poland will become a reality as fast as it has become a country if it doesn't stop yapping, as quickly as it became a country if it doesn't stop yapping”.

Dmitry Chistyakov, a retired EMERCOM official: “No more bloodshed! Don't be fooled by the phrase, that “we'll never know the whole truth anyway! Everything is not so clear-cut!”. In a world where every move is filmed on an iPhone and every shop has a security camera in every store, oblivion won't work. In my second Chechen war, I pretty soon I understood what it was like and that's why I'm not a member of any veteran organization. War is a monstrosity which is not worthy of glorification, it is always a savoury set of of war crimes.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian foreign minister: “Let's first change the situation on the front, and then we will talk to Russia. Everyone understands that the negotiations are directly “Everyone understands that the negotiations are directly linked to the situation at the front. I simply say to all our partners: “Russia should sit down at the negotiating table Russia should come to the negotiating table after its defeat on the battlefield. Otherwise it will be the language of ultimatums again...”

August: “Tired of your Russophobic clucking”

Dmitry Medvedev: “European bosses are fed up with their Russophobic clucking about Schengen visas for citizens of our country. They'd better introduce a total ban on those visas.”

Vladimir Zelenski: “The most important sanctions are closing the borders. Let them live in their own world until they change their philosophy (...) Whatever kind of Russians they are... send them back to Russia. Then they will understand. They will say, “This [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can't be held responsibility, can it?” It can. The population has chosen this government, and they doesn't fight it, doesn't argue with it, doesn't shout at it.”

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Aleksandr Fomin: “The Kiev authorities do not limit themselves by any moral or legal standards. On a daily basis, members of nationalist battalions commit crimes that are not properly assessed by the international community. The shelling of markets, railway stations, residential neighbourhoods, humanitarian aid distribution points and other places of of mass gatherings of people.”

Catherine Russell, UNICEF director: “At least 972 children have been killed or injured as a result of violence since the escalation of the war in Ukraine. And these are just figures that the United Nations has been able to verify.”

The Ukrainian representation to the EU: “We are grateful to the European Union for joining Ukraine's case before the International Court of Justice against Russia on charges of genocide.

Oleksiy Reznikov: “A new threat to Ukraine could be the fatigue of the of the international community from this war. “I call it fatigue syndrome, and for me this is one of the main threats, and we need to work with this threat... Because it is very, very dangerous for us”.

Donald Trump: “Putin couldn't attack Ukraine if it were me. Ukrainians could have given up Crimea. They could have said 'OK, we won't join NATO,” and would have had a country, because I think Putin wanted to to make an agreement.”

Olga Stefanyshyna, Ukraine's deputy prime minister: “Once upon a time, we aspired to join NATO to become part of a collective security system and prevent a big war. Today the situation is different. On the territory of Ukraine there is an ongoing full-scale war, during which NATO as an organisation has nothing to We work more individually with allied states and they themselves are more inclined to bilateralism. They are more inclined to bilateral cooperation.”

Mikhail Podolyak: “The massive shelling of Ukraine on Independence Day is yet another manifestation of the helplessness and terrorist nature of the Russian barbarians after six months of disgrace and defeat. Is it still not clear that the attempt to intimidate Ukrainians is a totally losing idea? Better think about the final “goodwill gesture”.

Vladimir Zelenskiy: “What is the end of war for us? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory... And we don't sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with with a gun to our head. And we put our hands up only once – when we celebrate to celebrate our victory. All over Ukraine. Because we do not bargain with our our lands and our people. For us Ukraine is the whole Ukraine. All 25 regions, without any concessions or compromises.”

September. “We gained air and at my command – Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!”

Russian Defence Ministry (on the retreat from Kharkiv Region): ““It has been decided to regroup Russian troops in the Balakley and Izyum districts. To this end, within three days. An operation was carried out to roll back and organize the redeployment Izyum-Balakleya group of troops to the territory of the DPR”.

St Petersburg municipal deputies: “We believe that President Putin's decision Putin's decision to launch the USO is detrimental to the security of Russia and its citizens. In this connection we ask you to propose to bring charges of treason against the President of the Russian Federation to remove him from office”.

Alla Pugacheva: “Please count me among the ranks of foreign agents of my beloved country, for I stand in solidarity with my husband, an honest, decent and sincere man, “a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia, who wishes his homeland prosperity, peaceful life, freedom of speech, and an end to the deaths of our boys for illusory causes, making our country a pariah and weighing down the lives of our citizens.”

Alexei Navalny: “My demand: an end to the criminal war and idiotic mobilisation.”

Alexei Gorinov, political prisoner (final word in court): “I want to admit my guilt. Guilt before the long-suffering people of Ukraine... The guilt that I, as a citizen of my country, I was not able to do anything, I was not able to prevent the ongoing madness.”

Ruslan Zinin, who shot the military commander of Ust-Ilimsk: “Now we will all go home and no one will fight”.

Viktor Orban, Hungarian prime minister: “The war in Ukraine may continue until 2030 г. Ukraine could lose 1/3 or 50% of its territory. The war would have been Ukraine's war but the West has intervened and made it global. By imposing restrictions, Europe is shooting itself in the foot.”

Vladimir Putin: “Politicians in Europe have to convince their fellow citizens to eat less, bathe less and dress warmly at home. And those who start asking “and ask fair questions like 'why is it like this?'” – are immediately labeled enemies, extremists and radicals.”

Vladimir Zelenski: “Our state has always offered Russia to agree to coexistence on equal, fair, dignified and just terms. Obviously, this is impossible with this Russian president. He does not know what dignity and honesty. That is why we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia.

Vladimir Putin: “We took in the air and on my command on the count of three. One, two, three! (cheering) Hooray! (cheering) Hooray! Hooray!”

October. “Use your brains!”

Anton Krasovsky: “Such should have been drowned in Tysin. You said that “Moskals occupied them” – and you just throw them into the river with a strong current. There every hut is called Smerekova Hata. Right into this Smerek's hut... to hammer and burn”.

Vladimir Putin: “I will talk to the lawyers. Even, frankly, I haven't I have not even thought about whether it is necessary to declare by decree that the partial mobilisation is complete. But it is completed, the point has been set.”

Dmitry Peskov: (on the borders of the annexed regions). “Part of the clarification has already has arrived, I'll tell you in less legal terms. The LNR and DNR are the borders of 2014. Kherson and Zaporizhzhya – we will continue to consult with the population of these regions.”

G7 statement: ““The G7 strongly condemns and unequivocally rejects Russia's unlawful attempt to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions of Ukraine and Kherson oblasts of Ukraine, in addition to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of city of Sevastopol. We solemnly reaffirm that we will never recognize this illegal annexation or the bogus referendums Russia uses to justify it.”

UN General Assembly: “Russia's unlawful actions regarding illegal Referendums held on 23-27 September 2022 in the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Kherson regions of Ukraine, Luhansk and Kherson regions of Ukraine, and the subsequent attempt to illegally annexation of these oblasts is null and void and does not constitute grounds for any change in the status of these oblasts of Ukraine”.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the occupation administration in Kherson: “There is no movement. They will not enter Kherson, it is impossible”.

Vladimir Putin: ““Any alternative point of view is declared in the West as subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy, the Kremlin is seen everywhere. Whatever comes out of Russia is now all the machinations of the Kremlin. Are we really so all-powerful? This is nonsense, what a descent to. You can not blame everything on the intrigues of the Kremlin. Use your brains!”

RUSSIAN FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE: “The organizer of the terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge was the Main Directorate of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence Directorate, its head Kirill Budanov, his staff and agents. Citizens of Ukraine were involved in organising the transport of cargo from Bulgaria to the port of Poti, Georgia, and then to Armenia. In order to transport the cargo from Bulgaria to the port of Poti, Georgia, and then on to Armenia, Ukrainian nationals Mikhail Tsyurkalo, born in 1975 in Kovalyk, were involved, born in 1975, Denis Olegovich Kovach, born in 1979, Roman Ivanovich Solomko, born in 1971. Mr. Solomko Roman Ivanovich, born in 1971; Mr. Inosaridze Sandro, a citizen of Georgia, a broker named “Levan”; and Mr. Terchanian Artur, a citizen of Armenia. Artur Terchanyan, born in 1985.”

Vladimir Zelenski: “We certainly didn't order that.”

Ukrainian GUR (on the first mass rocket attack on Ukrainian cities): “Russian occupation forces have been instructed by the Kremlin to prepare massive missile strikes on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure as early as 2 and 3 October. Strategic and long-range aviation units received orders to to prepare for the task of massive rocket attacks. The targets were determined to be critical civilian infrastructure and central areas of densely populated Ukrainian cities.”

November. “If we manage to lose, The Hague awaits even the Kremlin janitor”

Sergei Surovikin (on the surrender of Kherson): “Comrade Minister of Defence, I report. “We are successfully resisting all enemy offensive attempts. <...>...<...> Comprehensively having assessed the situation, it is proposed to take up defence along the left bank of the of the Dnieper River. I understand that this is a very difficult decision”.

Oleksiy Arestovich: “Let's get this right – the Russian army is not leaving Kherson. It has been knocked out of Kherson by the Ukrainian Defence Forces”.

Ekaterina Shulman: “I have one question: why did you rewrite the constitution, you lazybones? With the kind of military fortune we have, we could have wisely waited. This is the basic law, not the Notes by the Bedside, it's not all the events of the day.”

Margarita Simonyan: “If we manage to lose, The Hague awaits even the janitor who sweeps the paving stones inside the Kremlin wall. What good will it do us if one more district of Kiev goes without light or or not? The scale of the catastrophe our country will turn into if we manage to do it [lose] can't even be imagined.”

Vladimir Putin (to Nina Pshenichkina, whose son died in Luhansk in 2019): “We will all leave this world someday...Some do or don't live, it is not clear. And how do they leave? From vodka or something else. But your son lived. And his his goal was accomplished. That means he did not leave life in vain.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin (on the defector Nuzhin killed with a sledgehammer): “As for the perpetrator, the show shows that he didn't find happiness in Ukraine, but he met unkind but fair people. It seems to me that this film is called “To a Dog, Death by a Dog.” It's a great director's work, and it's... in the same breath. I hope no animals were harmed during the filming”.

Andrey Loshak, documentary filmmaker: “Russian missiles plunge Ukraine into darkness. Russia itself has been living in darkness for a long time, now dragging stubbornly into it Ukrainians who are desperately resisting. With the imposition of sanctions on energy sanctions, darkness has become a staple of Russian exports. ... There is not a single idea how to make the world a better place. ... No matter how many bombs the Russian army drops on Ukraine's power grid, the country will have a bright future and Russians will have an endless bad trip, a long and painful plunge into the heart of darkness.”

Dmitry Medvedev: “Against us today is part of a dying world. It is a bunch of insane Nazi junkies, a nation drugged and intimidated by them, and a large pack of barking dogs from the Western kennel. With them a motley pack of grunting gilts and and the small-minded philistines of a collapsed western empire with drool dripping down their chins of degenerate saliva. They have no faith and no ideals except their own made-up and their own obscene habits and standards of doublethink that deny the morality bestowed upon normal men. So by rising up against them. have gained sacred power.”

Volodymyr Zelenskiy: “If someone proposes a way for us to return Crimea back into the country in a non-military way, I would only be in favour. If, however, a possible solution is military, then there is no need to waste time on this.”

Alexei Navalny: “General Sergei Surovikin is not only a war criminal, but also a common thief. “General Armageddon... has already made hundreds of millions of rubles from the war in Syria and bought himself luxury housing with that money. Now all of his family's his family's assets are simply classified. Maria Singer and Georgy Alburov, in a new investigation reveals how one of Russia's top military Russia's top military leader.”

December. “Gerasimov is a faggot and a fuckin' devil.”

Vladimir Putin “We have nothing to reproach ourselves with. We have always considered the Ukrainian people as a brotherly people. I still think so. What is happening is, of course, our common tragedy. But it is not the result of our politics.”

Alexander Kibovsky, head of the Moscow department of culture: “We are fighting Nazis. That's why it's right to quote Konstantin Simonov's lines: 'So kill one! Then kill him quickly! As many times as you see!” Work, brothers!”

Valery Fadeyev, head of the HRC of Russian Federation: “The Nobel Peace Prize has ceased to be a prize of any significance, and secondly, it is no longer a peace prize, It has finally discredited itself with today's decision. I would like to advise the Russian Memorial to give up this prize in order to retain to preserve at least a vestige of good memories of itself.”

Vladimir Putin: “Maximum focus and concentration of forces is now required from the counter-intelligence agencies, including the military. It is necessary to harshly suppress the actions of foreign secret services. The actions of foreign intelligence services must be harshly suppressed and traitors, spies and saboteurs must be promptly identified.”

Wagner PMC mercenaries: “To the Chief of General Staff: you're a f*cking faggot and a fucker. We have nothing to fight with, we have no shells. We're here at Bakhmut against the entire the entire Ukrainian army. There's nothing else to fucking call you but one word.”

Vladimir Putin: “99.9% of our citizens, our people are ready to give everything in in the interests of our Motherland... This convinces me once again that Russia is a special country. country and we have special people.”

Senior Lieutenant Dmitriy Vasilets: “It's better to go to jail, but not to commit these acts, not to encourage your subordinates to do it. A lot of people think they don't have a choice. My point is that there is always a choice. It's better to go to jail than than to overstep the bounds of humanity.”

Dmitry Medvedev: “The swindling freaks are wishing death on a daily basis for their their countrymen and their country... Traitors who hate their country that they call for its defeat and destruction, must be regarded as hostis publicus, enemies of society... Such persons should not be allowed back into Russia for the rest of their lives. They should be completely cut off from sources of income in of our country, whatever they may be.”

“OVD-Info: “From 1 January to 14 December 2022, 20,467 political detentions were recorded in Russia detentions on political grounds (including 19,478 detentions after February 24).”

Pope: “Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are meeting this Christmas in darkness and cold, far from home due to the devastation of 10 months of war. Inspire us to concrete acts of help to all those suffering and enlighten the the minds of those in whose power it is to silence the sound of the cannons and put an immediate end to put an immediate end to this senseless war.”

— Paweł Krawczyk https://krvtz.net/ Fediverse @kravietz@agora.echelon.pl

Narratives about the war in #Ukraine inside #Russia are very much different than in most of the world – as a matter of fact, most Russians are expected to believe the full-scale invasion is merely a “special military operation” and legally banned from referring to it as “war”.

Russians are also expected to accept ever changing objectives of the war (as demonstrated in my article On the Kremlin's ideas of “denazification” and “Russophobia”), and generally frequently changing frame of reference seems to be the new standard of political thinking in Russia these days. This is an “old new”, as it bears strong resemblance to Soviet “dialectical thinking” (see Marxist dialectics as a instrument of self-delusion for details).

For the sake of a discussion with a friend inside Russia, who plainly rejected any idea that Putin's narrative about the war has actually changed, I have compiled a list of official statements from the period preceding the war, and early into it.

“Speaking of invasion just makes everyone nervous”

First suggestions that Russia may be preparing an invasion into Ukraine appeared in October-November 2021 based on unusual concentration of armed forces right on Ukraine's border with Russia and Belarus. These were interpreted by most experts as an intimidation campaign, even as US and EU intelligence insisted that Russia plans actual invasion. Russian officials of course denied any such suggestions:

Ministry of Internal Affairs [of Russia] called US announcements about Russian army amassed at the Ukraine's border “a campaign of fakes” (3 November 2021, lenta.ru) В МИД назвали заявления США о войсках России у границ Украины фейковой кампанией

Kremlin dismissed data of risk of armed invasion into Ukraine as “empty threats” (12 November 2021, rbc.ru) В Кремле сочли пустым нагнетанием данные о риске вторжения на Украину

Putin: “Look, they've been talking about possible entry of Russian troops into Ukraine since the beginning of the year – as we conducted “Zapad-2021” exercises – but that never happened” (30 November 2021, kremlin.ru) Путин: “Смотрите, о возможном вводе российских войск на Украину говорили еще в начале года – мы проводили учения “Запад-2021” – но, как видим, этого не случилось”.

Please note these are exclusively official statements, which tend to be rather balanced in wording and tone, while state media were in full spin of sarcasm and literally laughing off these concerns. The campaign of denial continues, in spite of increased concentration of Russian troops on the border:

Remember history: Peskov of possibility of the war. Russia never invaded anyone first (26 December 2021, vesti.ru) Вспомните историю: Песков о возможности войны. Россия никогда первой ни на кого не нападала.

Lavrov: You claim we are planning to invade Ukraine, even though we explained many times that it's not true. (21 January 2022, youtube.com) Лавров: “Вы утверждаете, что мы собираемся напасть на Украину, хотя мы уже многократно объясняли, что это не так.”

“Our own troops on our own territory”

The denial continues in February 2022, weeks and then literally days before the fatal date of 24 February.

Putin: Movement of our own troops on our own, I want to reiterate, our own territory, is being presented as a threat of Russian invasion – in this case, into Ukraine. Allegedly this also threatens the Baltics and other countries who are our neighbours. On what basis – it's unclear. (8 February 2022, kremlin.ru) Путин: “Передвижение наших войск по собственной, хочу подчеркнуть, территории представляется как угроза российского вторжения – в данном случае на Украину. Якобы в опасности себя чувствуют и страны Прибалтики, и другие государства – наши соседи. На каком основании – не очень понятно”

Please note the “movement of our own troops on our own territory” argument, as it was used by top Russian for a number of times, for example in December 2021 (interfax.ru) and February 2022 (iz.ru). In the latter Dmitry Peskov said:

We are not ready, and we will not accept complaints about how we move troops on our own territory. This is our sovereign right, and we are not intending to discuss that with anyone. Мы не готовы и не будем воспринимать претензии относительно того, как мы перемещаем Вооруженные силы на территории нашей страны. Это наше суверенное право, и мы не намерены его ни с кем обсуждать.

This argument is important as the whole narrative of “Russia feeling threatened” that was widely discussed in 2021 was based specifically on actual or imaginary movement of armed forces of Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe. Russia clearly did not grant other countries the same “sovereign right” as it reserved for its own military, and unfortunately many Russia's friends in the West empathically accepted that logic.

Days before the invasion top Russian officials switch between the “none of your business” and “haha what invasion” narratives:

“So what, invasion doesn't happen?” – Lavrov smirked on insisting journalist's question (15 February 2022, pravda.ru) “Так что, вторжения не будет?” — Лавров ответил мимикой настырному журналисту

Putin: We believe, and I want to highlight this, that all disputes will be resolved in the course of negotiations between current Kiev authorities and leadership of these republics (22 February 2022, kremlin.ru) Путин: “Мы рассчитываем, и я хочу это подчеркнуть, что все спорные вопросы будут разрешены в ходе переговоров между киевскими сегодняшними властями и руководством этих республик”

The last comment was published a day after Putin voiced Russia's recognition of “LNR” and “DNR” as independent states, and two days before the armed invasion. For all that period an intensive artillery shelling continued in Donbass, which war presented by Russia as coming from Ukraine into the Russia-occupied territory. However, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission painted a completely different picture for that period:

  • complete withdrawal of artillery from the frontline on the Ukrainian side, as required by previous ceasefires, with cannons physically confirmed by the SMM to be in storage;
  • lack of withdrawal of artillery units on the Russian side, with cannons physically seen in field and firing;
  • numerous civilian casualties and buildings destroyed on the Ukrainian side as result of incoming artillery fire;

Russian officials and media therefore presented a completely inverted picture of the reality on the Donbass frontline, presenting Ukraine as violating ceasefires, while it was the Russian side that continuously shelled the Ukrainian side throughout the period directly preceding the invasion. In Russia however, this didn't matter as OSCE is widely presented as “biased”, even though Russia is member of the SMM and frequently used its influence to soften the reports from Donbass.

A number of border provocations also happened during that week and were widely covered in Russian media with the intention of amassing popular anger of the “Ukrainian escalation”. Ukrainian and Russian military experts being rather uniformly critical of the sloppiness of these provocations did not matter, as they were intended for popular audience that seems to be completely devoid of any critical thinking skills.

“We are not occupying anyone”

Finally, in his speech on the day of the invasion Putin said clearly:

Our plans do not include occupation of Ukrainian territory – we are not imposing anything to anyone by force (24 February 2022, youtube.com) Путин: “При этом в наши планы не входит оккупация украинских территорий. Мы никому и ничего не собираемся навязывать силой”

This statement can be confronted with May and June announcements of creation of “Kherson People's Republic” on the occupied territories in the south of Ukraine, and its planned annexation into Russia. And it's important, since Kherson area was never before occupied by Russia, unlike Donbass, formally recognized as “LNR” and “DNR” by Putin.

Such statements can be used to point out Putin breaking his own promises or change of plans, but in reality they will cause zero consternation inside Russia. Russian audience is fully conditioned to accept any change of plans and breaking of any earlier promises, be it about pension age or invasion of other countries.

Conclusions that can be drawn from the analysis of Russian communications in the period preceding the war:

  • Russian statements, demands and declarations have little value in terms of predicting or correlating with Russian actions. Detailed analysis of Russian officials' wording, tone and “reading between the lines” is a pointless exercise. Therefore, as of June 2022, any statements of Russia on annexing or not annexing specific territories, or allowing specific goods to be exported, or humanitarian corridors, cannot be taken at their face value.
  • The best predictor of Russian actions are Russian position on the ground and intelligence on its planned actions. If Russia cannot physically annex a territory due to its inability to exercise military control, it won't. If Russia can do it, whether it will depends on its internal costs-and-benefits analysis, which may be however based on biased premises or perceptions.

You may also want to see the whole 2022 compilation of quotes by Pshenichny.

— Paweł Krawczyk https://krvtz.net/ Fediverse @kravietz@agora.echelon.pl

The first few months of Russian invasion on #Ukraine saw a rapid transformation of the concept of “denazification” which was from the beginning fundamental to the ideological and moral justification of the war. One important thing to remember is that Russian propaganda efforts are largely targeted at its internal audience in #Russia, where it's being propagated by means of highly emotional and literally shouted TV shows. Such channels neither imply nor require logical or factual consistency, and as result the message is short of both. Attempts to rebuild some kind of logical skeleton behind it are only undertaken opportunistically, when needed – for example when even moderate allies raise brows after being confronted with the Kremlin narrative. And over the last few months we saw just that.

“Anti-Soviet equals Nazi”

An insight into the Kremlin's understanding of Eastern European “Nazism” was given by Medinsky in March in an RT interview where he commented the progress of peace talks with Ukraine:

On denazification the situation is quite strange because our Ukrainian colleagues, from the the other side of the negotiation table, believe that there's no Nazi parties in Ukraine, and that modern Ukraine in no way supports this direction. I personally believe they are not paying enough attention to things that worry the whole world, such as activities of the #Nazi paramilitary groups which are allowed in Ukraine, their symbols, their training, their ideology; on activities of neo-Nazi and extremist organizations; and finally on the fact that in Ukrainian towns streets and squares are officially named after criminals who fought against the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition.

Note the last rather convoluted sentence – “criminals who fought against the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition” – where merely a mention of Stepan Bandera would be sufficient to make the point? Unrolling that, what Medinsky says is because Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany, therefore anyone fought against Soviet Union is a Nazi. Of course, this argument is ahistorical and illogical – Soviet Union was a key supporter of Nazi Germany in 1939-1941, and in all Eastern European countries invaded by these two in 1939, the local resistance was directed equally against Third Reich and USSR. The latter only joined part of anti-Hitler coalition after 1941, and joined it rather forcibly, after being attacked by Hitler. There certainly was some collaboration with Germans in all territories but that included Soviet Union (RONA, Vlasov army) just as well as Ukraine, whose infamous SS-Galizien was much smaller than its Russian counterparts. Collaboration of guerilla groups (such as Ukrainian OUN or UPA) was much more complex, as they entered ceasefires and made tactical deals with both German and Soviet troops during various stages of war. This is precisely why the argument of the resistance groups such as OUN being “German collaborators” is quite a far stretch – they perceived both Germans and Soviets as occupiers (plus, Bandera himself spent most of the war in German concentration camp). Soviet propaganda took just one piece of this puzzle – “fought against Soviets” – and made it a whole case for anti-Soviet resistance being “Nazi”. How absurd that went can be especially well demonstrated on case of Poland, which, having no collaborator government or army at all, saw trial of Witold Pilecki and Trial of the Sixteen, where Polish resistance Home Army leaders were charged with “collaboration with Nazis” while they were consistently fighting Germans since 1939 when Soviet Union was still happily fueling Nazi invasion on Europe! Conclusion: this way of the “Nazi” designation simply follows the Soviet propaganda trope – if you're against Soviets, you're “Nazi” because Soviets at some point switched sides and joined Allies. Absurdity of this argument can be easily demonstrated when we repeat it with other Allies in mind – for example, arguing that “anyone who is against Great Britain is a Nazi”, which logically makes USSR itself a “Nazi”. There's nothing in it but rather simplistic Soviet-time cliche.

“Asymptomatic Nazism”

April saw a widely commented article by Timofey Sergeytsev “What Russia should do with Ukraine?”. The author freely roams between neo-imperialist, colonial and contemptuous points of view, completely denying Ukraine and Ukrainian people any subjectivity and simply looking at the war in Ukraine as some kind of suppression of a slave mutiny. However, he also speaks of “denazification”, and in a very interesting way:

A particular feature of Nazified Ukraine is its amorphousness and ambivalentness, which allows for the masking of Nazism as a desire to move towards an “independent” and “European” (Western and pro-American) path of development, (in reality – towards degradation), while insisting that Ukraine “doesn’t have any Nazism, only private and singular excesses.” There isn’t, after all, a single important Nazi party, no Fuehrer, no fully racist laws (only their curtailed variants in the form of repressions against the Russian language). As a result, there is no opposition and resistance to the regime.

The striking honesty of this analysis needs to be fully appreciated: the author notes lack of evidence for any Nazi symbols, programs or parties... but insists on the classification of the whole country as “Nazi” as if the word “ambivalent” simply replaced any need for evidence. It's not an original invention by Sergeytsev: in Soviet Union, when the authorities struggled to find a specific criminal code article to prosecute dissidents, but they still wanted to prosecute them, they came up with a very similar concept of asymptomatic or sluggish schizophrenia. Conclusion: an evidence-based diagnosis in case of both “Nazism” and a disease would start from having a defined set of symptoms and then matching these against a case. What we see here is an opposite: you very much like the idea of X being a “Nazi” or “schizophrenic”, so you simply assign the label and resolve the issue of missing match by simply prefixing your diagnosis with “amorphous” or “asymptomatic”. Of course, this way anyone, including the person making the diagnosis, can be a match too, and the whole concept of diagnosing is reduced to simple shoe-throwing.

“Russophobic Russians”

Alexander Dugin has been always in the avant-garde of Kremlin imperialism and his arguments can be best characterized as “flexible”: if it doesn't work one way, he just tries another, and he always finds some followers. This way he Gish-galloped through “geopolitics”, “sacred geography”, “political pragmatism” and now ended up as one of the leading Russian experts of “Ukrainian Nazism”. The latter is especially entertaining granted that in literature Dugin is “known for views widely characterized as fascist”. In a May publication for “Nezygar”, on the topic of “denazification” Dugin did correctly note that Russia's arguments about “Nazi Ukraine” aren't widely accepted (to put that lightly), in the absence of any Nazi parties. He also noted Sergey Lavrov's rant, where he practically equated Israel with Nazis as “strange and convoluted”, but blamed that on the topic having “complex political science” context. Is it lack of evidence to blame? Not at all:

These questions cannot be convincingly answered by Russia, regardless of hard we try. (...) Who is an antisemite is determined by Jews and the state of Israel, and also various international Jewish organizations who hold a kind of “monopoly” on determining who is an “antisemite” and who is not. (...) Moscow is today not in a position to push its own definitions in this sphere.

Dugin honestly admits the failure of Russian propaganda on making the slur of “Nazi Ukraine” even remotely convincing due to lack of evidence. With his usual flexibility Dugin proposes a solution:

To explain what we mean by “Nazism” in modern Ukraine and justify the denazification as the objective of the special military operation, we must equate the Ukrainian Nazism with Russophobia. And in this field nobody can object and claim we incorrectly assign the label, because just as Jews determine what “antisemitism” is, it's only Russians who can answer “what is Russophobia?”

Simple? Yes. Consistent? No. Dugin's proposal is rather infantile, granted that since 2014 Russian propaganda has ridden the “Nazi” argument, suddenly turn on your heel and say “yeah, maybe there were no Nazis, we just meant Russophobes”.

But then, the whole “Russophobic” argument is also terribly inconsistent if we ignore the “Nazi” prehistory. Dugin defines it in the following way (and proposes making a law of it):

Russophobia is hatred against Russians for being Russians, building a politics on this hatred, and performing specific actions, including violent ones.

The sad truth is however that Russian armed forces are (and have been since 2014) mostly killing Russian-speaking population in Ukraine – that includes Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, dying under bombs in largely bilingual central and predominantly Russian-speaking East part of Ukraine. And it's largely Russian-speaking and ethnically Russian soldiers in armed forces of Ukraine who are defending their country against the invasion. They are not fighting them because the invaders are Russian, but because they are invaders. The “Russophobic” argument is incorrect because Russian armed forces are fighting mostly Russian and Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, and the ethnicity is not a distinguishing feature here. The main disagreement between the fighting parties is Russia's allegiance to one particular political movement that assumes superiority of not only Russian ethnos, but also a very specific authoritarian political system represented by Putin. Conclusion: it's a classic “no true Scotsman” fallacy – Kremlin only chooses to recognize as “Russians” those who uncritically approve Putin and his model of a state – therefore those who don't, are automatically classified as “Russophobes” and “Nazis”, even if they are Russians themselves.

“Whatever works”

As noted in the beginning, Kremlin's approach to ideology seems to be largely instrumental – unlike in Soviet times, there's no carefully constructed ideological system with its saints and scriptures. Instead, it's a casually picked mix of various ideological tropes taken from Soviet, Russian Orthodox and Russian Empire, based on their perceived attractiveness for the audience, even if ends up with an Orthodox icon with Jesus and atheist Stalin all in one picture. Application of these is opportunistic – if the story works for the target audience, they'll just go with it because why worry for details if you can spend the “saved” budget for a holiday in Emirates? If it doesn't, they'll simply invent another one – this is how we ended up with the “firehose of lies” in so many stories, such as MH17 or Bucha. Does it work? Clearly not with Western audience, which, even among its most forgiving representatives, seems to be listening to Kremlin's statements made at different times and actually trying make sense of it, and is often left puzzled by the contradictions and basic nonsense. Dissection of these is rather trivial – you don't really need excellent analytical skills, it's usually sufficient to compare Russian officials statements at some month apart to capture striking inconsistencies. All these publications, when watched over a longer period, make an increasingly depressing impression of rather desperate attempts to justify the biases of its authors rather than attempts at actual analytics.

— Paweł Krawczyk https://krvtz.net/ Fediverse @kravietz@agora.echelon.pl