From Republic.ru, April 4, 2023, https://republic.ru/posts/107872. Condensed text:
[Editor in chief of the state-controlled television channel RT] Margarita Simonyan: “What now? Will we forget? Will we forgive?”
[TV host] Tina Kandelaki: “When will the country begin to respond? The terrorists have electricity, water, railways, restaurants [and] the Internet. The killers’ handlers are moving around the country with TV cameras.”
[Pro-Kremlin blogger] Ilya Yansen: “We need the kind of terror the world has never seen before.*** We need [a situation where] any pro-Ukrainian person in Russia would be afraid to leave their room.*** Meanwhile, Ukraine must go up in flames with hundreds and thousands of widows in the hinterland weeping and wailing.”
[Russian ultranationalist thinker] Aleksandr Dugin: “Any spit on a fallen hero is an insult to the Motherland.*** Talk and write only if you are ready to pay with your life for your words”. . . .
[Former host and director of Russian-language broadcasting on RT] Anton Krasovsky: “How I hate all this liberal scum!”. . . .
As might have been expected, the murder of a Russian war blogger was immediately attributed to domestic and external enemies, (Navalny’s followers, other horrible people who are against the war [and] Ukraine). Granted, the case didn’t hold water from the start. A video posted on social networks shows Darya Trepova, who is suspected of presenting a gypsum statuette laden with explosives to Fomin, in the same room with [Fomin] and other participants in the fateful meeting at the café. For some reason, after the explosion she is in no hurry to get away but stands outside the entrance for some time, talks on the telephone and then unhurriedly leaves. Her first words after the arrest were: “I’ve been set up!”
Even the police had to admit right away that the young woman was used as a cat’s paw, some media outlets reported, citing an anonymous source at the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry.
Predictably, a Ukrainian trail theory was immediately put forward. Allegedly, Trepova had ties to some Ukrainian journalists. Then the name of Roman Popkov, a Russian journalist and blogger who has long been living in Ukraine, was mentioned. Popkov acknowledged that he was acquainted with Darya through correspondence, but categorically denied any involvement in the St. Petersburg bombing.
It is not difficult to predict how the investigation of this case will unfold. Like all cases relating to terrorism, it will be classified and the public will be fed only those theories that are beneficial to the Russian authorities.
However, in this case, as well as other criminal cases, we should ask ourselves a simple question: Who stands to gain from this or needs this? Is using a complex operation to eliminate one of the many dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian war bloggers really where Ukrainian intelligence services would be directing their efforts right now?
Essentially, all of this is strongly reminiscent of events that took place almost a century ago.
On Dec. 1, 1934, in the same city, which was then called Leningrad, Sergei Kirov, a “staunch Stalinist,” a member of the Politburo of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) central committee, was shot and killed in a corridor of the well-guarded Smolny [Palace].
Readers are reminded that [Soviet leader Joseph] Stalin used that terrorist act, which was committed by another Communist Party member, Leonid Nikolayev, as an excuse for unleashing the Great Terror in the Soviet Union in 1937-1938. During these two years alone, more than 681,000 people, condemned as “enemies of the people,” were executed. Along with political prisoners, who were executed on criminal charges [or] died in prisons and [labor] camps, the overall number of victims of the 1937-1938 repressions in the USSR totaled around 1 million people. . . .
Needless to say, all historical parallels are hypothetical, because over time, any society changes in one way or another. And contemporary Russian society is no exception. Even despite the massive 20-year promotion of traditionalism, conservatism, return to “roots” and “spiritual bonds,” the degradation of the education system and the resulting degradation of a significant segment of Russian society, it is not the same today as it was almost 90 years ago. The majority of the population are educated and well informed, and modern technologies, even though they are also being leveraged by conservatives, stand in the way of identical thinking and the nation’s total degradation.
If only for these reasons, Putin will not be able to simply copy the system that existed in the USSR under Stalin. It was based on state serfdom on collective farms, the large-scale use of inmate labor in the Gulag (which, incidentally, is being reinstated in Russia today) and the ruthless exploitation of workers (regular six-day working weeks, double shifts, shortened leave, etc.).
It is hardly possible to restore all these practices in full today. And for all these reasons, the new terror in Russia is unlikely to reach the Stalin-era scale. Nevertheless, many people in the country are going to have it rough.
The fact is that the logic of Putin’s behavior is the same as the “leader of peoples’ ” [i.e., Stalin’s] in the 1930s. It is dictated by the same main challenge that faced Stalin then and is facing Putin today – i.e., to survive and avoid spending the rest of his life behind bars for the atrocities [he has] committed.
To that end, Stalin had to do something with his party, especially its old members, who disliked him. And he did. More than half the delegates to the Congress of Victors (the 17th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), which took place in January-February 1934) and was subsequently dubbed the “congress of the executed,” were repressed during the years of the Great Terror.
We do not know yet what laws or decrees Putin and his puppet [State] Duma will adopt to fight undesirables. But we do know for sure that the ones he mainly needs to do something about are in his own “party” – especially those radicals who are becoming increasingly disappointed with him and demonstrating disloyalty.
The fact is that the terrorist attack at the St. Petersburg café, which was [reportedly once] owned by [Yevgeny] Prigozhin, head of Wagner PMC, may also be an indication that Putin is psychologically prepared for an outcome of the Ukraine war that some advocates of his “Russian world” would perceive as not just a defeat, but a defeat born of treachery. What’s more, those accused of that treachery would be not only some abstract “oligarchs” and “liberals” (actually, they are already being accused), but also Putin personally.
Examples of such an attitude toward the Russian president on the part of fervent champions of the “Russian world” are not hard to find. Literally a couple of days before Fomin’s assassination, the notorious [former Donetsk people’s republic defense minister] Igor Girkin (Strelkov), as well as two of his like-minded associates – imperialist Maksim Kalashnikov (aka Vladimir Kucherenko) and Pavel Gubarev, who used to be a member of the openly [neo-] Nazi Russian National Unity [party] and then in 2014 [declared himself] the Donetsk Province “people’s governor” – posted an appeal by “angry patriots” on [Girkin’s] Telegram channel.
“We are angry because we are going from defeat to defeat and nothing is changing,” Gubarev says in this video. “I would dare to say that we are heading toward a military defeat,” Girkin echoes him. “If some pro-Western capitulationist coup takes place, we must reverse it by relying on all the healthy forces in the Army, defense, law-enforcement and security agencies,” Kalashnikov concludes.
Furthermore, several days before, Girkin publicly urged Putin to “shut up.” Which, it should be noted, is extremely shortsighted of him: Putin believes in strict subordination, and is a very touchy and vindictive person.
A [leaked recording of a] bombshell conversation between [Russian music] producer Iosif Prigozhin and billionaire and former senator Farkhad Akhmedov is further evidence of discontent with Putin among members of his “elite.” Prigozhin talks about Putin and his entourage: “They are criminals.” Akhmedov is dissatisfied with the Russian president, since, in the ex-senator’s opinion, he and his entourage “have robbed [the country] blind,” but he is even more [dissatisfied] with the fact that Putin does not measure up to Stalin.
“Right now I am watching the film ‘Liberation’ [Osvobozhdeniye]: How Stalin consults with generals! What a system there was! [What an] ideology!” the billionaire exclaims. . . .
Akhmedov expresses outrage at the fact that the tsar turns out to be the wrong one! The tsar has been substituted!
In reality, however, the situation is the exact opposite. The tsar – albeit with certain adjustments to the present – is in fact the “right one.” As professional historians know very well, the real Stalin, too, would often not consult with generals, high-handedly imposing erroneous decisions on his entourage. During World War II, especially in 1941 and 1942, a series of Stalin’s decisions of that kind led the USSR from one military debacle to another.
Granted, even if the present tsar (Putin) consults with his generals, it will not help him very much: Several zeroes add up to the same total.
In the current situation, people like Strelkov-Girkin and his associates, or Akhmedov, are more dangerous to Putin than Navalny’s remaining supporters and other real oppositionists.
It is also hardly a coincidence that war blogger Fomin was chosen for the role of sacral victim.
First, during the past year, some war bloggers have gained excessive popularity, daring to dabble in opposition politics, which is inappropriate from Putin’s standpoint. And Fomin dared.
Second, in the famous video from the Kremlin during a ceremony for the “accession” of the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and other occupied Ukrainian territories to Russia, Fomin divulged what is perhaps its main military secret today. After all, he did not simply say: “We will kill everyone, we will rob everyone who deserves it.” That would have been forgivable. But he added: “Everything will be just the way we like it.”
What can you say? Yes, there are people who suffer from psychopathology – a thirst for murder. They simply enjoy causing pain, torturing and killing other people. A case in point is the most recent video by Wagner mercenaries with a man they tortured to death, on whose forehead they had written the word “Georgian.” A Wagner thug stands nearby, pretending to play the violin: They are enjoying themselves.
In ordinary life, such people have to hide their pathological compulsions. However, war gives them a unique chance to act them out to the full extent and not even end up behind bars for it. They only need to choose the “right” patriotic ideology to justify their sadism, and presto! You are no longer a maniac and serial killer, but a hero.
When such people get into a war, they commit what are known as war crimes. It is even worse when such people are national leaders, because they unleash wars and give such maniacs carte blanche for war crimes.
So Fomin went and innocently blabbed out the secret wishes and inclinations of many members of Putin’s “Russian world.” This is unacceptable, of course. If he had talked about protecting Russians, that would have been different. The way it worked out, though, the war blogger, who had gotten a false idea of his own importance, immediately became a marked man.
But what is even more important is that Fomin was one of those fervent supporters of Putin’s “Russian world” who cannot abide even the thought of Russia’s defeat in the ongoing war. Whereas their leader, from all indications, actually can.
Readers are reminded of the recent proposal by Margarita Simonyan, one of his main propagandists, that the captured Ukrainian territories be “bought” with Russian assets seized abroad, and that these could even be considered [war] reparations. Simonyan’s proposal has become yet another (far from the first) hint that Putin, in principle, is ready to retreat.
Naturally, he will try not to do so if he can. And he has nuclear missiles up his sleeve as a last resort. Nevertheless, withdrawing from at least part of the occupied territories behind the Feb. 24, 2022, lines as a possible compromise is already an acceptable scenario to him. And maybe [withdrawing] even further. Then signing an agreement with [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky, fencing [himself] off from the rest of the world with an iron curtain, bristling with missiles, and living the rest of his life behind them, sitting in the presidential chair instead of a prison cell.
Needless to say, this is not a scenario that people like Girkin, Kalashnikov and other “people’s governors” expect from him. Putin understands this very well. But whereas right now he is prepared for various decisions, including “difficult” ones, all the Girkins and Kalashnikovs of this world are prepared for only one thing – i.e., a complete and unconditional victory. However, there is no doubt that [Putin] already has a plan for what to do with these people. And something tells me that Fomin’s murder is just the beginning.