Staunton, January 8 – Vladimir Putin followed the path of other world leaders and dutifully condemned the Islamist attack on the French journal Charlie Hebdo. But in the minutes after the murderous outrage, Russian propagandists close to the Kremlin filled social networks with posts and tweets supporting the attackers, according to a Ukrainian blogger.
In reporting his findings – including snaps of posts by Russians containing lines like “I just found out about this and I am for those who shot them. There must be press censorship, and if you don’t feel the limits, then you pay with your life” — Newssky.com.ua suggests that the content was similar enough to raise the question as to whether they were acting on instructions.
That is probably unlikely – such Russians appear to have been expressing their own views — but as the news service pointed out, “there is nothing surprising in this: no hypocritical sympathy will be able to mask the fact that Putin by diplomacy, money and arms has helped the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad” and that “the Kremlin has not concealed its support of terrorist groups in the Middle East.”
Moreover, as Vladimir Varfolomeyev, an Ekho Moskvy journalist has pointed out, among his acquaintances, those who “are not condemning the attack on the [French] journal are almost the very same people with whom we always argue about Putin, Crimea, the Donbass and so on.”
The failure of those who back Putin in Ukraine to condemn these attacks, the Moscow journalist says, show that “today there is simply a gulf” between those who do and those who don’t. On one side are those who support human rights and international order; on the other are those who don’t.
Yevgeny Ikhlov, a Moscow commentator, extends that argument. He says that it is critically important that people understand that “the difference between the terrorists … in Paris and Putin … is only a matter of quantity but not quality,” one that reflects the control the Kremlin already has over Russia compared to the lack of control Al Qaeda and the Islamic State do.
That difference means that the Russian government today with its “’Orthodox chekism’ can use “comparatively vegetarian methods” of imposing its will, Ikhlov says, while Al Qaeda and the Islamic State must still act “like the Chekists of the 1930s and the Hitlerite storm troopers and Gestapo officers” who need to shed blood to advance their cause.
In reality, he continues, “the ideology of ‘the Russian world’ and the ideology of the ISIL from the point of view of civilizational processes are twin brothers. The Donbass ‘armies and Odessa ‘partisans’ are the ‘Al Qaeda’ of ‘the Russian world,’ the second front of the struggle with European civilization.”
Estonian parliamentarian Marko Mikhelson expands on this idea by pointing to an underlying commonality between the terrorist outrage in Paris and Moscow’s behavior in Ukraine: “The greatest challenges for Europe have become Islamic extremism…which denies all borders and revisionism” of borders “by Russia.”