Putin Now Offers a ‘Hybrid’ Peace in Syria, Moscow Commentator Says

March 22, 2016
The MSF-supported hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria was destroyed in an attack on 15 February 2016. | Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

40 Percent More Protests Took Place in Russia in 2015 than the Year Before But Few Received Much Attention in Moscow

Staunton, VA, March 22, 2016 – In 2015, there were 409 protest actions in the Russian Federation, 40 percent more than a year earlier. But few of them received much attention in the central media largely because most occurred beyond the capital’s Ring Road and because they involved issues like city services rather than overtly political challenges to the powers-that-be.

Yet even when these demonstrations involved only a small portion of the workers or residents on whose behalf they were organized, the protests often brought benefits to the entire class of people involved with all workers at some plants getting back pay even though only a fraction of them went into the streets.

These trends appear to be continuing now, with ever more people in the hard hit regions outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg choosing to demonstrate but being largely ignored by the central media because their demands are not political and/or because these events are far from the capitals.
A case in point took place last weekend in the Karelian city of Olonets, where one out of every eight of its residents took part in protest against rising prices for municipal services. Rates are higher there than in most other places in the republic and beyond the ability of many to pay.
Organizers attracted speakers from the Just Russia Party, Yabloko and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) and approved a resolution to be posted online and send to officials. Dayra Ryappiyeva, one of the organizers, told the regional news service 7×7 that she and others are waiting to see “what comes out of it.”
Some might dismiss this meeting because of its small size, its distance from Moscow, and its focus on immediate issues rather than on an overtly political agenda. But such protests serve as a kind of political kindergarten for many, a training ground out of which real political movements may come.
That possibility is clearly recognized by many Russian officials, and that is why in general they have tried to meet the demands of the demonstrators at least part way and to provide assistance to the entire class on whose behalf the protesters have assembled. It should be recognized by analysts who typically focus all too closely on twitches in public opinion polls and all too rarely on the ways in which Russian popular activism is taking shape.
The 27 Other Savchenkos Must Not be Forgotten
Staunton, VA, March 22, 2016 – The gross miscarriage of justice in the case of Nadiya Savchenko has sparked outrage among people of good will around the world, but it would be a tragedy if this welcome focus on her case failed to generate international support for the 27 other Ukrainians Russian officials have taken hostage and against whom they have fabricated cases.

As Crimea’s QHA news agency notes today, Russian officials in occupied Crimea and elsewhere have used fabricated cases as a way of intimidating the population. And it says that at present there are 28 prisoners who have been subject to such repression for their political convictions.
Savchenko is one of them, but thankfully her case is well known. The other 27 are much less so, and QHA points to the 74-page report about them prepared earlier this year by the joint efforts of Euromaidan SOS, the Center for Civic Freedoms, and the Open Dialogue Foundation about 27 Ukrainians and one Estonian who have been subjected to such actions.
Their report is available here.
Putin Now Offers a ‘Hybrid’ Peace in Syria, Moscow Commentator Says

Staunton, VA, March 22, 2016 — Vladimir Putin, having popularized the concept of “a hybrid war” in Ukraine, is now pursuing “a hybrid peace” in Syria, one in which he is given credit for ending a conflict despite continuing it in an exact analogy to the way he has avoided in the minds of some responsibility for naked aggression by calling it something else.

In an Ekho Moskvy commentary March 21, Anton Orekh notes that in this Orwellian world, “if one can conduct a hybrid war, then why can’t one conduct a hybrid peace?” by declaring that Russia has withdrawn its forces but then is “continuing to fight” as if that declaration had never happened.
As with the Kremlin’s pursuit of a “hybrid” war in Ukraine, Putin’s announcement that he is pulling Russian forces out of Syria has produced a variety of commentaries as to what that means, Orekh says. Indeed, “there are just as many versions as there are specialists. And it is possible that not one of them is correct” given the ways in which rhetoric and reality change.
“In Crimea, by a similar hybrid means, first appeared very police people all covered in green. They were either self-defense forces or constant buyers at the Russian military stores;” and then after their actions, they became “heroes of Russia.” In the Donbass, Russian forces have been fighting for two years but “formally” Moscow doesn’t acknowledge that.
“This experience has turned out to be very valuable for the war in Syria as well,” the Moscow commentator continues. Moscow bombs the opponents of Assad rather than terrorists but insists that “we are bombing terrorists: you can say whatever you like and we will spit on it” and redouble our claims about what is going on.
“The meaning of hybrid war,” Orekh says, is to say one thing while doing another, “to deny absolutely everything and to assert exactly the opposite.” Russians “willingly believe what they need to,” he suggests. As to foreigners, their attitudes “do not have any meaning. And practice has showed that such a tactic is completely effective.”
As the events of two years ago showed, “no one interfered with [Russia] turning Crimea upside down and simply taking it for itself. No one can interfere with [Russia’s] fighting in the Donbass and pour kerosene on the flames. No one and nothing can oppose us in Syria,” the commentator continues.
“And now we fully can say that we have pulled our bombers from there and then go in with our helicopters via another door, to withdraw one unit and meet it with flours and to introduce another unit without excessive noise,” Orekh says.

For all this to work, he concludes, all that is necessary is “to call black white and look into the eyes of one’s interlocutor with a smile.” In fact, although Orekh does not say so, one more thing is necessary: those who are being lied to have to be willing to accept what Putin says without challenging him. And as Orekh could say but doesn’t, there are all too many like that.