LIVE UPDATES: Russia’s ambassador to the UN claims information about chemical weapons in Syria was fabricated; Russia also said cooperation with the US in Syria on air strikes will not include Aleppo.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Recent Analysis and Translations:
– What Has Ramzan Kadyrov Been Up To? Quietly Cultivating Regional and Kremlin Officials, Now He Meets with Putin
– RBC Publishes Report Sourced in FSB and Military on Wagner Private Military Contractor with 2,500 Fighters in Syria
– Russian Parliamentary Elections Round-Up: Open Russiaâs Baronova Registered; Shevchenko Disqualified
– The Kremlin is Working Hard to Make Donald Trump President
Staunton, VA, August 31, 2016 – The major snap inspection of combat readiness announced by President Vladimir Putin on August 25 has sparked concerns of a preparation for a new military move against Ukraine.
It concludes today, August 31, which raises new questions about what the Kremlin leader intends and will do next.
One new indication is provided by the fact that Moscow has sent into the Russian-occupied portion of the Donbass a group of journalists from Zvezda television, a network that has regularly promoted Russia’s war against Ukraine.
In normal military operations, the journalists come only after the troops; but in Putin’s “hybrid” war which has made propaganda a centerpiece of his operations, the reverse has often been true; and that makes this new report by Dmitry Tymchuk worrisome, albeit not definitive as to what the Kremlin will do next.
Indeed, as Russian commentator Vataly Shchigeltsky points out, what Putin is doing may have far more to do with domestic Russian conditions than with any plans to attack. As he writes, “there is no war but there are all the conditions of wartime,” something that generates patriotic fervor and support for the leader.
“Talk about a possible war in the near future seems empty,” he says. “There is no reason to attack Russia, a country which is rapidly being destroyed by the hands of its very own ‘elite.’ And it is senseless for Russia to go on the attack,” given its defeats and the price it is paying for them.
But the Russian elite has a compelling reason to gin up wartime emotions: It is only way it can “extend” its rule by justifying in the minds of its own members and the Russian population at large the self-imposed isolation of the country from the outside world, “following the behests of Antonio Salazar,” the Portuguese fascist leader.
— Paul Goble
“In Belgium, they make propaganda and in some cases raise financial support for the Emirate. Sometimes their sons and daughters join in this activity.”
Curiously, at the time RenTV, a pro-Kremlin TV station, was the first to report the attack. Then LifeNews, a TV channel and website with close ties to Russian police and intelligence agencies, claimed that two Belarusian Muslims who had once traveled to Brussels were involved in the attack.
The Belarusian authorities had not arrested the pair, who were interviewed by a surprised Belarusian media. One of the suspects asked Euroradio, “if I am a terrorist and a suicide bomber, how come I’m alive and not arrested?”
Belarusian police said they had no claims against the men and when Belgium arrested other suspects, the story with the Belarusian angle was dropped without explanation by Russian media.
Russian officials claimed last year that as many as 2,700 fighters from Russia, mainly the North Caucasus, were in Syria and Iraq. Then after Russia began bombing in Syria on September 30, 2015, President Vladimir Putin began to say that 2,000 of these fighters were killed. Both the original claim, based on a single source of a terrorist captured by Russia about Russian citizens in training camps, and the later claim that most of them were killed in bomb attacks, have not been verified.
Terrorist attacks have continued uninterrupted, mainly in the North Caucasus, and recently have spread to Moscow and St. Petersbug.
The ruble is trading at 65.24 to the dollar and 72.73 to the euro. Brent crude is selling for $47.89.
The following headlines were taken from RBC, Vedomosti, Grani, Nazaccent, RFE/RL, and Gazeta.
Translation: Reclassification to part 1, Art. 144 (with aggravating circumstances) and a fine of 30,000 rubles [$460]. That’s how an exonerating sentence in a political case looks today.