A Charlie Hebdo moment in Moscow?

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

Subject: A Charlie Hebdo moment in Moscow?
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 2015 10:20:57 +0000
From: Antony Penaud <antonypenaud@yahoo.fr>

Antony Penaud received his DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2000. He is French and lives in London.

His essays on the Ukrainian crisis can be found on https://www.scribd.com/AntonyKharms

A Charlie Hebdo moment in Moscow?

Here I present two possible scenarios for the assassination of Boris Nemtsov:

1. A Charlie Hebdo moment
2. Nationalists threatening Putin

1. The Charlie Hebdo moment

We all know that the goal of the foreign powers that backed Maidan is regime change in Russia, and that they dream of a Russian Maidan (McCain: “Dear Vlad, the arab spring is coming to a neighbourhood near you”).

To this end, they have – among other things – launched an economic war against Russia (the so-called “sanctions” (1)). But, to their disappointment, there is very little Russian protest against Putin.

I am French, and the Charlie Hebdo attack (2) shocked me deeply, as well as many other French people. Yet, I did not like at all that magazine: I didn’t find it funny and I found it insulting.
But the emotion caused by the assassination of well-known journalists (even though Charlie Hebdo didn’t sell much they were well-liked) right in the centre of Paris caused millions to go to the street.

Now, Nemtsov was well-known, his approval rating was I understand near 1% (but was well-liked), the place of the assassination is clearly designed to cause shock and emotion, and a protest was due to take place 36 hours later.

In that “Charlie Hebdo moment scenario”, the idea is “since we cannot get Russians to go to the street a la Maidan, let’s make them go to the street a la Charlie Hebdo, and maybe this will be the first step of a Russian Maidan – Nemtsov will be much more useful to our cause as a martyr”.

A friend of mine went to the march in St Petersburg: she is not anti-Putin and wouldn’t have gone to the Sunday protest otherwise. She went because she was shocked by that assassination right outside the Kremlin.

2. Nationalists threatening Putin

Some nationalists were angry about the Minsk agreement at the beginning of September 2014. The Russia backed rebels had the upper hand and were advancing towards Mariupol but were ordered to stop. Some thought it was a grave mistake: the Ukrainian army was in shambles. They didn’t understand why they had to stop the advance and thought the ceasefire would only give them the time to regroup.

That is exactly what happened in January 2015: Donetsk started to get bombed again.

Again, the rebels got the upper hand and encircled (almost completely) many thousands Ukrainian soldiers in Debaltsevo. That desperate situation for the Ukrainian army triggered Minsk 2 and a new ceasefire.

Minsk 2 did not mention Debaltsevo and fighting did not stop there until a few days later when the rebels took it.

Some nationalists consider that at two times the rebels had the opportunity to inflict a decisive defeat to the Ukrainian army, but were prevented to do that by Putin.

In that scenario, the assassination of a man that they consider to be a traitor right in front of the Kremlin is a clear message sent to Putin: “that is how we deal with traitors”.

3. Further comments

– Some people say that the fact that the murderers escaped so easily means that the secret services were involved. The Charlie Hebdo killings took place right in the centre of Paris, it took longer (they went up to the office etc..), and it was in the middle of the day (daylight + many people and cars in the streets). Yet they escaped. They got found because they wanted to get found (they left their ID in the car) and they wanted to die in a gunfight with the police. Would the French police have found them if they had wanted to hide?

– Unsurprisingly, the western media has already decided who is behind the assassination: Putin.
The Guardian portrays Nemtsov as an important opposition leader, yet a search on their website shows that the last time thay had mentioned his name was in January 2011.

One should not dismiss any scenario but one really fails to see what gains Putin would get by the assassination of a political leader with such a low approval rating (one could in fact argue that it is better for him to have such an opposition than no opposition at all!), and right outside the Kremlin….

(1) “sanctions”: The choice of word is a masterpiece of PR. That single word implies that Russia is at fault, and that the US/EU have the right (the moral right?), or even the duty to harm her.

(2) In the Charlie Hebdo attack, not only journalists were killed. Also, another killer killed a policewoman and later Jews in a shop. For reasons that it would be interesting to understand, it seems that it was the murders of the journalists that was the main cause of the emotion.