Putin’s selective terrorism
With Russia’s track record on killings of civilians, abduction of asylum seekers, crushing of protest and politically-motivated prosecutions, its treatment of armed miilitants in Ukraine as freedom-fighters and Pavel Gubarev as a political prisoner says it all
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has said that “all involved” should draw lessons from the hostage crisis following the seizure of 8 OSCE military observers by pro-Russian militants controlling Slovyansk. Given the self-styled “mayor” of Slovyansk, Viacheslav Ponomarev’s demand on Tuesday for the cancellation of EU sanctions before negotiations for the hostages’ release continue, the conclusion must be that the interests of the Slovyansk armed terrorists and the Kremlin are remarkably coordinated.
Putin, however, was suggesting that the visit should have been agreed with the “pro-federalization activist who do not recognize the Kiev regime and control the area”.
These are extraordinarily generous terms to use in talking about armed men who have taken up to 50 people hostage over recent weeks, tortured some and are believed to be behind the killing of two, probably three hostages.
Moscow is supposedly helping to get the OSCE hostages released, although how actively is not yet clear. They are neither making any efforts to secure the release of other hostages, nor even condemn such terrorist activities.
This is in marked contrast to Moscow’s treatment of other separatists, hostage-takers, etc.
InfoResist cites a report of a counter-terrorist operation on April 29 in Dagestan (Russian Federation searching for “particularly dangerous criminals from a southern terrorist band who were intending to carry out terrorist acts during the May holidays. Three fighters were “eliminated”.
Whether they were in fact fighters can also be doubted judging by the previous behaviour of Russian federal troops. Their concern for civilian casualties is minimal. In only one case – that of Yury Budanov – was any military officer sentenced for raping and murdering a young woman in Chechnya. The conviction took years to achieve, and he was then released early. Captain Ullman and his colleagues were helped to flee in order to escape charges of murder over the killing in cold blood of 6 civilians.
The fact that these cases even reached the courts makes them exceptions, as can be seen by the number of cases where the European Court of Human Rights has found that Russia violated the right to life, and other rights, in connection with the murder or disappearance of civilians in Chechnya and Dagestan.
Putin and Kremlin-loyal Russian media have in general treated all pro-Russian militants as freedom fighters, and Pavel Gubarev, the neo-Nazi-leaning pro-Russian activist who took part in the first violent seizures of the Donetsk regional administration, now remanded in custody, as a “political prisoner”.
In Russia most protest actions are simply banned. If they take place, then detentions are inevitable. A significant number of unarmed demonstraters were held in detention for well over a year, and convicted on the most questionable grounds over the Bolotnaya Square disturbances on May 6, 2012.
While Gubarev is treated like a political prisoner, left-wing Russian activist Leonid Razvozzhaev, who was abducted from the centre of Kyiv in October 2012 while applying for political asylum, is not, although he has been held in Russian remand facilities ever since. He is charged with “organizing mass riots” with the original allegations resulting in his abduction having been made on a supposed “documentary” on NTV. (See: Razvozzhaev Case: No Pretence of Rule of Law)
The list can be extended yet even these examples make the conclusion unavoidable that the term terrorism means just what the Kremlin want’s it to mean. When they’re “ours”, they’re freedom fighters.