If you just started following Russian politics in the past year, you might have noticed the constant use of the term “provocation”(провокация). For example, when someone like foreign minister Lavrov speaks about civilians being killed by artillery strikes on areas under government control, he’ll refer to “provocations.” The downing of MH17 is also referred to as a “provocation.” Now when Ukrainian forces shell areas under the control of the
Russian military totally local, armed tractor drivers and miners and civilians die as a result, that’s not a provocation. That’s just the junta committing genocide. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov labeled Boris Nemtsov’s recent murder a “provocation.” What’s the deal with all these provocations?
One must start by understanding that provocation doesn’t mean the same thing it does in English, or its equivalent in any other language in the sane world, for that matter. For example, if I want to provoke a fight, I might insult someone, shove them, or get up in their face. Now this might get them to throw the first punch, but the point is that I am doing something to the other person in an attempt to get them to do something in return. I am not hitting myself.
In Kremlin-speak, labeling something a provocation is essentially a passive-aggressive way of accusing your opponent of being the real culprit behind the thing you are clearly guilty of. For example, in mid-January the rebel forces in Ukraine started an offensive. On 25 January, they launched numerous attacks including an artillery strike on Mariupol. During this time, Zakharchenko, the rebel commander, was telling journalists about how they were going on the offensive all along the front. While he was talking tough in front of journalists who were tweeting his quotes all over the internet, a number of artillery rockets struck a residential area in government-held Mariupol. As reactions from the press and OSCE flooded in, Zakharchenko announced that there was no offensive. Henceforth, any time Russian politicians referenced the shelling of Mariupol, it was always a “provocation.” Of course on domestic and social media, Russia’s troll armies invented all kinds of explanations as to how the Ukrainian army routinely shells its own civilians in territory it controls, but people like foreign minister Lavrov can’t say something like this in public; he already gets enough laughs as it is.
Consider the latest “provocation,” the murder of Boris Nemtsov. As the story goes, Nemtsov was killed by a conspiracy involving the CIA, Praviy Sektor, the Russian opposition, or a coalition of all three. You can pretty much blame anyone except the Kremlin, or someone who had been inundated with so much propaganda about “fifth columnists” on the verge of overthrowing the government that they decided to act.
It is interesting, however, to note that while the conspiracy theorists are theorizing, alleging that this “provocation” was designed to embarrass the Kremlin, they don’t seem to be sticking to their normal tactics of pointing out coincidences and “holes” in the “official story.” For example, Nemtsov was shot in view of the Kremlin, in one of the most secure areas of Moscow. In fact, there are numerous security cameras watching the bridge and even the area where Nemtsov was shot. See for yourself.
But get this- A number of cameras in the area were apparently shut down “for repairs.” Coincidence? Coincidence?! Come on, where are all the coincidence hunters now? Imagine the reaction from RT’s fanbase if Ron Paul were shot a block away from the White House. Hell, imagine their reaction if Ron Paul had a heart attack while taking a dump. We’re talking about people who label spree shootings “false flags.”
In fact, just take a look how quickly police responded to activists hanging a Ukrainian flag on the same bridge:
Of course the conspiracy theorists are labeling this a sort of “false-flag” by calling it a provocation, but by doing so they are basically saying that the Russian government, despite having numerous ex-KGB officers in its highest ranks, is utterly incompetent. They allowed a CIA hitter team to murder a Russian politician within sight of the Kremlin. I guess that whole “Anti-Maidan” movement is pretty useless, huh? One has to wonder why Kremlin-supporting celebrities like Evgeniy Fedorov and “the Surgeon” aren’t in hiding right now. If the CIA can gun someone down within two minutes walk to the goddamned Kremlin, I think it’s a safe bet to say they can take out any Russian “patriot” in his luxury dacha. If they don’t send Navy SEAL teams to get them in the Crimea or Sochi, they can just use a sexy female assassin posing as a high-class escort. Why aren’t these people living in underground bunkers right now?
Getting back to the subject of provocations, what the reader must understand is that this is essentially a Russian version of the “false flag” claim. The only difference is that it is more vague, therefore it appears more respectable. Certain Russian leaders cannot just come out and accuse Barack Obama of being responsible for killing Nemtsov or ordering the Ukrainian military to shell its own cities in order do…uh…do something. Thus they use this open-ended, ambiguous word provocation.
Why is this important to you, the readers? Well if we live in a Russian world, this could be a major advantage. Don’t like something that somebody said? Punch them in the face. When people call you out for using violence, call it a provocation. Nobody really knows who hit whom, and of course you hope that there will be a thorough and objective investigation into the matter. Same goes for if you want something really bad but don’t have the money to pay for it. Just take it off the shelf and leave. If you’re caught and accused of shoplifting, it’s a provocation. We need an impartial investigation to make sure that the retailer didn’t deliberately “lose” the plasma screen TV so as to frame you. It doesn’t matter if numerous witnesses saw you walk into the store loudly shouting “I want a plasma screen TV so badly I’m willing to steal one!” Provocations. Everything is a provocation. Declare it a provocation, call for an objective, impartial organization, and if there is such an investigation and all the evidence points to you, claim you haven’t seen it. Meanwhile, come up with a dozen, possibly contradictory “alternative” theories.
Essentially, provocation is just another way in which Russian leaders and their vatnik supporters to piss on people’s legs and tell them it’s raining. It’s the Russian equivalent to the phrase “It wasn’t me,” in the hit song by Shaggy. They just say it and consider the matter at hand settled. Of course the matter isn’t settled, and eventually reality always crushes fantasy.