Tag Archives: Spies

Anatoly Chepizdyets

Anatoly Chepiga, AKA Ruslan Boshirov, just can’t get a break it seems. Ever since Bellingcat identified the self-proclaimed small businessman/tourist as a probable decorated GRU agent, things have just spiraled from there. While Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov and Russian Foreign Ministry officials sound completely dumbstruck, multiple international news outlets (BBC, WaPo, Kommersant,)    have found several individuals from Chepiga’s past, openly identifying him and in some cases confirming that he worked in some kind of covert ops. Recently, some info has surfaced suggesting he might have had a hand in helping Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yushchenko escape to Russia. While there’s no corroboration for the latest story yet, what evidence exists does suggest that Chepiga was at least involved in some kind of covert activity in Ukraine in 2014.

Honestly I’m kind of surprised by how badly the Kremlin screwed up in this case. From the beginning of the Salisbury scandal, they seemed to outdo their past attempts at damage control by kicking it into high gear and putting out a rapid-fire stream of alternative explanations. Estimates range from around 37-38 different alternative narratives, all pointing in every direction except Russia, within the first few weeks of the initial poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. This, incidentally, was some of the best evidence pointing to Russian involvement prior to the revelation of “Ruslan Boshirov” and his accomplice “Alexander Petrov” (Petrov hasn’t been identified yet, though his documents show some key similarities to Chepiga’s). Had the Kremlin and its media just shut the fuck up and kept demanding some hard evidence, they might have got the benefit of the doubt from more people outside the online conspiracy theorist/St. Petersburg troll demographics.

But if they didn’t screw things up by flooding the information space with too many alternative narratives too quickly, the reveal of Boshirov and Petrov in their disastrous RT interview was just icing on the stupid cake.

Had the Kremlin’s information warriors not been complete morons who owe their positions to loyalty and not talent, they might have come up with a far better cover story for these two. For example, they might have claimed that they were being interviewed by the FSB or Investigative Committee, and some of the answers they gave in the actual interview could have been included in a partial report published by Russian authorities. But instead we were told that these guys just rang up RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan on her personal cell phone and then in their interview they told the world of their dream to see the 123-meter spire of Salisbury cathedral.

Even Russia’s own propagandists couldn’t avoid showing their own disdain for this idiotic narrative. Several of them, including Margarita herself, subtly implied that Boshirov and Petrov were a gay couple trying to hide a very unusually-booked European getaway (apparently the way it works with assassinations is if you succeed, you become a Duma deputy, and if you fail, you may be protected from extradition but you will be labeled a homosexual). Even Graham Fucking Phillips couldn’t accept the story as told in the RT interview.

Needless to say, the extra visibility provided by the interview no doubt helped Bellingcat and The Insider track down details on the two alleged assassins, and by extension helped them discover the identity of Mr. Chepiga. What I have found most amusing about all this is that Russian officials, and more hilariously foreign Kremlin supporters, have been contorting themselves in ever-more extravagant mental gymnastics in an attempt to explain away all the inconsistencies in their narrative. And yet now it has never been easier for the Kremlin to totally discredit Bellingcat for good.

After all, this Anatoly Chepiga is a Hero of the Russian Federation winner. Although Putin’s regime hands out medals like candy, the title of Hero of the Russian Federation is still rarely bestowed. Plus Chepiga’s name appears on a monument to Heroes of the Soviet Union/Russian Federation. Therefore all Russia has to do to totally destroy this narrative and take Bellingcat’s reputation down at the same time is produce the real Anatoly Chepiga and provide a few details about his award and military career. It could also provide proof of “Petrov” and “Boshirov’s” fitness/supplements business (many Russians run online stores if they don’t own brick and mortar shops). At least some of this could have been accomplished literally within hours of Bellingcat’s Chepiga story breaking, and yet now it has been several days and we have seen nothing of the sort. In fact, Russian official PR flacks like Peskov and Zakharova have been unusually evasive on this issue, leaving foreign Putin fanboys with the burden of having to come up with some kind of plausible explanation.

And to think, all of this happened because they just didn’t know when to shut up.

 

 

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In case you don’t believe…

On this blog I have often made reference to journalists who sexy up their work in Russia by resorting to Cold War cliches and turning their mundane lives into cloak and dagger spy thrillers.  It may surprise the reader to learn that these spy fantasies are not at all limited to journalists.  I have seen ordinary private citizens, even those who come to Russia only as tourists, delude themselves into thinking they were a person of interest to Russian intelligence services, which they often refer to as “the KGB.”

If the idea of people turning delusional and transforming their lives into an elaborate fantasy seems too far-fetched for you, I highly encourage you to read this article.  It was written by the spy novelist and real life “spy” John Le Carre. In it he discusses how actual members of Britain’s intelligence establishment could be driven by tedium to basically invent phony missions and exploits so as to impress others and generally make their lives more interesting.

Let the following sink in for a second. Actual intelligence operatives, during the Cold War, were actually driven by boredom and perhaps shattered expectations to invent and sometimes live out exciting “missions” which were in fact totally fake and the product of nothing but their own imagination. No doubt these flights of fancy could be traced to the misconceptions they had about intelligence work prior to their joining their respective agencies. Fantasy helped them cope with the disillusionment. If that’s what happened to “real spies” during the real Cold War, it isn’t too hard to imagine that ordinary people with even more boring, seemingly insignificant jobs might want to fantasize a bit when they travel to Russia or live there.

Intelligence agencies, like the military, are exclusive, mysterious, and inaccessible to most people.  More importantly, they have the entertainment industry backing up these images and cementing them in the minds of the public.  Many people I meet often become very curious and interested if I mention, in passing, that I was in the army.  Of course I tell them the real story, that most of my experience consisted of standing around, waiting for things to happen, or doing pointless busywork. I like to disabuse people of Hollywood-manufactured myths. A less honest person, in that same moment, would easily be able to weave all kinds of action-packed tales and their audience would be none the wiser, all thanks to Hollywood and the fact that most people do not serve in the military.  My experience has taught me that there are indeed many dishonest people out there who take that exact route.

The same goes for Russia. Many Western people will never have the opportunity to even visit here, much less live here for any significant amount of time. Even then, without having a high proficiency in the Russian language it can be difficult to really understand what is going on around you. If you’re a person who has lived in Russia for a significant amount of time and you have real proficiency in the language, it’s as though you’re ex-military talking to civilians. You have a lot of information and they have virtually nothing. I’ve been living here for nearly eight years so far. In this time I have had experiences and encounters which, with a little bit of embellishment and a ton of innuendo, could easily be made to sound far more thrilling than they actually were. Random, insignificant occurrences can be connected via the ever-handy Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy to construct an adventure complete with shady characters, attractive women with hidden agendas, and yes, even actual FSB counter-intelligence agents(at least so they claimed).  I don’t do this, however, because I feel as though I really couldn’t live with myself if I did.  Throughout my life I can remember meeting these people who would tell me their bullshit stories right to my face. In childhood the bullshitters say something like, “My dad’s a ninja,” and in continues in adulthood with, “I was a Navy SEAL sniper. I can’t tell you anything more than that though.”  Most of the time it never seems to occur to them that their lies may be easily unraveled; it’s even as if they believe their own lies. I couldn’t let myself become one of those people.

This post may have been a bit meandering, I must admit, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that people’s bullshit delusions cause them to engage in bullshitting, and that some of those people will do that in Russia.  That’s why Russia Without Bullshit is necessary.

Oh shit, here it comes again.

Anyone remember that “reset” button Obama talked about back in 2009? Remember when Romney’s campaign team went ape-shit over Obama being caught telling Dmitry Medvedev that he could be more “flexible” after the election?  Do you?  Well now this is happening:

http://news.yahoo.com/russia-angrily-rejects-us-spying-accusations-124106928.html

Yup, another espionage accusation, this time coming from the US.  I don’t have much to say about this except a comment on this excerpt:

Zaytsev’s case comes amid friction in U.S.-Russian ties, which have been strained over differences on Syria, Moscow’s decision to give refuge to former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden and the Kremlin’s crackdown on the opposition and rights activists.

First off the bat one should eliminate the bit about the “crackdown on the opposition and rights activists” part.  Washington feigned concern but ultimately doesn’t care.  In fact much of the opposition seems to have fallen in line with the Kremlin thanks to the actions of the US in the past year, and that brings me to the second point.  Nowhere in the list of reasons for poor relations between the two countries do we see any mention of the Magnitsky Act, a ridiculous law which basically punishes people without trial or even investigation, and more importantly is entirely selective in the sense that it is aimed at Russia and not countries friendly to the US despite far worse human rights violations on an almost daily basis.  There is also the issue of the US blundering ahead with the “missile defense” shield, a ridiculous plan which costs untold billions and which is designed to counter a threat which does not currently exist.

Of course Russia’s reactions to many of these moves have not been positive, and some like the outright adoption ban for US citizens are absolutely monstrous.  That being said, here we can see a very basic cause of hostility between Russia and the West, and we also see why understanding hasn’t flourished between the two nationalities in the past twenty years.  Western media sources are happy to cite Russia’s reactionary moves without mentioning what they were in reaction to.  You can see this going back to 1999 with the bombing of Serbia.  The truth is that regardless of what they might say in public or on the internet, most people in Russia today, and probably even more so back then, do not truly, deeply, care about Serbs.  I doubt many could even say anything about Serbs other than that they are Orthodox by religion and that they were attacked by NATO.  But what I think deep down many people did care about, and I’m basing this on my own reaction as well, was NATO’s sheer arrogance. Here was an organization which was supposedly created for defense against the USSR(even though NATO was formed in 1949 while its equivalent, the Warsaw Pact, formed only in 1955), and yet for some unknown reason it not only lived on after the “end of the Cold War” but it actually expanded.  In 1999, that very same “defensive” organization basically told the world, Russia included, that it would decide who was right in a civil conflict and if the “wrong” side disagreed it would use overwhelming military force to punish them.  Now if you’re a Gen X-er like me and you remember the years immediately after the collapse of the USSR, you surely remember all the celebration surrounding the end of the Cold War, and the popular idea that now the United States and Russia would be “friends.”  So popular was the idea of US/Russian friendship that it actually appeared in the blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  But before the decade was out the US and NATO began to engage in a series of distinctly unfriendly actions.

The obliviousness of both American politicians and Western journalists to this context is quite infuriating, so much so that when responding to certain statements or comments I end up sounding like I’m on Team Russia.  What choice do I have? I can’t just sit by while some politician or idiot journalist launches a salvo against Russia’s “human rights abuses” while utterly ignoring those of their own country and allies.  Regardless of what side it’s coming from, the attitude of “It doesn’t count if we do it,” is something I cannot tolerate.  It’s one of the things I left America to escape, only to find it alive and well here.

The point is that the United States has a lot of choices and luxuries that Putin simply doesn’t have.  Obama can choose to save the US taxpayers hundreds of billions and cancel the missile defense shield.  He could have saved a handsome sum and possibly secured American lives by not lending support and legitimacy to Salafist terrorists in Syria.  He could have not made such a fuss over Snowden, as it was not Russia’s fault he ended up there.  American corporations are making good money in Russia but they’d probably make a lot more if Obama and the State Department stopped prodding Russia with sticks.

The truth is that the Russian regime is not strong, it is weak. This is why it needed to lock up three stupid performance artists for so long. This is why it supplicates in the face of racist rioters who attack police, and does not search for connections between the ensuing property damage and people who might have organized it for their own benefit.  This is why the government bans or at least proposes bans for any speech it finds offensive.  It all shows signs of weakness. Now while these things cannot be justified, we do need to understand why they get such support and garner little opposition.  If the US and NATO, having a clear advantage, continuing prodding and provoking Russia, political liberalization is simply not going to happen.  The regime will clam up and make more appeals to nationalism and patriotism.  It really is this simple. I realize that many political scientists and pundits may say otherwise, but you also have to keep in mind that many of these people are the same idiots who lend to support to infantile notions such as the Democratic Peace Theory.  So you know, take it with a grain of salt.

Of course there always is another side of the coin: Perhaps the reason why the US doesn’t reach out to improve relations with Russia is because the ruling regimes of both countries do not wish such a reconciliation.