Tag Archives: UK

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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Sky News

I was rather pleased with my first appearance as a talking head on Sky news today. The topic was the question of what threat Russia poses to NATO and its other neighbors, particularly in light of events covered in this article about Russian incursions into foreign airspace. My main antagonist was Edward “Oh God the Russians are Coming to Get US!” Lucas,  who thinks that the West needs to pose a tougher response to Russia, though he didn’t specify what he had in mind beyond reinforcing certain small NATO states such as Poland and the Baltic countries. Now I felt that I fared well against the obviously more sound bite friendly Lucas, and thus I didn’t think this topic merited a blog post of its own.  But then I checked out Lucas’ site, and found that he posted this:

Nemo me impune lacessit!

Nemo me impune lacessit!

Complacency-monger? Did you call me a complacency-monger? You totally did! And… Well… Actually that’s not really that bad, monging complacency. I’ve certainly been called worse. Better to be a complacency-monger than a panic-monger. Speaking of panic mongers…

Prior to today’s discussion I did a little homework on Lucas and found that he has a background of work and education in the Baltic countries and Poland. Right away I grasped the source of his paranoia about Russia. During the discussion, Lucas was clearly espousing the views of the Baltic countries and most likely Poland as well. As I managed to point out, countries such as the US, UK, Germany, and France cannot base their strategic aims and interests off of the perspective of these nations. Let me be clear- I’m not making any comparison between the current situation and the Second World War, but in regards to the latter it has generally been considered a grave mistake of the British to make a late stand in favor of Poland. As Sir Basil Liddell Hart wrote, this put Britain’s fate in the hands of a government that was not connected to reality. Granted, modern Poland is not the quasi-fascist interwar Poland with dreams of an empire “between the seas,” but these states cannot be allowed to determine the policies of NATO leaders nonetheless.

Lucas very adeptly moves between conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine toward hypothetical ones in the Baltic region. The obvious implication is that if Putin has supposedly got away with murder in Ukraine, he’ll move on to  the Baltic next. Of course he ignored one very important distinction- all of the countries Russia has attacked or interfered in militarily are non-NATO countries. Putin’s Russia is opportunist; it attacks when it can get away with it. And unlike all those previous conflicts, in Ukraine Russia didn’t get away with it.  It managed to grab the Crimea, but it’s obvious it will choke on that. It’s also clear that the initial sanctions gave the Kremlin pause about openly supporting or recognizing the separatist territories in the Donbas region.  The world response is also one reason why the Kremlin said it “respects,” but does not recognize the recent elections held in those territories. It’s actually quite pathetic when you watch Russia’s leaders squirm. At home they’re crowing about how powerful they’ve made Russia and how they are defending the “Russkiy Mir”(Russian world). Yet at the very same time they are crying foul, swearing up and down that they haven’t been supporting the “Russkiy Mir” at all.  Ordinary people, even those who support the government, surely cannot help but wonder why a government which supposedly does not care what the West thinks about its actions cannot simply come out in the open and say, “Yes, we are supporting Novorossiya! What are you going to do about it?”

This originally jingoistic political cartoon has been hilariously made over so as to present a more accurate picture of current events. The American eagle is telling the bear to stay out of Ukraine, and the bear is saying: "No, these are all local people! They bought all this gear themselves! Let's be peaceful! etc. etc."

This originally jingoistic political cartoon has been hilariously made over so as to present a more accurate picture of current events. The American eagle is talking about the Russian army being in Ukraine, and the bear is saying: “No, these are all local people! They bought all this gear themselves! Let’s be peaceful! etc. etc.”

None of this seems to faze Lucas however. He was unfazed when I explained that the best service any Westerner can render the Kremlin is to show fear of Russia, acknowledge her as a superpower, and treat her like a credible threat. There are basically two kinds of people who do that- people who actually work for pro-Kremlin media, and people like Lucas. I think his shortcoming in this respect comes from a lack of knowledge about Russian culture. I would think that most British people want the world to see the UK in a positive light, not the bloodthirsty Victorian empire of the past.  Americans might be a little more inclined to see their nation viewed as being strong, but not necessarily belligerent, aggressive, or domineering. Even conservatives will balk at such implications; if they support aggressive military action around the world, these people always propose it as something absolutely necessary, or they ask who else will do it if not the US.  In Russia, especially as of late, a common desire of many is for Russia to be feared, especially by Americans. It is almost impossible to explain to people here how not only do Americans not fear Russia, but in fact they don’t even think about Russia at all, at least nowhere near as vice versa.

Lucas simply doesn’t understand how furiously many Kremlin-supporters and Russophiles will fap to his fear-mongering over Russia. Putin supposedly lifted Russia from her knees and made her a world superpower again. Lucas agrees. There you have it! A Western “Russophobe,” clearly not a biased Kremlin supporter, says that Putin has indeed transformed Russia into a world superpower! Objective evidence of Putin’s leadership! Lucas even said that Putin is “winning.” I guarantee you if anyone at Russia Today had been listening to that statement, they would have needed a change of pants afterward.

Yes, Russia’s war games, passive aggressive as they are, do constitute a safety issue. Contrary to what Lucas implies, nobody is suggesting that the West do nothing about this. A civilian airliner nearly had a midair collision with a Russian reconnaissance plane; something must be done about that. Western leaders would do well not to play Putin’s game, however. Like a teenager acting up in class in hopes of getting a rise out of the teacher, Putin is falling back on the only currency he has left, i.e. the erroneous notion that he is opposing the “West.”

Lastly, if Russia is to be a threat to the Baltic, we must ask what sort of threat. Invasion? With what can he invade? The Russian army is still horribly plagued with corruption and abuse more appropriately associated with life in prison than in the military.  While Lucas warns us about the coming of the Eastern horde, I’m remembering the stories of people I know who actually served in the Russian army, and how they told me non-combat personnel are lucky if they fire more than 5 live rounds from an AK-74M. He’s imagining tanks rolling into Tallinn and I’m remembering the horrible images of Russian conscripts being tormented by their own fellow soldiers which have been burned into my brain. These photos and videos, few of them safe for work and all of them shot by the perpetrators themselves as they have no fear of punishment, circulate freely throughout the Russian internet.

Mr. Lucas, if anyone should be afraid right now it is I, and yet I manage to get by somehow. You may take solace in my assurance that I have not seen nor heard any massive tank columns crawling through Moscow on their way to invade your precious Estonia or Poland.  The Russian army is a far bigger threat to its own soldiers than the forces of NATO. Apart from Ukraine, the only other country Putin is truly threatening is Russia itself. Now if you will excuse me, it’s time to go out and monger some complacency.

"The essence of the Russian army in one photo."

“The essence of the Russian army in one photo.”