Vienna, November 29 – The collapse of the Russian state as a result of Vladimir Putin’s actions “has reached such a level that it is no more difficult to commit a terrorist action than for a militiaman to shoot people in a supermarket. And [in Russia] militiamen do just that,” Russian commentator Yulia Latynina said on Ekho Moskvy last night.
But the most terrible thing about the terrorist attack on the Nevsky Express train, she continued in the course of her “Access Code” program, is “the sense that this is only the beginning,” that in today’s Russia, murders are increasing in number so quickly that they are no longer news but a statistic (www.echo.msk.ru/programs/code/637466-echo.phtml).
At present, as Latynina noted, speculation in the Russian media concerning the groups responsible has focused on Islamist extremists – which Moscow tends to lump under the rubric “Wahhabis” – and on Russian nationalist extremists, either organized by the state itself or independent.
With regard to the first possibility, the Moscow commentator pointed out, her studies of the 1999 explosions which triggered the second post-Soviet Chechen war suggest that what is most striking is “not why [those actions] were committed, but why they stopped at a particular moment.”
That is because at that time certainly and at this time possibly, she suggested, the degree to which those inclined to commit acts of terrorism felt themselves to be exempt from possible punishment by the state had “already gone beyond all imaginable limits,” as shown by the manner in which some terrorists from the earlier period felt free to live openly afterwards.
Indeed, Latynina argued, the only reason such individuals appear to have stopped in the past was out of fear that they would be punished, by Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov if no one else, because it came clear to them that as a result of his rule, “it would be far more difficult for them” to commit such acts in Chechnya “and in Moscow much easier. Simply physically easier.”
With regard to the second possibility – that radical Russian nationalist elements bear responsibility – the situation is more complicated and possibly more threatening. Such people have beliefs “quite close to the ideologues of the Kremlin” but, having been armed, start to believe that they are more than “pawns” of “’administered nationalism.’”
Such “administered nationalism” as the tsarist experience with what is known as the “Azefovshchina” show, often represents “a monster” which is all the more difficult to control precisely because the powers that be have been involved in its creation and financing but lack the ability to control it or to prevent it from killing members of elite itself.
But regardless of which of these groups is to blame for the Nevsky Express action, Latynina argued, there is one thing which “unites these versions: an absolute sense” on the part of those who committed them that they will not be punished, evidence of what she describes as “the complete collapse of the state” as an effective agency.
Thus, she continued, “the Putin system” has entered a most dangerous period. After ignoring the law in the Yukos case and that failing to punish the obviously guilty in many cases, Russia now is a country, Latynina said, in which “everything is possible,” including the commission of crimes by those certain they will not be punished.
Perhaps most indicative of just how far things have gone in the wrong direction, the Moscow commentator suggested, was the recent statement by Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev that Russian citizens now have the right to use force to resist illegal actions by the militia, a statement she said can be explained only if Nurgaliyev is now “a secret Wahhabi.”
“Unfortunately,” Latynina added, “Nurgaliyev must be told that until shariat law is introduced in Russia in place of the criminal law, resisting a militiaman is a crime under Article 318 of the Criminal Code.” Citizens do not have such a right in a country with a functioning government, she noted. Even more unfortunately, Russia does not fall into that category.