Vienna, June 17 – Senior Kremlin officials, led by Vladislav Surkov, have directed the Russian media to refer to the group of men the force structures have killed or captured in the Russian Far East as “bandits” rather than as “partisans,” lest the use of the latter term promote further “heroization” of these people there, in other parts of Russia and in the blogosphere.
Russian news agencies have reported that graffiti has appeared in Vladivostok and other cities there reading “Glory to the Partisans” and “Partisans, Your Achievement will Not be Forgotten,” that flowers have been placed where the band was liquidated, and that there have even been meetings in support of the group (www.newsru.com/russia/16jun2010/heroband.html).
Moreover, there have been reports, mostly on Russian nationalist sites and in the blogosphere, that Russians elsewhere are thinking about emulating the Primorsky group. If even a few of those reports are true, Moscow could face a serious problem, especially if it were to be forced, as it was in Primorsky kray, to bring in FSB units from the center.
“Russky Newsweek” says that the Kremlin has been watching these developments with concern and that over the weekend, at a meeting chaired by Surkov, the first deputy chief of the Presidential Administration, officials said that the media should refer to the Primorsky band only as “bandits” (www.runewsweek.ru/news/country/34689/?referer1=rss&referer2=news).
That is because, the officials said, “this week a powerful way of public discussion awaits us” on this issue, a declaration that news outlets in Vladivostok picked up on and amplified (news.vl.ru/vlad/2010/06/15/extrennoe/). Meanwhile, officials both denied reports about support for the band in the Far East and took down some sites praising the group.
One of the reasons the Kremlin may be concerned is that it is playing catch up as far as media coverage of these events is concerned. On the one hand, militia and FSB officials have generally said very little about what has taken place, limiting themselves to reports about the capture or killing of the members of the band.
And on the other, as Newsru.com reported, one militia official did comment that the blogosphere reporting showed that “society is ill,” a remark that supporters of the band heartily agreed with but applied not to themselves but rather to the conditions that drove the members of the band to take action (www.newsru.com/russia/09jun2010/prmbnd.html#forum).
That agency cited a comment in a Moscow newspaper to the effect that “if society is genuinely ill, then the militia as been among the first to be infected,” a comment that has echoed in various Internet publications, especially in the week since Russian officials declared that they had “liquidated the armed band of separatists.”
In addition, officials have invited that because “despite” this claim, “the anti-terrorist search operation has continued at full force with the use of helicopters, tanks and other types of heavy weapons” operated by FSB officers sent “from Moscow” because “the federal center does not trust the local powers that be” (www.intv.ua/ru/article/211197/).
It is likely that many if not most of the reports in the blogosphere about popular support for the band or the desire of Russians elsewhere to emulate it are self-serving and overblown, but clearly the Primorsky events have touched a nerve both among the Russian people and among the powers that be in Moscow.
And in what may be the most important consequence of this incident is that it has led even more Russian commentators to suggest that the Primorsky events highlight something some in Moscow have acknowledged but others are reluctant to: the powers that be need to take action now to restore the public’s faith in the militia (www.regions.ru/news/2297126/).