MH17: 2 years after

Last October I wrote an analysis of the Dutch Safety Board’s report for a think-tank. As it was not published in open access then, I thought I would now publish a portion of it headlined “Gaps between the lines.”

Given the US’s recent statement that their own data confirms DSB’s findings relating to the origin of the BUK’s trajectory, I thought this section may be of interest (some parts are obviously outdated).

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DSB Report: Gaps Between the Lines

Several elements in the DSB report suggest that the Dutch investigators, and their international partner services, may know more about the specifics of the missile launch circumstances than is disclosed in the report. One such element is the reference to classified information that was provided to the DSB team to inspect but without permission to cite it. Such information, the report said, was provided by the Dutch military intelligence and general intelligence services, and included information gathered by these two agencies and information from partner security services. This information “confirmed the report’s findings about the causes of the crash”, but due to national security considerations, could not be included in the report.

From a sub-report on the knowledge of the Dutch security services, included in a different section of the report, however, it becomes evident that the Dutch services had no substantial classified information or data-gathering operations in the area of the crash. Thus it is most likely that the information referenced was provided by foreign services. The only realistic source is the United States satellite surveillance operation in the area. The United States have not kept it secret that they have access to proprietary satellite surveillance in the area, as evidenced by a series of released satellite imagery purporting to show Russian GRAD rocket launches into Ukraine[1]. Russia has also tactically accused the US is not disclosing satellite data on the MH17 (although it has effectively not disclosed its satellite data, either).

In all likelihood, it was namely US satellite imagery that was presented to the DSB management, and gave them sufficient comfort to proceed with the definitive conclusion about the missile type and launch location. Shortly after July 17th 2014, the US Embassy in Kiev released a stylized image of a trajectory of the suspected BUK, originating from the area of Snizhne, precisely within the polygon later modelled by DSB.

The question arises why the US – and its allies – are withholding such vital data they are in possession of. There are three plausible hypothesis.

First, the data may in fact have already been submitted to the JIT, but in the interest of the criminal investigation, it will not be disclosed until the completion of that line of inquiry. Indeed, withholding similar “smoking gun” data is not unusual in criminal investigations, especially in ones of such cross-border complexity and possibly involving state-sponsored actors.

A second hypothesis is that the US does not wish to release such data into the public domain, for fear of exposing its data gathering methods to its enemies. This may be linked, for example, to the potential use of LEO (low-earth orbit) reconnaissance satellites above or adjacent to Russian territory.

A third hypothesis may be that the US and its allies are tactically deferring disclosure of such incriminating data, to allow Russia one last exit from the highway to a rogue state. If Russia cooperates with the West, and concedes to partial acceptance of blame, it may be spared the full public disclosure and its political consequences. Such cooperation may be embodied by delegation of guilt to pro-Russian separatists and to certain rogue elements in the Russian military, without whose involvement the separatists could not have realistically implemented the BUK launch.  While this would not exculpate Russia in full, it would give the Kremlin a deniability legend, which is mandatory for retaining the delicate consensus of the Russian elite, and for saving face on the international stage.

The West’s interest in such hypothetical self-censorship is solid.  A substantiated disclosure of the Kremlin’s involvement in the shoot-down of a passenger plane would create unquantifiable risks for international security. On one hand, Russia will lose any incentive to moderate its expansionist, retaliatory or subversive activities outside its boundaries, which are currently still mitigated by its desire not to pay a high reputation cost.  On the other hand, such development would lead to collapse of the internal consensus of the elite within Russia, which may lead to destabilization in an unpredictable political direction.  Neither of these prospects are acceptable to the West.

A possible nod towards this scenario may lie in certain unnecessarily open-ended conclusions in the DSB report on MH17. For instance, while the polygon computed by DSB’s experts clearly points to territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists, no explicit reference to that fact is made in the text. When DSB director Tjibbe Joustra was asked if the missile launch area was controlled by separatists, he confirmed. When pressed further to confirm that, therefore, pro-Russian forces must have launched the missile, he declined to do so. When confronted by a reporter who asked “But does 2 + 2 not make a 4?,” Joustra replied: “Yes it does, but sometimes, someone else needs to make that calculation.”

A hint in the same direction is the fact that immediately after the publication of the report, Dutch prime-minister Mark Rutte requested an urgent conversation with Sergey Lavrov. Significantly, this initiative was disclosed only by the Russian side, as part of the standard Russian diplomatic plaintive narrative about the West “that tries to boss Russia around”.

We believe this third hypothesis to be the most plausible. In its scope, an additional unknown variable is whether Russia will agree to such hypothetical political trade. Obviously, whether a similar transaction is desirable for the Kremlin depends on the balance between the domestic political cost of admitting that it has mislead its population for nearly two years, and the reputation cost of disclosure of incriminating information.

What the West may overestimate, however, is the discount factor that the Kremlin places on international reputation cost. Additionally, that reputation cost may be brought down to zero by extraneous events, such as for example the Russian intervention in Syria, laden with risks for massive civilian casualties.

Thus, if Russia does accept a hypothetical deal, it will be to preserve the fragile consensus of the domestic political and business elite, rather than to preserve its international reputation.  The Russian media coverage in the wake of the DSB report was substantially more objective than the defensive, patriotic press coverage following the downing of MH17 in July 2014. While this is far from a symptom of a dramatic collapse of the consensus of the elite, it does signal a tangible threat to Putin’s regime, in case the final report contains strong incriminating evidence. What has become clear now is that the Kremlin no longer has control over the mainstream commercial media and certainly not to the extent required to limit the diffusion of objective information.

In any event, under this hypothesis, these are decisions that the Kremlin must make in the next several months, if not weeks, in order to prevent the JIT investigation from crossing the point of no return.

Muslims vs Jihadists: A Letter from Mali

I wrote this originally in February 2014, after returning from my trip to Mali as part of a fact-fighting and training visit with the Blue Shield. I decided back then it was too cheesy, and did not post it. After what happened in Bamako yesterday, and because many people I meet, wrongly, believe the terrorists represent a part of Malian society, I thought I should publish it anyway.

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At 6:00 sharp, I was awakened by the plaintive call of the muezzin resonating over Sevare, a military-base town of about 40,000 in central Mali. At 06:02, a second sound, coming from a different direction, superimposed itself. It was church bells, ringing on top of a muezzin call for prayer – a musical mash-up that raised hairs.

“Doesn’t sound too extremist, right?,” I tweeted from my army-issue cot in the bare-bones hotel room. I had been struggling to understand the fierce, relentless – while not always effective – fight that Malians had put up against the Jihadist invaders in 2012. Maybe this mash-up was the answer, I thought to myself. While being nearly universally Muslim, Malians were tolerant to their core, and couldn’t care less if a Christian church-bell (making a disproportionate noise to please a mere 1% of the population) interrupted their sleep. It was this tolerance, I thought, that must have enraged the militant jihadists who had tried to subjugate the country, and change their ways. And it was this mash-up that Malians refused to give up.

Over the following week of crisscrossing this huge country as part of a military convoy of Malian soldiers fighting Islamist terrorists, I tried to crystallize my fledgling spark of comprehension of the difference between “Muslims” and “Jihadists”, that is so often lost on non-Muslims. And I finally got it, in Timbuktu, of all places.

Timbuktu, that little town just off the edge of the world, had fallen to jihadist rule on March 30th 2012, and it was not liberated until nearly a year later. I was visiting it in January 2014, along with my friend Karl Habsburg who was there to train the Malian military in the non-intuitive art of protecting monuments of cultural heritage, during the bloodiest of wars (yep, Monuments Men stuff, except not as poorly acted out).

It was here that the jihadists had done their best to convert Muslims to “the correct kind of Muslims”. And had miserably failed, not only because the French flew in to kick them out of town, but also because they couldn’t convert a single soul. It wasn’t for lack of trying.

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  “Welcome to Timbuktu, the town of the 333 saints”

read the inscription on this building in downtown Timbuktu before the jihadists took over to town. The 333 saints in question were all Muslim. That wasn’t good enough for the jihadists. Their interpretation of the Koran forbade any semblance of idolatry other than for their prophet. Up went the erasers.

The jihadistP (98)s’ next target were the remains of those unholy saints. They ransacked local mosques in search of idolatry, and blew up all graves they could find. Fortunately, they couldn’t identify them all, as local Imams shrewdly erased the saints’ names from most of the grave sites, confusing the jihadists as to what was to be obliterated and what not.

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Next on the jihadists’ laundry list were the Timbuktu manuscripts – the largest collection of written knowledge south of the Sahara. The Timbuktu archive had become the gathering place for tens of thousands of manuscripts written in Arabic between 13th and 19th centuries, containing single-copy texts: ranging from theological works, through grammar treatises, to formulas for medication against impotence. The manuscripts, some of them written in liquid gold, had for centuries been kept in a diversified “tribal cloud”, a sort of an analog torrent system where families and tribes would hold, in trust for humanity, a small portion of the total knowledge; usually a single manuscript at a time. None of the families could read the manuscripts, as they didn’t speak or read Arabic, but they knew, from prior generations, that they were to take care of them as if they were holy books.

It hadn’t been easy for the Malian government to persuade the families to hand over the manuscripts to a central safe-keeping institution, as they did not trust anyone could take care of their individual piece of knowledge as well as they did themselves. To persuade families to hand over the manuscript for safekeeping and protection from the elements, the government came up with a ruse: initially they organized a bank-type safe deposit box system: only the families had the keys to their respective safe-box which hosted their precious manuscripts. It took years before the families trusted the government enough to allow their manuscripts to be “released” into what became the Ahmed Baba Institute.

When the jihadists came, they made it their top priority to destroy all manuscripts; science and (Islamic) theology writings alike. The manuscripts were impure; they broadened the scope of knowledge beyond what the jihadists wanted be known, and believed.

The Institute’s researchers knew that this was coming, so during the days of fighting off the jihadists’ invasion in 2012, they moved many of the most precious manuscripts into unlit cellars, and smuggled back others to their original trustee families.

The researchers had to sacrifice some manuscripts – about 5,000, estimated the chief of the Ahmed Baba Institute – and left them to be found, to be burned, so that the jihadists would feel gratified, and not look too meticulously for the rest.

Needless to say, the jihadists went crazy over Timbuktu residents’ tolerance for other religions.  They pillaged the local Catholic church, and defaced a wooden statute of Mary. They had less luck trying to wrangle away the steel cross on top of the church; they managed to bend it somewhat, but could not fully remove it, and finally left it in place.P (168).JPG

P (170)

But the Jihadists’ main goal was to change the ways of life of Malians.

Local residents told us the Jihadists had tried to introduce the strictest, most cruel form of sharia law upon Timbuktu residents.

Music was banned.  This was especially cruel in a town that loved music, and for years had hosted a world-music festival, Festival au Désert.

Color, and diversity became crimes. This tailor, Seydou, told me he was forced to stop making “fancy” clothes and start sowing only three sizes of trousers: long, middle and short. Girth and color were to be universal.

Women, no surprise here, were told they couldn’t leave their homes without a male relative. Girls as young as 13, if found walking alone or in groups with their friends, were rounded up and taken to their fathers, who were then forced to hand them out in marriage, with the mahr, the Islamic reverse dowry, being forfeited in favor of the jihadists.

P (171)

Boys were scared they would be told they would be turned into soldiers and taught to kill.

Meet  Mohamed, an immensely sociable 12 year old boy, who turned 10 on the day when the jihadists came to town and shut down his father’s souvenir shop.  It had been just as well: no tourists were to drop in to get Timbuktu mementos from that day on.

Mohamed had been helping his father run the family shop after school, and had taught himself English, while communicating with the modest streak of non-French tourists who would occasionally brave the grueling 12-hour desert ride, to end up in Timbuktu. Over a couple of years, he had made dozens of friends from among the shop customers (watch the video to understand out why), and had collected a pile of visiting cards from foreigners from around the world.


When the jihadists took over Northern Mali, Mohamed was scared – not that he would die, not that he would be forced to kill, not even that his father couldn’t make a living now that there were no more tourists to frequent his shop. He was most scared that he would never be allowed to learn, he told me. His school was closed.

His teacher (on the photo below) – one of the most eloquent, and proud, philosophers I have ever spoken with – was forced to take a job as a butcher. P (175)

Then Mohamed got an idea. Locked up in his father disused shop, he started writing letters, dozens of letters, in French and in English, addressed to his “business-card buddies”. He wrote letters to friends in France, Finland, England, Australia, Russia, the US, and a whole bunch of other countries. All letters had the same plea:

“This is Mohamed from Timbuktu. I pray to you – please tell your government to send soldiers, to free us from the jihadists”.

He gave the letters, to be posted, to one of his father’s contacts who was smuggling goods in and out of occupied Timbuktu. Mohamed never saw that man again, but he told me he was sure the letters were posted, because

“one day the French soldiers did come, and liberated our town”.

Not everyone who had left Timbuktu came back. It was still not safe – it is still not safe today; and there are no tourists to be seen. The only Europeans here are the occasional UN staff, scurrying through the dirt roads in bullet-proof vans.

Abdramane asked us if the nuns from the Catholic church would come back soon. When the threat of jihadist invasion was imminent, the church staff had left Timbuktu, and a nun had asked him to keep an eye on the church. He was a caretaker at a nearby mosque, so he said he didn’t mind. He couldn’t save the church from pillaging, but he continued watering the plants, and is still closing and opening the gates when visitors ask to see it – now that the jihadists are gone.

We said we didn’t know.

The next morning, when the muezzin’s call awoke me in my room at a former hotel-turned-military-quarters, I had to wonder if, before the jihadists had come to town, the Catholic church bells had also been ringing, creating that surreal mash-up that defines Mali.

Epilogue

On January 2oth, 2015, Lassana Bathily, a Malian Muslim employee at a kosher supermarket in Paris, who helped save the lives of dozens of customers during the previous week’s deadly Charlie Hebdo-related attack, was awarded French citizenship. France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve applauded the young man’s  act bravery, risking his own life to save the lives of customers from the Kalashnikov-yielding jihadist attackers.

“When he (the gunman) entered the store, people came rushing down saying there was an armed madman,” Bathily told FRANCE 24. “I thought the only option was to hide in the freezer, so I switched it off and got everyone inside.”

After police arrived, Bathily walked towards them with his hands up, and was mistaken for the attacker, forced to the ground and hand-cuffed for over an hour. It took the efforts of all the customers he had saved to convince the police he was the savior, not the attacker.

“I want to express my appreciation to the Mali citizen who helped save seven Jews”

Israeli PM Netanyahu said during a visit to the French capital’s Grand Synagogue.

 

Flight А-321: The Writing Was on the Wall. But Who Wrote it? (UPDATE)

On August 26 1999, Russia launched  the Second Chechen War in response to a a Chechen-based Islamist group’s invasion of Dagestan. A couple of weeks later, a series of apartment bombings in Russia killed more than 300 civilians. Responsibility for the terrorist attacks was claimed by an entity no one had heard of before – and never heard of after. In an anonymous phone-call to ITAR-TASS on September 9th 1999, the “Liberation Army of Dagestan” took responsibility for the bombings, saying they were  “in response to the bombings of civilians in the villages in Chechnya and Dagestan”

Several Russian historians, and former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko claimed later that the apartment buildings bombings were a false-flag operation by the FSB, in an effort to consolidate Russian public opinion behind the nascent full-scale war against secessionist Chechnya. Notably, the then, separatist, Chechen authorities said the same.

For the sake of argument, lets assume that the false-flag scenario is a secondary, unproven hypothesis. The main hypothesis – also Russia’s official version of events – is that extremist Islamist groups attempted to terrorize Russian society as retribution for Russia’s military foray into Ichkeria’s territory.

Again, for the sake of argument, let’s note that there was a third theory, promoted by US historian Prof. Peter Reddaway and Russian researcher Dmitri Glinski. They believed the actual terrorist attacks were indeed perpetrated by Wahhabists, but not without the actual prior knowledge of, if not passive assistance by, the FSB.

If we stick with the main hypothesis, we have to assume that the bombings taught Russia an unforgettable institutional lesson, and Russia’s security services learned that terrorist attacks are a foreseeable consequence of specific government policies. All the more that Russia was subjected to several more terrorist attacks in the period 2000-2003, causing the loss of another 300 or so lives. In all cases, brought about by homegrown Islamist extremists.

Indeed, as a reaction to Chechen-linked terrorism, and especially after the Beslan siege, Russia introduced all-encompassing, heavy-handed preventive controls aiming to eliminate any risks of recurring attacks. The bew 2006 Russian anti-terrorism law grants virtually unlimited, state-of-emergency powers to the FSB and police during unannounced “counter-terrorism operations” which are not subject to any parliamentary or other oversight, and grants unrestricted surveillance powers to the security forces. Entering the perimeter of a Russian airport requires going through a metal detector – before you even get to the check-in desk.

Come 2015. Russia intervenes in the Syrian civil war and attacks “ISIS positions”. The Kremlin publicly announces that one it its primary goals is to defeat ISIS’s potential to bring back its terrorist war on Russian soil – for instance, via the latent Wahhabist cells in the North Caucuses. The Kremlin publicly declares, after its first bombing raids, that it has prioritized hitting “Russian-speaking cells” among  the ISIS militants.  Meanwhile, Ramzan Kadyrov goes around arresting ISIS suspects in Chechnya, suspected of trafficking people to – or planning to emigrate and join the ISIS. Last week, he even foils a plot by ISIS-linked Wahhabists to assassinate him – and lets his would-be assassins go home, after a sermon.

It would seem logical, assuming the main hypothesis  above, that Russia would have an airtight institutional preparedness for any terrorist back-clash to its air-raids in Syria. All the more that the raids are claimed to have killed dozens, of not hundreds, of civilians, if accounts by opposition groups and international conflict-watchers are to be trusted. The latter, whether a fact or just a legend, are a typical catalyst of terrorist reactions.

Thus, the heightened terrorist-risk context for Russia should be assumed and modeled by Russia’s security services. That model does not need to need specific, explicit threats by groups known to seek exposure for their terrorist intentions.

But Russia gets even that. Four days before the crash of A-321, ISIS threatens publicly that it will avenge – on Russia and the West alike – over “the murder of Muslims in Syria and Iraq”.

With all of that in place, Russia not only does not issue a public warning to its citizens traveling abroad (the last travel warning on Russia’s foreign ministry’s website – from May – advises Russians to beware of USA’s intent to hunt down and kidnap Russians who may be under suspicion of financial crime under US law). Russia also takes no preventive measures to heighten security of civilian flights to and from risky air destinations. And that is in stark deviation from Russia’s own anti-terrorist domestic policies, let alone from best practices, such as Israel or the US, for instance.

A-321 then gets shot down, or blown up. For a few days after the incident, Russia sticks to an agnostic stand, but slowly leaks – via its controlled media – the “explosion” hypothesis. Almost as if it wants to temper its electorate to the thought of a terrorist act, while minimizing the downside to itself by the shock value. Ultimately, once the bomb theory has diffused sufficiently,  Russia officializes it, by grounding all flights to and from Egypt, and announcing an emergency plan to repatriate nearly 80,000 Russians vacationing in Egypt.

Something doesn’t fit in this sequence of events. I just don’t buy the story that Russia’s security apparatus is so careless, or callous, or incompetent. Even without for a moment considering the second hypothesis from 1999, one must ask oneself: is this not what security services anticipated, and did not mind, happening?

If so, why would they ever want this tragedy to happen?  To rally public support for a deeper, ground intervention in Syria?

Or to elicit the West’s sympathy, and to engender a context for detente, leading to potential dropping on sanctions?

Or is it even the contrary to #1 above… Russia, having realized that its intervention in Syria is in a deadlock, certainly without ground-troop support, and it needs a domestic excuse for terminating its ad-hoc assistance to Assad?

Or is it, indeed, that Russia just dropped the ball – and failed to plan?

I guess the Kremlin’s unavoidable upcoming decision on what to do in Syria: escalate, cooperate, or terminate – will give us the precise answer.

UPDATE 3/12/2015

Last night, ISIS released an execution video of what they called was a “Russian spy” among them. The person being executed appears Chechen.  The executioner addressed the camera in Russian, and claims that the person being killed was an FSB informant.

Shortly after this release, Ramzan Kadyrov released the following statement:

“This Russian is a Chechen. His head was whacked off. I have confirmation of these facts….About the fact that he worked for some agency…I don’t buy that. I think he was framed.  Chechens know him, remember him, and won’t leave him unavenged.  Whoever murdered our compatriot, should not live. We will send him to the next world on a one-way ticket”

Kadyrov thus tried to deflect ISIS’s accusation that the person was an FSB informant, however this assertion runs against his own statement from January 2015, when he said the following:

Within this terrorist organization we have a good network of agents. This allows us to track their movements. Moreover, it gives us advance information, allowing us time to send in on a one-way ticket to the next world those who would point a gun at Russia

No comment.

 

 

“Global Fight Against Aids Threatens Russia’s National Security”

Yesterday, the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, the official Kremlin advisory think-tank, presented its report titled “The Fight Against Aids: Global Trends and National Security.” It includes the following notable paragraphs:

“Today we are confronted with a well-structured, extensive global corporation dealing with the fight against HIV / AIDS. At its disposal is a global network of non-governmental organizations that make up the backbone of the corporation Global Fund, as well as 11 UN agencies mentioned as partners in the framework of the joint program, UNAIDS. Their activities are carried across borders of nation-states and are transnational in nature.
Their global strategy is in line with, and to the advantage of the United States.

Coordinated by the US, the course of action of these global organizations puts to the test national sovereignty, national cultural values ​​and historical traditions of the countries that are the object of their efforts. And Russia has been able to feel it for itself.

For several years, the Russian NGOs, while implementing a project of UNAIDS and the Global Fund, in fact, destroyed traditional values, including family values, and tried to introduce new behavioral norms. These programs of “harm reduction” and substitution therapy aimed at the legalization of drugs and prostitution. They openly aim to change the laws of the Russian Federation, in order to smoothly introduce Western values ​​and norms of behavior. And not only.
We must especially pay attention to the “care” offered by global coordinators to vulnerable groups (HIV-infected drug addicts, prisoners, migrants, LGBT). They, being the most dissatisfied, are seen as a potential force of protest, from which you can create opposition to the authorities…… As imposed by the United States through international organizations, programs to counter AIDS undoubtedly threaten Russia’s national security”.

Which reminds me of something Stalin said in 1947, when Molotov reported to him of the United State’s offer to provide economic and financial aid to Russia and Eastern Europe, along the lines of the Marshall Plan.

“This is a ploy by Truman. … They don’t want to help us.  What they want is to infiltrate European countries.”

Friendly Fire

Keeping Russian media on message is easy. It’s getting more difficult when you must count on a synchronized message stream from your allies. Even ones as loyal and authoritarian as Assad’s Syria.

Today Syria’s SANA agency broke the news [citing unnamed Syrian military sources], that “Russian air forces bombed ISIS positions in the city of Palmyra”.

That was an oops moment, for at least two reasons: first, because Palmyra is a densely populated town, and second, because it borders a unique UNESCO Heritage Site.

palmyra

“Air strikes also targeted ISIS hideouts in Palmyra city in Homs, destroying 20 armored vehicles, 3 ammunition depots and 3 rocket launching pads, according to the source”

Major Russian media reported this story, but quickly retracted it when the Ministry of Defense said it wasn’t true.  Not only was it not true, but, said Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov of the MoD, it was part of the West’s information campaign targeting Russia.

“The Russian air force does not attack Syrian residential areas and even less architectural monuments. This is not the first time that we must refute reports from Western media in relation to the activities of the Russian air force in Syria”, said Maj Gen Konashenkov.

The same Russian media that originally carried the Syrian story now headlined the MoD’s rebuttal with the damning:  “Russian MoD responds to the West’s accusations: Palmyra was not bombed”.  The Russian Foreign Ministry was not slow in joining in: at a specially convened press conference, FM spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that

Western allegations regarding Russian operations in Syria are illogical and incorrect

All of which led to the following comical perfect storm on SANA’s website:

zakarova

 

Putin’s Universe: The Commie-Con (UPDATED with photos and video)

Last year I wrote about the lengths to which Kremlin’s “online PR department” went to mark his birthday (that included various “spontaneous” murals and graffiti with Putin’s image and the catchphrase “Putin the Peacemaker”, strategically placed around the world).

That was not the first time the Kremlin went to extremes to mark the Leader’s birthday. But this year’s birthday, as organized on the tax-payer’s money, promises to top all ComiCons.

Here’s the announcement of a one-of-a-kind exhibition, organized and promoted by Kremlin’s own online troll army. Translation below:

Friends, we invite you all on October 6 to the exhibition “Putin Universe», where Vladimir Putin will be presented in the form of the most famous characters, from Nelson Mandela to Joan of Arc!

On October 6th – the birthday of Vladimir Putin, Moscow and London will host an international exhibition named “Putin Universe”, in which artists from all over the world will present the Russian president in the form of characters from different countries, nationalities and ages. Putin will appear as Buddha, Amenhotep, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc – as the image of the Russian president embodies heroism, justice, cunning, intelligence, courage, charm – qualities that are easily recognized and appreciated in many countries and cultures. The initiator and organizer of the exhibition is  the largest international fan club of the president of Russia – “The Group of Supporters of Vladimir Putin.”

Last year, the largest international fan group of Vladimir Putin on Facebook  held an exhibition n Moscow entitled “12 Deeds of Putin”, where the achievements of the Russian president played upon images of ancient myths. The exhibition was a huge success in Russia and abroad.”

This year, the group decided to once again congratulate Vladimir Putin on his birthday with an exhibition, now at two sites: in Moscow and London. In the new project, the Russian leader will appear as characters from different countries, nationalities and eras: literature, folklore, history, comic books, embodied in a universal cross-cultural image, close to every person in the world.

Time of the exhibition: 12: 00-20: 00

Moscow, Starokonyushenny per., D. 43 (Studio “Promofoto”)

UPDATE: Today’s exhibition is co-organized and advertised in the UK by Mr. Lee West, a British citizen who, in his own words, “just returned from the best year of my life – sort of an extended holiday, living in Russia and teaching English“.

I asked Mr. West what the idea behind the exhibition in London was, to which he replied that he spontaneously got the idea “to present Mr. Putin in a positive light”.   I then asked what type of artists will contribute their “art” to the exhibition. Mr. West said that all artists were members of the “International Fan Club of Vladimir Putin”, and yes, they are all Russian citizens.

I then popped the obvious question: who is paying for the whole event. Mr. West replied that it’s being paid for by “the Fan Club”, and not by state funds. But who funds the Fan Club? “It’s all money from its members”, said Mr. Lee. And yes, he confirmed, he is a member himself.

Путин нажатием кнопки сделал свой фан-клуб в Facebook официальным. Facebook, Интернет, Путин, Селигер, фанаты. НТВ.Ru: новости, видео, программы телеканала НТВ

The Fan Club of Vladimir Putin, indeed, boasts  that it is the organizer of the exhibition. The club, however, was officially launched by none other than President Putin himself, during the Seliger youth Forum in 2013. During that event, where Putin famously spoke of the need to regulate the Internet in Russia, Pres. Putin agreed to fan-club founders’ request to “officialize the Fan Club”, and launched its website personally, by pressing the “launch” button on his tablet.

While launching his Fan Club into officialdom, Putin said, jokingly:

Sometimes the press of a single button can cost a lot. I would like for everyone to remember: Russia is a nuclear country. You press the wrong-button – and the consequences will be irreversible”

The so-called “independently funded” exhibition received extensive airtime on state-owned media in Russia, including this detailed report on state propaganda channel “RussiaToday”:

 


 

 Here is some of the notable “art” from the exhibition :(you may want to pay attention to the positive painting  of Putin kicking Obama’s head as a soccer ball)

Фото: Дни.Ру

cosmo mahar2 mahatreal putin2 putin3 putin-egy putingreen putinmil putinsaber putinsick putinsmth putinspook putrix quixote