In a sign of back-peddling on his escalating rhetoric against the “Motherland that betrays us” (by not sending troops to Ukraine), Girkin praised Putin. Almost.
Last night Girkin chose his old buddy’s Marat Musin’s website, anna-news.info, to publish a statement that goes, more or less, like this:
“I am concerned about the growing attempts by patriotic/military circles in Russia to portray me as a super-hero. I am not a super-hero, it’s just that my enemy is incompetent. Don’t attack Putin for being a coward, as he started the revolution from the top, by invading Crimea. Don’t use me to promote internal dissent in Russia. And anyway, in times of war, no one can express disagreement, as that is treason.”
What lies behind this change of heart from someone whose lifelong ambition has been to be recognized as a hero?
To understand the context, I must note that more and more Russians of anti-Kremlin views have been pointing out the growing schism between Putin and the Girkin team. In this Facebook post, for instance, former deputy PM and opposition figure Boris Nemtsov points out the fact that Girkin is no longer given airtime on Putin-controlled TV media, possibly because Putin is afraid that upon his (and the militants) return to Russia, they might want to go after the Russian establishment (a thesis that I ventured back in May).
It is clear that Putin is sitting on the fence about providing direct military help to the militants. Initially, Girkin tried to guilt Putin into sending him reinforcements. Then, he started blackmailing him, by issuing statements such as “if Russia doesn’t send troops now, history won’t forgive the betrayal“.
It seemed none of these approaches worked, and might have even backfired, if Nemtsov’s observation is any indication. So it appears Girkin has launched a shrewd damage-control initiative: to appease Putin by presenting himself as a non-contender for (even a small portion) of the limelight that Putin doesn’t like to share.
There is room for only one hero, Girkin says, sheepishly.