After nearly a week of radio silence from the batch of the Kremlin super-trolls (about 25 high-impact bloggers, curated and paid directly out of the Kremlin’s Domestic Politics department), today they re-appeared with a vengeance.
Here’s what the their time-line looks like right now:
The message: a variation of the following:
“In the Crimea: Back to Homeland documentary, Putin thanked Vyacheslav Volodin [Head of Domestic Politics Department], but notice how he didn’t thank Surkov”
What does this mean in plain-speak?
Volodin is the guy who said last year “Putin is Russia” and “There is Putin, there is Russia, there’s no Putin, there’s no Russia”. He is also the guy whom Navalny accused of large-scale corruption. Most importantly, he is one of the Russian elite’s hardliners, and is on the EU & US sanctions list.
Surkov is currently Putin’s special adviser on Ukraine, of Chechen origin. He used to hold Volodin’s position until 2011, when he was fired – at Volodin’s instigation – allegedly over his “modernizing” policies. Thus it was a surprise to many that Surkov was brought back in 2013, albeit with a limited brief – to deal with Ukraine only.
So, the nabs taken by the Kremlin trolls at Surkov might be explained by the old animosity by Voloding towards Surkov, one might assume? It would make sense at any time except at this very moment. After one week of silence during probably the riskiest period for the Kremlin, from a PR perspective, would the first message from the super-trolls be pure personal vendetta? This doesn’t make sense.
Two possibilities emerge. One is related to the stigma that Surkov bears of a “5th columnist” at the Kremlin. This stigma has been continuously thrown at him by the nut-case-grade right-wing lobby (Fedorov+Dugin+Rogozin). He has been branded as the sole reason Russia “betrayed” Novorossiya. Thus, his processing today might mean that the right-wingers have won the intra-Kremlin strife (and Shoigu’s announcment of a large-scale military exercise today supports this hypothesis).
The alternative explanation is, paradoxically, almost the opposite. Even though Surkov is too soft for the nut-case lobby standards, he is as dark a horse as they come. Suffice it to say that he was helping Yanukovich prepare a strategy against the Maidan and was reported to have been in Kiev during (or just prior to) the sniper killings. The only alternative explanation I can think of, therefore, is that Putin has decided to dump him overboard as a liability in his attempts to reconstruct a roadmap out of the current cold-war with the West.
But this latter hypothesis, I am afraid, bears the scent of wishful thinking.