Russia as a raw-material appendage of “Iskander”

On September 1, Vladimir Putin decided to open a new school year in “Sirius”, an educational center for gifted children that was created on the basis of Olympic objects, not far from his Sochi residence. We consider that his speech in front of young Russians is more important for Ukraine than the comments concerning Donbas and Minsk peaceful process given a bit later in the Crimea and in the Far East.  

Putin calls the center’s pupils to think what Russia will be like in 10-15 years. His audience is made up by the pupils who were born in “his Russia” and who are to take the lion’s share of responsibility for the country in 10-15 years. To be more precise, Putin has already decided to put this responsibility on them. It is they who, knowing no “other” Russia, will defend everything they have been appreciating since early childhood. What exactly they are to appreciate is also decided by Putin himself.   

The main value is patriotism, the readiness to defend your land and its interests at any price and maintain its internal unity in the face of an external enemy. As “the world is changing rapidly; the competition is growing. If to draw a sports analogy, more and more states are declaring their readiness to fight for the champion’s title. And the stakes in this historical match are rather high: will we produce unique technologies ourselves, will we share prominent knowledge with the world, will we be proud of the achievements of our arts, our sports records or will we envy someone else’s triumphs? And finally, will we be able to meet the global civilization challenges and provide the leadership and sovereignty of our homeland? Answers to these questions are you agenda and your perspective plan.” (“Channel One Russia,” September 1, 2015).  

Checking who is a true patriot and who’s not is not difficult either: “… the history of our country has got tragic pages as well. The lessons of revolts, revolutions, and civil war warn of how any secession is disastrous for Russia. These lessons of history convince that only the unity of the people and social consent can lead to success, provide the state’s independence, and help to resist any powerful and treacherous enemy… When there was a need to defend the homeland, the entire people of our country rose. Where did they take so much spiritual power and readiness to sacrifice themselves? They took it from their sincere and heartfelt love to their land.” (“Rossiya,” “Rossiya-24,” September 1, 2015). The main criteria are the readiness to self-sacrifice and subjecting your own life and interests to “the unity of the people.”     

Two more components of personal success are the eagerness to be better than other people (to be “youthful, cheeky, and independent”) and the respect to “older people,” the ability to consider their directions and enjoy their trust. These are the three components, according to Putin, that gave a young physicist Zhores Alferov an opportunity to make the discoveries worthy of the Noble prize and gave a group of young scientists an opportunity to create a rocket complex “Iskander.”  

It is worthy to note that all the central TV channels stressed their attention on the example of “Iskander.” This weapon belongs to offensive armaments, but, according to Putin, it is “the pride of the home defense industry.”  (“Channel One Russia,” September 1, 2015). The connotations on “fighting for peace,” familiar to the people who grew up or were born in the Soviet Union, have remained unshakeable for them. Now, the same statements are exploited in order to shape the expansionist world view of the new generation of Russians.    

However, the picture of September 1 would be incomplete without another important message addressed to one more, predominantly elderly part of the society. Present and future struggle for a place under the sun should not undermine the loyalty of those who today support the power in exchange for stability. Therefore, the same day there was an item about the meeting of the political party “United Russia” in Ryazan, during which the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev “uttered” a total refuse of the imported medical equipment: “It is better to move slower and to turn to import substitution, but to be confident that all our policlinics are equipped with good efficient appliances.” (“Rossiya,” “Vesti,” September 1, 2015). 

Proceeding from this statement, it would be rational to suppose that the Kremlin will not refuse its actions, including the aggression against Ukraine, until it feels real threats to political, economic, and social stability within the country. In the meantime, the pressure will even intensify in the perspective of the nearest 10-15 years, thus strengthening the regime of Putin’s top.    

In this vein, the image of Ukraine which is torn up by antagonisms and is balancing on the verge of civil war and default at the same time serves two purposes at once. On the one hand, the rising generation is shown what the loss of “unity” and “social consent” threatens with. On the other hand, the elderly generation is reminded that for their relative wellbeing and stability they are indebted to the power which prevents internal perturbations.   

The Russian viewer will be convinced that Ukraine has got under the external governance of the United States. So, the country seems to have only two ways out: either dictatorship or the power seized by the nationalists. This construction has been eloquently described by the historian and publicist Nikolai Svanidze in the air of Echo of Moscow:    

Echo of Moscow, “Particular Opinion,” September 4, 2015 

“Larina, K.: About the nation. Just the Ukrainian one. Since our president has made several statements at the eastern forum in the Far East. Among the things he said, I got interested in what he said about Ukraine. He is so concerned about the Ukrainian people. “Ukraine has been put under the external governance, and all the key positions in the government are taken by foreigners; it is an insult to the Ukrainian people,Vladimir Putin considers. “The way the situation in Ukraine will develop depends on the Ukrainian people, on how long the Ukrainian people will stand this bacchanalia.” Can you please decode what it means? What does he want from the Ukrainian people?    

Svanidze, N.: It is not hard to decode. This is the follow-on of our general official line concerning Donbas. The general line is actually the following: a) we have no influence on the PRD and the PRL. That is what deals with the Minsk agreements. They say, guys, come on, influence them. And we say, we can’t. As well as on the court. Our court is independent. And the PRD and the PRL are independent, too. As well as the court. We can influence them no way. Secondly, we are not at war there. There are no our military units there. We lead – Russia leads no warfare in Donbas. As of both items, our western partners express total mistrust to us and say: you lie. Firstly, none other than you have absolute influence on the PRD and the PRL. There won’t be any of them without you, and without you, they would vanish in two weeks. Secondly, there are these and those, such-and-such facts proving that in this or that way, de jure or de facto, identified or not, you are at war there. That is the exchange of thoughts between us. That is on the one hand. On the other hand, speaking about Ukraine. The position of our state is, if, for example, the minister of economics or anything else, the head of Odesa or someone else is of foreign origin, not Ukrainian, it means “under foreign governance,” which, in turn, is automatically interpreted as the governance of the U.S. State Department. And this is a direct evidence of the need to talk about the coup d'état in Kyiv.” 

A new turn of the propaganda campaign against Ukraine was initiated, as mentioned above, by the President of the Russian Federation himself. His messages were broadcasted by central TV channels on September 4-6:  

Russia demands to coordinate the execution of the Minsk agreements with Donbas; 

Constitutional reform in Ukraine is not an element of peaceful settlement. 

“Channel One Russia,” “News,” September 6, 2015 

“Vladimir Putin: political crisis in Ukraine is a new round of the race for power. 

This week a new version of the Constitution has been passed in Kyiv. As a result, there were not just disturbances, but real armed clashes at Rada. Not only cobble-stones and tear gas were applied – one of the protesters threw a ball grenade into the rows of militiamen.   

Poroshenko has traditionally accused Moscow of the fact that radical nationalists of the “Right Sector” and “Svoboda” party are now acting for its benefit. The President Putin has answered him in absentia. The events that took place are a tragedy and a consequence of the policy pursued by Kyiv, not executing the Minsk agreements that could help to normalize the situation in the country, he said.   

“If we talk about the execution of the Minsk agreements, I should remind that the amendments to the Constitution should be agreed with Donbas; the law on local government elections should be agreed with Donbas; a law on amnesty should be adopted. It has not been adopted. Besides, the law on the special status of these territories should be put into action. It was adopted, but its introduction has been postponed again. All of these four cardinal terms of political settlement are unfortunately not executed by our today colleagues in Kyiv; they are just not executed.    

As for these tragic events, I consider they have nothing to do with the amendments to the Constitution. Because everything we are now offered as changes is absolutely declarative and does not change the structure of power in Ukraine per se. The actions we see today are just the next issue of political confrontation in Ukraine. And the amendments to the Constitution are just exploited as an excuse for the aggravation of the political race for power,” the Russian President states.”   

Putin’s theses concerning the future of the nationalist revolution and the external governance were followed and developed by other, more minor officials: 

On September 6, NTV quoted “Aleksandr Khodakovskiy, the Secretary of the Security Council of the PRD” stating that the nationalists are “people motivated enough, aggressive enough, and armed more than enough. And as soon as the centers governing them today, for which it is not profitable so far to slacken the reins to let them act independently, weaken the control over them, these people can show themselves even harder than they showed themselves during Maidan of 2013-2014.”  

On September 15, “Rossiya” broadcasted how the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev initiated the journalists of Arkhangelsk into the secrets of American influence on the Ukrainian politics: “Each visit of Victoria Nuland to Ukraine proves that Ukraine is not an independent state; it is under the external governance of Washington. Her trips are obviously connected not with councils and consultations on regional security, as the Western propaganda presents it to us, but with direct instructions for the country’s leaders on how to act.” “Current situation in the south-east of Ukraine shows that official Kyiv does not plan to recognize the PRD and the PRL; it is constantly violating the Minsk agreements, playing into anti-Russian moods, and making advances to Ukrainian neo-nationalists supported by Washington.”  

Trying to illustrate the crisis of power in Ukraine, Russian power authorities are using any information pretexts and messages. For example, on September 10, the appeal of Dmytro Yarosh to the President of Ukraine with the demand to interfere and free the Euromaidan activists arrested in Odesa was interpreted by “LifeNews” and “Rossiya” as a signal for a new armed action of the nationalists. 

The same goal was pursued when on September 4-6, NTV and “Rossiya” were actively reporting the scandal between Saakashvili, Yatsenyuk, and Kolomoisky concerning the government’s servicing of oligarchic interests.

On September 7, “Rossiya” catches up the words of Oleg Lyashko stating that electing Poroshenko as a president was “the biggest mistake of Ukrainians since the beginning of Maidan events” because the President “has headed the entire corruption and is the main oligarch.”  

On September 14-15, “LifeNews” shows an item in which Yatsenyuk accuses the head of the Ministry of Energy and Coal Mining, who was appointed by Poroshenko’s quota, of wrecking of the heating season in Ukraine. The criticism is put into the context of the message reporting that “the head of the PRD” has forbidden the exporting of the coal to Ukraine.

After all, on September 15, NTV and “LifeNews” cite a Facebook post of the former first Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andrey Portnov and broadcast the items reporting that Poroshenko presented Yanukovich with a picture of the world-known seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky “Constantinople at Dawn” for his birthday in 2012.  

The messages from Donbas will be used to support the already-shaped image of “the enemy” in view of a new mobilization and militarization of public opinion.

Meanwhile, from time to time, they will broadcast the items from the occupied territories of Donbas proving that the Kremlin’s goals have been achieved. For example, from the second half of August to the beginning of September, Russian TV channels report that “the PRD” and “the PRL” have completely switched over to the Russian ruble and most of the goods are from Russia and Russian humanitarian aid.  

“Channel One Russia,” “News,” August 16, 2015 

“Donbas has got used to survive without Kyiv. For very many people, humanitarian aid from Russia and public organizations has actually become the only source of subsistence. As Kyiv authorities have just separated from them by means of the army. Passage to that side has been blocked for them.  

“We have no meat, no sausages, we have only potatoes from our kitchen garden and that is all. There is sometimes humanitarian aid, so we’re grateful,” a local woman admits bitterly. 

In Luhansk, the situation with survival of the needy is the same. In both republics, local banks have begun to pay pensions in rubles after the Ukrainian banks, despite the Minsk agreements, have failed to reopen here.”

NTV, “News,” September 1, 2015 

“On the first day of autumn, PRL switches over to the Russian ruble. 

Donbas is trying to maintain the economy of the region. As a result of financial blockade, there is almost no Ukrainian currency. Therefore, as from tomorrow Luhansk will switch over to the Russian ruble.

Donbas had to switch over to Russian currency so urgently not for the fun of it: last autumn Kyiv stopped paying all the pensions and salaries in the south-east. People of Donetsk and Luhansk were allowed to use anything to settle up. So, first of all, the rubles were put to use, as they were and still are sent by the relatives or guest workers from Russia. 

The new leaders of the region had to decide where to take cash for social payments. And the government did find a solution: it established trade relations with South Ossetia where the ruble had been in use for 7 years already.  

Training the people to the fact that Luhansk will totally switch over to the ruble as from the first of September was gradual. In recent months there have been two prices at each article of trade, in terms of the hryvnia and in terms of a new currency.  

It is especially difficult for the cashiers, as their equipment is adjusted to Ukrainian currency. They have to convert money on their own, as the salesmen admit. They find it good that it was allowed to round the course in the region: the depreciation of the hryvnia against the ruble is one against two.  

In Luhansk, there are no queues to occasional currency exchange desks. And this fact is explained by the banks easily: people got rid of Ukrainian cash long ago.”

“Rossiya,” “Vesti,” September 9, 2015 

“As from the beginning of September, the declared People’s Republic of Donetsk switches over to a free float ruble, Russian News Agency TASS informs with a reference to Donetsk News Agency. Earlier, the course of Russian currency was fixed in the declared republic and made up 2 rubles against 1 hryvnia. According to the data of the regulator, as of September 3, 1 Ukrainian hryvnia already costs 2.9932 rubles.” 

“The reason of this situation is a dramatic decrease of hryvnia cash on hand, resulting from the blockade of our republic by the Ukrainian power,” the minister of finance of the PRD Yekaterina Matyushchenko reports. Meanwhile, as the press service of the Ministry of Finance of the PRD explains, “the proportions between the ruble and the hryvnia will depend on market relations only.” 

It is interesting to note that on a number of occasions, the attempts to expose Kyiv’s policy regarding “the declared republics” leads to the disproof of certain myths created by Russian propaganda a year ago. For example, an item on “Ren-TV” contains direct speech of the dwellers of Fashchevka, Luhansk oblast, who recollect the premises of the conflict. A lady doctor, “appointed chairman,” tells how “they were constantly showing the fascists on TV,” while another one speaks about the absence of real assistance to the refugees who decided to leave for Russia in summer 2014. 

“Ren-TV,” September 7, 2015 

“Give us an opportunity to live in our republics!

Galia left for Russia in summer. Initially, they lived in a refugee camp located at the border in the middle of nowhere: there were no facilities, no conditions for life at all. Then she was sent to the recreation center for refugees. There were not enough places, so they lived in a big military tent fifteen people together. Then they moved to Rostov where they spent a month and wanted to come back, but they were not let pass the border as there was heavy fighting. The people, in the meantime, had no money. They earned their living trying to make ends meet: they had to lug the bricks at the construction site, to trade at the market, and to work as packers of army rations.  

We are joined by the head of the town council Lidiya Samokhina. Lidiya is a medic of a 40-years experience who worked in a town hospital. But before war she was appointed to the position of the town head by Kozitsyn’s order…   

“I can’t understand one thing,” Lidiya says. “All of us studied in the same schools, almost all of us speak Russian, the entire Ukraine. Even in the west. Why so much hatred to the east? Where did these fascist boys come from, when did they manage to grow up?” 

Samokhina began her public activities as the chairman of two election committees at the referendum on May 11, 2014. 

“I realized what I agreed to,” Lidiya recollects. “And when I said “Leave!” to Katia, who was near me and had two twin girls aged 6, I understood what we signed for. There were meetings during which I was actively speaking, and I said: “Let’s decide what we want!” The referendum took place on May 11, while the shootings in Slavyansk began in April, so I already knew there will be a war. I hoped that they will have enough reason to agree peacefully, but they had none.” 

By Samokhina, 97% of the population voted at the referendum. There were no elections ever in which so many people took part. 

“I’ve never seen anything of the kind. I was piping my eye until night, while I was counting the bulletins. I had no sleep for three days; I was to feed the guys who were standing in the security line, to get the bulletins, to count them and to stamp. Then we voted and counted the voices. And on Monday morning I was to go to work in the hospital. I cried realizing how many people wanted to be on their own, how strong their wish not to live under these fascists endlessly shown on TV was. Elderly people still remembered the war; our generation understood that it was wrong, and the youth was with us.” 

To make a long story short, reporting the Ukrainian events at the beginning of September, in our view, has shifted from military to political and social subject area, with a stress set on sensational information, regardless of its reliability and truthfulness. Unfortunately, the main sources of compromising information were the Ukrainian politicians themselves.   

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