Saturday, March 25, 2017

Putin Regime Closing Off Last Legal Means of Opposition Protest, Vishnevsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 25 – Russian officials have approved only 24 of 100 requests for the right to protest tomorrow ( and and have told Aleksey Navalny he bears responsibility for problems (

            Nonetheless, at least some marches will occur – and that points to a new danger: Moscow has, as Boris Vishnevsky says, closed down almost all of the last possibilities for political and civic activity within the system; and yet the opposition and the Russian people plan to protest anyway (

                The potential thus exists for serious clashes, something the Putin regime almost certainly will use, whether it has provoked them or not, as an excuse for an even more draconian imposition of order and the imposition of what Vishnevsky describes as the “hermetic sealing off” of any chance for legal political activity other than that approved by the regime.

            The Navalny-inspired demonstrations for tomorrow have attracted the most attention, but as the St. Petersburg Yabloko politician points out, the regime’s other recent moves may be even more disturbing in their consequences.  Among “the latest examples” is the extension to Moscow and probably soon to the country of Petersburg’s ban on meetings between deputies and people.

            Others include the decision of the Russian Constitutional Court to allow the authorities to detain individual picketers and “the intention of the St. Petersburg parliamentary assembly to deprive opposition fractions of the right to take breaks in sessions.” From now on, only the dominant party of power will have that right.

            Each of these may seem like a small step, but taken together, they exclude the opposition from any real chance to legally oppose the powers that be. As such, both individually and collectively, they are typical of Putin’s approach, taking small steps that few will protest which lead to a situation in which few will be able to.

            But there is a real downside to this: If Russians and opposition political leaders can’t protest legally, they will be forced into silence or underground. In the first case, their grievances and those of the Russian people will only grow given the Kremlin’s propensity to ignore what the population wants and needs.

            In the latter case, Russia will enter a new and ugly period, one that recalls the time before 1905 and 1917 when political life was driven underground and when it festered to the point that it led to a revolution.

            Putin’s tactics may keep him in office for some time. His control of the media and his influence in the West may even allow him to present what he is doing as reasonable if not completely democratic.  But the future is bleak first for the Russian people and then for the Russian regime that refuses to allow them space to present their grievances.

Voronenkov Murder and Arms Dump Explosion Suggests Putin is Getting Ready to Attack, Shmulyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 25 – “Two terrible events in one day” – the murder in Kyiv of former Russian Duma member Denis Voronenkov and the blowing up of the Balakley arms dump, the largest in Europe – may mean that Vladimir Putin has launched “a major diversion” in preparation for an expansion of his attacks on Ukraine, according to Avraam Shmulyevich.

            The Israeli analyst argues that such diversions have often preceded Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere and that there are compelling reasons to think that he believes he can break the Ukrainian regime of Petro Poroshenko and put himself in line to advance on Kyiv (

                “In any Western country, such events, even more when they occur simultaneously would be sufficient to raise the issue of trust in all ministers of the force block and even the head of government because such things in a normally organized country cannot be allowed by definition,” Shmulyevich says.

            Protecting a prominent defector is obviously a matter of importance for the state because such an act of liquidation “must be excluded in principle,” and “the very largest dump of military materiel must not be blown up or blow itself up.” However, in Ukraine this week, “the deputy was killed and the dump blown up.”

            The causes of the explosion are not yet completely clear, “but the best variant about which it is possible to dream is that this was a diversion of Russia.” If it blew up on its own or by the actions of Ukrainians, then the conclusions would be much worse. They would suggest that all critical infrastructure in that country, including atomic power stations, are at risk.

            So let us exclude that this was a diversion,” Shmulyevich says “even though the other variants are much worse.”  Some reports say that the dump was blown up after a drone flew into it, but that raises questions about whose drone and for what purpose.  But there is a far more serious issue involved here.

            “The level of trust in the official authorities in Ukraine as anyone can see is quite low. Citizens far from always trust official information.” And so many are likely to think that the explosion at Balaklay was something intended to cover a massive theft and diversion of military equipment by Ukrainian officials themselves.

            Of these three versions of events – a diversion by the Russian Federation, a spontaneous fire, or a conflagration designed to cover theft – Shmulyevich says, he has difficulty choosing “the least traumatic” because “they all testify to the colossal crisis of the Ukrainian state.” 

            The situation with regard to Voronenkov’s murder is simpler, he continues. This act “almost certainly was undertaken by Moscow,” although even in this case, “there are questions” and inconsistencies in the official reports have already been pointed to by Ukrainian commentators and officials.

            But one can accept the conclusion of Senator John McCain that this murder in the center of Kyiv was “a bold act of state terrorism” by Russia.  But “if Putin has decided on such a major terrorist act and even more if he is behind the explosion at the arms dump, then “this means that he is going over to the attack and that all red lines have been crossed.”

            And that in turn means something even more disturbing to Ukraine and the world. If Putin is doing that, Shmulyevich says, then it is only because he is “certain that America is paralyzed and Ukraine will be afraid to respond in an adequate manner” or will be unable to do so because of fundamental problems within its own government apparatus.

            “Both the reaction of the Ukrainian powers that be,” Shmulyevich concludes, “and the results of the investigations will show us and Putin and indeed the entire world whether this is the case.”

There is an ‘Operation Trust’ in Belarus – But Not What Regnum Editor Describes

Paul Goble

                Staunton, March 25 – Like many others, both intelligence professionals and political analysts approach every new situation by drawing on their past experiences, assuming that what worked earlier will work again, with Russian analysts in addition typically projecting on to others what their own intelligence services are doing.

            Those two things explain the proclivity of many Moscow analysts of raising the specter of “Operation Trust”-type operations supposedly being conducted by other governments but in fact pioneered by the founder of the Soviet Cheka, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, in the first years of Soviet power, and routinely used by the Cheka’s successors since that time.

            “Operation Trust” or just “the Trust” was a Soviet false flag operation designed to penetrate, disorder and ultimately hamstring the military wing of the first Russian emigration by suggesting that there was an underground monarchist organization within Soviet Russia that the emigration should take its orders from.

            (For a good introduction to the complex history of Dzerzhinsky’s Trust, see the 35-page report at For a discussion of some more recent Trust-type operations Putin has launched, see
            Most leaders of the Russian emigration and many European intelligence services fell for the Trust operation, but not all did. And when the Trust was exposed for what it really was in 1927, an exposure that it is possible Moscow even played an active part, many assumed that the Russian intelligence services had suffered a serious defeat.

            At one level that may have been true, but at another, it definitely was not. The exposure of the Trust as a Soviet operation discredited all those who had believed in it, most prominently perhaps V.V. Shulgin who was manipulated by it and whose influence in the emigration never recovered. And that gave Moscow a second victory, even if many didn’t see it at the time.

            In an article provocatively entitled “May Failed at an Operation Trust,” Baranchik suggests that the Belarusian foreign minister has misled his president, cooperated with Ukrainian radicals, protected them against the legitimate actions of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and otherwise undermined the unity of the Minsk regime (

                What he does not do is to say exactly who recruited Vladimir May or whom May recruited and under what false flag. Instead, Baranchik insinuates that some dark forces are behind all this and counts on using the emotionally resonant language about a “Operation Trust” to disorder the Belarusian regime and reduce its ability to function.

            The  Regnum news agency editor has good reason to be angry at May: the latter forced him to leave Belarus and sought his extradition from Russia, something Moscow wasn’t prepared to give, because of Baranchik’s pro-Russian and anti-Belarusian reporting, much of it unsubstantiated.

            And Baranchik has another reason to employing the “Trust” language: There are Operation Trust-like actions going on in Belarus, but they have nothing to do with the collection of insinuations he offers. They are organized by Russian intelligence officers presenting themselves as Belarusian radical nationalists in order to be able to promote disorders.

            That is what Moscow’s special services did in Ukraine and they are doing it again in Belarus so that they can promote violence when it suits them, either to force Lukashenka to crack down harder than he otherwise might or to provide a justification that some might accept for a Russian intervention in the name of stability.

            The Belarusian opposition and the angry Belarusian nation behind the current round of demonstrations is committed to precisely the kind of peaceful change that Moscow doesn’t want to see happen. It would make such activities too much of a threat to Russia’s own authoritarian regime, and so it is Moscow not May who has an interest in a new Operation Trust.