Staunton, January 12 – Last month, Maria Butina, the Russian agent who was arrested in the US for her activities, said that she was a victim of the fact that Russophobia in the US had risen to the level of racism, the latest and perhaps most dramatic manifestation of Moscow’s current campaign ostensibly to “defend the rights of Russians abroad.”
Butina, who upon her release which was organized with the assistance of the highest levels of the Russian government, is well-placed to promote that idea, Kseniya Kirillova says. On her return to Moscow, she became a member of the Experts Council of the Human Rights Ombudsman (svoboda.org/a/30358325.html).
But Butina’s words not only overstate the problem Russians coming to the US face – “the majority of Russian-speaking emigres will tell you that they do not feel anything like what she says on themselves,” the US-based Russian journalist says – but something else, far less attractive, not about the US and Western countries but about Moscow.
And that is this, Kirillova continues. The Russian authorities clearly prefer to exploit for propaganda purposes the problems that some Russians who have moved abroad do experience, as in fact do some of all emigres, rather than try to help them in any way.
“The problem of Russian citizens is that in the Russian diaspora there practically do not exist independent human rights defense organizations and groups which could help those compatriots who fall into difficulties” either because of language problems or ignorance of local conditions as in fact can and does happen.
Unlike in the Russian case, such groups are to be found in other diaspora groups, including for example the Latin American community whose work has even on occasion helped Russians who have nowhere else to turn, Kirillova says.
“The Russian authorities are scarcely interested in providing help to those of their citizens who really by accident become victims of misunderstanding or abuse abroad. More often, such cases are even useful to them because they feed hysteria about ‘Russophobia’ and promote the idea that Russians abroad feel themselves ‘in a besieged fortress.’”
Of course, a few, like Butina, do get real assistance. But “according to NTV, more than 600 complaints have come from Russians detained abroad; and the names of these people we somehow do not see in the Russian press.” This is a manifestation of a larger Russian problem: the state is against Russians rather than their defender.
And thus the issue of “real legal assistance” to those who need it not because of racism or Russophobia but because of the accidents of life abroad “remains open,” something Russian propagandists are counting even though it means that actual Russians will have to suffer for Moscow’s benefit.