Thursday, March 31, 2022

Putin Now Using Four Types of Black Propaganda Developed for Use Against Foreign Armies Against His Own People, Vladimir Yakovlev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Most people divide propaganda into three categories – white which is based on facts, gray which mixes facts and falsehoods, and black which consists almost exclusively of untruths; but within the last, there are special kinds of propaganda developed for use against foreign armies, Vladimir Yakovlev says.

            He learned about them in a Soviet university, the Moscow commentator says; but now everyone can see that Putin is making use of these varieties of black propaganda not just against enemy armies but against his own population. And from the Kremlin leader’s perspective, these tools have been remarkably effective (

            Yakovlev describes four of them -- the “rotten fish” method, the “big lie” method, the “absolutely obvious” method, and the “unknown hero” method – why each is quite effective and how Putin is using all of them at present to achieve his goals.

            The first of these, “the rotten fish method,” works as follows. Those carrying it out choose something absolutely untrue but as dirty and scandalous as possible. That does not mean that everyone will accept what is being asserted – that isn’t the point, Yakovlev says. Instead, what this approach does is guarantee that the issue will be discussed.

            And such discussions work to the benefit of those who use this form. “The human psyche is so constructed that as soon as an accusation becomes a subject of public discussion, there inevitably arise its ‘supporters’ and ‘opponents,’ ‘specialists’ and experts’ and rabid ‘accusers’ and died in the wool ‘defenders’ of the proposition,” however false.

            A classic example now on public view is charging that someone is a Nazi. Few will accept that as true, but the debate works for those who make this charge and against those who are defending against it, the Moscow commentator argues.

            The second method is that of “the big lie.” It is similar to the first but in fact “works differently” because “its essential feature consists in putting forward with a maximum degree of certainty such a global and shameless lie that it is practically impossible for many people to accept that anyone could lie about that.” People are shocked and that is the point.

            The third method, based on presenting something fundamentally false as “obvious, self-evident and therefore unconditionally supported by the vast majority of the population.” Despite the simplicity of this approach, one that many would expect to fail, it is typically quite effective because people desire to be part of the majority rather than remain marginals.

            And the fourth is the method of “the unknown hero.” According to Yakovlev, “this is one of the most ancient and at the same time most effective methods of special propaganda.” It involves making heroes out of one’s own supporters or soldiers and thus making anyone who opposes them lesser and wrong.

            “All methods of military special propaganda are united by a common goal: weakening the army of the opponent by introducing into his ranks internal anger, hatred and a lack of trust.” What is especially disturbing now, Yakovlev says, is that Putin is using this technique not just against foreign forces but against his own Russian people leaving them angry and divided.

            All these kinds of special propaganda work “even more effectively against one’s own population than against enemy soldiers,” primarily because “unlike enemy soldiers,” one’s own people don’t expect it and haven’t been trained to resist its lures. The best way to do that, of course, is to “resist any information that cultivates hatred and mutual discord.”

            “It is very important to remember,” Yakovlev continues, “that in difficult and dangerous situations, your friends and family, those close to you, will save you and help you” while those on the television screen “who every day throw out new reasons for quarrels and conflicts” are to be ignored.

            “There is a simple mantra that can serve as a real antidote” to all these methods, he continues. It is this: “people are more important than ideas.” In these troubled times, “one should write them in large letters where one will see them every day and not forget the lesson they teach.

200,000 People have Left the Russian Federation for Residence in Former Soviet Republics So Far This Year

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Some 200,000 people have left the Russian Federation to live in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Georgia since the start of this year in response to increasing repression at home and Putin’s war in Ukraine, according to Olga Gulina, a migration specialist for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

            Most of these are young and highly qualified professionals, whose loss Russia will feel increasingly severely in the future, she says, and they have moved to these countries because there are few obstacles to Russian citizens who want to enter (

            At the same time, many are taking their businesses with them, depriving Russia of those as well. In the first half of March, for example, 250 representatives of such companies contacted the Armenian government for assistance in setting up shop more or less permanently in that South Caucasus country.

            Gulina says that “the countries of the Eurasian Union are an ideal option for emigration from Russia. First, with the exception of Georgia, they are neutral on the war in Ukraine. Second, they aren’t on the Russia’s list of unfriendly countries and so can keep their property in Russia.

            Third, all these countries have liberal migration regimes as far as citizens of the Russian Federation are concerned. And fourth, and perhaps especially important, the migration expert continues, “moving to the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus doesn’t require special cultural or linguistic adaption by Russian citizens” as Russian is still widely used.

            Most of those leaving Russia today should be classified as “expats, not refugees.” While many feel they have been forced, most have had a choice, albeit not always a good one. “These people have no desire to return to today’s Russia,” Gulina concludes; “but crucially, they have the legal right to do so if they so desire.”


Ordinary Russians Helping Ukrainian Refugees but Often Fear Being Identified as Doing So, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – A week ago, the Moscow newspaper Novaya gazeta asked its readers for stories about Russians either within the Russian Federation or abroad who were helping refugees from Ukraine. A large number of people in both places responded, but many inside Russia asked that they not be named lest they get in trouble with the Putin regime.

            Some of those helping indicated that they opposed the war, but most said they simply wanted to help ordinary people who are suffering, the paper reports. In the words of one such benefactor, “I remain a human being; I will help.” But even he asked not to be named (

            Ivan Zhilin says that these fears are not without foundation, but adds that ordinary Russians are responding to the misfortunes of Ukrainians and that this form of “public diplomacy, in contrast to that of the government, has not suffered a collapse. It thus represents a small bridge between the two countries.”

            There are many crimes the Putin regime is guilty of and has been charged with in the court of public opinion; but perhaps none is more serious than creating a climate of fear in which its people are afraid to do the right thing lest they land behind bars because of how the Kremlin will view their actions. 

Despite Ukraine and Sanctions, Putin Still Enjoys an Enormous Credit of Trust with Russians but This Isn’t Infinite, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Most Russians expect that the current crisis arising from the fighting in Ukraine and the sanctions the West has imposed will be overcome in a few months; and as a result, they are still prepared to support Vladimir Putin in his policies, Vladimir Pastukhov says. But this “credit of trust” won’t last forever, and the Kremlin leader understands that.

            Overwhelmingly, Russians believe that the last 20 years under Putin have been good for them, and consequently, they expect that things will continue to be, even if there are some bumps on the road as at present, the London-based Russian analyst continues (

            One can even say that this “belief that current difficulties will be temporary and manageable represents the new social consensus” in Russia, Pastukhov says. “For the most part,” Russians and the Russian elite assume that any costs at present will be overcome and overcome relatively quickly. In that event, paying these costs will be something they’ll accept.

            For the time being, this gives Putin a remarkably free hand, although it shows the immaturity of the Russian people and their inability to imagine that the neither the present nor the future will necessarily be like the past and willingness to tolerate cruelty if there is a possibility that it will be.

            However, there is a problem with a loan of this kind: A default will occur if those to whom it is given, the Kremlin leadership, fails to make payments on time. Most Russians expect “the first tranche no later than mid-summer,” Pastukhov says. And if they don’t receive this in the form of a significant normalization of life, “panic may set in.”

            The Russian analyst says that he thinks “the debtor understands this. Putin does not really have an infinite time to resolve the Ukrainian issue. In the next few weeks, he will have to choose being going all out or starting negotiations on the restructuring of this debt.” Such “a denouement” is coming, and April will be a month in which many questions will be answered.

Russian Elites Seeking to Adapt Themselves to New Reality They Didn’t Create, Don’t Support But Can’t Criticize Openly, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Scholars refer to Vladimir Putin’s rule as a personalist dictatorship, one in which he makes all the decisions on his own and others have to defer to him, Sergey Shelin says. As a result, since the Kremlin leader decided to invade Ukraine, Russian elites have sought to adapt themselves to the new reality they didn’t create but can’t criticize openly.

            Many have made remarks that show they were anything but enthusiastic about Putin’s decision, but almost all have more or less immediately changed their tune and swung behind his policies, promising to support them by adapting to the world his decision has created, the Rosbalt commentator says (

            But the lack of any demonstration of an elite self-consciousness and independent role cannot be explained “only by the personalistic nature of the regime, fears for what could happen to them if they did challenge it, or the impotence of corrupt and cynical minds now confronted by ideas that are becoming obligatory for everyone,” Shelin says.

            “No less important,” he suggests, is that the supposed elites fully sense their lack of legitimacy either in the eyes of the population or those of the dictator. Instead, they are perceived and know that they are perceived as “something alien and unnecessary” to the current functioning of the Putin system.

            And that sense which has led them to knuckle under rather than speak out or seek to defend their own interests is part and parcel of what is becoming a national crisis whose outcome is completely unpredictable. Almost anything now seems impossible and will until it actually happens, the commentator suggests.


Handling of Report on Combat Losses in Ukraine Shows Putin’s System Hardly a Well-Oiled Machine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – The Putin system is hardly the well-oiled machine many of its operatives and others believe it to be. Its components make mistakes and these have to be corrected on an ad hoc basis, often in ways that suggest just how fragile the current arrangements within the powers that be in fact are.

            This characteristic of Putin’s rule has been highlighted by the way in which Komsomolskaya Pravda first published data on Russian combat losses in Ukraine and then had to retract them after they were notices by someone on Twitter, even though the Internet being the Internet, they did not disappear (

            In a post on its website, the Moscow paper reported the defense ministry had said that Russian forces have suffered 9861 deaths and 16,153 wounded so far in the Ukraine campaign. After Twitter noticed this, the paper took the report down and blamed unauthorized persons for posting it (, and

            It is not entirely clear what happened in this case given that other journalists say the defense ministry made no such declaration about losses. (The ministry has announced them once during the campaign, on March 3, when it said there had been 498 deaths and 1597 wounded.) But what is clear is the Kremlin lacks the effective control over its own outlets that many assume

Number of Migrant Workers in Russia Falls by Two-Thirds from 15 Million to Five, HSE Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Before the pandemic, there were more than 15 million migrant workers employed in Russia. Because of the coronavirus, that number fell to 10 million; and now sanctions threaten to reduce the number further to five million or less, according to Andrey Glazyev of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

            Their departure is imposing severe constraints on many sectors of the Russian economy, he says. In some places, shortages of workers amount to as much as 80 percent, driving down production and wages and inflation up as employers struggle to attract workers foreign and domestic into the workforce (

            Government officials and experts are scrambling to come up with a program to attract more immigrant workers. Some are calling for a reduction in the cost of registration, the opening of land boundaries within the Eurasian Economic Union, permanent residence permits for those who have paid fees on time, and a ban on expelling those guilty of minor offenses.

            When or even if such innovations will come into effect is unknown. Some think that the Duma may take up such a package in April; but no one can say for sure. But until that happens and even for a time after it does, the Russian economy is going to continue to lose people on whom it has been counting on with no reserves to replace them.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Moscow Effectively Declares an Entire Nation in the Altai a Foreign Agent

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – There are fewer than 2,000 Tubalars, a Turkic nation in the Altai; but they have effectively been collectively declared a foreign agent with the banning of their national cultural public organization, the latest abuse of a little-notice people far from the center of Russia.

            As Ilya Azar of Novaya gazeta reports, “the Russian authorities, the Church, private business and even scientific and technical progress have consistently deprived the Tubalars of the accustomed milieu, their health and their national-cultural autonomy.” Labelling them foreign agents is the logical next step (

            In a 12,000-word article about one of the least known peoples of the Russian Federation, Azar says that Moscow banned the organization which unites almost all Tubalars as a foreign agent because it accepted money from the World Wildlife Fund and from other foreign groups to protect the cedar trees and animals that are the basis of Tubalar life.

            But the Russian journalist reports that many Tubalars assume the call for this action came from others in the Altai Republic because in their view no one in Moscow knows enough about or cares what happens to them. Consequently, someone local is to blame, although that person still unknown is relying on Russian laws to gain access to resources the Tubalars control.

            One likely consequence of this action by the Russian justice ministry is that the continued presence of the Tubalars on the list of protected numerically small nationalities is at risk. Without the aid they have received as a result of being included on that list, the Tubalars face a bleak future.

            Their language is already dying out, their national traditions are under attack, and outsiders, predominantly ethnic Russians are coming in. Thus, for them, being labelled foreign agents is a sign that the passing of a people who have lived in the Altai from time immemorial is rapidly approaching. 

Two-Thirds of Russians No Longer Fear Getting Infected with Coronavirus, Levada Center Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – According to a new Levada Center survey, 66 percent of Russians no longer fear getting infected with the coronavirus, although 32 percent still do. Nearly half the population has now been vaccinated at least once, and many have been revaccinated or gotten booster shots.

            At the same time, concern among Russians about the spread of the pandemic remains high; and 45 percent of all Russians tell the Center’s pollsters that they limit their physical contacts with others lest they become infected (

            The share of Russians who don’t fear getting infected is the highest since February 2020, and the share who have received the shots continues to rise, although at a slower rate than before Putin’s war in Ukraine began and distracted the attention Russian media and ordinary Russians give to the pandemic which continues, albeit at a slower rate.

Putin’s Other War – Against Independent Media – Spreads across Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – In addition to his war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has launched a war against independent media in his own country. His officials have shuttered two regional television channels and harassed or closed dozens of Internet and print media outlets across the country.  

            Those who remain fear for the future but are trying to cope in various ways so as to remain honest journalists and bring Russians news without putting their own journalists at risk of prison. The SeverReal portal spoke with three of them who described their different approaches to this situation (

            Denis Kamalyagin, editor of the Internet newspaper Pskovskaya guberniya, has already emigrated because “there is no place for independent journalism in Russia today.” Nonetheless, he tries to keep informing his audience drawing on stringers and the work of his editors who like him are doing so from abroad.

            Yaroslav Vlasov, a journalist with, says his site is blocked but continues to work, carefully avoiding the use of words about the fighting in Ukraine that bring instant action by the authorities and covering instead other social and economic topics that can still be reported more or less honestly.  

            At present, everyone is afraid; but “we all the same have remained in Russia” and do everything possible to remain within that “’legal’ field” that the federal authorities still allow journalists to occupy. Our journalists don’t call what is happening in Ukraine a war but we do cover the funerals of those Russian soldiers who have died there.

            And Elena Ivanova, editor of Saratov’s Svobodnyye Novosti,” says that no one has any clear recipe of how to survive as there is a mine field all around. But she says her journalists continue to work despite these uncertainties and despite her effort to get the authorities to clarify exactly what the new rules are, something the powers that be won’t do.

            “None of our editors intends to leave Russia,” she continues. “We live and work in Saratov; we do not have any paths out or the financial resources to emigrate. We simply seek in this situation to do journalism as far as possible and to remain, however pathetic this sounds, honest people.”

If Nicholas II had Listened to Rasputin and Not Gone to War, Russia would Have Avoided Catastrophe, Senior Moscow Patriarchate Official Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has a long history of viewing Rasputin in a positive light, regularly arguing that he was a genuine Orthodox Christian who deserves respect and even veneration for his role at the end of the Russian Empire.

            But such views are most often confined to priests and lower-ranking clergy and are typically uttered when no one would be likely to view them as a commentary on current events. Now, however, that appears to have changed; and the consequences for the church may prove monumental.

            Metropolitan Ilarion, head of the Patriarchate’s foreign relations department and generally considered as ranking second only to Patriarch Kirill in the hierarchy, has chosen to declare even as Russia is engaged in a war that Russia could have avoided the catastrophe of 1917 if only Nicholas II had listened to Rasputin who urged the tsar not to go to war (

            Some in the Kremlin and many ordinary believers are likely to view his words as criticism of Putin’s decision to go to war in Ukraine and even a prediction of disaster in the future as a result. And many more will see Illarion’s words as a sign that the Patriarchate is divided, given that Kirill has been entirely supportive of Putin’s campaign.

Muslim Leadership of Luhansk Seeks to Transfer from Ukrainian MSD to Russian One

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – The Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of the breakaway Luhansk Peoples Republic and its nine parishes of Muslims, most of whom are Tatar, Bashkir and North Caucasian mine workers there, have decided to break its relationship with the Ukrainian MSD and is seeking to become part of the MSD of Russia.

            The Muslims of Luhansk say they are taking this step because they do not agree with the criticism Ukrainian Mufti Said Ismagilov has levelled at Russian military forces now active in Ukraine and believe that transferring their allegiance to the Russian MSD is thus “completely logical” (

              But they may be jumping the gun. The statue of the MSD of Russia does not include any provisions for accepting membership from Muslim communities beyond the borders of the Russian Federation; and consequently, any consideration by it of the Luhansk MSD’s request is likely to be postponed until Moscow decides to annex the Luhansk Peoples Republic.

            Indeed, while that may happen, the MSD of Russia has announced that for the time being, any such request will lead to an expansion of ties between itself and the Luhansk Muslims but not the inclusion of the latter in the Russian Muslim Spiritual Directorate. Nonetheless, the Luhansk action is a sign of that Russian-created statelet’s aspirations and expectations.

Georgians, Alarmed by Influx of Russians since Start of Putin’s War in Ukraine, Want Tighter Immigration Rules

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – More than 20,000 Russian nationals arrived in Georgia in the first two weeks after Putin began his war in Ukraine and broader crackdown at home. Many Georgians are alarmed because Moscow has used the presence of Russians as a pretext for intervention in the past and so want new and tighter immigration rules.

            Georgia is one of the countries that Russian citizens can enter with few restrictions and so has been a prime destination for those fleeing their own country at war. Armenia is another, and there some 5,000 Russian citizens have been arriving each day. Not surprisingly, some Georgians are worried about what this influx will mean.

            The Datablog agency has surveyed Georgians about how they feel concerning this new Russian emigration ( reposted at

            According to its poll, 59 percent of Georgian citizens favor the introduction of new immigration restrictions, with only 31 percent opposed to such a move. Young people were significantly more in favor of that than their elders, and ethnic minorities in Georgia significantly less than Georgians.

            Perhaps most important, 65 percent of the supporters of opposition parties backed the idea of new restrictions, while only 43 percent of those who identified as supporters of the ruling party favored such a move.  That probably makes it unlikely that any restrictions will be imposed in the near term.

            But over time, it almost certainly means that Georgia will be a way station for Russians fleeing Putin’s regime than a final destination and that most of the ethnic Russians who have gone there because of the ease of entering that Caucasian republic will be seeking to move onward to other countries.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Orthodox Leaders in Ukraine Now Shifting Allegiance from Moscow to Kyiv Lest They Appear ‘Collaborators and Agents of Russia’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – When Vladimir Putin began his war in Ukraine, he destroyed many things but none more completely than the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate whose clergy and laity have been transferring their allegiance to the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

            That was demonstrated by a poll conducted in early March which found that most believers in Ukraine no longer wanted to be associated with a church based in the capital of the country attacking their own and were pressing the UOC MP to allow them to join the OCU (

            The Moscow church has done everything it can to block this tectonic shift, recognizing that with the loss of its parishes and hierarchs in Ukraine, it will cease to be beyond question the largest Orthodox church in the world and will likely face more demands for autocephaly both in the former Soviet space and even within the Russian Federation.

            But the desire of Orthodox faithful in Ukraine to leave what they see as a Russian church has become so strong that now even the leaders of key monasteries are shifting their allegiance unilaterally from Moscow and Kyiv lest they appear to the faithful as “collaborators and agents of Russia.”

            The latest to do so is the New Athos Monastery of Lviv whose leaders took this step for that reason and without waiting for Moscow’s blessing. That pattern seems likely to spread and accelerate the demise of the Russian church in Ukraine and the consolidation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (

Lack of Accurate Information Far from the Most Serious Problem in Russian Information Space, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble     

            Staunton, Mar. 18 – Many in the West believe that Russians would quickly recognize reality if only they had access to good information, Kseniya Kirillova says; but a far larger problem in the Russian information space is not the lack of reliable information, although there is a shortage, but rather the way Russians have been taught to perceive the world around them.

            By means of a combination of unrelenting propaganda and legal bans on presenting alternative information, the US-based Russian media analyst says, Russians have been prompted to accept the irrational as normal and not to question the contradictory messages they are being given (

            For example, Kirillova continues, they are told to believe and many of them do believe that Russia had no plans to invade Ukraine but has made plans to do so and that Ukraine is so weak that the Russian military will make short work of it and that Ukraine is so strong that it is an existential threat to their country and thus must be destroyed.

            The Orwellian world in which Russians now live not only insists on contradictory things but also on irrational ones such as the belief that “the entire West hates Russia for the very fact of its existence, dreams of destroying it, and will see this goal independent of the behavior of the Kremlin.”

            “This does not mean,” she says, “that all Russians support the radical ‘Eurasian’ ideology and dram about a global reordering of the world. On the contrary, such views are supported only by a radical but passionate minority.” But this radical minority sets the tone and means that others accept or at least do not challenge its positions or connect the dots of its absurdity.

            According to Kirillova, “Russians are so accustomed to this view that they even do not see the elementary logical contradiction of such propaganda.” And that means this: “one is speaking here not about a deficit of information but about the inadequate way in which it is viewed.”

            Russians will not change their approach by the provision of good information alone as many in the West think. They will only change it if they are compelled to recognize the absurdity of the situation the Kremlin regime has put them in, a process that requires recognizing where they are now is more than about the inadequacy of information available to them.

            Kirillova points to another consequence of this situation: Russians often believe contradictory things even about those the regime seeks to define their thought. Thus, polls show that while more than half of them support Putin’s war in Ukraine, almost a third are sympathetic to Ukrainians as such.

            That may be something those who provide better information can build on in order to change how Russians will internalize the facts and conceive the world in ways far different from the ones the Kremlin has so far successfully imposed on so many of them, the media analyst concludes.


Four Million-Plus Ethnic Ukrainians in Russian Federation Becoming a Problem for Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – Even before flight to the Russian Federation in 2024 and earlier this year swelled their numbers, Ukrainians were the third largest nation inside the current borders of that country. Now, they are almost as large as the second largest nation there – the Tatars – and Putin’s war in Ukraine may be transforming them into a serious problem for Moscow.

            On the one hand, the Kremlin leader is conducting a horrific campaign against the place from which many of them have come or continue to identify with; and on the other, Moscow’s increasingly nationalist and imperialist propaganda is intensifying the national feelings of the Ukrainians inside Russia just as it is doing among Ukrainians in Ukraine.

            This is not to say that all or perhaps even an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians in the Russian Federation are more Ukrainian in their national identity than they were six months ago. Some of them accept Putin’s line that Ukrainians aren’t a separate nation at all. But there is mounting evidence that a growing number of them are.

            Such people may have been quite prepared to speak Russian and live in peace with Russia and Russians in the past; but now their attitudes are changing. A clear example of this is one ethnic Ukrainian whose family moved to Russia in 2014 but now is making his way via Turkey back to Ukraine in order to fight Russia (

            His commitment to doing so has led to a break with his mother who has gone so far as to take Russian citizenship; but it is likely that he is far from alone, not only among the recent Ukrainian immigrants in Russia but also among the so-called “wedges” of Ukrainians who have lived there for decades or even centuries.

            To the extent that is the case, Putin is creating yet another problem for himself and his country by his war against Ukraine and Ukrainians, one likely to be exploited by Kyiv and to fester for decades regardless of what happens on the battlefield in the future.

            Moscow has long been concerned about this but besides understating ethnic Ukrainians inside Russia, it has not come up with a strategy to cope with shifts in Ukrainian attitudes there. (For background on this issue, see and the sources cited therein.)


Chechen Troops Sent to Fight for Russians in Ukraine have Neither the Training Nor the Experience to Be Effective Combatants, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – There is no question that the Chechen troops Ramzan Kadyrov has dispatched to Ukraine to help Putin’s war there are capable of the worst forms of brutality, but Russian experts point out that these men in uniform lack the training and experience to be effective as combatants in a real war.

            Kadyrov has been critical of the fighting capabilities of the Russian army and suggested his troops can provide a valuable leaven to them to improve the situation, but in fact, these Chechen Russian Guardsmen don’t have what it takes to do that and may be causing more problems than they are worth.

            Moscow analyst Pavel Felgengauer points out that the Chechen battalions are counted as members of the Russian Guards but are not trained as are other units in its formations. They are “nothing other than Kadyrov’s personal army; and thus by preparation and armament are quite difference from the Russian Guards (

            Kadyrov’s men in recent years have fulfilled the duty of guards. They do not have any serious experience with real battles. “Twenty years ago, the older generation did. But the new generation practically does not. They haven’t fought [a real war] in Chechnya for a long time.” And consequently, they shouldn’t e viewed as “a serious military force.”

              Felgengauer points to three other problems: they are much older than the average Russian soldiers making integration of the units harder; they are a group that Kadyrov himself wants to avoid losing and thus seeks to prevent Russian commanders from using where major losses are likely; and while they could serve in support units, many are unwilling to do so.

            A second Moscow military analyst, Aleksandr Khramchikhin, is equally skeptical. He argues that the Chechen force is completely unprepared to take part in the Russian campaign in Ukraine. The geography and social situation in Ukraine are completely different from these things in Chechnya.

            In Chechnya, Kadyrov’s army may be effective because it knows the local situation well, but in Ukraine, it will be lost and likely cause more trouble than it is worth.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Thirty-Seven Percent of Russians Do Not Trust Government or Private Internet Sites

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – According to a poll conducted by the HSE Center for Research on Civil Society and the Non-Commercial Center, 37 percent of Russians say they do not trust government or private internet sites when they have to provide their names to make purchases or otherwise obtain services (

            Thirty-eight percent trust only government sites in such cases, while two percent trust only private sites. Twenty percent trust both; but what is striking is that 37 percent do not trust either, a set of attitudes that makes it harder for the government to use the Internet for its purposes such as voting or registration or firms to use it for theirs such as purchases.

            Some people in almost every country are suspicious of the Internet, but Russian rates are especially high and undoubtedly are acting as a brake on this form of social and economic transactions.

Moscow Planning a Railroad into Tyva to Prevent Its Secession, Aksyonov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 20 – Moscow is planning to build the first-ever railroad into the Republic of Tyva nominally to take advantage of that region’s coal reserves and boost employment and incomes there and prevent that Turkic republic from falling victim to the siren song of pan-Turkism, Sergey Aksyonov says.

            But in fact, as the Svobodnaya pressa commentator’s analysis suggests but that he does not say, it appears that economic and even foreign political considerations are subordinate to Vladimir Putin’s desire to do away with non-Russian republics by combining them with neighboring and predominantly ethnic Russian regions.

             If the 400 km-railway into Tyva is in fact ever built, it will link Tyva with Krasnoyarsk Kray, the contiguous and most likely predominantly ethnic Russian region with which Moscow may combine Tyva with in the next round of amalgamation, now widely anticipated after the 2024 presidential vote (

            A major reason that the Kremlin fears Tyva may be won over by Ankara’s Pan-Turkic messaging is that unlike most of the other nine Turkic republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation, it is relatively small, extremely poor, and borders on foreign states, all of which could make its exit easier.

            It is clear that the Russian government thinks that if it builds this railroad, it will boost incomes and employment in Tyva and thus keep it loyal to Moscow. But there are at least three reasons why that calculus is likely mistaken, Aksyonov says on the basis of conversations with experAnd tts on the region.

            First, the rail line is unlikely to be profitable and therefore is unlikely to be completed. Coal prices are likely to decline, and the large number of tunnels and bridges that would be needed to link Tyva to Krasnoyarsk mean that the project would almost certainly prove not only more difficult but more expensive than currently planned.

            Second, the only way around this price constraint, experts say, is to extend the line into Mongolia and ultimately China. But if Moscow does that, it will make it easier not harder for Tyva to exit out from under Russian control. Indeed, such an arrangement might mean that China, not Turkey, would become the dominant player in Tyva.

            And the Tyvans don’t want to give up their current economy which is based on pastoralism. When ethnic Russians fled in the early 1990s, their positions remained unfilled because Tyvans did not want to work in industry. If the rail line were built and industry restored, Russians would have to be brought in.

            And that process could easily trigger a revival of the ethnic conflicts between the two nations that marked the first years of post-Soviet life. Were that to happen, Turkey and possibly China would find it even easier to fish in these troubled waters. As a result, the line is unlikely to be built; but if it is, it will be used to link Tyva to Krasnoyarsk rather than to modernity.