Category: Eurasian Union
MOSCOW, March 1 (UPI) — The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the decision by major Russian television networks not to report on a nanny’s apparent beheading of a 4-year-old girl.
Russia’s major television networks, including Rossia-1, Channel One, NTV and Moscow’s TVTs, did not cover the story Monday in Moscow. Gyulchekhra Bobokulova, 38, from Uzbekistan, was arrested after she was caught on video apparently carrying the severed head of Nastya, a 4-year-old girl who was in her care.
Russian networks are heavily monitored by the government and freedom of the press as a whole is notoriously undermined. Russia ranks 152nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday said he agreed with the networks’ decision and said the “terrible tragedy” that occurred should not be linked to Bobokulova’s Muslim heritage.
“Don’t you link this with some nationalities question. It was a terrible tragedy, either in terms of its inhumanness or in terms of insanity. The investigation will possibly find out,” Peskov said.
“In this respect I fully agree with the [federal] channels,” Peskov said when asked about why the crime was absent from the major networks.
Unidentified employees of different networks said broadcasters received “recommendations” to stay away from the story by Russian officials, citing a government desire to avoid attention on national ethnic or religious issues.
On October 24, Putin touched on the topic in his speech to Russia experts of the Valdai Club in Sochi. “I am the biggest nationalist in Russia,” he said. “However, the greatest and most appropriate kind of nationalism is when you act and conduct policies that will benefit the people. However, if nationalism means intolerance of other people, chauvinism — this would destroy this country, which was created as a multiethnic and multiconfessional state.”
With this statement, Putin was “trying to define the acceptable parameters of nationalism,” says Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University and author of the blog “In Moscow’s Shadows.”
“He’s trying to redefine or define the acceptable level of nationalism as being not about racism, not about intercommunal violence or intercommunal tensions, not about essentially a radical social agenda,” he says. “But instead being about patriotism. I think that’s the key thing. When he says ‘nationalism,’ he really means patriotism — in other words, loyalty to the status quo.”
“Putin is no nationalist — he’s just a spectator,” Yegor Prosvirnin, the editor of the popular nationalist website Sputnik & Pogrom, said in a recent interview. “He was put there by the ruling corporation to manage the political process, while the noble members of the secret police buy villas and mansions in Cote d’Azur.”
Galeotti argues there are four key pillars of the Russian nationalist movement — imperialism, social conservatism (support for the Russian Orthodox Church and antipathy toward homosexuality), ethnic chauvinism, and an economic radicalism of redistribution based on ethnic criteria.
On the first two points, Galeotti argues, Putin has done just about as much as he can to meet nationalist expectations. And the last two are too dangerous and anti-Kremlin to even be touched.
“[The Kremlin’s] opportunities for traction on the nationalist movement are diminished and the risks within nationalism are increasing,” he says. “So I think that’s why they are probably trying to nip it in bud prophylactically now.”
Kevin Rothrock, editor of RuNet Echo at Global Voices, notes that Prosvirnin and other nationalist leaders have been predicting that the worsening economic climate in Russia will bring ethnic tensions inside the country to the fore. This is potentially dangerous for Putin, although Rothrock does not expect the issue to take center stage at this year’s Russian March.
“If they get at all a little bit antigovernment, it might have to do more with immigration services — don’t give visas to people from Central Asia and so on,” he says. “They are even officially marching under some of those slogans. Granted, those are not overtly anti-Putin causes, but I think immigration and the kind of slippery slope into ethnic issues or racism — that can very quickly become anti-Kremlin and then anti-Putin.”