In the near future, protests in Russia’s Khabarovsk could escalate dramatically.
This morning, editor-in-chief of the WarGonzo Telegram resource, Semyon Pegov, the major supplier of manipulative and fake reports about the developments in Nagorno-Karabakh during the first stage of Azerbaijan’s military operation to liberate the occupied region, unexpectedly for many of its subscribers and readers, as well as Baku investigators, recorded a video from Russia’s Khabarovsk.
As always, he delivered a piece of typical propaganda rhetoric, but what’s important is not what he said but where he said it – in a city that has for over the past three months been the center of all-Russian protest against the corrupt government in Moscow.
Since the onset of Khabarovsk rallies, I have been extensively covering these events. But for those of you who just came across this topic, here’s a TLDR.
The Khabarovsk protest is no free expression of citizen’s will but in fact a GRU military intelligence whose flywheel got a major spin after the rival security agency FSB’s clans tried through eliminating from the political arena the local Governor, Sergei Furgal, to seize control of the said region, which for the past two decades had been controlled by the GRU.
And this is where the fun part begins. I believe many have noticed that Moscow has for months taken no measures to disperse quite regular rallies in Khabarovsk, while any such rally erupting in Moscow or St. Petersburg would have been crushed within minutes. Moscow’s silence on Khabarovsk means the FSB-controlled police ad Russian Guard, roughly speaking, had no right to intervene in the region overseen by the GRU.
Recently, though, things have drastically changed.
Note that it was precisely this autumn that a high-profile puppet opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who’s been working under the FSB patronage since the 2000s as an “absorbent of protest sentiments”, received his dose of the novichok nerve agent. This didn’t happen a year of five years ago – instead, the guy was poisoned as the FSB was trying to use him to infiltrate the protest movement in Khabarovsk. The infiltration move was supposed to yield the same effect that Navalny produced pretty much with any protest movement in Russia – watering it down and eventually incapacitating it.
So the GRU went on to quickly eliminate the potential threat. Paradoxically, their failure was at the same time a success, sort of. That Navalny survived was definitely a failure for the military spies. At the same time, it appears, the international community has put all the blame for the assassination attempt solely on the FSB. That’s despite the fact that Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent developed in defense ministry’s bio labs with only the GRU having access to and a green light to use it if necessary.
Meanwhile, in the last weeks, the Moscow government started more often deploying in Khabarovsk law enforcers from other regions. Harsh crackdowns on protesters have gone from being a rare to everyday occurrence. So the government seems to be willing to have people on the ground, independent of local authorities, ready to follow orders without looking at the local bosses’ reaction.
I’d like to note that the pattern of the Khabarovsk protest has been implemented exactly the same in Belarus, where the GRU also stands behind almost all of the so-called opposition figures. I’ve written a lot on the issue, too, including on why the Belarus opposition can’t be trusted. Incidentally, it was in Belarus, where Semyon Pegov deployed right before his Nagorno-Karabakh job. In Minsk, the guy was even once detained, alongside other Russian journalists with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, as they were coordinating radical protester groups.
And now, we’re approaching the most interesting part.
The thing is that the Russian finance ministry has offered a 100,000 personnel cut in the ministry of defense. Given that the finance ministry’s leadership, like in many other Russian ministries, are affiliated with or actually are the FSB’s reserve officers, this is regarded as the rival agency’s direct blow to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
And now let’s put all these puzzle pieces together. The Khabarovsk protest, a rather successful GRU project, which found its highly efficient implementation in Belarus, is seeing an extensive invasion on the part of the FSB. In parallel lines, FSB branches in civilian ministries are starting to put pressure on the Ministry of Defense, hinting at the need for its serious structural cuts. And this is happening against the backdrop of Russia losing indirect control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The fact that Semyon Pegov surfaced in Khabarovsk may thus suggest that the generally peaceful rallies there could soon acquire radical shapes. And if this happens in the coming days, this toxic mixture could spill beyond the tug of war between the two rivaling security agencies. It could actually lead to a complete redistribution of influence zones across Russia, with a quite pertinent question looming: will Russia therefore remain as we know it today?
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