Friday, November 16, 2007

"Defending" the Russian values: pillage and loot

The violence, directed largely at the police and the content of the boutiques in Tallinn downtown during the infamous April events, led the protesters-turned-looters to be branded "gangs of youths running riot" (DPA) or, perhaps more precisely, "gangs of marauding Russian youth" (Reuters) on "six-hour rampage and looting spree" (AFP) as the police was forced to respond to the "protesters trashing shops" (BBC).

The DPA correspondent writes about Tallinners' emotional impressions of the events:
The looters smashed windows and stole everything from drugs from the chemist's shop to women's underwear, designer jeans and alcohol.
"It is absolutely disgusting how some Russian youths behaved. This has nothing at all to do with the Soviet monument," - 29-year-old Svetlana Bruskova told AFP.

But on larger scale Ms Bruskova might be considered a local exception, not necessarily a rule.

Despite the fact of massive looting and maradeuring (for which, to tell the truth, some representatives of local non-immigrant population were also apprehended) captured on dozens of video cameras of international press correspondents, in the Russia proper the comprehension of the Tallinn's events remains different.

According to the Russian blogs en masse, which follow up the stories in the Russian (state controlled) media, Estonia's police staged "brutal dispersal" of peaceful "defenders of Soldier Liberator Monument" in Tallinn, while the West, in turn, clapped hands cheering at this massive face-to-the-ground humiliation of the ethnic Russians in Tallinn, at the same time hypocritically condemning crackdown on the participants of the opposition movement Other Russia rally in Moscow, conveniently smoothed out by the Motherland's press commentators.

In the eyes of Russians this contradiction yet again demonstrates the practice of "double standards" by the "so-called democratic World". Now in the Russian blogs following "quiz" circulates (links are in Russian language):

10 reasons why Russia is not yet the most democratic country in the World

1) We still don't shoot up opposition's demonstration with rubber bullets.
But in Georgia...
But in Estonia...
But in America...

3) We still don't use sound grenades, water cannons and tear gas against marching «non-agreeing».
But in Georgia...
But in Estonia...
But in Hungary...
But in Czech Republic...
But in Germany...

(and so on)

These talking points are saturated with linked examples from the stories about "police horrors" in countries like Estonia - stories, where desinformation is taken to a level perhaps surpassing that of the Soviet propaganda.
The quiz received more than 400 comments and spread further among the bloggers.

Yesterday, however, Russia was again internationally humiliated as European Court of Human Rights delivered rulings on five separate cases, which concern Russia's armed forces and FSB looting and murdering Russian citizens of Chechen ethnicity. Russian news portal within "com" domain in greater details describes the events in which of one of the cases took place (
The plaintiff in the case in question is father of one of two local Chechen police officers, whose bodies were found after they were taken away (the disappeared policeman, Aslanbek Kukaev is assigned number 221 in the list of persons disappeared) by the Russian troops. There was following background of their arrest by the army:

On 26th of Nov, 2000 two disappeared law enforcers went to work to Chechnya's capital market place.
On the same day at 11 AM the Federal (Armed) Forces conducted there "special operation". Numerous witnesses at the spot reported that the market place (those tend to be huge in the South) and several city blocks around it were surrounded by army units with heavy equipment including tanks, armored personnel carriers, bulldozers and trucks, which after cordoning off the area moved into the market.

To cut long story short the market was soon engulfed in looting on industrial scale with the soldiers shooting their Kalashnikovs into the air and rounding up local men under threat of execution as frightened women were handing over the stuff for the troops to load it into the fighting vehicles. There went small merchandise, cases of snickers bars, beer cans and crates of vodka, everything. Average market stand yielded some 22 thousand Russian rubles (700 dollars) in loot.

"I was working at the market on November 26, when the Russians started roughing people up outrageously. They stole merchandise, food, boxes of vodka, cigarettes and equipment. When two police officers from the Zavodskyy Region tried to intervene, they took away their identification and led them away somewhere. Things stolen from my locker included raincoats, jackets, suits, and shoes, worth 50,000 rubles. Only a few of my colleagues managed to hide and preserve their goods"

The local policemen, which heroically but stupidly attempted to intervene, were taken away by the soldiers, later two of the law enforcers were found shot, dead.

"I went to the central market to buy some clothes. Suddenly a panic broke out, people started running around in confusion. It turned out that the Russians had surrounded the market and were conducting a document check. Although I presented my passport and student identification, they took me to a vehicle with several dozen other young men who were being detained. On the road I managed to negotiate with one of the soldiers, who let me go in exchange for money. Several other people from my group also managed to buy their release. I don’t know what happened to the others. I only know that their relatives are looking for them. If I hadn’t had some money with me at the time, I’m sure mine would be looking for me now"

For the Russian justice (or should it be "justice"?) agencies this whole special operation remained one of the many mysteries of Chechen wars as no perpetrators were found when the relatives of the dead filed complaints. So the case - one of thousands of pending cases of rape, murders and looting by the Russian military and special forces in Chechnya - ended in international court. Russian state was found guilty and compensation of some 50 000 euros was awarded to the victims' relatives.

I wonder if "defenders of Constitution" in Grozny were also as keen on getting hygiene supplies for their girlfriends as this kiosk looter in Tallinn.

Here are some points of similarities between the players in the events in the two cities:
  • Mostly ethnically Russians;
  • Revered defenders of important things. In Tallinn they defend the Monument, in Grozny - Constitutional Order and Integrity of the Federation. Both WWII "Bronze Soldier" Monument in Tallinn and territorial integrity of the Motherland are proclaimed to represent some of the most solemn Russian values;
  • Favorite drink is vodka, measured in liters and gallons;
  • Loot spoils of war. Enjoy indiscriminately sweeping clean the shelves of the local retail outlets. However in Tallinn they lacked the armor to load the spoils onto;
  • Don't like local police;
  • Anti-fascists. How they came to be is unclear, but in the Russian media it is explained by the fact that both Estonians and Chechens "collaborated with the Nazis" during WWII. Hence, looting shops there is an act of anti-fascism;
  • Patriots of the Great Motherland. In Tallinn the crowd was chanting "Russia, Russia!" when charging the shops doors and windows; in the army it must come automatically with the office;
  • Youth under 30 years in both cases. Kids are our future, used to say Lenin.
There's a striking parallel between the behavior of the youth in Tallinn and Grozny, with the exception that the police in Tallinn is not as easy to take away in a truck and shoot dead. One could only be sorry for good part of decent Russians who live in a coutry, whose values are defended by gangmen.

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