By Tatyana Orel
Andrey Piontkovsky is the initiator of the well-known public campaign "Putin has to leave" organized by oppositional activists and cultural figures in Russia. At the time when this movement was launched on the Internet on March 10, 2010 Putin held the position of the Russian Prime Minister, but actually remained the first person of the state.
‘We claim that the political design which is ruining Russia and is imposed on the citizens of our country today has an architect, supervisor and guardian in one person. His name is Vladimir Putin. We claim that no substantial reforms are feasible in Russia today until Putin has real power in the country… Elimination of putinism is the first but necessary step on the way to new free Russia,’ the message read.
The address written by Piontkovsky covered unfortunate Putin’s reforms and mentioned such events as the second Chechen war and explosions of houses in Russian cities.
This text was initially signed by 34 persons – including human rights activists Elena Bonnaire, Vladimir Bukovsky, politicians Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, writers Zakhar Prilepin and Victor Shenderovich then followed by Valeria Novodvorskaya, Konstantin Borovoy and other oppositionists.
On the day of the address publication, the Daily Magazine web-site suffered from a hacker attack, so the petition had to be transferred to another virtual platform. On the first days, the address promptly gained popularity and support – up to 2500 signatures a day, then organizers began to carry out actions for collecting "live" signatures.
Later, Russians’ interest to the project faded away gradually. But Andrey Piontkovsky still remains a convinced political opponent of Putin. His sharp and witty blogs on social networks and various sites are read by thousands of people including those who live in Russia and are got used to be silent about the sore. Reading and silently agreeing is not forbidden in Russia so far.
Piontkovsky admitted to GORDON : ‘Like the whole world, I have been recently engaged only in Ukrainian affairs, it is very interesting and very important".
– Andrey Andreevich, I do not know whether you celebrated Putin’s birthday, but in Grozny a procession took place gathering a hundred thousand people. Do you think that the cult of personality is coming back to Russia?
– It seems to me that the cult of Putin’s personality is being imposed. Each participant of the procession in Grozny certain lost someone from his relatives in the cruel war unleashed by Putin against the Chechen people. But Kadyrov organizes such performances because it is politically favorable to him. He won that war and everybody understands this perfectly. Russia pays a tribute to the winner in the form of budgetary transfers. If anything is required from Kadyrov, it is just showing loyalty to Putin. It is their personal union, and I assure you that nowhere else in Russia a similar demonstration could take place.
– Do you suppose that from among 84% of Putin’s admirers, according to the opinion polls, there would not be a hundred thousand people who would like to prove their loyalty? Perhaps, the matter is simply that there were no such skillful organizers like Kadyrov?
– As a person engaged in sociology, I can tell that the results of opinion polls have no value at all in authoritative society. Romanian President Ceausescu’s rating was 97% two days before he and his wife were shot as dogs under a fence. And it is not that sociological services forge the data. A person sits alone in the apartment, and then he is call and asked, ‘Do you or do not you support President Putin?’ All historical Soviet experience forces this person to answer, ‘Yes, I support President Putin.’ Therefore, the measuring instrument of public moods is not sociology. On September 21, the Peace March took place in Moscow, in which I also took part. According to the most humble estimates, it gathered 50 thousand people, but I think there were much more of us; it was not comparable even to the largest peace marches last year and two years ago. The authorities were certainly very much irritated, therefore, they decided to organize the official pro-Putin demonstration for the contrast a week later.
– It was allegedly organized to commemorate those killed in "Novorossiya"…
– It would seem that here we have an opportunity to measure Putin’s real popularity. We had no promotional opportunities – neither radio nor television, while this "puting" as we call it, was advertised everywhere. People from enterprises were brought there by buses, volunteers were promised 1500 roubles for participation in social networks, and there is video evidence that this money was paid. Even so, 10-15 thousand people at most gathered for the "puting". It turns out that despite the overwhelming hysteria of the Russian mass media, the real ratio between Putin's opponents in the question of war against Ukraine and his supporters is five to one in our favor. It is active public minority rather than passive majority that reflects the real picture at such critical historical moments.
– On your Facebook page, there is a list of 14 signs of fascism made by Doctor Laurence Britt. In your opinion, are any of them apparent in Russia?
– All the listed points are applicable in Russia, but I personally consider the most obvious confirmation of the Russian fascism to be Putin’s "Crimean" speech he delivered in the Kremlin on March 18 on the occasion of formal, so to speak, entry of the Crimea into the Russian Federation structure. Not only me, but also many observers noticed that it was an almost absolute remake of the speech of the German chancellor Hitler after the annexation of Sudetenland. In this speech, all main concepts of the German Nazi foreign policy were imitated. It was for the first time Putin said, ‘We Russians are a separated people.’ Hitler began his series of aggressive wars with this concept. “Consolidation of primordially Russian lands” is similar of another Hitler’s concept. Besides, Putin used a term which had not been listed in the Russian political dictionaries before: "national traitors", and it also sounds somehow in a fascist way.
– Another definition is more habitual to us from the Soviet period – "enemy of the people"…
– Well, and the most important concept concluding this set of fascist ideas is the Russian world. It is a complete analogy of the Nazi Third Reich. Putin proclaimed it to be the sacred duty of the Kremlin to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people living in any territory worldwide. Not that he did not mention Russian citizens, which would be natural to any state, but ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking people. With this concept, he justified and even romanticized annexation of the Crimea, which violated at least ten international agreements signed by Russia, and immediately outlined a second stage of the expansion of the Russian world: creation of Novorossiya, in fact meaning annexation of eight more Ukrainian regions. He also enriched the Russian political dictionary with this term. Is not the idea of Novorossiya an evident example of fascism coinciding with the foreign policy of Nazi Germany? There is a prominent Kremlin propagandist Migranyan, Head of the New York representative office of the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation that controls observance of democracy in the USA. And he published an article in the Izvestiya newspaper that Hitler, who had been engaged in consolidation of lands until 1939, could remain a politician of the highest class in the history of the country. So it turns out that Hitler was also "good"? Indeed, a real patriot, everything for the sake of his own state …
– A very accurate analogy is traced. And Hitler’s "demoniac possession", despite Putin’s outward restraint, is also revealed in his actions that appear to be senseless. Andrey Andreevich, do you as a mathematician find any logic in his actions?
– I often remember an aphorism by the original witty Russian General Lebed: "It is not nonsense, it is another mind". This perverted logic incorporates the postulates I have just listed: unification of the Russian people, consolidation of Russian lands, fighting against national traitors, the Russian world, and also fight of the Russian world against the Anglo-Saxon world. And if we speak about Putin’s psychological features, about his views and actions, he is mistakenly estimated regarded as a cold and prudent person. No, he is a person with great and evil passions: he hates the West, hates Georgia, Ukraine. Look at his photos with a face twisted with rage – he is dangerous because he is capable of insane actions.
– You wrote that Putin would blackmail the West with a nuclear war. Do you suppose that he will have enough courage to use the nuclear weapon?
– Yes, and I repeatedly wrote about it in the articles: not only Ukraine’s destiny, but the destiny of the whole world is decided now. If Putin manages to win (in his understanding) and completely block the European vector of Ukraine’s development, to destroy its economy and to disjoint its territory, it will be so in such raptures about his victory and helplessness of the West that he will move to the Baltic states. After all, the concept of the Russian world demands change of borders of at least two NATO member states – Latvia and Estonia. And now imagine that "polite green little men" will come to the city of Narva. Nobody is waiting for them there, as nobody was waiting for them in the Crimea, not speaking about other Ukrainian regions, but they will hold the so-called "referenda" and will demand accession of Narva and its vicinities to the Russian world. And then Estonia will be forced to ask allies for the help according to Article 5 of the NATO Charter. And Putin will declare that if they try to throw away "green little men" from Estonia, Russia will use the nuclear weapon in spite of the fact that the Russian army is considerably inferior to the cumulative NATO forces. He is sure that he will win this psychological war and that the West will waver and retreat because he has more determination and more impudence.
– Putin certainly considers himself a refined chess player, thinking over intricate moves in his inflamed consciousness, but he behaves as a card sharper. Does not he care about his own reputation – after all, as long as a year ago he was at the top of the international political rating?
– Putin has no sense of shame before anybody; he especially despises his Western partners. And how can he respect them if former European chancellors and prime ministers work at his gas stations? Take, for example, Gerhard Schroeder, former German chancellor who serves him as the Chairman of the shareholders’ committee of the Nord Stream gas pipeline consortium earning two million euros. It is a minor sum for Putin but a huge one for Schroeder. Putin plays nuclear poker rather than nuclear chess. And it not cardsharping, it is a psychological duel dangerous for the whole world, and he is constantly raising the bet.
– Putin got Ukraine to sign a truce. Everybody understand perfectly that he did not do it to save lives of civilians in Donbass or lives of Ukrainian and Russian military men. Others’ lives are dirt cheap for the person with so many deaths on his conscience. He certainly wanted the West to suspend economic sanctions, at least for a while. But if so, why does not Russia observe the truce?
– Of course, from his side, it was an attempt to disrupt sanctions because he had the military initiative in his hands at the moment of signing the truce, and Ukraine was suffering a serious defeat then. The day before, he had night negotiations by phone with Poroshenko, he outlined the plan for stabilizing the situation in the southeast of Ukraine on a note-book sheet of paper on his way to Mongolia. It was just a day before the NATO summit and two days before the EU summit where the questions concerning Ukraine were discussed. When Russia nearly introduced active armed forces to Donbass, Putin stopped practically before the capture of Mariupol. It is now that the defense of Mariupol became stronger, and then the Russian army could freely capture the city and move on to the Perekopsky isthmus. Putin, I say once again, stopped only because he hoped to disrupt the Western sanctions that, despite the bravado of the Russian government, work very seriously – the dollar and euro rates beat the records in Russian currency and share markets today. And why is not the truce observed … Firstly, Putin rushes about between two conflicting tasks: on the one hand, he cannot show that he gave up with Novorossiya and retreated because it would be political humiliation for him, on the other hand, he nevertheless does not want to cross the red line in his relations with the West. It is the reason for his hesitation that prevent from predicting his further actions. Meanwhile, "Lugandoniya" (Lugansk and Donetsk) turned into the Republic of Somalia where "demons" and "zakharchenkos" are in charge with Moscow’s support…
– There was information in mass media that the so-called prime minister of "DNR" Zakharchenko resigned. And though this information was disproved in "DNR", there is no smoke without fire. Could the reason for resignation be Zakharchenko's statement to the journalist of STB TV channel, "I can shoot at any Ukrainian city without guilty conscience, and I will not feel sorry for the civilians"? This statement indirectly did harm to Putin who supports the terrorists…
– Yes, indeed, this statement of Zakharchenko did not contribute to Putin’s propaganda. There have already been many resignations in "Novorossiya": Strelkov, Boroday, Pushilin, Bolotov – we do not even know if he is alive at all. These figures are waste material for Moscow; as soon as they get out of hand, they are removes. It is a natural process. But at the same time it is important for Putin that this fire should smoulder in the east of Ukraine because the idea of Novorossiya failed in other regions.
– You said that the Western sanctions are very noticeable for Russia. But the other day the deputy of the State Duma Fedorov declared that Russia will literally benefit from them allow the country to get rid of foreign currency that has been doing it harm for a long time…
– Fedorov is a gravely disturbed person, he has plenty of original statements. He considers, for example, that Russia has been under external control of the USA and international Zionism since 1990. Now he declares that Russia, refusing from foreign currency, will print a lot of money, build many plants and factories in order to develop the economy. Generally, you should not take him seriously. It is much more important to follow the estimates of such people as Kudrin and Gref, for example.
– The Head of Sberbank of Russia German Gref complained at the recent investment forum "Russia Calling" that applications for leaving the country are submitted nearly as often as applications for setting up a business. His thought was repeated almost verbatim by the former Minister of Economics of the Russian Federation Alexey Kudrin, ‘Businessmen do not think of new businesses, they rather think of where to get a residence permit’, considering that the economy of Russia cannot develop because of "catastrophic quality of state administration"…
– Yes, there are political rather than economic estimates.
– According to rough estimates, 15 thousand Russian military men managed fought along with local terrorists in the east of Ukraine. Russia does not admit this fact, which is absolutely obvious to Ukrainians and is repeatedly confirmed. However, each military man has relatives and friends who know his secret, and, as a result, the number of people who know it grows in a geometrical progression. What is the sense in this open secret if the lie offends soldiers' mothers and incites Russians against the government?
– Putin went to a church and lit a candle in the memory of the killed defenders of "Novorossiya". When it became impossible to hide casualties, the Russian authorities started saying that volunteers fight in the east of Ukraine who unanimously take vacations and go there where Russian tanks, "Grad" units, and surface-to-air missile systems are used anyway. Actually, in the beginning of August, regular duly equipped military units entered Ukraine openly. The OSCE observers bribed by Putin can fail to confirm it, but there is indisputable photo evidence that was demonstrated in the European countries.
– What do you think of the actions of Ukrainian authorities in this war?
– What I want to do least of all is to estimate actions of the Ukrainian authorities; Ukrainians should do it themselves, but the situation looks a little absurd. Russia openly fights against Ukraine – involvement of regular Russian armed forces, informational and psychological aggression, currency blackmail, but Ukraine maintains official diplomatic relations with Russia. Delegations meet, some economic issues are discussed: gas supply, mutual debt claims, how Ukraine should supply occupied territories in the Crimea. Can we possibly imagine Stalin meeting Hitler, or Molotov meeting Ribbentrop at some international meetings in September 1941, discussing delivery of grain to Germany? It is a crazy situation, but I do not want to condemn the Ukrainian government, after all, the West puts Ukraine under serious pressure and forces not to call war a war. The West keeps repeating a mantra, ‘War is not a way of solving problems.’ However, the truce benefited Ukraine in a way: it now came to the line of defense it is much easier for it to protect. And while part of local population supports terrorists in Donbass, it will be difficult for Moscow to cross the borders of the territories where Ukrainian army is consolidated because people who live there fully support Ukraine. It seems to me that the Ukrainian authorities will sooner or later need to call things their proper names: yes, there is a war, yes, there are occupied territories, and they will have to stop playing "the special status" games. It is clear that Ukraine does not renounce these territories, but it has no opportunity to change the situation today.
– But the Ukrainian temporary government lacked determination at the beginning of the story with the annexation of the Crimea and with Donbass, when the authorities allowed the separatists to seize the whole region instead of suing them…
– And did Ukraine have government then? What leverage did Turchynov have? Neither army, nor militia, only Kremlin agents among the country leaders. He could only formally order the marines in the Crimea to fight back "polite green little men", but is not clear how the Ukrainian Armed forces would have reacted to this order.
– What do you think, will Putin ever leave Ukraine alone?
– No, he will never leave it alone because his future depends on it. His political motivation is to remain in power forever, therefore, he cannot retreat in the Ukrainian question. If it happens, he will be hated not only be war opponents, but also by all the scum who are inspired with the idea of the Russian world and war against Ukraine. Putin is in a difficult political situation. Ukraine should understand and admit this fact and get ready for new development of the conflict. The question is about existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state and its non-existence, which means its transformation into an obedient protectorate of Moscow. There can be no compromise to this conflict. The stake for Putin is life or death.
– It means that you are convinced what Putin will stay in power until the expiration of his presidential term in 2018 and then swap places with Medvedev still continuing to rule Russia?
– No, I suppose, Putin can lose his presidency in the next months if all economic and political leverage that the West has at its disposal is used. After all, even those quite soft sanctions that have already been imposed have both economic and considerable political impact. Very rich people, billionaires who are now losing their assets are at top of the Russian government. They can take an interest why they have to incur enormous losses because of ambitions and complexes of one person. I have already mentioned rather sharp estimates of such people as Kudrin and Gref. And they are not simply economic experts, they are his so-called friends from the “gangsters’ gang”.
– But he will not leave himself…
– He will not leave himself, but Mubarak and Gaddafi did not leave themselves either, and Stalin was also liquidated by his surroundings, when he went completely crazy and was really getting ready for a Third World War. And Putin is preparing for a Fourth World War – if we consider the Cold War to be the Third World War, which, according to Putin, Russia and the Soviet Union had lost.
– They say that Putin despises Yanukovych for his weakness allegedly revealed during the events on Maidan for his not making short work with the rebels as he himself would have done. And still Putin granted him Russian citizenship. Was he sorry for him? Yanukovych will not be able to enter any civilized countries now…
– Though Putin's press secretary Peskov disproved this information, I am hundred percent sure that Yanukovych was granted Russian citizenship. And how could it be otherwise if he brought a truck, a plane, or perhaps a ship of cash to Russia? By the way, for some reason, this fact remains beyond trade and economic negotiations held between Ukraine and Russia despite war...
– And what is the life of the person who initiated the address “Putin has to leave” in Russia like?
– What is it like? Well, I do not conceal my position in the conversation with you, and I hope that I will not be taken to a concentration camp tomorrow. We have not reached the level of the Hitlerite Third Reich in terms political repressions yet, though we are moving that way. I will not disclose a secret if I tell that there are lists of unreliable people in Moscow and in St. Petersburg – there are about three thousand surnames all in all. The regions were allowed to draw up the lists at their own discretion – say, you know better. People from these lists must be isolated to avoid public disorders. And anything can cause disorders – for example, activization of military actions in Ukraine. By the way, experts believe that potential danger threatens Ukraine several days before October 26. It can be an attempt to disrupt your parliamentary elections because Putin understands that the new Verkhovna Rada will be much more radical and pro-Maidan.