Everything is permitted

The Russian Investigative Committee, which is supposed to look into all sorts of serious and high-profile crime but is mostly infamous for fabricating dossiers against Alexei Navalny, Nadiya Savchenko, and Bolotnaya Square protesters, has published a book titled The Tragedy of Southwestern Ukraine: A White Book of Crimes. The head of the Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, provided a preface, including this:

The armed conflict in the South-West of Ukraine, unleashed by the political and military leadership of that country, has had monstrous consequences: entire residential communities have been destroyed; infrastructure and essential services have been razed; there have been enormous casualties among civilians; there is a never-ending outflow of refugees, forced to leave the areas of military conflict…

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has no right to stay away from these tragic events and believes its duty is to scrupulously record all crimes committed by nationalism battalions and the Armed Forces of Ukraine, all evidence of human rights violations in Ukraine, including the violation of the most important right, the right to life.

It’s bog standard Russian propaganda but with a special glitch: the picture on the cover is not a genuine panorama of war-torn Donetsk but a Photoshopped stock photo of the city taken in better times. The picture was exposed as a fake as early as in May 2014.

It’s not that the new pamphlet is going to stand out against a backdrop of its peers. Try stopping by the politics and history section in any of the few major bookstores in Moscow, and I guarantee you it will be packed with brightly colored tomes unmistakably and unapologetically full of revisionist garbage and paranoid lies.

Going back to the Investigative Committee’s exploits, I’m tempted to quote from president Putin’s recent interview with Swiss journalists:

But there are certain international legal norms stating that if somebody suspects a crime committed by anybody, certain data are collected and given to the prosecutor general’s office in the state of which the suspect is a citizen. But this is not related in any way to the fact that one nation – big or small – travels throughout the world, grabs anyone it wants and takes them to their prison. In my view, that is unacceptable.

The obvious reference is to the arrests of FIFA officials in Geneva, and the less obvious, to the capture of Victor Bout in Thailand and Konstantin Yaroshenko in Liberia and their subsequent imprisonment in the US. Apparently the (plausibly alleged) kidnappings of a Russian opposition activist in Kiev in 2012 and of Nadiya Savchenko in 2014 don’t really count.

Perhaps to the Kremlin, they count in a different way: “If you Americans break the law, we’re going to break the law more blatantly. Quod licet Americae, licet Rutheniae.” There’s something Raskolnikovian in this attitude: “Am I a shuddering little statelet, or do I have the right to screw limitrophes, as (I believe) America does to whomever displeases it?” Two wrongs can’t make a right, but what is right? The weak get beaten. It’s no real pleasure in life.


  1. “A shuddering little statelet” is brilliant. Great post. We definitely need a sense of humor to talk about these things because otherwise it just gets too frustrating.

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