President Vladimir Putin He has managed to anger three large segments of Russian society these days: liberal opponents, ultra-nationalists, and a large group of apathetic people who preferred not to engage in politics and now see their recruitment into the war in Ukraine. Huh. close range. He calls his neighbor a “rejection” of the president’s order to enlist hundreds of thousands of civilians in his crusade. Protest across the country and stampede at borders and airports. But, hours later, he angered supporters of the war by exchanging monstrous Azov battalion fighters for a Ukrainian oligarch, Viktor Medvedchuk, whose daughter is the president’s godfather. The fact that the Ukrainian army surrendered at the Mariupol steelworks, one of its main trophies in the war, fueled this despair. The Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, was the one who raised his voice loudest: he said he was “extremely dissatisfied” with the exchange.
“I have no right to comment,” was the only response given this Thursday by the presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, one of the big questions of the day, the most hated for 200 Ukrainian merchants and 55 Russian soldiers. Battalion from what the Russian government described in these months of exchange war. Those fighters dominated the front pages and reports of the Kremlin media for months, and their unit was declared a terrorist organization by the Supreme Court in August. According to Moscow, he had arrested some of the country’s top Nazi leaders, his theoretical number one target.
Peskov also declined to comment on talks for Medvedchuk, a close friend of Putin and the leader of the pro-Russian Ukrainian opposition forum for the Life party. Two days after the war broke out on 24 February, the oligarch had escaped house arrest, but was arrested while trying to flee the country.
The silence of Putin’s spokesman is in stark contrast to the distance he has maintained so far. “About the exchange that they talk so enthusiastically in Kyiv, [Medvedchuk] He is not a Russian citizen and has no connection with the military operation, he is a foreign political figure,” he said on April 18.
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The exchange has drawn criticism on pro-Russian military Telegram channels. For Colonel Igor Girkin Strelkov, one of the most famous voices of Russian ultranationalism, the initiative has been “worse than a crime, worse than a mistake”. “It’s a total sinking,” he warned. Girkin, a former member of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and one of the commanders who encouraged the 2014 Donbass war before being ousted by Moscow, insisted on his Telegram channel that Medvedchuk “was the one who buried the Novorossia project”. was [la hipotética nueva provincia rusa en Ucrania]Promoted the Minsk Agreements and deceived the Kremlin that the State ukronazic can be pacified by political means. ,
“Sending just one of the Azov terrorists should be unacceptable”
One of the most outraged Russian figures is the Chechen leader. Thus Kadyrov began a statement against the Russian authorities: “Extremely dissatisfied with the exchange. This whole situation is incomprehensible to me. Whenever military decisions have been made […] We were consulted.”
President Kadyrov remembered: “Our fighters” [chechenos] He crushed the fascists in Mariupol and drove them to Azovstal. They were pulled from the smoky basement because they were dead, injured, or shocked. Sending just one of the Azov terrorists should be unacceptable”, condemned the Chechen leader, who was one of the main promoters of the mobilization. Despite his criticism, Kadyrov took care of himself with a tagline of support for Putin: “ Of course, the above is a personal opinion. We will follow the orders of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief!”
Despite these objections, philosopher Alexander Dugin, one of the leaders of the toughest wing of the Kremlin, has refrained from speaking up. The ultranationalist intellectual remained silent for a month after his daughter’s death in an attack that encouraged his circle to demand revenge on Ukraine. His silence is even more shocking when Russian authorities accused the Azov battalion of killing his daughter in an apparent investigation that Kyiv’s claims were established.
Other Russian battalions see the prisoner swap as a betrayal. “If in Syria we do not surrender to Islamic State, then here we must have a similar view that captivity is death and without but”, the Rusich Reconnaissance and Assault Group, one of the company’s units, condemned on its Telegram channel. Of. Wagner K. mercenaries
The group, whose founders openly declare themselves to be extreme authority, has already fought in the Donbass since 2014. When the exchange became known, the group published a guide on the treatment of Ukrainian hostages: First, do not inform the commanders; Then, interrogate them under torture such as “amputation of fingers and needles under the nails” so that “they can respond consciously” and finally, “shoot the prisoners” with a series of recommendations “so that it does not appear intentional” “. The group proposes to write down the coordinates of the graves, take a photograph of the faces of the deceased “and provide the data to son, wife or others for an amount of $2,000 to $5,000.”
The exchange has also drawn criticism from political circles in the Kremlin. “From a persuasive point of view, the only thing worse than the exchange of Nazis and mercenaries could be the appointment of Medvedchuk to any post in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics or in the liberated areas,” said historian and member Alexander Dyukov. Presidential Commission on Interracial Relations.
The Kremlin media has taken a 180-degree turn in its discourse on the Azov army. “What is more important, the joy of defending oneself or the satisfaction of retaliation against the enemy?”, commented RT’s director, Margarita Simonyan, who said in March: “[En esta guerra] The main task is to save the common people, and I believe they are the majority in Ukraine, from the Nazis on their shoulders.”
Another pro-Russian personality who changed his speech was the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin. During the summer, this politician defended the application of the death penalty to Azov fighters and their foreign volunteers, whom he predicted would be shot because he believed them to be mercenaries. A few days ago he reiterated that his execution would be kept secret, but changed his mind this Thursday as a referendum on Russia’s accession suddenly imminent. “We were in a hurry and so we went beyond considering a similar exchange. We needed to get more and we have more boys in Ukrainian captivity,” he told the Interfax agency.
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