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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 8: 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
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President Vladimir Putin expressed his "deep condolences" for the 12 French journalists of Charlie Hebdo killed in the terrorist attack yesterday January 7, in a brief message to French President Francois Hollande on the Kremlin's home page. The attacks fell on Russian Orthodox Christmas. The translation is by The Interpreter:

The head of state deeply condemned this cynical crime and confirmed readiness to continue active cooperation in the battle against the threat of terrorism.

Putin often likes to remind the West about the dangers of terrorism and reproach the US and the EU for not working as closely as in the past with Russia in the war on terror -- which Putin pursues with vigor in Russia in Dagestan, where at least 160 suspected terrorists were assassinated this year.

He doesn't made any connection between his own support of Syria's dictator Al-Bashar Assad with more than a $1 billion in armaments and political cover -- and the jihadists who stream from Europe to fight Assad.

But it's been left for other Russian political figures to draw out the lessons, as Business Insider describes in a round-up.

Aleksei Pushkov, the conservative head of Russia's parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, wrote on Twitter implying that the European Union's sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine were misplaced, and they should look instead to stop the recruitment of jihadists from their own countries:

Translation: The tragedy in Paris illustrates that it is not Russia that threatens Europe and its security. That's a bluff. The real threat comes from the disciples of terror. That is a fact.

Dmitry Rogozin, the vice premier for the military known for his sharp quips on Twitter, has not yet made a comment.

Western press has been divided on whether to publish the offensive cartoons that led to the terrorist attack as a form of solidarity with the slain journalists, Mashable reports.

Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of the independent Novaya Gazeta, who has seen his own reporters, such as Anna Politkovskaya, gunned down for their work, took a moderate position on the issue, which he explained in an editorial.

He expressed deep condolences and proposed that world media jointly create a bounty "for information about these monsters" -- who are still being sought by French police. But he declined to put the cartoons on his front page:

Regarding the reprinting of the cartoons. I have doubts that this decision is ethically precise. This looks like collective punishment: the terrorist act was committed by a group of murderers and we then subject millions of believers to harassment. I think that one of the purposes of terrorism in fact consists of forcing various faiths into a final conflict. We do not want to help the terrorists in this. We absolutely make the distinction between terrorists and believers. For a just outcome, it is necessary to prosecute the former and respect the rights of the latter.

Muratov explained that what they would do is publish a cover of Charlie Hebdo -- and they published the cover with Michel Houellebecq's  predictions, saying "I will make Ramadan in 2022." This, said Muratov, is "our due to the memory of our colleagues" and not out of "the desire to incite passions or offend anyone."

He said they would also show pictures of solidarity demonstrations in France in which people used posters made of the offensive cover before the terrorist attack -- that way it is in a news frame.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," he concluded.

He noted there are 20 million Muslims in Russia.

Ekho Moskvy, a publication of Gazprom Media which has increasingly come under pressure from the government, decided to run the Charlie Hebdo covers that illustrated how the cartoonists were "equal opportunity" satirists, and poked fun at the Pope and Jewish leaders as well as Islamic fundamentalists. They included Charlie Hebdo covers spoofing Russian, German, American and other leaders and the "Untouchables" cover showing a Muslim and Jew.

They also ran the "Je Suis Charlie" banner and an op-ed pieces by exiled businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other opposition commentators.

Open Russia, the opposition site founded by Khodorkovsky, has published one of the irreverent cartoons under the headline "We are Charlie Hebdo." The cartoon depicts a scene "if Mohammad returned," implying that he, too, would be treated as an infidel and have his throat cut.

Khodorkovsky sparked controversy yesterday with this tweet:

Translation: if journalists are a decent community, tomorrow there should not be a single publication without cartoons of the prophet.

Some Russian bloggers used the discussion of the terrorist attack in Paris to discuss their own country's politics:

Translation: Among my acquaintances the attack on the journal is not condemned almost by the very same people with whom we always argue regarding Putin, Crimea, Donbass and so on.

Translation: Varfolomeev: Are you kidding

Navalny: It is clear that there are pagans who believe that a picture can offend God, but not condemn murder?

Varfolomeev  reported on his Facebook page that Muscovites had left flowers at the French Embassy in Moscow.

2015-01-08 11:56:21

Alfred Kokh, deputy prime minister under Yeltsin and author who was forced to move to Germany because of persecution, had a startling suggestion on his Facebook page for how to address terror (translation by The Interpreter):

Israel, for example, has a rich experience in fighting terrorists. They have solved the problem of hostages in their own way: the hostages are the relatives of the terrorist; their house is destroyed. In fact, this experience (to be sure, without legal foundation, which is not good) has long been tried by [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov. Which (with all my cautious attitude toward this personage) is in general a step in the right direction.

While Kokh himself comes from a family of Volga Germans who were deported under Stalin, and was born in Kazakhstan as a result, he thinks that EU has a "magnificent means to resolve the problem of terrorism: deportation and destruction of mosques."

For his part, Ramzan Kadyrov didn't mention the terrorist attack in Paris, but mourned the destruction yesterday of the 800-year-old Imam Nawai mosque in Syria and condemned extremists who killed other Muslims in general.

The popular blogger Bozhenka Rynska liked his idea, as did more than 4,800 others, although some objected. Russian human rights activists have campaigned in recent weeks against Kadyrov's orders to destroy the homes of terrorists, and one prominent journalist, Ksenya Sobchak, confronted Putin with his inaction on this practice at the year-end press conference.

It's important to understand that for the Russian media, printing the cartoons isn't just an ethical or political editorial decision, it's a conscious plan to risk violation Russian law on extremism, which can be used arbitrarily against those who support Islamic terrorists just as much as against those who publish a link to a critical video on the Ukrainian war., a new independent news site run by editors and journalists who left Russia after they were fired from under state pressure, opted to publish a montage of the covers of world media showing the cartoons, and the "Je Suis Charlie" on their own front page, but didn't publish the cartoons themselves.

Vedomosti printed a news story with the caricature of Houellebecq.

TV Rain carried straight news coverage without cartoons. published straight news coverage on the suspects, without any cartoons. ran pictures of the scene and police pursuit but no cartoons.

Sputnik & Pogrom, the popular ultranationalist web site had no mention of the attack at all.

Konstantin Rykov, the top Kremlin web propagandist, didn't publish the cartoons, but had this to say:

Translation: Gennady, I drew cartoons all night.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. We have opted not to publish the cartoons.)

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick