Domodedovo Exposes the Stark Incompetence of Medvedev and Putin

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, co-founders of and co-authors of “The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State” and “The Enduring Legacy of the KGB,” writing in the Moscow Times:

Upon learning of the terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport, President Dmitry Medvedev convened an emergency meeting with Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and Transportation Minister Igor Levitin. Thus, Medvedev invited only those who are directly responsible for responding to a terrorist attack. Bastrykin was charged with creating an investigative task force, Chaika was told to examine all transportation facilities, and Levitin was instructed to beef up security measures at airports.

But there were two top officials who were conspicuously absent from Medvedev’s meeting — Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov. They should have been grilled on whether everything possible had been done to prevent the attack.

Nurgaliyev and Bortnikov were also not called before Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Like Medvedev, Putin limited his response to issuing orders, telling Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova to prepare the necessary documents for providing assistance to the victims’ families.

Bortnikov or Nurgaliyev avoided television cameras during the first eight hours after the explosion.

These tactics clearly demonstrate that Russia’s top officials view the terrorist attack at Domodedovo as being no different than a natural disaster in which there is no guilty party, only a tragic accident. Questions of the government’s and individual ministers’ negligence and basic responsibility to provide security for its citizens are avoided.

In this spirit, Medvedev on Tuesday gave a hint as to who should be punished for the terrorist attack. First, he said the management of Domodedovo Airport should face criminal charges. Then, he ordered Nurgaliyev and Bortnikov to fire Interior Ministry and FSB officials who were responsible for transportation safety. This underscores Medvedev’s narrow, bureaucratic approach of firing officials instead of focusing on preventing a terrorist attack in the first place.

This is standard practice for the country’s leaders and has been used in nearly every terrorist attack. In 2009 and 2010, Bortnikov did not give end-of-the-year news conferences on the FSB’s activity, although his predecessor, Nikolai Patrushev, did. One year ago, we wrote that Bortnikov’s decision to reject the long-standing practice of holding news conferences was a tacit admission that the FSB is only accountable to the Kremlin. The lack of official response to the Domodedovo attack creates the impression that the FSB and Interior Ministry are no longer answerable to even the Kremlin on terrorism issues, which doesn’t seem to bother Medvedev or Putin.

In fact, those are not the only agencies and individuals who have adopted a policy of silence regarding terrorist attacks. For many years, former Mayor Yury Luzhkov considered it his duty to visit an attack site immediately and report before journalists on initial investigation results and the measures being taken. There was good reason for that practice. Millions of frightened Muscovites sitting in front of their television sets could see that the city’s leader was in control of the situation. But that tradition was abandoned the moment Medvedev appointed Sergei Sobyanin as Moscow mayor. Sobyanin did arrive at the scene of the tragedy as duty required, but he did not bother speaking to reporters there. Instead, he limited his response to giving a few standard statements to his own hand-picked pool of loyal journalists, none of whom asked difficult questions.

Both Bortnikov and Sobyanin are Medvedev appointees, and both abandoned the practice of their predecessors of facing the media. This means that the type of leader who Medvedev favors does not consider it necessary to be accountable to the people in any way. No amount of secrecy or media manipulation can hide the fact that, by taking this approach for so long, the ruling tandem has finally made the siloviki structures incapable of averting terrorist strikes or responding to them appropriately.

The country is facing a real and dangerous enemy, and it needs competent, professional security agenices that have the ability and skills to prevent terrorist attacks.

The main priority of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy, finalized in 2006, was terribly misguided. It was focused on preventing attacks by large groups of militants or insurgents that could lead to political instability in the regions or the entire country. This was the reason for the buildup of anti-terrorist units in the Air Force, special forces and related agencies.

Meanwhile, terrorists had adopted a completely different strategy — attacking in small groups. In 2007, they resumed the use of suicide bombers. From 2009 to 2010, they sharply increased the number of terrorist acts, bombings and attacks against siloviki agencies and infrastructure in the North Caucasus. In 2010, they once again sent suicide bombers to Moscow.

While the terrorists constantly changed their strategy, the Kremlin has followed its old strategy of meting out extrajudicial punishment against suspected terrorists — often in the form of “extermination.” But this is by no means a pre-emptive strategy to prevent terrorist attacks. It would be much better, of course, if special forces hunted down terrorists in the Caucausus Mountains before they carried out a terrorist attack, not after.

9 responses to “Domodedovo Exposes the Stark Incompetence of Medvedev and Putin

  1. For the former KGB man, soon expected to resume what he sees as his natural role of President, a terrorist attack on Russia – and there have been three major attacks in the past year – is not so much an outrage as an opportunity to extend and entrench his power still further.

    With growing reports of clashes in Moscow and other Russian cities between ethnic Russians and migrant workers from the North Caucasus, Russia seems locked into a spiral of violence. Yet this is a situation which Putin gives every indication of believing he can manage and exploit.

    Given his record, this is hardly surprising. It was, after all, Putin’s mentor Boris Yeltsin who demonstrated how to use appalling violence in the Caucasus as an election-winning tactic with his attempt to crush the independence movement in Chechnya in the mid-nineties.

    In 1999, in the so-called Second Chechen War, Putin tried to finish the job that Yeltsin had started. His brutal repression of the Chechens resulted in a puppet Soviet-style government being imposed and enforced by the FSB security service, the KGB’s successor, and forged Putin’s reputation at home and abroad as a hard man and a champion of Russian nationalism. It also earned him bitter criticism from human-rights groups who reported on the wanton destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and the systematic torture of Chechen civilians. He was elected President the following year.

    There remains a scandalous discrepancy between the outcry in the West over the war in Iraq, or alleged human-rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay, and the comparative silence over the Russian subjugation of Chechnya. After all, while the invasion of Iraq was carried out with the intention, whether misguided or not, of advancing democracy, Russian troops were sent into the Caucasus with the clear aim of stifling the people’s will.

    Of course, it is not only the citizens of Chechnya who live under a Putin dictatorship. Every day more and more Russians are realising that they are in the same situation. Wikileaks famously revealed a Spanish prosecutor’s claim that Russia was a “virtual mafia state”, but organised crime, of course, is just that – well organised – and it is clear in Russia where the boundaries lie and what happens to those who overstep them.

    Just ask Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former oil tycoon who now faces several more years of incarceration following a court decision which came days after Putin had publicly declared him guilty of theft and murder. Or Boris Nemtsov, leader of Russia’s liberal opposition, who said that Khodorkovsky’s sentence “had nothing to do with the rule of law”. A day later, he was arrested, jailed for 15 days and refused the right of appeal.

    Just as Russia’s Chechen policy has been decided by the political needs of Putin, so too are cases such as Khodorkovsky’s and the state’s expropriation of Yukos, the private oil firm once led by Khodorkovsky, which was dismembered by the government, with its assets passed to Rosneft, the state-owned company with whom BP has now got into bed.

    The common thread in all this has been the steady consolidation of all political and economic power within a narrow elite and the reaction to the Domodedovo bombing will undoubtedly form part of the same process.

    The hard fact is that Putin has always used threatening events in Russia as a means of gaining more power and this year is unlikely to see any change. After all, he has a presidency to regain.

  2. “Wikileaks famously revealed a Spanish prosecutor’s claim that Russia was a “virtual mafia state”, but organised crime, of course, is just that – well organised – and it is clear in Russia where the boundaries lie and what happens to those who overstep them.”

    Virtual mafia state is the US with its FED organised global crime and robbery. Putin is but a kid.

  3. LR, it’s really a lot worse than that.

    After the attack, the state channels did NOT carry any news of the attack – they continued to carry talk shows, soap operas, and the like.

    Bloggers kept track of it – the official state media did not want people to know what had happened.

    There were not sufficient vehicles to deal with the dead and injured.

    And – assorted people started price gouging – offering to pick up people and drive them out of the airport for exorbitant prices.

    There’s more – see TVi (from Ukraine), about 20 minutes into the report, ending at 30 minutes – it’s a very detailed report:

    Сьогодні Підсумки
    for today’s date

    Nemtsov (and others) note the hugely expensive and extensive security measures for Putler and Medvedev – in contrast to security at the airport.

  4. Let me be back to the LR editorial: Domodedovo Exposes not “the Stark Incompetence of Medvedev and Putin” but it exposes the CIA of the US guided and controlled “Islamic” terrorism.
    “First create a problem via your proxis, and then offer to be part of the solution.” — Current CIA Aphorism. :-)

    Say hello to democracy and freedom loving kings and princes in the Gulf currently used as a wagging tail of big American/Israeli dog in the region.
    I’m dead sure they will follow the way of the former president of Egypt right to HELL. The sooner, the better.

  5. In other news, 9/11 exposes the start incompetence of the United States.

    • Yes it did, but of course the US learnt the lesson and reformed their system of intelligence gathering.

      Unlike Russian Imperialist scum, who just keep doing the same genocidal actions against the people of the Caucasus over and over again.

      • lol yep. How is that war in A-stan going again? Any Precision strikes against weddings lately?

        • Well, compare the civilian deaths in Afghanistan with the civilian deaths in Chechnya, or the civilian deaths in Afghanistan when the Russians were carpet bombing the place Shamil.

  6. Shamil | February 3, 2011 at 4:46 am | Reply
    “In other news, 9/11 exposes the start incompetence of the United States.”

    BRILLIANT SAY! I love it.
    911 has proved to be sort of last resort to the US imperialism.
    Stakes are off.

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