Moscow’s ‘Spetznatz Day’ is Every Day: Conspiracy, Assassination, and Disinformation

by Marek Chodakiewicz

Nemtsov was shot right outside of the Kremlin, a very secure place. Further, he often complained about his FSB tail, a surveillance squad, which shadowed him. Why didn’t they jump to the rescue? Also, a snow plow inched slowly behind the strolling couple, obscuring security cameras.

The smoke had hardly cleared after the murder of the Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, on February 27, celebrated in Russia, ironically, as “Spetznatz Day,” when the Kremlin and its mignons paraded a slew of conspiracy theories regarding the culprits. None of them included President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Russia’s strongman growled that the killing was “a provocation.” By whom?

For the next week, the Kremlin media and pundits obliged, feverishly hunting the suspects. A frenzy of speculation ensued. But it concentrated on the dual boogieman of terrorism and foreign intervention which has been the hallmark of the Russian President’s system of controlling Russia since the advent of his power. The campaign engulfed TV, the Internet, and newspapers. Water cooler gossipmongering reached epic proportions. It was a disinformation offensive, pure and simple. It mobilized support for Putin and obfuscated the issue, while tapping into the pre-existing prejudices and stoking the fires of paranoia.

In essence, we were treated to the good old game of deception and denial. Whereas, in Soviet times, the Kremlin would have been able to cover up Nemtsov’s death, in the brave new world of the information revolution and social media, the post-Soviet leadership banks on the new fog of war: information overload. It is easier to bury the truth in the swamp of mendacious narratives. Hence, multiple stories and multiple messages serve the same goal – all power to the Kremlin. Since it is rather instructive to unveil the mastery of Putin’s propaganda machine and its themes, a brief review of alleged conspiracies follows.

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