Dmitry Peskov – Hero of the Kremlin, a Vladimir Putin‘s „Canary“

The President of Russia has at his disposal a number of voices that are the first to test – often in an odious form – possible reactions to his so far only thoughts and expectations.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party is the example of this, who on 27 December announced that Kiev should be bombed on New Year’s Eve, at around 4 or 5 a.m. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Liberal Democrat, indicated that he would not hesitate to give such an order personally.

The sole leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov can be considered the one, who the day before, at a press conference in Grozny, declared that Ukraine must be annexed by Russia because Ukrainians are “our people”. This does not interfere (to put it mildly) with the declarations of Vladimir Putin’s article ‘On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians’, published on 12 July on the website

Like Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of Chechnya has indicated that he would personally resolve the Ukrainian issue without problems if given this task.

Those, let’s say, subliminal voices of the President of Russia are even competing with each other to see who will be the first and supposedly the toughest to blurt out what is still in the mind of Vladimir Vladimirovich, and it is not yet the right time to declare it in the protocol.

However, there is an institutional voice, which is obliged by its duty to broadcast the Kremlin’s Urbi et orbi quotes in a constant, dutiful and adequate manner, with a solid facial expression.

One can only imagine what the Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov felt personally when, for example, on 15 December, commenting on his boss’s attitude towards Memorial, which was closed by the ruling of the Russian court at the end of the year, he announced that the oldest human rights organisation in Russia, founded by the academician Andrei Sakharov, was still having problems with the Russian law. This is a well-known fact.

It should be recalled that Memorial, that has been in existence for 33 years, has had young people from all over Europe working with it on a voluntary basis, who have since grown up to become academics, professors and heads of non-governmental organizations, etc.

The European Union (EU), the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, the European Court of Human Rights have tried to challenge the Moscow court’s decision of 28 December. However, in vain. After all, Dmitry Peskov said…

On 17 December, the Russian Presidential Press Secretary, in an interview with the global Russian-language TV channel RTVI, made a cryptic reference to the hateful collective mind of Russia in Europe. As if Moscow is doing fine with Germany, Italy, France and Spain “individually”, but this collective mind sees Russia as an enemy.

It seems that Dmitry Peskov has two parallel Europes in his head.

The idea that his boss is talking to Western leaders in a tough but also peaceful way is also the idea of the Russian Presidential Press Secretary.

For objective reasons, Dmitry Peskov has had to develop and vary this narrative in recent months. For example, on 25 December, he stated on the state owned TV channel Rossia-1 that the multivocal warnings from almost all over the world about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine were just an empty, unjustified escalation of tensions, Moscow was not threatening anyone.

After such a holy pure conviction, it is somehow uncomfortable to recall Oleksiy Danilov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, who on 19 January named the exact number of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border as 127,000.

This is not only true for Ukrainians, but also for politicians in the United States, the EU, Turkey and even Japan.

However, Dmitry Peskov is undeterred, and on 18 January he points out that the tension on the Russian-Ukrainian border is undisturbed. On 16 January, he follows his boss by declaring that Russia is monitoring penetration of NATO to the territory of Ukraine and will not accept it.

And so on and so forth.

Sometimes it happens to lie on this subject. The non-existent letter of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia, dated 1 March 2014, in which he allegedly asked the President of Russia to send troops into Ukraine, was first quoted by representative of Russia at the United Nations (UN) Vitaly Chiurkin. The “quote” was later repeated by Dmitry Peskov.

They were both unmasked by the representative of Ukraine to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya on 17 January, the Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of the Donbas Airport.

In an interview with the CNN TV program Fareed Zakaria GPS on 16 January, Dmitry Peskov did not rule out the possibility of Russia deploying offensive weapons in Ukraine, saying “(…) we are not going to say that we are not going to deploy offensive weapons on the territory of Ukraine”. And then, right there and then, he declared in a ‘watched’ manner that this did not mean military action against its neighbour.

There is hardly any point in looking for logic in these rhetorical passages, and their function is not the same – it is his boss’ favourite escalation of the confusion abroad and “selling” it as diplomacy.

Dmitry Peskov is also concerned, but relatively easily, about Western sanctions. On 16 January, for example, he pointed out that, although the likelihood of new sanctions is growing, Russia is a relatively large and very self-sufficient country, and its economy is only growing in the context of sanctions.

It is hard to see how this statement fits with the data showing that the real income of Russians have been declining steadily since 2014.

However, the Presidential Press Secretary, again unperturbed, said earlier, on 11 January, that although the West is threatening to cut off the supply of anything to Russia, thank God dishwashers are not the most desirable thing to Russians. So let the American partners continue to repeat their mantra about sanctions.

Isn’t Dmitry Peskov’s rhetorical passage that nobody is prosecuted for politics in Russia admirable?

The forced departure of a journalist and writer Viktor Shenderovich is associated not with his recognition as a “foreign agent”, but an attempt to hide from the court hearing for defamation where a lawsuit filed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman who has been called Vladimir Putin’s chef, was heard.

Viktor Shenderocich himself argued his departure very briefly: there are only two options – I or Yevgeny Prigozhin must be imprisoned. Under the current circumstances, I would be imprisoned in Russia.

Again, it is somehow inconvenient to recall that while the Kremlin authorities proclaim that the status of a “foreign agent” is not a label or a ban on the profession, the holders of such status believe otherwise.

From the inaugural speech of Dmitry Muratov, the winner of Nobel Peace Prize at: “Journalism in the daily Novaya Gazeta Russia is going through dark times, the status of “foreign agents” means that they are enemies of the people.”

His colleague, Kirill Martynov, editor of the Political section of Novaya Gazeta, believes that the status of the “agent”, as well as another ruling-class innovation, declaration of publications as “undesirable organisations“ automatically implies a taboo on all the content that they produce; reprinting, reproducing or even linking to “undesirable” texts is a criminal offense.

The list of “agents” has grown to 111 individuals and organisations by the end of 2021. The last 8 people were included on Friday, the last day of 2021. The term “Black Friday” has already been caught on by Russian journalists.

By the way, to what end, if everything, according to Dmitry Peskov, is just fine, have more than 1 500 political activists and journalists left Russia in the last year, according to the Free Russia Foundation?

Something else about the Kremlin-style representations through the Presidential Press Secretary. Also on 11 January, Dmitry Peskov explained why Novaya Gazeta, whose editor won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, was not accredited at all at Vladimir Putin’s 17th annual press conference in December – he “simply” forgot to call him.

The Kremlin chose the participants of the press conference, after all, and in the end there were 507 participants, more than half of them from the regions of Russia.

On one hand, Russians, to put it mildly, rarely win the Nobel Peace Prizes. However, Dmitry Peskov’s clarification can also be interpreted as a mocking, humiliating passage on the occasion of the Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

This just proves the attitude of the Kremlin to a free word, which he conveniently broadcasts through his Press Secretary.

There are also anecdotal passages from the Press Secretary, perhaps not from a good life. “As far as the change of power is concerned, of course the President of Russia is in favour of it, but it has to be done in a way that does not interfere with the job. Everything is good in moderation.” – Dmitry Peskov announced without blinking on 27 September, which one internet commentator reacted to as a serious application for a career as a comedian.

The famous phrase of the Presidential Press Secretary after annexation of Crimea, that the architect of the annexation (although this is a fact, Dmitry Peskov did not say these two words), Vladimir Putin, is the guarantor of the world for Russians.

On 12 April, the Presidential Press Secretary pointed out that instant calls of the United States for Moscow to abandon its aggressive behaviour are so frequent as to be devaluing. On 9 April, he stated that Russia considered Ukraine to be a particularly dangerous region, which was why it had concentrated an additional military contingent (then about 110,000 – A.S.) on its borders.

“Unstoppable” Dmitry Peskov, in describing the situation in the east of Ukraine last spring, has also made an analogy with Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were killed by Serb forces in 1995. The resumption of a full-scale military action in Donbas would mean a new Srebrenica.

But it was Russia that vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council on 8 July 2015 encouraging the events in Srebrenica to be declared genocide.

In response to a question from the radio channel Echo Moskvy correspondent on 21 December, the Presidential Press Secretary said that any persecution of Russian citizen abroad is of particular concern to the Kremlin, and everything is being done to protect the Russian people.

At the end of 2021, a 21-year-old Russian Yegor Dudnikov was sentenced to 11 years in prison in Minsk for inciting social strife. According to the editor of the Political section of Novaya Gazeta, which has been following the guy’s fate, he went to Belarus to visit his girlfriend, did not take part in the protests, and was only looking for a job.

He was unlucky of being an amateur actor and voice-over artist for a video-recording of the writings of the opposition Internet resource Civic Self-Protection Squads, which is listed by the Belarusian KGB in the register of terrorist organisations. Well, he was arrested in May.

Konstantin Martynov asks – perhaps rhetorically – what is the role of Russia in this plot, which, according to the official doctrine, does not leave its own people in peace? Yegor was once visited in prison by the Russian consul, and his homeland washed its hands.

And so on, because the Kremlin’s “canary” is probably particularly active at the will of its patron at the moment.

Therefore, it is possible/appropriate to summarise – preferably with the thoughts of Dmitry Peskov’s colleagues in the public sphere, as it were (in theory only).

Lyudmila Savitskaya, Radio Svoboda correspondent in the Pskov region, is a “foreign agent” since 28 December 2020.

Since then, any publication (even a photo of your cat on an online social network) must start with a “link” in this font (however, it is preferable to quote in the original language in the original font): “ДАННОЕ СООБЩЕНИЕ (МАТЕРИАЛ) СОЗДАНО И (ИЛИ) РАСПРОСТРАНЕНО ИНОСТРАННЫМ СРЕДСТВОМ МАССОВОЙ ИНФОРМАЦИИ, ВЫПОЛНЯЮЩИМ ФУНКЦИИ ИНОСТРАННОГО АГЕНТА, И (ИЛИ) РОССИЙСКИМ ЮРИДИЧЕСКИМ ЛИЦОМ, ВЫПОЛНЯЮЩИМ ФУНКЦИИ ИНОСТРАННОГО АГЕНТА.*)

According to the journalist, many potential readers of her texts do not look any further than this and are simply afraid to talk to her as an “agent”.

For ignoring the requirement of the reference, a fine of 50,000 roubles is imposed, which according to calculations of Lyudmila Savickaya is 1/740th portion of the price of Dmitry Peskov’s wristwatch Richard Mille RM 52-01, that only 30 units were made.

In 2015, when the wristwatch was spotted on the then newlywed Dmitry Peskov’s wrist, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, imprisoned by the Kremlin regime, asked rhetorically how Dmitry Peskov, a civil servant since 1989, could buy the item from a four-year civil servant salary.

The newlywed explained in exasperation that it was a gift from his bride, Olympic figure skating champion Tatyana Navka.

Everything seems to be falling into place. For the devoted – Richard Mille RM 52-01, for the “rest of us”, the “foreign agents” – regalia.

Some professionals have incredible flexibility, which is a must in their profession. Hence the unique wristwatch Richard Mille RM 52-01.

It’s just a wristwatch, but where is the “rest” that the public has no idea about? You have to be extremely well paid to “make” your ethical backbone extremely flexible.

“The editor of the Political section of Novaya Gazeta on the results of this state of affairs: the Russian government has become a victim to its own propaganda and the growing unprofessionalism of the experts who serve it (preparing the official documents and reports).

The Presidential Press Secretary uses what he is allowed. The horizon is already very low.

Or to say it simply, nothing personal. One comment in the Russian portal “Tatyana Navka will pay her debts, fines, taxes and move to the United States (the Olympic champion lived in the USA for several years). She will take her husband with her. He will only prove to everyone by broadcasting Vladimir Putin. It’s nothing personal, just job and he always thought otherwise.”

* this report is produced and/or disseminated by foreign mass media acting as a foreign agent and/or by a Russian legal entity acting as a foreign agent.

Arūnas Spraunius


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