It is becoming increasingly clear to all (indeed, very ‘gradually’ further to the West) that the Kremlin has finally and without any veiling, ‘ethical nonsense’ set confrontation with the democratic West as the main political vector. Not just any confrontation, but a civilisational one, no less.
However, pro forma links with the same West have not been torn, even if they are kept just out of inertia. Thus, formal representation in a ‘distinctive style’ is therefore necessary.
The award of this year Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (by the European Parliament (EP) to the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned in September last year, returned home in January of the current year after he receiving medical treatment in Germany, and was immediately imprisoned, has been labelled by the Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma (Duma), Leonid Slutsky, as yet another political instrument of the West for legitimisation of interference with affairs of sovereign states.
The member of Parliament of Russia recalled that the Andrei Sakharov Prize has been awarded by the EP in recent years to the opposition of Belarus and Venezuela, which means that the winners are ‘dedicated’ to the loyal fighters of the collective West against the regimes they dislike. He concluded that this tactic has nothing to do with the struggle for peace, of which the great Russian compatriot Andrei Sakharov was a symbol.
However, Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs was clever (to put it very politely) when he referred to Andrei Sakharov as ‘the great’.
On the last day of his life, in December 1989, Andrei Sakharov spoke from the rostrum of the Congress of People Deputies of the USSR about the need to put an end to the inherited imperial thinking, for which he was unanimously booed, jeered, and scolded. He was literally swept away. The next day, as if nothing had happened, the whole Congress went to say goodbye to an academic and human rights defender, who had died after such a meeting.
The current Russian ruling class is unequivocally the continuation of the mentality of those who booed him out and then the next day said ‘goodbye’ to the great Russian. To put it straight, in Leonid Slutsky’s mind Andrei Sakharov is not a great Russian.
The ‘unbearable ease’ of reacting to anything was also demonstrated by Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Duma in a commentary on the opus in the business daily Kommersant (11/10/2011) on the issue of Ukraine by the Russian ex-president Dmitry Medvedev, described here (text: ‘The Unlucky Hero of the Kremlin Dmitry Medvedev’), who said Ukraine was run by the Nazis and that there was no way to negotiate with the current leaders of Ukraine. It is absolutely pointless and even harmful to pursue relations with Kiev when/because ignorant people are in power there. It is therefore better to wait for a predictable government. And Moscow will.
Leonid Slutsky called the opus precisely accurate (the phrase “’to in the eyebrow, but in the eye’ is certainly more sonorous in Russian than in translation), because unfortunately it is Kiev that is fuelling the confrontation with Moscow and the Russophobia (myths of Russia’s aggression, begging for Western sanctions, building coalitions of pre-doomed coalitions against Moscow on the example of the Crimean Platform), which has been going on for the last eight years. In short, there is no balanced and adequate policy.
‘”No pasarán!’ (They won’t pass – A.S.) – Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma winked at the audience.
The Russians left the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) themselves in 2014, following a resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea and aggression against Ukraine. At the end of June 2019, the ECSC decided to allow the Russian parliamentary delegation to return, also because Moscow stopped paying its membership fee to the Council of Europe (CoE) treasury in June 2017 – EUR 33 million annually (about 7% of the EC budget – big money).
The return was accompanied by an unpleasant debate, on the one hand arguing that it was better to have Russia in the organisation, as this would be more beneficial in bending Moscow to the rules and commitments. The seven ETPA member states (the Baltic States, Poland, Sweden, etc.) argued that, if we were to reinstate, it should be with at least symbolic restrictions, arguing that there is simply no progress in relations with Moscow in any area, chronically.
The majority of the PACE voted the other way, and so what? The Russians didn’t get upset, rolled up their sleeves in a constructive manner and… started with the humiliation that Europe in 2014 dared to make verbal remarks about Ukrainians being killed by Russian troops and foreign lands being grabbed. As one diplomat remarked, the impression was that Russian politicians were going to war, not to the PACE.
On the eve of its return, head of the Russian delegation, Leonid Slutsky stated that this step confirms that everyone has accepted the annexation of Crimea and recognises that the peninsula is ours. He was then nominated to the vice-presidency of the PACE in the ‘unsurprising’ way.
But that’s not why the scandal broke: European politicians sensitive to gender parity found out about Leonid Slutsky’s sexual explorations in his home country, and his international career came to a halt ‘for a while’.
Talking about the sexual explorations, it is worth recalling that the storming of the Capitol in Washington on 6 January, organised by protesters unhappy with the results of the American presidential election, was initially described by Leonid Slutsky as a ‘colour revolution’ that bounced back in a boomerang against the USA. The Russian ruling class is obsessed with the belief that the West is staging ‘colour revolutions’ both in Russia and around it.
However, before the meeting of Presidents of Russia and USA in June, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of Russia, in unison with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Lavrov, had already threatened to ‘take a closer look’ at how things were going in the United States with regard to the opposition, and with regard to human rights, in the light of the events of 6 January in Washington DC.
It is a quite dangerous (let’s say, for anyone else in the Russian ruling class) train of thought. On the other hand, in his homeland, threats from Leonid Slutsky are like water from a goose, and that is logical.
A deputy for all Duma terms since 2000 and Chairman of the International Affairs Committee since 2016, Leonid Slutsky, together with his boss Vladimir Zhirinovsky, launched the Liberal Democratic Party’s electoral list in the September parliamentary election and logically succeeded in overcoming the electoral barrier.
Immediately after the elections, President of Russia Vladimir Putin assured that he would support Vladimir Slutsky’s candidacy for the ordinary Chairmanship of the International Affairs Committee.
The favouritism was not affected, for example, by the scandal in 2018, when Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Duma was accused of sexual harassment by the BBC Russian Service correspondent Farida Rustamova, Dozhd TV producer Darya Zhuk, and RTVi journalist Ekaterina Kotrikadze.
According to Farida Rustamova, when she came to the office of Leonid Slutsky with an editorial assignment (on the chances of the right-wing populist Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election), Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs, even with the Dictaphone running, called her as a bunny and told her to quit her job, because she runs away from him and insults him by her reluctance to kiss him when he can actually take care of Farida.
When the politician found out that the journalist was about to get married, he said: ‘Perfect, you’ll be both my wife and my lover. No comment was made on chances of Le Pen in election.
Darya Zhuk told she met Leonid Slutsky when she was invited to appear on a TV show. The politician replied with a mobile phone message saying that he would accept if the producer agreed to have dinner with him. When he arrived at the show, he started by trying to kiss and, let’s call it, grab Darya Zhuk. Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs locked Ekaterina Kotrikadze in his office and pressed her up against the wall and tried to kiss her, too.
In all cases, the Duma Ethics Committee found nothing reprehensible in the politician’s actions.
This September, Svoboda analysed the account of Leonid Slutsky’s daughter on the social network TikTok, where nine-year-old Lidia talks with childlike candour about her parents’ real estate in Turkey, her holidays in chic resorts in Thailand, Hong Kong, Grenada, the Maldives, etc., and the prestigious American school in Switzerland that she has started to attend and that she hopes to become a Swiss citizen in five years’ time.
About her, because/when Leonid Slutsky likes to talk about the geopolitical confrontation between the United States and Russia, how personally proud he is of the US sanctions imposed on him, and how he blames the West for double standards. The name of the first school in Switzerland since 1956, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, an 8-minute drive from Lugano, is coded as ‘The American School in Switzerland’.
According to her online account, the main mission of the educational institution, founded by American educator Mary Chris Fleming, is to pass on the cultural heritage of Western civilisation and the world, which gives meaning to the present and hope for the future. Tuition (including accommodation) costs 87,550 US dollars.
Alexei Navalny’s investigation into the wealth of Chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee of the Duma, published in 2019, found an undeclared hectare of land in the prestigious Rublyovka district of Moscow area, an apartment in Moscow worth 40 million roubles, a 12-million-ruble Mercedes-Maybach, and 825 unpaid fines for traffic offences in the possession of the Chairman and his close relatives.
Leonid Slutsky family’s asset declaration shows that in 2020 the husband and wife had earned than 6 million roubles. Both Svoboda investigators and Alexei Navalny concluded that the family expenses of Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Duma are many times higher than the declared revenue.
According to an investigation published in April by the Mikhail Khodorkovsky Centre Dossier, the Russian Peace Foundation, headed by Leonid Slutsky, does not hesitate to ask for financial support from American senators. Cooperation with the Foundation has sometimes cost European politicians their careers, with Dossier citing the example of a member of Parliament of France Thierry Mariani, who visited the Russian annexed Crimea in 2015 at the invitation of Leonid Slutsky, for which he was stripped of his vice-presidency of the European People’s Party of Europe (EPP) at the PACE in the following year.
The President of the PACE Pedro Agramunt had to resign after travelling to Syria as part of the members of the Russian State Duma and members of the PACE, meeting its dictator Bashar al-Assad, and visiting the Russian airbase at Hmeimim in Syria.
One more detail about the ‘Western’ habits of Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Duma who likes to talk about Brussels’ provocations or the ‘hellish absurdity’ of US President Joe Biden’s administration.
Deutsche Welle launched an investigation in March and announced in April that Leonid Slutsky uses the services of a specialised online platform Bosslike.ru (actually, the name translates as Likes Boss’) to circulate his posts on online social networks, and that he pays the highest price for a ‘Like’ or a republishing of his postings on the online social network Facebook and Twitter, which he charges one-and-a-half to two roubles each.
For example, the Twitter post by Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, ‘Blaming others again, looking in the mirror? It is not Russia that is moving away from the European Union, but Brussels that provokes confrontation from time to time’ received 170 likes. Deutsche Welle checked all 78 accounts from which they were sent and discovered that all but one of them came from the Bosslike platform.
At his traditional press conference on 17 December last year, the President of Russia once again pointed to the West as the culprit for the deterioration in relations – in response to a BBC correspondent’s question on the subject, he pointed out that Moscow had liberated Eastern Europe from Soviet dictatorship, and that it had received the expansion of NATO in response.
Why do you think we are morons?” – the Russian leader summed up with a rhetorical question.
When asked whether the annexation of Crimea had contributed to the deterioration of relations, he responded with the usual thesis of the Russian ruling class that the peninsula joined Russia voluntarily. He evaded the question about poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in the United Kingdom and repeated that Russian Internet hackers did not interfere in the American presidential election (never mind what Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller investigated there).
The Kremlin keeps pointing out, angrily but also with some justification, that the planet’s democracies are not in particularly good shape. The ‘Westerner’ Leonid Slutsky is particularly well suited to the mission of developing this thesis, which is why he is not (re)replaced as Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Duma, whatever that may be.
Actually, the Financial Times pointed out on 5 July this year that blaming foreigners for the deterioration of life in Russia is unlikely to be successful forever, when Vladimir Putin’s main (if not existential) theme is the preservation of his power at all costs, and that he will not hesitate to steal Russia’s future in order to achieve this goal.
But that’s another story. For now, let us recall the word ‘cunning’, mentioned in brackets at the beginning of the text, to describe the style of Leonid Slutsky. There is another, more straightforward and, in the opinion of the producer of this text, more accurate one – hypocrisy.
This is the current style of international policy making of the Russian ruling class.