Yesterday we left off this story with the Russian Oppositionist press, blogosphere, and political parties (such as they are) all jumping on the “anti-crucified-child” bandwagon. By “Oppositionist”, I am referring (for those who don’t follow Russians politics closely) as the “non-systemic Opposition”. These are the political parties and individuals who are not represented in the Russian Duma (well, once in a while, they manage to scavenge a few votes). They have very little political support among the Russian public, and tend to congregate in cliques. One blogger recently compared them to the “Rent is too damn high guy” in American politics. Except I resist that comparison, because the “Rent” guy was actually making a valid point about the rent. I know, because I live in the U.S. and my rent is TOO DAMN HIGH! Just sayin’
Anyhow, the non-systemic Opps are virulently opposed to the “Putin regime”, to everything that Putin says and does. They believe that he is a dictator and a monster. They also believe that it is impossible to vote him out of office, therefore Revolution is the only remedy to clean him out of the Kremlin. Their various attempts at Revolution are financed by the U.S. State Department and American Embassy in Moscow. (True assertions — look it up.) Some ill-wishers have compared these guys to the Bolsheviks. A comparison I also resist, because I personally have favorable opinion of the Bolsheviks. The only thing these two groups (Bolsheviks and current Opps) have in common is that they want to overthrow the government. But unlike the Bolsheviks, these nouveau revolutionaries do not want to put the working man in power. On the contrary, their support goes to powerful capitalist oligarchs, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom they would like to see in the presidential chair. These Opps oppose everything that the “Putin regime” does domestically, as well as in foreign policy. In foreign policy, they support the U.S., and the European Union, they oppose Russia’s war against ISIS in Syria; and they support the Ukrainian Maidan.
Crucified child is inconvenient to Russian Opps
This latter point is what brings us to their hysteria about Channel 1 and the “crucified child” story. Please keep in mind that these Opps support the Maidan junta which put Poroshenko, Heletei, and the others into power. In the ensuing Ukrainian civil war Russian Opps supported the Ukrainian government side, the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against the Donbass Separatists. They despise the Separatists and regard them as evil tools of the Putin regime. They opposed (with a couple of exceptions) the reintegration of the Crimean peninsula back into Russia, Holding this set of (rather predictable) views, the Opps therefore saw the “crucified child” story as an act of brazen propaganda, intended to smear the Maidanite side. Recall the reactions of Opp leaders Navalny and Nemtsov:
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny denounced the channel as “nutty” for airing the report.
“Are they completely sick to be concocting this?” he wrote on his blog. “The people behind this are a danger to society and what they are doing is a true crime.”
Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov called the report an attempt to rally “naive people behind a war with Ukraine”.
Neither one of these gentlemen so much as entertained the thought that Ukrainian refugee Galina Pyshnyak could be telling the truth about the atrocity she says she witnessed; or (other possibility) that Channel 1 simply stumbled upon this juicy story, instead of deliberately inflaming it.
The Feldman Video
Next we get to a rather typical member of the Russian non-systemic Opps. This is photo-journalist Evgeny Feldman, who generally covers “Oppositionist” and “anti-Putin” type stories. I believe it is fair to assert that Feldman sympathizes with the Ukraine, with Maidan, with the Ukrainian army’s “Anti-Terrorist Operation”; and probably believes that Galina Pyshnyak is lying about the alleged atrocity. But Feldman, instead of frothing at the mouth about the “Channel 1 propaganda” at least decided to do something journalistic. He decided to actually go and see for himself what things are really like in “liberated” Slavyansk. And to see if he could find any corroboration for Galina’s story. Hence, Feldman made a trip to Slavyansk, Ukraine. This was a city traumatized by war. Houses and buildings had been bombed. In many parts of the city there was no electricity or running water. People had been living like animals in their cellars. Separatist Warlord Girkin-Strelkov had retreated along with with his troops, leaving the city completely open. The Ukrainian army had entered the city unopposed. A couple of weeks had gone by since those events. Ordinary people were trying to get back to the semblance of a normal life. Even if by “normal” it just meant being able to sit outside on a park bench and enjoy an illicit rum and coke with friends.
Feldman boldly walked through Lenin Square, the very place where Pyshnyak said the alleged atrocity had occurred, carrying his camera and microphone; and he approached and interviewed random inhabitants relaxing on benches on the town square. He asked everybody he met: “Did you hear anything about a child being crucified?” And posted his resulting video, reporting back that, “Nope, nobody done heard nor seen nothing. And everybody is happy and welcomes the Ukrainian army Angel-Liberators.” Feldman’s video is always referenced by those who seek to “debunk” Galina’s accusation.
Well, people say that “it’s all in the eye of the beholder,” because when I watched Feldman’s video (and I first saw it probably a year ago), I had a completely different impression from the one that the journalist was trying to convey. Here is the video, see for yourself:
My Breakdown of the Vid
The vid has been given English subtitles, since the last time I saw it. Therefore, my commentary is perhaps not necessary. But I still wish to point out what I think are some very telling moments that draw into question Feldman’s conclusions.
0:23 seconds in – Note how people already start to hide their faces as the cameraman approaches.
0:24 seconds in – Our first pair of interlocutors. From left to right (from camera’s POV) let’s call them A and B. These two ladies are relaxing and enjoying a bottle of rum-cola. Hey, after everything they have been through, they deserve it, in my opinion. B quickly fixes her hair, a coquettish reflex, as Tolstoy might say, as the cameraman approaches. Barely has Feldman uttered the words “allegedly killed a child” when both ladies shake their heads vigorously. Almost as if they knew exactly what he was talking about before he even finished his sentence. B goes on a rant against the Separatists who refused to feed them (the ordinary people) and who “just left, just like that.” She praises the Ukrainian government who brought all good things with them – food and cars, and paid the pensions. Everything is fine now, everything is okay.
1:32 minutes in – Next group: A man and a woman. They don’t want to talk to Feldman. The woman even covers her face from the camera. Feldman moves on.
1:39 minutes in – Some guy. He also doesn’t want to talk, nor show his face. Feldman moves on.
1:43 minutes in – Four elderly ladies sitting on a bench. From left to right, let’s call them A,B,C and D. To me, this is actually the scariest part of the whole video. I get scared when I look into the eyes of Lady C (the one wearing the scarf). Feldman leads with his usual question about “Channel 1 reporting” the murder of a child and his mother when Ukrainian army entered the town.
2:02 minutes – Watch the face of Lady C. When Feldman mentions a murdered child, her eyes and mouth turn down in the classic expression of human sadness. For a second she abruptly twiches her head. Then settles back in her sad expression. D now takes an active part in the conversation, asking for more details. Her expression is one of alertness and curiosity. Of the four interlocutors, D seems (to me) to be the most authentic and genuine in her emotions. C glances over at her (D) as if seeking guidance.
2:15 minutes in – The ladies start murmuring denials of the type “We never heard of anything…We weren’t here, but that simply could not have happened.” C lowers her chin and shakes her head as in pondering and then denying. I think this is the type of gesture we have all used at times, when we pretend to ponder a question we were asked, and then respond with a negative. C looks around and follows the lead of the others. If I were a detective, I think I would say that “C knows more than she is letting on.” I could be wrong, though. But I still can’t get out of my head, that look of infinite sadness in the eyes of that old lady in the red scarf.
2:31 minutes in – Watch A, though. She is the one in the yellow blouse. The other three are denying, saying, “It could not have happened, we would have heard something.” But the whole time this going on, A just sits there with her arms crossed — body language experts say that is a way people use to wall themselves off — and her face looking off in the other direction. She clearly doesn’t want to have anything to do with this.
2:38 minutes in – Feldman insistently flogs the concept of “Channel 1”. Channel 1 is his bête noire. Did Channel 1 used to operate here in Slavyansk? Did they have TV crews here in Slavyansk? The ladies laugh — “We had no electricity”. “No, no,” Feldman races on, “I mean the TV journalists.” Feldman is obviously trying to tease something out of the ladies, something he can use against his enemy, Channel 1. But they simply don’t “get” what he is after. “We live in darkness. We know nothing.”
3:03 minutes in – The next group of 4. They refuse to talk to Feldman. The woman on the right even places a pillow over her own face. Feldman moves on.
3:32 minutes in – This part of the video is very curious. We were told that only elderly people and women remain in Slavyansk. All the menfolk were either Separatists, who fled; or were drafted into the Ukrainian army. Yet here we see an army-age “young buck”, accompanied by some very tough looking women. The women don’t react with horror to the supposition that a child and his mother were murdered here on the day the Ukrainian army entered the city, they just calmly deny it, while flicking their cigarette butts to the ground. The man adds: “I was here that day, everything was all right.”
4:09 minutes in – Two ladies, A (blue blouse) and B (white blouse). This segment is extremely important, in my opinion. “A” is the chattiest interlocutor of them all, she provides a wealth of information, and in her chattiness I think that she inadvertently gives away some important clues. She starts by recounting the story of the Ukrainian army entering and “liberating” the town, around 1:00 PM. Hearing the news, she went out onto the square around 2:00 PM. She asserts that 12 people gathered on the square: 11 women and one man. Is this the same “gathering” that Galina Pyshnyak reported on?
5:00 minutes in – While “Blue Blouse” is telling her story, note the people on the other side of the bench, hiding their faces as the camera pans to them. “Blue Blouse” mentions that the people coming out onto the square to greet the Ukrainian army, were asked to check their bags and packages. This clue is important, I think, because it is an answer to those who say, “If Galina Pyshnyak was telling the truth, then somebody would have captured the atrocity on their cellphone camera.”
5:20 minutes in – “Blue Blouse” insistently pronounces the word “children’s playground” (“detskaya ploshchadka”) while pointing to that part of the square where she says the Ukrainian soldiers were resting “on their haunches”. Her voice rises, this part of the story seems to be very important to her. Is this a clue, or just a matter-of-fact embellishing of an otherwise banal story? I don’t know.
5:28 minutes in – “A man came up to us, he was a (government) Minister…” Feldman confirms that she is talking about Colonel Heletei. “Blue Blouse” had a chance to meet and talk with Colonel Heletei, and he assured her that the problems of the local inhabitants were known to him, and would be fixed. “You will have electricity. You will have water. You will get your pensions.”
6:35 minutes in – “There is just one thing, though…” “Blue Blouse” interrupts her own positive narrative of the “liberation” to mention something negative – the arrest of the local policemen, how they were loaded onto trucks with their hands tied behind their backs. “Blue Blouse” interceded on behalf of the policemen – they have nothing to do with the Separatists.
6:49 minutes in – Just to her left, a man in a striped shirt sits down next to her on the bench. He starts to intently listen in. “Blue Blouse” burbles on, a very confusing story about a policeman named Igor. Here is my translation, which is slightly different from the subtitles; either way her story is so convoluted that it is difficult to establish the players and the relationships: Who are the parents, who is the “boy” (Russian “malchik” – a young boy from age, say 3 through 15, after which he would be a “paren” – a “lad”):
“In our building (“dom” – could be a private house or an apartment building) “live the parents of a boy (“malchik”), who also lives in our building. And he (the man?) came to live with (his parents?) because he had sent his own family away out of the city… [?]
7:12 minutes in – The man in the striped shirt makes direct eye contact with the camera. “Blue Blouse” burbles on: “And he spent the night there and lived there. A policeman lived there (as well?), his name was Igor…”
7:23 minutes in – “Blue Blouse” almost gulps, she seems to be struggling to say something. Tries to continue with her story about this policeman, Igor….. Feldman either loses interest or is intimidated by “Striped Shirt”. He moves on to the next group.
7:38 minutes in – the final grouping. Three ladies (A,B,C). The rumor is nonsense, C asserts. The Ukrainian army entered the town peacefully. God knows, they killed enough people before, and destroyed so many houses…. But by the time they entered the city, the violence was over. They didn’t beat anyone up. On the contrary, they came like “Angel-Liberators”. “A” rubs her head sadly, while “B” just stares straight ahead with empty eyes. Feldman turns to “B” and asks her directly if she saw anything. She says that she saw nothing. But her response is not as fervent and does not seem as sincere as her friend’s.
8:42 minutes in – like “Blue Blouse”, “C” in her chattiness starts spilling some extra beans — about the dead bodies found in the lake. Things like that.
And with that, the video ends, and I end this post. Tomorrow I will have some conclusions and later developments in the Galina Pyshnyak story.
[to be continued]