The twin explosions in Volgograd [Global Voices report], which killed dozens of people in late December 2013, still remain an important topic of conversation on the RuNet. Out of the multitude of opinion, analysis, and commentary, one polemic is particularly interesting — an online argument between two popular bloggers, the anti-establishment journalist Alexey Kungurov and the anonymous special forces commando operating in Ingushetia, hardingush [Global Voices report].
After the first December blast in the Volgograd train station, Kungurov, who boasts 11,000 followers on LiveJournal and is ranked 66th in LiveJournal's blogger rankings, made a provocative statement in a blog post [ru]:
В очередной раз говорю очевидное: никакого теракта в Волгограде не было.
I will once again say something obvious: there was no terrorist attack in Volgograd.
Kungurov's logic is, according to him, straightforward. The Russian criminal code defines an act of terror as “An explosion, arson, or other actions aimed at intimidating the population, harming humans, or property [...], with the goal of influencing decisions made by the authorities or international organizations [...].” Since the parties responsible for the Volgograd bombs did not make any demands of the authorities, since there were no threats or attempts to influence anyone, since no one took responsibility for the attacks, and since no one appears to be using them as a way of promoting their ideology, Kungurov says, the explosions were simply:
«убийство двух или более лиц, совершенное общественно опасным способом» (ч.2 ст. 105 УК РФ). Квалифицирующего признака теракта в упор не вижу.
“a murder of two or more persons, perpetrated by publicly dangerous means” (Part 2, Article 105, Russian Criminal Code). I point-blank don't see any qualifying signs of terrorism.
Kungurov could be suspected of being facetious — the concept of an “act of terror” is near universal, i.e. most people would agree that blowing up a train station and killing dozens of people isn't simply “murder,” regardless of demands made or not made by the perpetrators, or how terror is defined in criminal codes. He goes further, however, claiming that all suicide bombings committed in Russia are in fact done at the behest of Russian “special agencies” and the siloviki, who stand to gain from an inflated security state and frightened population:
Выгоду от «теракта» при любом раскладе извлекает государство, точнее отдельные лица, государство приватизировавшие.
Under any circumstances the state stands to benefit from an act of terror, more specifically, persons who have privatized the state.
Kungurov's post made somewhat of a stir on the RuNet, making it to many of the top lists of popular posts, and gathering 2,281 comments, many of which agreed with his arguments. The response [ru] came two weeks later from a LiveJournal blog that is subtitled “Combating terrorism. A view from the inside.” The special forces commando behind the blog hardingush [ru] (13,600 followers, ranked 23rd on LiveJournal) has made a name for himself on the RuNet describing anti-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus in vivid, gory detail.
hardingush takes issue with the labeling of a terrorist attack “murder,” and with the idea that demands are necessary for a crime to be classified as “terrorism.” Interestingly, just as Kungurov, he quotes from the official definition of a terrorist act (see above). Only, he concentrates on the “intimidating the population” part. According to hardingush, it's a “mistake” to view each suicide bombing separately. In fact the terrorists are running a protracted campaign. They don't have any specific demands (which they know won't be met in any case), but they do have the aim of “frightening” the Russian voters. These voters will then say:
“Нет, нам Кавказ не нужен, давайте отделим”. Нужно быть полным кретином, чтобы требовать отделения территории от руководства страны с помощью терактов. Но можно воздействовать на население, которое возьмет да и проголосует за придурка, который пообещает отделить Кавказ.
“No, we don't need the Caucasus, lets cut it loose.” You have to be a complete moron to make separatist demands from a government using acts of terror. But you can influence the populace, which will then go and vote for the idiot that promises to cut the Caucasus loose.
Meanwhile, Kungurov has published a series [ru] of posts [ru] that call hardingush out as a government PR project and a liar, part of the machine that creates demand for “acts of terror” and keeps Russians docile. hardingush has not responded to the accusations. As the Sochi Olympics approach, and as the Russian government looks to toughen up on anti-terrorist measures [ru], such online conflicts will probably heat up. Here's hoping they will stay online.