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Russian Officials Sanctioned Over Crimea Scoff on Twitter

Soviet statue Mother of the Motherland claims its post-referendum prize. Anonymous image found online.

Soviet statue Mother of the Motherland claims its post-referendum prize. Anonymous image found online.

In the aftermath of the March 16, 2014 Crimean referendum, in which the vote (rigged or not) was overwhelmingly for joining the Russian Federation, the White House released an executive order freezing the financial assets of seven Russian officials who are deemed responsible for threatening Ukrainian territorial integrity. The seven officials have also been banned from traveling to the United States.

Two of these officials are active on Twitter, while another has an incredibly popular Twitter doppelganger who regularly tricks media into thinking that his account is real. How did these “micro-bloggers” react to sanctions imposed against them?

One of them is Dmitriy Rogozin, a Vice-Prime Minister in the Russian government in charge of Russia's military-industrial complex, who tweets at @Rogozin. He did not seem particularly impressed, implying he has no assets that Obama's order could affect:

Comrade Obama, what should people who don't have any foreign bank accounts or property do? Did you not think of that?)

Later he tweeted:

I think some joker wrote the US President's executive order) [note: ")" is an understated smiley face -ed.]

Elena Mizulina, also targeted by the sanctions, is a Russian MP who is responsible for much of recent Russian legislation discriminating against homosexuals and also the 2012 law which famously banned US adoptions of Russian orphans. She tweets at @emizulina, and also responded on Twitter. First, like Rogozin, she claimed [ru] that neither she nor her family have any assets “beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.” She also claimed that the sanctions against her were based on her position on homosexuality and other social issues — not Crimea:

I think that I was targeted for a series of high profile laws, which touch on protecting children from information that can harm their health and development [law banning homosexual propaganda -ed.]

The States are trying to exert pressure on me, in order to make me change my opinion. My answer to my opponents – this will never happen!  

For all her claims of not being affected by the sanctions, Mizulina's tweets got progressively more strident, culminating with this rather odd pronouncement:

I view what happened as a gross violation of my rights and freedoms as a citizen and a politician.

Vladislav Surkov, formerly the grey cardinal of the Kremlin, now demoted to being in charge of Russia's Ukraine policies, is also on the White House list. While Surkov does not tweet himself, the witty person behind the fake account @SurkovRussia has over 60,000 followers, and to this day manages to fool journalists and other bloggers into thinking he is the real deal. Obviously, @SurkovRussia had a field-day with the news:

What “US properties” do I have? I remember! A year ago I forgot some socks and a Tupac CD in a Chicogo hotel. They can freeze the socks. But it's a pity about Tupac.

Vladislav Surkov is famously a fan of Tupac Shakur and other hip music. In fact, in a comment to Moskovskiy Komsomolets today, the real Surkov said [ru] that all he cares about in the States is Tupac, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock, and that he doesn't need to go to America to enjoy them.

Russian government officials weren't the only ones to scoff and sanctions that appear extremely narrow and weak — probably too weak to affect Russian foreign policy. Alexey Navalny sounded off from under house arrest:

The list of 7 people who fall under the sanctions is laughable. Obama just made our thieves and crooks laugh and reassured them.  

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