Ashgabat, 2 July 2013 (nCa) — It is a pity —– The Russians don’t know how to fib. They would spend considerable time and effort to manufacture a fairly plausible untruth and then spoil the whole thing by overdoing it.
They should learn the art subtle deception from Americans.
The latest example is the report by a Russian journalist that a Turkmen citizen was caught in the Aleppo city of Syria where he was fighting as a group commander on the side of Al Nusra, an Al Qaeda-affiliate group of the Syrian opposition.
Eugene Poddubnyi, a Russian journalist covering the Syrian conflict on behalf of Russia-24 (Vesti) and Russia-1, filed a report on 23 June 2013 that a presumably Turkmen citizen, Ravshan Gazakov (alias Abu Abdullah), had been captured in Aleppo by the Syrian forces. Gazakov was supposedly a leader and trainer of a suicide group of Al Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda allied faction of the Syrian opposition.
According to the report by Eugene Poddubnyi, repeatedly aired by the Russian channels on 23 June, Gazakov told that he was initially trained in the Sheikh Murad squad at a place near Ashgabat, later he was moved to Istanbul and inducted to Al Qaeda but he doesn’t know the name of the leader, and further on, he was sent to a camp near the border with Syria. He is also reported as saying that the instructors were from different countries of the former Soviet Union, Europe, and from Arab countries such as Jordan and Qatar.
The report by Poddubnyi also says that a laptop was recovered from Gazakov which contains a video of the 5-year-old son of Gazakov being given instructions in bomb making etc.
The report adds that the laptop recovered from Gazakov also contains instructions for making bombs and IEDs, lessons in chemistry, electronic detonator circuits etc. in broken Russian.
The complete report by Poddubnyi can be found here: http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1097793
Had Poddubnyi just reported that a Turkmen citizen named Ravshan Gazakov, who was leading a unit of Al Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda allied faction of the Syrian Oppositon, was captured by the Syrian forces in Aleppo on 22 June, there were good chances that everyone would have believed his story.
However, in a typical Russian style, he went for the overkill and in doing so created big holes in his own story.
Consider the following:
- As to why someone called Sheikh Murad – assuming that there is someone called Sheikh Murad – base his squad near Ashgabat, a location that will put him at very high risk of being caught and brought to justice?
- Why would the man of Al-Qaeda in Istanbul – if there was a man of Al-Qaeda in Istanbul as per this story – remain nameless? The universal practice among such organizations is that if the real name is not disclosed, they go by an alias, generally Abu-something or Ibn-something. Why doesn’t Gazakov know even the alias or assumed name of the Al Qaeda man in Istanbul?
- Why would Gazakov keep his notes on his computer in broken Russian? If we are to believe that he was the head of a suicide squad, he must be a man of above-average intelligence and leadership qualities. To believe that such a man will not be fluent in any language at all stretches the borders of credulity to the breaking point. If he is a Turkmen, he must be fluent in the Turkmen language. Why didn’t he keep his notes in the Turkmen language? It would have been better from the point of view of his secrecy concerns because not many people outside Turkmenistan can read and understand the Turkmen language in the Latin alphabet.
- Why would Gazakov carry his 5-year-old son with him? Carrying a small child to the battlefield is absolutely unheard of.
Let’s look at the report of Eugene Poddubnyi from a slightly different angle.
Eugene Poddubnyi is a good journalist but he gets overwhelmed by his towering sense of patriotism. That is simultaneously his strong and weak point.
During the South Ossetia conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008, he refused to move from the frontline and kept reporting amidst the heat of the battle. His reports, filed on nearly real time basis, were high on patriotism and low on objectivity. However, this made him a darling of the Russian authorities and the Ossetians. He is the only journalist who has received medals from both the Russian government and the South Ossetian administration:
Russian – Medal of the Order “For Services to the Fatherland” II degree
South Ossetian – Order of Friendship of the Republic of South Ossetia
The acceptance of these medals does not add to his credibility; it subtracts a bit from his ability to remain objective.
The mention of some mythical Sheikh Murad squad in the vicinity of Ashgabat is the product of a poor imagination. The other details in his report also don’t add up.
When the journalists introduce a particular slant to their reporting, it is not always easy to identify their motive. However, by looking again at the Poddubnyi report, we can discern at least the following reasons:
- The battle for Aleppo is in its decisive phase. Within a few days, if Aleppo falls it would mean the swift roll back of the Syrian opposition. Russia wants to use every opportunity to cement the impression, mostly correct but in this case artificial, that the Syrian opposition has very significant elements of Al-Qaeda.
- Russian wants to prod the Central Asian governments to support its point of view at the international platforms that Assad should not be removed by power and when the negotiations take place, the government side should be led by Assad or his nominee.
- Russia wants to stoke the fear that the Islamic extremism is a threat much closer to home in Central Asia and they would be well advised to seek military assistance and cooperation from Russia, something that Russia is trying to do anyway in its post-2014 scenario.
- Russia wants the Turkmen government to crack down on its own people in a fit of panic, expecting to benefit from the rift that will thus ensue between the government and the people.
- The official visit of Putin to Turkmenistan is planned for the near future and Russia could be preparing several pressure points from which to gain benefit in its multifarious negotiations with Turkmenistan, a country that is no longer dependent on Russia for its economic well being.