Cure for Imperial Kleptomania: A Digest of Russian Propaganda of July 5

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Moscow calls the confiscation of its assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine “theft” and tries to teach Ukraine — and Sweden — about history. The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security has collected the main fakes and narratives of the Russian propaganda of July 5.

  1. Western “theft” and Russian “nationalization”
  2. Putin has taken his “cash cow” to the slaughterhouse
  3. The end of “Space Odyssey”
  4. Medinsky, Charles XII and Zaporizhia Sich

Western “theft” and Russian “nationalization”

The subject for payback for Russian aggression was broadly discussed again after PM Denys Shmyhal said that “the plan of Ukraine’s restoration is currently estimated at $750 billion, and the main source of this recovery should be Russia’s seized assets.”

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss and head of the European Council Charles Michel have already declared their support for this idea. The US Department of Justice also intends to transfer the assets seized from the Russians to Ukraine. Now, the international group that works on tracing Russian sanctioned assets has blocked over $30 billion’s worth. This information is available on the website of the US Treasury.

Moscow responded to these intentions — not even actions yet — about as well as could be expected.

Russian TV viewers hear that “Ukraine will have serious consequences in case of blatant theft of Russia’s assets.”

IN REALITY, of course, they don’t call what Russia has been doing in Ukraine since 2014 “theft.” In Russian propagandist terminology, this is referred to as “nationalization.”

For example, Ukraine lost $135 billion from the “nationalization” of Crimea alone. Since 2014, the majority of Crimean assets, both state and private, have become inaccessible to Ukraine. Some of them were “nationalized,” and later, of course, privatized, or changed ownership in some other manner.

Russia “nationalized” Crimean gas, oil, limestone, agricultural land for over $55 billion. From the beginning of the occupation until July 2022, Russia “nationalized” more than 13 billion cubic meters of Ukrainian gas.

At the end of 2014, the National Bank of Ukraine estimated the losses of Ukraine’s banking system from the occupation of Crimea at UAH 22 billion. Oschadbank and PrivatBank lost the most. One of its then-owners, Kolomoiskyi, estimated the losses of Privat group at $2 billion.

Even before February 24, 2022, just the Ukrainian financial and industrial group SKM lost 18 energy, mining and steelwork enterprises, including Donetsk Yenakiivskyi metallurgical plant and Khartsyz pipe plant.

The consequences of Russia’s “state looting”, which only became more prominent after the full-scale war started, is best reflected in the following numbers.

As of July 5, the total losses of Ukraine’s economy — both direct and indirect (drop in GDP, suspension of investments, outflow of labour force, social support) — are estimated from $564 to 600 billion. Documented damage to residential and non-residential real estate and other infrastructure amounts to more than $95.2 billion. This is evidenced by the analytical data from the official website prepared before the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, which was held on July 4–5. That was where Denys Shmyhal spoke about $750 billion.

Taking into account the occupied Crimea and the subsequent daily losses that Ukraine is experiencing, the amount is actually underestimated. And this does not include pain and suffering or individual lawsuits. 

And while Russia keeps calling the freezing of its assets “blatant theft,” while its own actions in Ukraine “nationalization,” this figure will keep growing. Calling a spade a spade would actually be the first step towards curing imperial kleptomania.

By the way, in this regard, Russia is very lucky with the West and its almost religious attitude towards other people’s private or state property. That is why they are looking for “mechanisms” on how to do it better from a legal point of view. The Russian raiders, led by Putin, would have long since “legally” grabbed everything and appointed their watchers.

Putin has taken his “cash cow” to the slaughterhouse

Psychologists explain what is happening in Putin’s head as remnants of the “tumultuous ‘90s,” when you would “serve problems” and “get rid of people.”

One of Putin’s main money bags called Gazprom is now in the process of committing suicide. And this has become quite literal.

On July 5, we learned about the death of the fourth high-ranking manager of the corporation since the beginning of the year.

The body of Yuri Voronov, CEO of the Astra Shipping transport company, which worked on as Gazprom’s Arctic contractor, was discovered in the private residence Morskiye Terassy near the Gulf of Finland. The body was discovered in a pool, with a bullet wound through his head.

Before that, the bodies of Leonid Shulman, the head of the transport service of Gazprom Invest, and Aleksandr Tyulyakov, the deputy CEO of the United Settlement Center, were found in the Leningrad oblast. In April, the bodies of Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprombank, his wife and daughter were discovered in a Moscow apartment.

IN REALITY, there is not a single person in Russia who would publicly ask why the “national pride of Russia” has turned into a “suicide squad.” They know what’s going on.

Gas was the first thing that Putin threw into the furnace of his forcible capture of Ukraine. Much has already been said about the consequences of this decision for Russia’s primary industry, and much more can be said.

Here is something recent. Russia will need at least 10 years to develop the supply of gas to Asian markets at the level even similar to last year’s volume of pipeline gas export to the EU, according to analysts. Sanctions targeting the development of the Russian gas industry will lead to a drop in the mining of gas in Russia by 480 billion cubic meters over three years compared to previous estimates. If we consider it alongside the decision to raise taxes for “Gazprom,” which will result in an extra payment of almost 1.25 trillion roubles from the corporation to the state budget, and you will clearly see how Putin is basically taking one of his cash cows to the slaughterhouse.

The End of “Space Odyssey”

The way the Russian economy is literally bursting at the seams merits a separate text, because not everyone believes (not even everyone in Ukraine) that the sanctions are working.

You can write about the hybrid emergency transition of all Russian enterprises to military economy, about the sequestration of the budget, about uniting the Russian Reserve Fund with “Putin’s savings” (the National Welfare Foundation), about the reduction of social payments, and many other things. Against this background, the actual death of the Russian automobile industry or a plane crash look like a mere decoration for the destruction of the Russian economy.

Until recently, only space remained untouchable. It had to be preserved for ritualistic and propaganda purposes. If anything, to have Russian cosmonauts who are currently on the orbit wave the “LPR” flag.

One of the most recent comments of Rogozin (head of Roscosmos) was about the holding Information Satellite Systems. He reflected on the prospects of doubling the Russian orbital group and the problematic issues of microelectronics production.

The two issues put together sound mostly ridiculous.

The post of the chief Russian cosmonaut sounds Bolshevik-inspired and at the same time alarming.

IN REALITY, Putin’s war hurt not only Gazprom, but also Roscosmos. Its budget is getting a 21.4 billion-rouble cut. Or — $1.5 billion. If we compare it to other global space agencies, it is:

  • 15 times less than NASA (USA)
  • 7.3 times less than CNSA (China)
  • 4.9 times less than ESA (European Union)
  • 2.2 times less than CNES (France)
  • 1.3 times less than ISRO (India) and ASI (Italy)
  • 1.2 times less than JAXA (Japan)

Considering that Rogozin couldn’t make anything fly even with previously allocated insane funds, he can hardly be expected to succeed now. So the only thing left for him to do is to bark up Elon Musk on social media and prove his love for Putin by hating on Ukraine. But this kind of fundraising doesn’t seem to yield the same results anymore.

Medinsky, Charles XII and Zaporizhia Sich

And finally, let’s come back to the old good story. When Russia has no ideas about the future (which it doesn’t), it digs up stories from the past. From its own history and the history of neighbouring countries. And this is especially noticeable when their mental issues come to the forefront. Like kleptomania.

On July 5, Medinsky, the chairman of the Russian Historical Society, decided to teach president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy about history.

The “teachings” were about a copy of the letter by King Charles XII of 1711, brought to Ukraine by Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson.

“He is instructing the Swedish ambassador to recognize the Zaporizhia Sich as an independent state, as a subject of international law, to make sure there are no repressions from the Moscow tsar. I think it fits very well in the current political context. Back in the early 18th century, our king was impressed by the Cossack land and Cossack democracy,” said Sweden’s PM.

President Zelenskyy read out a fragment from the letter’s translated version: “To implement as quickly as possible the provision on the freedom of Ukraine and all Cossacks, to return to the entire Ukraine and to the Zaporizhia Army led by the current commander Pylyp Orlyk the long-standing freedom to own its land and its former borders, so that this people would become and independent state and would never again subject to the tsar or seek protection from him.”

And this triggered Medinsky to launch another attack of Russia’s “historic” patriotism.

IN REALITY, as a person interested in history but forced to engage in diplomacy (he is also the head of the group negotiating with Ukraine), he could tell a few more things about the times when that letter was written. You don’t need specialized education to mock that Muscovia had its own monarch at that time, while Ukraine did not.

For Peter (cosplayed by Putin), on the other hand, 1711 was not a good year. Euphoric over his victory next to Poltava, he went as far as Moldova, where Charles and Pylyp Orlyk were on a visit. And there, the Ottoman army beat the arrogant Muscovite in a true, not fake, encirclement. In what was a hopeless situation for Peter personally, credit where credit’s due: the Russian diplomacy promised the Ottoman Empire an arm and a leg to save its tsar from shameful captivity.

If Medinsky considers the communication between Charles and Pylyp Orlyk not sufficiently respectful and equal, he could also comment on the humiliating negotiations about the tribute owed by Russia to the Crimean Khanate.

Medinsky should get a refresher on his textbook before discussing Russian reparations with Ukraine in the near future. Including reparations for Crimea. History might be useful to prevent another attack of imperial kleptocracy.

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