Meduza: Kadyrov and the “party of war” attacked Peskov for “not being patriotic enough” about the invasion of Ukraine. What will happen to Putin's press secretary?
This is a fascinating read from Meduza media outlet. I am reposting the article in English.
07:54, April 14, 2022
In early April, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, the secretary of the United Russia general council, Andrey Turchak, and several other people who support the Kremlin aggressively criticized the presidential press secretary, Dmitry Peskov. In their opinion, Peskov spoke several times “not patriotically enough” on topics related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meduza Special Correspondent Andrey Pertsev talked about what is happening with his sources close to the Kremlin, and tells what is behind this - and whether Peskov could lose his position as Putin's press secretary.
During the First World War in Petrograd, there were different points of view on what was happening on the fronts. One of the most popular and destructive "memes" of those years by a prominent politician [leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party Pavel] Milyukov: "Is this stupidity or betrayal?"
The results of these "memes" and political discord in power led everyone to know what: a destroyed country, millions of victims and occupation, a lost war, and the beginning of a civil war. At such a time as now, every word of a public person from power is a weapon more terrible than "Caliber"!
I propose to take the “Moscow tribunes” without fail to the Donbas, to show civilians and our fighters, so that they listen directly, for enlightenment.
Such a post appeared on April 8 in the telegram channel of the Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Andrei Turchak (spelling and punctuation preserved). The hint about which “Moscow tribune” should be taken to Donbass was unmistakable. Before referring to Milyukov, Turchak quoted Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who, in an interview with Sky News on April 7, acknowledged "significant losses" of the Russian army in Ukraine - and announced Russia's readiness for negotiations.
A few days earlier, Peskov, in another interview with the Belarus-1 TV channel, spoke about TV presenter Ivan Urgant. On the first day of the invasion, he opposed the war, after which he left Russia. The Evening Urgant program has not been broadcast on Channel One since the beginning of the war.
“I know Urgant very well, he is a great patriot. He may have his own point of view, he, however, does not have the right to take it out on Channel One, but he did not do this. No need to slander people, no need. We also have such hawks who believe that everyone needs to go straight to the nail and so on, ” Peskov said .
One of the "hawks" immediately reacted: the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, published a post on his telegram channel in which he criticized both Urgant and Peskov. The first - for insufficient patriotism; the second - for the fact that he did not comment on the assignment of the rank of lieutenant general to Kadyrov. The head of Chechnya wrote :
It was possible to somehow cheer up or somehow comment more delicately, and not this is your “I didn’t see the decree”. On the other hand, a coward who allegedly fled at a moment of instability on vacation and returned back at a moment of calm on the political stage, ostensibly from vacation, is a real patriot. Strange all-??? thinking now. Heroes cannot be called heroes, generals are not called generals, cowardly fugitives are called patriots, and even great ones. Peskov's priority scale is somehow immature. We need to do something about it...
Turchak and Kadyrov became the most senior opponents of Vladimir Putin's press secretary. But not the only ones. Peskov was also criticized by other figures loyal to the authorities: for example, Life News founder Aram Gabrelyanov and radio host Anna Shafran. The pro-government publication Readovka (actively supporting the invasion of Ukraine) completely refused to publish Peskov's comments; the editors called for this and other "patriotic publications" (without specifying whom he had in mind).
Two sources close to the Russian presidential administration (AP) told Meduza that Peskov allegedly received anonymous calls threatening physical violence. “It was not high-ranking people who called – not Kadyrov, and certainly not Turchak. But where did the callers get Peskov’s phone from?” one of the interlocutors said. Representatives of Ramzan Kadyrov and Andrei Turchak did not respond to Meduza's questions at the time of this publication.
At the same time, four sources of Meduza — close to both the Presidential Administration and the government — assured that there was no talk of a coordinated (and sanctioned by the Kremlin) attack on Peskov. However, there is no ban on such criticism either. As Meduza previously wrote , Putin himself “would like to see a semblance of a public discussion” about the war in Ukraine. This "public discussion" implies that the President is ready to listen to those who insist on peace with Ukraine, and those who advocate the continuation of a full-scale war.
“Whoever feels the power or who is supposed to be in the image - for example, Kadyrov - he attacks [Peskov]. Turchak also chose a militant image: he travels near Mariupol, hangs Russian flags [in Ukrainian cities], ”explained one of Meduza’s sources close to the Kremlin.
According to another interlocutor close to the Presidential Administration, Kadyrov, Turchak and other opponents of Peskov understand that now it is safe to criticize those who publicly express a more cautious and relatively peaceful position: butskat.
Moreover, according to another Meduza source, many Russian “official” politicians are sure that criticism of such “pacifist” statements can help them increase their ratings, since many Russians, according to the Kremlin , are allegedly in favor of a war “to a victorious end” :
Any statements about negotiations [among supporters of the war] will have the most severe emotional reaction: what kind of negotiations can there be with “Bandera”, “Nazis”? [For example, Vladimir] Medinsky has already spoken about the negotiations - quite correctly, adequately. But then he was also publicly put in his place, he had to give additional explanations. The same case with Peskov. People [ordinary Russians] have thoughts: isn’t he a traitor? <…> The elite feel threatened and deny it.
“The [Russian] people are fighting ‘Nazis’ in their heads, and Dmitry Peskov has apparently not understood this yet,” Meduza’s source said. He argues that, in the opinion of the authorities, many Russians who support Putin - in the face of falling living standards and setbacks at the front - need "a new enemy of the people, a new Chubais." Peskov, who has long been perceived in Russia not only as a press secretary, but also as an independent figure, may well suit this role in the eyes of the "patriotic public". In addition, he himself called himself "rather a liberal."
A person from the inner circle, Dima, friend
Meduza’s interlocutors claim that all participants in the attack on Peskov understood that Vladimir Putin would not dare to publicly defend his press secretary: the issue of negotiations with Ukraine “could hit the president’s rating.”
“It’s not about the name Peskov. Someone else from the elite will speak out and get exactly the same reaction, ”one of the sources is convinced. At the same time, Meduza’s interlocutors note that there was no non-public reaction from the president either.
However, Peskov's career is unlikely to be seriously threatened. Interlocutors close to the Presidential Administration assured that Putin considers the press secretary a person from the "inner circle" and even a friend. “Putin publicly calls Peskov Dima . This is a sign of closeness and trust, few are honored with this, ”added one of the sources. At the same time, Putin has already spoken in the spirit that Peskov sometimes “brings a blizzard” - and the president does not limit him in this.
Peskov himself reacted to the latest public attacks. In response to Kadyrov's post, the spokesman said that "the competition in who is more patriotic is probably hardly necessary." The head of Chechnya ignored this.
Moreover, Peskov spoke quite harshly in response to those statements by Kadyrov that do not directly concern the press secretary himself. For example, Peskov commented on Kadyrov’s words that the head of Chechnya in Putin’s place “would have taken Ukraine a long time ago” as follows: “Like all citizens of Russia, Kadyrov can nominate a candidate for the next presidential election. <...> But in general, I want to remind you that the head of state formulates the foundations of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, and, to our general joy, the head of our state, which includes the Chechen Republic, is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
A source close to Peskov told Meduza that the spokesman “can afford” such a skirmish with Kadyrov:
It is obvious that Peskov, as one who enters where the people attacking him do not enter, understands and knows that all this [war] will end with diplomatic negotiations and the conclusion of an agreement one way or another with Ukraine - and ultimately with the “collective West”. The attackers, on the other hand, live in the present moment, they are not allowed to discuss. The excitement and courage seems to them the right decision.
Dmitry Peskov has not responded to Meduza's questions at the time of this story's publication. An interlocutor close to the presidential administration noted that what is happening is unlikely to affect Putin’s personal attitude towards the press secretary: “Putin is used to a comfortable environment that has not changed for a long time, predictably. The power of habit at 70 means a lot.”