Politics & Policy

Did Putin Plan the Odessa Massacre?

He has certainly exploited it.

In 1943, having murdered most of the Jewish population of the occupied portions of the Soviet Union, the Nazis launched a campaign to exterminate the Slavs as well. As part of this effort, Nazi SS units under the command of Himmler protégé Jochem Peiper (who later achieved infamy in the West as well for his massacre of captured GIs at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge) systematically rounded up Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarussian villagers, herded them into their churches, blocked the doors, and set them ablaze. Over a thousand such massacres were perpetrated, and the memory of these horrific crimes is deeply seared into the Russian psyche.

So it was easily predictable, when a similar scene was enacted in Odessa on May 2, with 42 pro-Russian activists burned to death or killed by smoke inhalation while trapped in the city’s Trade Union building, that ferocious rage and demands for revenge should break out in every part of Russia and every ethnic-Russian community in Ukraine. Indeed, in eliminating dissent and unifying Putin’s subjects into a mad herd behind his plans for war and fascism, the massacre could hardly have better served his aims and objectives if the former spymaster had planned it himself.

So the question is, did he?

To a person whose knowledge is limited to the Western political universe, the idea that Putin, or his FSB, might have knowingly arranged for the massacre of 42 Russians to gain political advantage might seem fantastical, like the conspiracy theories that blame FDR for setting up the Pacific Fleet to be sunk at Pearl Harbor or George Bush for plotting with the FBI to ensure the success of the 9/11 attack. But the FSB is nothing like a Western military-intelligence or police agency. The FSB does not exist to protect Russians. It exists to oppress them. Within the past century, the FSB and its prior incarnations under other initials (KGB, MVD, NKVD, GPU, OGPU) have murdered millions of Russians and other Soviet citizens, including many of the country’s most talented people, and particularly those most critically necessary for its actual national defense. Far from being unknown, exceptional, or even occasional, terror (along with lies, disinformation, hate campaigns, frame-ups, murder, mass murder, and genocide) has been the standard operating procedure of the FSB and its predecessors since 1917.

Furthermore, as far as Putin himself is concerned, the dictator’s willingness to employ FSB operatives in covert operations involving the murder of not dozens but hundreds of Russians to achieve political manipulation has already been demonstrated. Specifically, in 1999, when he had just stepped down as the head of the FSB and become prime minister, Putin murdered over 300 Russians by having the FSB explode a series of bombs in apartment buildings in Moscow in order to justify a new war in Chechnya and seize dictatorial powers. All known evidence indicates that the FSB was responsible for those bombings, because they stopped only when local Russian cops on the beat caught FSB agents red-handed in the act of planting explosives for the next “terrorist” attack.

Those who exposed these crimes internationally, including former FSB operative Aleksandr Litvinenko, Putin had murdered, using polonium — a radioactive element that is not commercially available except in minute quantities for scientific uses — as the poison, so that everyone would know who did it, and accordingly fear his FSB for its unlimited capacity to commit evil.

So there is no question that Putin had the motive, capability, and character to arrange for the Odessa massacre. Furthermore, he is the only one of the potential suspects to have, in addition to those characteristics, a history of prior comparable acts. The method and timing of the slaughter — coming a week before Victory Day, thereby maximizing its resonance with World War II memories — fit his needs with unique perfection, and, since then, he has been openly exploiting it for all it is worth. In combination, these facts would be enough to make Putin the prime suspect in any police investigation of the mass murder. But the evidence of premeditated culpability goes further.

Specifically, on March 9 — that is, before the March 15 Crimea referendum and subsequent annexation, and well before the early-April initiation of attacks on government buildings in Donetsk and other parts of eastern Ukraine — top Kremlin fascist ideologue and geopolitical strategist Aleksandr Dugin published the entire plan for the currently unfolding “Scenario Russian Spring” on his Russian-language Facebook page. This scenario, whose name “Russian Spring” has become a slogan carried on banners in many of the demonstrations by the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, lays out a plan for creating havoc resulting in a civil war in Ukraine and consolidation of totalitarian dictatorship in Russia. In Dugin’s scenario, this would be followed by a Russian invasion of Ukraine, with further operations leading to complete Russian domination of Europe and the subsequent creation of a Moscow-centered Eurasian Union stretching “from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

A key section reads as follows:

3. . . . In Russia itself, the regime evolves, and starts to clean out the fifth column.

4. In Novorossia [the Kremlin’s revived tsarist term for a large region of eastern and southern Ukraine], resistance increases and gradually moves to the phase of direct rebellion against the Kiev henchmen. There is a bloody civil war. Russia deploys massive effective support structure; symmetrically, the West supports Kiev. At a certain moment, in response to the sabotage in Russia and bloody actions of the nationalists and the repressive apparatus of Kiev against civilians and the east of Ukraine, Russia sends its troops into the east.

In short, all the violence currently occurring in Ukraine, including but by no means limited to the Odessa massacre, as well as the concurrent crackdown on dissent in Russia (opposition and independent media outlets are being shut down, the Voice of America has been shut down, new laws requiring citizens to spy on each other are being set forth, social media is being restricted, etc.), is clearly part of a preplanned script.

So, that being the case, how could Putin’s stage managers have put the script into effect in Odessa? It’s really rather straightforward.

It was known well in advance that there would be a pro-Ukraine march of football fans in Odessa on May 2. Accordingly, Moscow agents in Odessa put out the call for ethnic Russians to gather and confront the demonstration with one of their own. But they also sent in Russian military operatives from Crimea and Transnistria to take control of the pro-Russia crowd. When the day came, the Ukrainian marchers were about a thousand strong, while the Russians had a group of only about 200. Across Europe, football fans are notorious brawlers, and the Ukrainian marchers included a preponderance of burly young men who could be expected to fight back hard if their demonstration was assaulted. Nevertheless, despite the fact that they were outnumbered five to one, the special-forces officers controlling the pro-Russian mob chose to lead it to attack the Ukrainian parade.

As recent events have shown, the Russian special military operatives are superbly competent. Why would they launch a street fight with such inferior forces? Surely they must have known that they would be beaten into retreat? They surely did.

The street battles between opposing mobs that have been taking place in Ukraine recently bear a close resemblance to pre-modern warfare, in that the fighting is predominantly through direct physical contact and the forces involved are undisciplined. In this kind of combat, when one side retreats, the other virtually inevitably is drawn to follow. It is thus a classic stratagem in such battles for a clever commander to launch an attack with an inferior force in order to have it thrown back, thereby luring the enemy into hot-blooded pursuit, and thus into ambush. This tactic was used, for example, with great success by Hannibal at the battles of the Trebia and Lake Trasimene, and by William the Conqueror at Hastings.

The Kremlin operatives controlling the pro-Russian crowd followed these examples to the point of inciting the Ukrainians into pursuit, but instead of leading the Ukrainians into an ambush, they led their own followers into a trap. And once they had them there, in the Trade Union building surrounded by an angry Ukrainian mob, and someone started to throw Molotov cocktails down from the roof, the horrific outcome was predictable.

Who set off the fire bomb that ignited the fatal blaze? The Ukrainians say it was the Russian partisans on the roof, or on the third floor. The Russians claim the bomb was thrown into the building by someone in the mob outside. At this point it is impossible to sort these claims out, but it doesn’t matter. If the fire bomb came from inside the building, then case closed. If it came from outside, it could have easily have been tossed by an FSB provocateur planted in the crowd, as the employment of bomb-throwing agents for the purpose of discrediting opposition forces has been a standard tactic of Russian secret police since the days of the tsarist Okhrana.

This supposition is strongly supported by the fact that on April 25, seven days before the fire, the Ukrainian security service, the SBU, caught a group of Putinite terrorists led by an operative from Crimea attempting to set fire to an Odessa bank using Molotov cocktails. According to the SBU, the group had actually been commissioned by one of the Russian TV channels to create “footage,” and received financial rewards for each organized incident. 

But even if the fatal gasoline bottle was thrown by an actual Ukrainian hooligan not on the FSB payroll, the primary blame must still lie with the Kremlin stage managers. For they are the ones who planned and set up the whole bloody show — and who are exploiting it to the hilt for hate promotion and public manipulation, including by editing out inconvenient photographs that show the Ukrainians trying to rescue those trapped in the burning building.

The Russian people are fighting mad about Odessa. Across the nation, they are displaying slogans that say things like “Odessa: We will not forget. We will not forgive.”

They have a point. Those who invented, planned, and engineered the fractricidal slaughter in Ukraine should be held accountable. Let us hope that the Russians catch on in time, and bring the real fascist conspirators to justice.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy of Lakewood, Colo., and the author of Energy Victory. The paperback edition of his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was recently published by Encounter Books.


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