On October 25, Chechnya’s state-owned channel Grozny TV aired a report about the visit of a Palestinian delegation and its members’ meeting with the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.
After praising each other and the “brotherhood” between the Chechen and Palestinian peoples, both the host and the visitors effusively flattered Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Our President Vladimir Putin always supports the Palestinian people and the Palestinian state,” Kadyrov said. “Our elder brother, the president of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas, visited us. We are close not only as Muslim brothers, but also as friends. We understand the nature of war and of what is happening in your country, in Palestine.”
The head of the Palestinian delegation, Talal Naji, Deputy General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, responded: “We love and are proud of President Vladimir Putin, because he is a friend of Palestine and not only Palestine, but all the people who are seeking freedom. President Putin succeeded in restoring Russia’s authority in the international arena and forced all to respect Russia.”
Both of Naji’s assertions – that Putin supports “all people seeking freedom,” and that he has succeeded in restoring Russia’s authority and respect globally -- are false.
“Support” for “all people seeking freedom”
The Palestinian official praised Putin’s supposed support for freedom-seeking people, in Grozny. The capital of Chechnya, however, was bombed to ruins during two wars between the Russian military and a Chechen insurgency that began as a secessionist movement in 1994 but turned jihadist in the early 2000's, after years of brutal fighting.
Ironically, Ramzan Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov, first declared a jihad against the Russian state. This marked a turning point for the insurgency that eventually lead to the emergence of violent radicalism in Chechnya.
Though Grozny has been rebuilt, many Chechens say nothing has been forgotten. Anzor Maskhadov, who now lives in exile in Europe after the Russian Special Forces assassinated his father Aslan Maskhadov, who was Chechnya’s first democratically elected president, posted this photograph in Facebook:
An American scholar, expert on Russia, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East, Walter Richmond posted the same photograph on Facebook in July comparing the photo of Grozny to recent images from Syria. Russia bombed indiscriminately the city of Aleppo, which according to the U.N., may have constituted a war crime.
Russia’s “restored international authority and respect”
The following developments have taken place under President Vladimir Putin’s leadership:
According to multiple independent sources, Russia’s immediate neighbors see Moscow as unfriendly and posing a security threat rather than an ally or partner.
In the “frozen conflicts” zones in Russia’s immediate neighborhood, Moscow has been playing a dubious role, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, while officially serving as a key peacekeeping authority, Russia has sold arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In Georgia, Russia openly supports the two secessionist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including militarily.
Russia maintains a military presence in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, a scenario that is being repeated in eastern Ukraine.
Negative views and mistrust towards Russia among its neighbors increased after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and then masterminded and orchestrated a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The shooting down of the civilian airliner MH-17 over Ukraine, which international investigators have held the Russian military responsible for, despite Moscow’s denials and falsified evidence, further hurt Russia’s reputation in Europe and elsewhere.
The Eurasian Economic Union, a group Russia created as an alternative to the European Union, is falling apart.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stripped Russia of voting rights.
Russia has lost its membership in the G7, an informal global club of industrial nations.
In response to Russia’s state-orchestrated use of a military-grade chemical agent against a former Russian military intelligence agent and his daughter in Britain, dozens of countries expelled nearly 70 Russian spies posing as diplomats.
Both the EU and the U.S., and a number of other nations, have imposed sanctions against Russia for Moscow’s international actions, including interference in the political processes of other countries.
Pew Research Center polls in 2017 showed “Russia’s international image is more negative than positive,” with 34% of respondents viewing Russia “in a positive light overall” and 40% viewing it “negatively.” Of the countries surveyed in the Middle East, where the United Nations has implicated Russia in war crimes in Syria, 93% of Jordanians, 62% of Turks and 61% of Israelis expressed a negative view of Russia, according to Pew. The Pew Research Center found that worldwide, a median of 60% say they lack confidence in Putin’s global leadership.
The Council on Foreign Relations' tenth annual Preventive Priorities Survey ranked Russia among its eight “top tier risks” to watch for 2018.
According to the World Bank, Russia’s economic growth remains “modest” (1.5% in 2018) despite relatively high oil prices.
Russia’s international reputation as a business partner has been tarnished by multiple corruption scandals and state-level criminal activities, including money laundering.
In Europe, Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom is the target of an antitrust investigation involving eight EU countries.
The Freedom House 2018 report ranked Russia as “not free,” calling its political system “authoritarian.”
Russia’s 2018 Freedom House ranking for Russia marks a significant drop compared even to years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thus, in 1999, the last year of pre-Putin Russia, Russia was ranked “partly free.”