Russia at the peak of failed revolutions: French-Georgian parallels

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“Just on Saturday, when it became apparent that the usual French demonstration had turned into an almost revolutionary movement, Bloomberg published a truly resonating report. Referring to the data of the U.S.-based Alliance for Democracy, an organization that monitors Russian Twitter accounts promoting the Kremlin’s narratives, journalists reported more than 600 fake accounts operated by Russians, which employed hashtag #giletsjuanes – in support of the “yellow vests” movement” – according to the report of Bacho Deville for the “Guildhall”.

The most interesting part is that, according to a Washington analyst Brett Schafer, the accounts mentioned previously posted information related only to the situation in the U.S. and UK. Now they’re covering France protests, thus proving a simple fact: the Russians are trying to boost internal conflicts by translating the economic issues into a purely political plane.

It should also be noted: the main topic there is a fake report claiming French law enforcers are willing to switch to the side of protesters and go for an actual coup d’état.

Let’s recall that in the same way – and this has already been proved by a special investigation of the relevant U.S. authorities – the Russian intelligence exploited social networks to split American society on the eve of the presidential elections in 2016. Then the entire bot-farms and groups of professional trolls were working to provoke chaos in the U.S.

Then, and also now, Putin sought to isolate the United States, while today the Russian leadership faces another task – to destroy the European project by raising the  degree of radicalism and allowing the far-right to destroy the EU’s major bureaucratic institutions.

What does Moscow need to do to this end? First split the tripartite alliance – to remove Britain from Europe (to help them arrange Brexit), then shake the position of Frau Merkel and her supporters in Germany. And now goes France with Emmanuel Macron, whom Moscow loathes.

But let’s get back to Russian activities in the French territory. Besides provocateurs on Twitter system, Russian special services employed “useful idiots,” agents, and intelligence operatives working under the guise including of Russian propaganda media outlets, whose correspondents flooded France and Paris in particular.

Over the weekend, media reports span photographs of the two Frenchmen, initially uploaded on social networks, who are seen standing alongside protesters in Paris, showing off the flag of the unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

It was shortly revealed that one of the men was Fabrice Sorlin, a member of Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Front. He previously headed the organization with a telling name, “France – Europe – Russia Association.” He also lived and worked in Moscow, being the chief of the Katehon Analytical Center, whose supervisory board included one of the main ideologists behind the “Russian world” idea, Alexander Dugin. Another man seen holding the “DPR” flag is Xavier Moreau. He posed as an “international observer” at the latest sham “elections” in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine and earlier authored the book titled “Ukraine. Why France is deceiving itself.”

So it turns out that the Russians incited the French, already heated up by protests, intending to push them into the flames of uncontrolled chaos.

At the very beginning of the mass rally, when it was exclusively about the reluctance of the French people to donate more funds to the treasury and overpay for fuel, and when the demonstrations took place exclusively in neutral territories, Marine Le Pen – Putin’s close associate – called on the crowd to go rally outside Macron’s residence, the Elysian Palace. And now we’re seeing how near that very palace, Russian “useful idiots” or not just “idiots” with French passports fly the “DPR” flag…

French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, said the head of the National Front was responsible for the riots. All he had to do was add to her name those of the Russian leaders.

All these barricades set up in Paris streets, as well as clashes with law enforcers emerging against the backdrop of an initially peaceful protest with economic requirements look like a plotted act involving physically trained males. Many of them, sporting face masks are obviously no ordinary protesters but rather militants, perhaps event trained in Russian special training centers.

When Russian intelligence, with the help of these very radicals raising the flag of the “Russian world”, tried to show that Moscow had nothing to do with this, they didn’t take into account that such a step would fail. However, the actors themselves turned out to be amateurs and simply set up their “bosses.”

Now that the French authorities realized that it’s Russian forces that have been heating up the protests from within, they started to actually wake up. Reports have already come that the French National Security and Defense Council has launched its own investigation into the interference of a foreign state in the internal affairs of the Republic.

Of course, the Russians will try to avoid accusations.

Propaganda outlets are already whitewashing the Kremlin, claiming non-interference in French politics. But everyone knows that Moscow is lying, yet again. The only pleasing thing to realize is that once this nightmare is over, Russia will face new sanctions. It seems, Russians haven’t quite got the point that Macron doesn’t care too much about his ratings.

By the way, the failed “uprising” in France is not the first failed coup d’état that Russian intelligence tried to organize over the last few weeks. A similar situation could have arose in Georgia a week ago had it not been for a swift reaction on the part of Georgian security forces who never allowed any bloody provocations in the first place.

Useful “actor” in aggressor’s service

On December 4, the Tbilisi City Court ruled to remand in custody the six Ukrainian nationals and one local man, who had previously served in the Ukrainian volunteer battalion “Donbas.” The group is suspected of the illegal acquisition of weapons, which, possibly, should was supposed to be used in plotted armed provocations during a Georgian opposition rally.

During the searches in hotel rooms where the men stayed, law enforcers found Beretta and Makarov handguns, as well as automatic firearms and ammunition, as well as explosive devices.

Initially, media reports claimed that Georgian security operatives detained seven Ukrainian nationals, including MP Semen Semenchenko. Later, various sources reported that, protected with his diplomatic passport, the legislator managed to avoid prosecution.

Among the detainees there is Oleksandr Novikov, aka “Hammer,” who is also suspected of armed robberies, assault, and theft of a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Another suspect is Luka Chkhetiya, who is under investigation in Ukraine for injuring a police officer. The man was bailed out by MPs Semen Semenchenko, Volodymyr Parasyuk, and Yehor Sobolev.

It is worth recalling that Parasyuk and Semenchenko btoth tried to take helm of the power wing at the failed “Saakashvili Maidan” effort. Both are veterans of the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Donbas. It was Parasyuk, as well as Semenchenko and his people who tried during the first marches organized by Mikhail Saakashvili to penetrate police cordons outside Ukraine’s Parliament.

“Volunteers, guys, don’t be idle. Now, outside the Verkhovna Rada, your brothers-in-arms from Donbas, Aidar [battalions], from the Armed Forces, from police battalions not only repel the attacks of special forces, they form a new volunteer army for the liberation of Ukraine,” Semenchenko said, speaking from a DUI rostrum at the rally, which marked the crescendo of the march in support of Saakashvili.

Roland Melia is wanted for a number of crimes, including illegal possession of weapons intended for the Saakashvili Maidan, and assaulting a police officer.

Ihor Orlenko, aka Sobol. He claims he “fought” in the ranks of the Donbas volunteer battalion. In fact, he only once participated in the hostilities near Debaltseve, where he suffered a contusion. Throughout the spring of 2015, while battles were raging for Shyrokyne, he served in the “commandant” company, which first seized from its owners and then guarded the Svitlana resort facility in Melekino. He then he joined Semenchenko’s security firm, which is engaged in raiding, and partook in all of Semenchenko’s dirty dealings.

Another three detainees are Yuriy Korostylev, Serhiy Kladko, and Dmytro Kurahin.

Some sources also mention that the law enforcers detained an eight group member, Tenguz Tetruashvili, who is a former KGB officer with direct ties with ex-minister of state security of Georgia, Igor Giorgadze.

Incidentally, according to the documents published recently, it’s not the first time that Semenchenko travels outside Ukraine using a diplomatic passport to justify his activities abroad. The range of countries he has been choosing is interesting, too: Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan… These are all states where the internal situation is often extremely unstable.

Considering recent events, some might assume that MP Semenchenko, taking advantage of his position of the deputy head of the Rada’s security and defense committee, has been acting in the interests of another state, perhaps Russia. Meanwhile, the diplomatic passport, just like his patriotic rhetoric on camera in Ukraine, is just something he needs to cover his activity.

If these assumptions turn out to be true, we’re seeing here an extremely valuable Kremlin asset with access to state secrets.

It’s worth recalling that, having physically abandoned his “brothers-in-arms,” Semenchenko stated that they had come to Georgia with a single purpose of visiting their former comrades they met on the frontline. He also claimed he had nothing to do with the incident and that he and his wife stayed in another hotel and only later learned from their friends about what had happened.

This story could have been more convincing, had it not been for one circumstance – namely, the Georgian presidential election, as well as the rallies, which coincided with the arrival of Semenchenko and his team in Tbilisi. It so happened that the opposition candidate, Gregor Vashadze, was defeated, and the new head of state became Salome Zurabishvili. Moreover, Vashadze is not just an opposition party leader, he is the former foreign minister at the time of Saakashvili rule, being the protégé of the former Georgian president and his political force.

On the day Ukrainians were detained, thousands of Georgians took to Tbilisi streets, rallying against the results of the vote. It is clear that their number was insufficient to expect any positive result of their protest. This result could only be provided by a provocation involving bloodshed.

The shooting of protesters in downtown Tbilisi would have prompted the remaining, dissenting or neutral-minded, citizens to join the resistance. Besides, considering that pro-government forces rallied just blocks away from the opposition, and at the same time, violent clashes would have become inevitable.

It is clear that this could have led to revolutionary consequences. And, given that Semenchenko and his team had more than once participated in protests outside Ukrainian parliament and are well prepared to set up sabotage and provocations, it can be assumed that those suggesting that the group sought to undermine Georgia security and its relations with Ukraine are most likely right. It might as well be that it was only Semenchenko who was aware of the real purpose of their Tbilisi trip, while the rest he brought with him were just oblivious “sheep for slaughter.” Semenchenko might have been using a legend to cover his future actions and plans with the “need to ensure security of opposition leaders” at Saakashvili’s request.

Ukrainian amnesia

While discussing the latest incident, many tend to forget who Semen Semenchenko actually is. This actor’s real name is Kostyantyn Hryshyn. As previously reported by Dnipro Battalion’s company commander Volodymyr Shylov, he is the one who made public the route of the advancing Ukrainian military near the town of Karlivka, which eventually led to human losses. At the time, Semenchenko remained in the rear. The incident waged a split in the ranks of the Donbas Battalion, which the MP had previously headed.

Semenchenko was also the one organizing a so-called “trade blockade of Donbas” action, which contributed to the alienation by Russia of Ukrainian property in the occupied territories. This way, Semenchenko and his team helped fill the Russian budget with billions of dollars.

Another interesting episode from the life of a “playwright” Semenchenko is his participation in the so-called “Saakashvili Maidan” – protests organized by the former Georgian President and ex-Odesa governor Mikhail Saakashvili and a number of oligarchs who, as the investigation suspects, have ties with the Russian special services.

As mentioned, Semenchenko also participated in rallies outside Ukrainian parliament, where his fighters provoked the police to slam down on protesters, which would have led to public unrest, painted the picture Russia needed, and created possible shockwaves across Ukraine. In general, these are all things that could have happened in Georgia a few days ago.

The MP also helped Saakashvili to practically break through the Ukrainian border, illegally crossing in. Semenchenko and those funding him tried to show that it’s not only Ukrainian authorities who have a monopoly on force in Ukraine.

The same deputy helped the former Georgian president to escape from under detention of the Ukrainian law enforcement.

It should also be recalled that during his stay in Ukraine, Saakashvili attempted to win support of a fugitive oligarch Serhiy Kurchenko. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine later released an audio recording of an intercepted communication between the two.

Incidentally, Kurchenko himself is connected with Russia’s Federal Security Service, which has been confirmed by numerous journalistic investigations. His specific contact in the FSB is Colonel-General Sergey Beseda. Besides, Kurchenko is a business partner of Putin’s crony Viktor Medvedchuk and deals with supplies of counterfeit fuel to Ukraine).

It is important to note that, according to Vakhtang Maisaia, an ex-adviser to Georgia’s Mission to NATO, on the day of the arrival of Semenchenko’s team to Tbilisi, Viktor Medvedchuk’s plane also landed at a local airport, which is confirmed by FlightRadar data.

So far it remains unclear, and creates certain suspicions, what Medvedchuk (or his representatives) were doing in Georgia, and why the arrival of his plane coincided with that of Semenchenko and his team.

In addition, according to Georgian sources, it was on Semenchenko’s instructions that in the period from November 27 to December 1, several groups of former Donbas fighters either arrived or attempted to arrive in Georgia. Some were not allowed entry in the airport, but some managed to get into the country.

Both the detainees and those banned from entry claimed to be employees of a security firm controlled by Semenchenko’s people and had been trained in Poland by a privately-owned European Security Academy (ESA).

At the same time, according to media reports, on November 1, Saakashvili met Semenchenko at the ESA base, where he asked the MP to organize the trip to Georgia of several groups of trained fighters to do some work in late November-early December to help his political force. That is, in the period immediately after the election of the president of Georgia.

Also, there is another interesting point here. Head of the European Security Academy (ESA) is a former Polish intelligence operative Andrzej Bryl, a graduate of the Moscow State University, who once fell under the lustration in Poland.

It should also be recalled that Kostyantyn Hryshyn (aka MP Semenchenko) attended various meetings aimed at undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity and altering the country’s political structure via a military coup. It is obvious that this is something fully in line with the Kremlin’s plans on Ukraine.

For example, one such meeting was the one in the Czech Republic during the so-called “First National Ukrainian Congress” session, organized by a former convict Ruslan Tashbaev, the man also associated with Russian special services.

Incidentally, he was the one who tried to organize the so-called Maidan 3.0 in Ukraine, having toured more than one region with the aim of direct agitation to sabotage.

So Semenchenko participated in Tashbayev’s events more than once. Even Mikhail Saakashvili attended the latest of them, however, his visit was secret. He just had a quiet dinner with the organizer at the Krystal Hotel.

And now let’s take a closer look at the Georgia incident. The Saakashvili Party’s candidate loses the battle for presidency. Saakashvili is thus being deprived of the opportunity to be pardoned – it should be reminded that a criminal case has been launched against him in Georgia. For the opposition, there is only one path left – to destabilize the country and push for early parliamentary elections or cancel the outcome of the presidential vote. Again, the best scenario is chaos. This way, Russia would once again destabilize the Caucasian country and spoil Tbilisi-Kyiv relations.

Who is best suited for this kind of provocation? It’s the already tested Russian actor, Semen Semenchenko.

So what does this all boil down to?

Georgia successfully prevented provocations plotted by Russians, who wanted the dirty work to be done by someone else, only to further accuse both Ukraine and the West. Now the situation in the country is stabilizing.

The most remarkable thing is the Russian media coverage, directly identical to the one we are witnessing in connection with the French developments.

The propagandists are trying to whitewash their intelligence agencies, claiming that some Americans had “trained Ukrainians at NATO bases in Poland to further organize a coup in Georgia, and, consequently, to return to the country to Saakashvili.”

Especially indicative is Semenchenko’s own reaction. The legislator has chosen to remain in Georgia for the time being and doesn’t intend to return to Ukraine, while talking the talk about his version of the incident.

Of course, the situation will eventually normalize in France where the primary stage of the crisis could not be avoided. Well, it should, provided that the national leaders don’t do some blunder. The Russians will be defeated at the French “front” although they will not cease their efforts toward destroying the European project that they see disturbing to them.

The only thing missing is the united position across Europe. After all, the time for diplomacy and defensiveness against the Kremlin has long been over.

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