Archive for April 28th, 2014


A slip of the tongue or a slippery tongue?

April 28, 2014

A few days ago, the “Mayor” of Slavyansk called the captured OSCE Mission monitors prisoners or war.

It prompted my immediate tweet as follows:

An interesting choice of words.  Not hostages, nor detainees.  Not suspects nor even human shields – Prisoners of war.

It would suggest either a serious lack of understanding of the consequences employing the term – or that behind the scenes sits somebody pulling the strings of a military bent that uses that terminology and that the “mayor” of Slavyansk has either noted and liked or was told to use.

Yesterday, as the Ukrainian SBU have asserted for some time, a video interview with either current or certainly ex-Russian GRU officer Igor Strelkov appeared on YouTube.

If nothing else, amongst the myriad of information and disinformation swirling around the media, it did at least confirm the Ukrainian SBU statements that Igor Strelkov was masterminding events on the ground in Slovyansk.

The reappearance of Strelkov did not get missed by The Chechen Press.  Igor Strelkov managed to garner himself something of a reputation in Chechnya when serving with the 45th Spetsnatz Regiment there.

During the aforementioned interview, Igor Strelkov states that at least one third of those actively participating in the current unrest there are indeed Russians – and considering the small number actually actively involved in the unrest in Slovyansk, without those numbers it would seem improbable that such control could be assumed on the ground.

Now of those responsible for the current uprising in Slavyansk it has to be recognised there is a very diverse make-up.  Discounting professional Russian GRU and spetsnatz on the ground – which there undoubtedly are – there are also numbers provided by the regional criminal fraternity, the religious ultra Orthodox (many of those with long beards), those being paid who would be otherwise unemployed or underemployed, and a few unpaid local patriotically challenged people too.

Considering the composition of these people it is therefore hardly surprising that some acts are clearly highly professional and others somewhat comical in their execution on the ground.

Somebody has to coordinate this mix and match small group of radical people – and it appears to be Igor Strelkov and not the self proclaimed “mayor” of Slovyansk.

The question then arises whether it was on the instruction of Strelkov that the OSCE Mission monitors were captured, or whether some overzealous less aware radicals decided it was a good idea and he then was left to deal with the aftermath?

Was it his decision thereafter to have them called prisoners of war, and thus accord them with certain rights that are probably being deprived to the dozen or so journalists, SBU officers, and randomly accused spies?

Why in particular were the OSCE Mission monitors called prisoners of war, when all others detained/kidnapped/held have not been given that specific label?

Do the radical elements and Russian backers see  international prisoners of war as likely to gain more leverage in prisoner exchanges than the other international “detainees”?

Is their negotiation worth genuinely increased because they are representatives of a formal international regional body, rather than domestic legal institutions or media outlets, or is their capture a far greater liability?

Perhaps they will be released very soon – but not before the very simple message that snoopers – international or domestic – will not be tolerated unless they are useful idiots who will advance the cause.

Was the use of “prisoners of war” a slip of the tongue or the deliberate use of a slippery tongue?  The law of unintended consequences or very deliberate consequences anticipated?

I do find it very interesting that this phrase was publicly used for the first time – and of course, any continued use has implications.


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