The West sets a disturbing new precedent over murdered Russian military blogger


Read Time: 4 minutes

The lack of condemnation of the St. Petersburg blast hints that sometimes terrorism is considered acceptable

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist, and host of independently produced talk-shows in French and English.

Apparently terrorism and murdering reporters get a free pass if the Western establishment doesn’t like the target’s profile – or if the perpetrator risks being linked to an ally. 

The radio silence from the West is deafening in the wake of the murder of military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky at a cafe in St. Petersburg. Tatarsky was killed after being handed a statue by a young woman, Darya Trepova, that subsequently blew up the entire venue.

For all of the Western officials’ differences with Russia, can they really not at least bring themselves to condemn a blatant act of terrorism in the middle of a major city center? We’re talking here about the same folks who spent two decades kicking down doors around the world under the guise of fighting a “Global War on Terrorism.”

Just a few years ago, cartoonists and writers for the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were gunned down in broad daylight at their Paris office by jihadists who objected to the publication’s portrayal of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Western leaders roundly condemned that terrorist act, standing firmly on the principle that you couldn’t just go around murdering people who conveyed thoughts and views that you didn’t like. Many of these leaders even traveled to Paris to march alongside a massive crowd in defense of freedom of expression and the press. 

Now, however, they can’t even bother to muster the most meager defense of the same principles in the wake of Tatarsky’s murder in an attack that investigators claim is linked to Ukraine. 

It seems that whenever there’s any alleged involvement of Ukraine, the West conveniently turns a blind eye. The automobile explosion that killed Russian journalist and activist, Darya Dugina, near Moscow comes to mind. “American officials said they were not aware of the plan ahead of time for the attack that killed Daria Dugina and that they had admonished Ukraine over it,” reported the New York Times last October. Similarly, the Washington Post reported this week that the “unwritten rule” among Western officials is “don’t talk about Nord Stream” – the pipeline network carrying gas from Russia to Europe that was mysteriously blown up last year – since they “would rather not have to deal with the possibility that Ukraine or its allies were involved.” 

Then there is the “Mirotvorets” list of journalists and activists maintained by Kiev-based NGO, the Mirotvorets Center, which names people “whose actions have signs of crimes against the national security of Ukraine, peace, human security, and the international law.” It has yet to either be shut down by the Ukrainian government or denounced by Western allies, despite a 2017 United Nations report on human rights in Ukraine urging Ukrainian authorities to address it. 

Acts of terrorism and affronts to free speech are clearly in the eye of the Western beholder, which would explain why much of the media rhetoric focuses on Tatarsky’s pro-Russia stance. The void left by the lack of official reaction from Western officials is being filled with Western press articles focusing on the Ukrainian-born blogger’s prior involvement with Russian-backed separatist forces in 2014 in the Donbass. There, he got his start in covering events through his Telegram channel, which grew to become wildly popular, with CNN noting his “ardent pro-war commentary.” But if prior military experience of some kind, and taking sides in one’s coverage of armed conflict, was justification for murdering journalists, then every Western veteran who started a blog, and every opinion journalist, would be fair game. 

There was no shortage of Western outrage over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul a few years ago, despite his longstanding activism against the Saudi leadership. Why should the death of this Russian blogger be treated any differently? 

Bulgarian investigative journalist, Cristo Grozev, who was heavily featured in the Academy Award-winning feature documentary film about Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, apparently thinks that some people are just “legitimate targets”  for terrorism, and argues that the cafe may not have been a “purely civilian location.” Although it was previously owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russian private military enterprise, Wagner Group, that doesn’t magically transform a dining establishment, which welcomes anyone right off the street in the middle of a major city, into some kind of a military base. If an American general walks into the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City, Virginia, it doesn’t suddenly turn the hotel or its bar into a legitimate military target for bombing by some entity that has a score to settle with Washington. 

And what about every journalist who has been embedded as the guest of Western troops in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan and has promoted the talking points of their hosts while siding with their own country? Are they fair game for picking off now, too?

The prominent Washington Institute for the Study of War think tank, whose board members include American generals Jack Keane and David Petraeus, as well as Washington’s former ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, previously and routinely qualified Tatarsky as a prominent Russian military blogger whose work they apparently considered worthy of informing their research. 

It seems like there’s an effort underway by some members of the Western establishment to reframe this egregious act of terrorism and murder as something trivial, all because the target was a Russian whose views they don’t like – and that’s an awfully slippery slope.


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