There must have been a full moon over Moscow on 05 September because the next morning brought out the usual band of strange reports with the crash on Kutuzovsky Avenue which killed one of Vladimir Putin’s drivers.
It wasn’t long before press members were being deluged by the same cadre of conspiracy theory spinners with their questions that seem at times to be extreme manifestations of drug overdose, or perhaps mental retardation. Sadly, most of these clowns have access to internet radio shows, blogs, and YouTube channels and love to masquerade as underground journalists.
Some wanted to know if it was an attempt by the opposition to assassinate the president. Others hatched the idea that the car was being driven as a “decoy” to confuse opposition members in the Kremlin’s inner circle from knowing where Mr. Putin was at the time.
Some loudly proclaimed that it was a plot by American president Obama to kill Putin and wanted clues seeking confirmation that the CIA had been involved. Others were convinced that the Clinton campaign orchestrated the accident as payback for Russian hackers who reaped top secret info from Mrs. Clinton’s unprotected email mail servers.
Oh Lord, the display of ignorance is stunning. So, we’ll review some facts here. As usual, facts have a way of exposing empty conspiracy theories.
Fact: the Kremlin does not use decoys on busy streets. When Mr. Putin travels on city streets, all traffic is shut down and the presidential motorcade takes over the entire roadway. There are police motorcycle or patrol car escorts at the front, then several presidential cars depending on who is traveling with him, at least two or more SUVs with highly trained members of the Presidential Protective Service, and normal protocol has two ambulances following at the rear.
Fact: presidential motorcades are very unpopular in a city with such massive traffic problems, and therefore Mr. Putin’s most common form of transportation between the presidential residence at Novo-Ogaryovo (outside Moscow) and on the rare days when he comes into Moscow to the Kremlin, is a special squad of helicopters which land on the helipad inside the Kremlin territory.
Even in areas away from the centre of Moscow, as seen below, Mr. Putin prefers to travel by helicopter for short distance events.
Theory: Putin hides his schedule because he is afraid of those around him.
Fact: while there have been such incidents, those are very rare. There are times when his schedule is veiled, but not usually. On Sept 6 he was in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) to lay flowers at the grave of recently deceased Uzbek president Islam Karimov. He also met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain at the Kremlin, and conducted a meeting in the Kremlin’s St Catherine Hall with leaders of his United Russia party regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections.
In the days before, he had attended the G20 summit in China. His schedule was widely known and there would have been no need to send out a car as a “decoy” that traveled in normal lanes with a single occupant in daytime traffic. Had someone planned a “hit” as the theory goes, they would have known in advance to come to the Kremlin, not send a car to hit a lone driver traveling in a standard lane on a busy avenue.
Fact: such a “hit” would have to be highly coordinated with informants and spotters assisting the driver of a hit car. But again, Mr. Putin does not travel on busy streets in a car without multiple advance and rear escorts.
For what it is worth, the car involved in the crash is registered to the Federation Council, the upper house (Senate) of parliament. It was not registered to the presidential administration of which there are hundreds, over 700 in number, of official cars. It was not traveling in the centre lane that is reserved for government officials, nor was the car carrying the required flashing blue light had it been on official business.
The CCTV video accounts of the accident show that things happened so fast that it is difficult to tell many of the accident details leading up to the crash. But, attempts to label it as a CIA attempt or some other plot to take out the Russian president are just stunningly ignorant.