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Unable to openly help Armenia in the war against Azerbaijan, Russia began to integrate the religious factor into the conflict and recruit “Orthodox Jihadists” in Russian cities.
In recent days, more and more reports have been popping up, spun by Russian propagandists, claiming that the Azerbaijani artillery was shelling Nagorno-Karabakh’s religious sites. On October 8, however, this narrative has formed the main agenda of Karabakh conflict coverage. Almost all of such reports come from the Russian and Armenian media, where the Russian side is represented by war correspondents of outlets affiliated with the Russian defense ministry: Komsomolskaya Pravda and WarGonzo.
Much of the hybrid newsfeed on the topic of the latest hotbed of hostilities in the region news feed is filled with reports of artillery strikes on temples and, (attention!) Iranian mosques in Karabakh’s Shusha. Still, the main accent is put on the Orthodox Christian churches, allegedly targeted in Azerbaijan’s artillery and air strikes.
Speaking of facts though, to date, not a single Christian church has been destroyed in Shusha (I don’t mean damaged, but precisely destroyed), while Russian and Armenian media working in close tandem present as evidence some photos that require a detailed study as to where the shells have actually flown from, to say the least. Indeed, they seem to have damaged the roof and the wall, and shattered some windows. After all, amid intense artillery showdowns, spotting errors do occur — and I’m not talking exclusively about the Azerbaijani side (whose accuracy, by the way, has already been proven today by hundreds of videos), but also the Armenian artillery, which is far from being as accurate as their rivals’.
So what’s happening on the bridgehead of the hybrid front? We’re seeing Russia that almost always tries to exploit the religious factor in any conflict where it has certain interests. Even in Ukraine, in 2014, at the onset of war between two Orthodox countries, Russian propagandists somehow managed to insert this traditional propaganda scenario, designed and polished by GRU masterminds back in the Soviet period.
Let me remind you that in Ukraine, an Orthodox country, Russian architects of chaos attempted to introduce the element of interreligious discord, not only through creating artificial tensions between the parishioners of the Moscow Patriarchate and that of Kyiv (later to become the Orthodox Church of Ukraine), but also by creating a series of myths about “sinful and godless” Ukrainian Army, which allegedly led to Orthodox churches in Donbas being destroyed by “Junta punishers”. This narrative was heavily mixed with allegations of ISIS terrorists fighting alongside Ukrainian soldiers, and other boogeyman stories of the like. And that’s not to mention the trump card — the so-called “language issue”, or the infringement of Russian speakers’ rights and their persecution, up to the legends of extrajudicial executions! By the way, Russian units used to fire their artillery both from civilian neighborhoods and premises of Orthodox temples — thus using locals and places of worship as a sort of shields.
In fact, whatever the conflict Russia is plotting to intervene (both beyond its borders and within — as it happened in Chechnya), a religious factor is always part of the game — it’s either the oppression or extermination of Orthodox Christians, or Muslim atrocities, and so on.
That’s a classic tool that has lived to this day and is still being used by Russia around the globe. The GRU’s favorite since Soviet times, this instrument has been significantly adapted to fit modern-day realities, having absorbed the latest trends. For example, in the United States, Russia has diligently, over the years, through its propaganda and influence cells, been inflaming interracial hostility and discord, which has resulted in large-scale riots and destabilization within the BLM movement. But it was the Russian-funded organization Antifa that played the main fiddle in radicalization of a mainly peaceful protest. Antifa’s combat-ready members, incidentally, have undergone intensive field training including in the camps of the Kurdish PKK!
But let’s go back to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Judge for yourself, it was the twelfth day into the latest escalation when the Azerbaijani army unexpectedly started “firing at Christian churches”. Why now? Probably it’s because all counterattacks by the Armenian military in the especially troublesome southern direction saw no success? Or perhaps because Azerbaijan isn’t falling for Armenia’s provocative shelling of Azerbaijani cities from its territory? Or maybe because sunny days are back in Nagorno-Karabakh, which once again greenlights the use strike drones that will devastate what’s left of the so-called NKR’s defense potential? Also, this could be because for the second week of hostilities, Armenia failed to secure at least some support on part of the international community, could it? However, the footage of the Christian temple on fire following the “attack of cruel Azerbaijani troops” certainly should squeeze a tear out of some MEPs.
Currently, Russia cannot openly support Armenia until the Azerbaijani army attacks precisely the Armenian territory. On the other hand, given that Azerbaijan has political support from Turkey and Pakistan, the Russians can easily swing the Orthodox pendulum in the context of unification around Moscow as a “cradle of Orthodoxy” and in the context of their earlier confrontation with the Ecumenical Patriarch and Phanar in general over the granting of a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which made it independent of Moscow.
So the claim is that it’s only Moscow who’s able to protect Orthodox Christians from Muslims, especially since Recep Tayiip Erdogan has earlier grabbed Hagia Sophia from Christians and deployed Islamic radicals to Nagorno-Karabakh, while Ilham Aliyev bombed Orthodox churches, with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew turning a blind eye to all this! So please, Russia, please, Russian Orthodox Church, please, Russian Army, come save us! (that’s the idea that’s being implanted in people’s minds).
What a fertile soil, indeed, for launching a recruitment campaign to get some compassionate fighters for Orthodox values to rush into the very thick of a conflict, which has nothing to do with them whatsoever… Actually, such campaign has already started in Russia, sources report. As of today, the main drafting hub for “Orthodox Jihadists” is in Rostov-on-Don, while people are being recruited throughout Russia. Also, to claim the “international scale”, Russian intelligence are now intensifying their efforts to get into the ranks of “Orthodox Jihadists” people from other Orthodox countries such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Ukraine. Earlier today, I wrote about a call by an odious MP Ilya Kiva for an “Orthodox Jihad”, which is an integral part of the scheme I explained above and should be regarded as aiding Russia the aggressor state.
But probably the most disgusting thing in this story is not even about the scale of public deception and manipulation. It’s the fact that those being recruited under the influence of TV reports on “Azerbaijani atrocities” are bound to become cannon fodder — after all, mercenaries with the Wagner or Patriot private military companies would be times more costly than some compassionate fighter for Orthodox values and hybrid “justice”. In fact, though, this is exactly how Russia has always treated its citizens.