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The talk show Free Cheese* discusses Nord-Ost
Written by   
, 02 2002
ImageAnchorman: Viktor Shenderovich

Hello! Iam Viktor Shenderovich, and this is ‘Free Cheese’, a program about Russia and whom it chooses to elect. Wedid not air on Saturday, as other matters occupied the country. Onthat day, the nation that three years ago simply chose no one has paid for its choice, though it does not seem to understand that. InRussia, and it was not Iwho noted this first, the most important thing is not what happens, but what you labelit.

A very instilled populace lives in these wide-open spaces, and this gives great pleasure to its present master. Ifyou were to usurp, for example, the government, you could call it the “Great October Socialist Revolution” from then on, or at least until the happy populace standing on its last legs start spitting up blood. Therevolution, however, is a thing of the past, but in Russia recently there was a “brilliant hostage rescue operation.” Those who survived it will never forget the brilliance, even our very beat-up Petrovich.

Yes, last Wednesday, October 23rd, fifty armed murderous bandits and murderous widows burst into a theater center and held nearly one thousand people hostage. Theterrorists were Chechens. Wemust admit that the most striking thing here was not that they seized a building in central Moscow, but that in this, the third year of the second Chechen war, nobody in the country was expecting anything like this.

That is our way: we kick the side of the ball with all our strength, and we are greatly surprised when it rebounds from the same angle. Onceagain we put the ball in the same place and once again we give it a mighty kick, and once again we are surprised by the rebound. Wewent to war against these people, not ourselves. Forourselves we meant something completely different: a higher GDP rating, a richer military budget, and a lift to governmental and national pride, while the blood was meant to be exclusively Chechen.

But then this suddenly happens. Thesecurity forces, however, were ready for a terrorist attack long ago. Evenafter the apartment bombings in Moscow, the promised the public, “The mouse won’t escape the trap.” Ido not know about mice, but these healthy lizards with their busload of weapons and explosives drove right straight to the capital without any issues. Afew stubborn citizens for the last ten days have already been asking: how could this happen? Howcould these fifty militants walk around Moscow and the Lubyanka did not have its ears and snouts out? Thequestion is completely irrelevant. TheLubyanka has a completely different focus; it has its own joys, in this case causing a dissident to rot in jail in hereditary happiness. Orkidnapping a journalist and handing him over to some vague Chechens in hopes that they would “stitch him up” remember this? Orthey invade the privacy of a television celebrity with bugs and spiders. Theycaught the ecologist Pasko and the physicist Sutyagin and have not released these men from jail for four years already, without ever being sentenced. Nowthat is some dust-free work for life! Butthey do not have a clue about these militants. Theyneed to use their heads, and the same goes for the police. Itis too funny to even demand anything from the police. Fora cop the Chechen problem is a matter of joy: five hundred rubles a month for every dark-haired type’s temporary residence permit, a thousand from every market stall, to say nothing about how much they make on all those “forgotten passports” during the street round-ups. Godforbid that we make peace with brunettes; such an event would kill their income, good God no! Sofor now it is all full speed ahead, the war goes on and the money piles up. Ican just bet that in the end we will find out that they also got money out of Barayev for giving him a special permit to travel with explosives to the scene of his performance.

The day after the capture of ‘Nord-Ost’, Russians watched the two major Russian anti-terrorist warriors, General Patrushev and simply Mr. Gryzlov, at the Kremlin and in the company of our Supreme Warrior. Theyall told each other that the most important thing was to save the lives of hostages, and somehow, when you looked at these people, you just had to believe that this was what the most important thing in the whole world for them.

Afterwards, the president and, in turn, every politician in the country went up to the microphones and said: the most important thing is to save the lives of hostages. Thiswas in general, but in particular, everyone back then had his own little political deal going down. Clubs quickly formed according to interests. OurMan in Strasbourg, Dmitry Rogozin, started with what Lord Judd spat out.

Lord Judd, of course, is a major Russian attack directed at Chechnya. Herides around, looks here and there, and does not allow himself to be turned. Itwas he, Isuppose, who turned the republic into a heap of ruins and stole the money allocated for its restoration. Juddis certainly terrible, but still, if Iwere in Rogozin’s shoes, while struggling with this British lord Iwould at least try to hide some of my satisfaction at the incident.

(Sound bite of Rogozin): “There are some people from whom we’re waiting for a reaction, but, Ihope, we can expect one soon. Inparticular, Iam interested in my dear partner, Lord Judd. Somehow Istill don’t see any reaction from him. So, if there’s no reaction, we’ll have to draw some difficult conclusions.”

The clubs according to interests continued to work smoothly. While Dmitry (Rogozin) was kicking the lord around, some unnamed person in the Russian leadership let fly with an ethnic theme.

It was later discovered that the militants had not released any Georgians, or any “persons of Islamic nationality,” as this gentleman at the (hostage rescue) headquarters so aptly put it. Theywere not released, and some of them died, refusing to give up on their Russian and non-Russian friends, but this was only discovered later when no one was interested in it anymore. Fortwo days, however, out in front of the entire country there was this KGB blood libel about Chechen militants releasing Georgians, with great geopolitical conclusions, of course!

The night and the morning after the capture, dozens of citizens, members of parliament are just normal people, offered themselves as hostages in exchange for women and children at ‘Nord-Ost’. Theterrorists, however, denied them all. Theywould only exchange hostages for the head of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov.

Kadyrov turned out to be a man of great intelligence. Theypromised to spare the lives of fifty Muscovites if he would show up in the auditorium, but, in the nick of time, Kadyrov realized that his life was so much more important to mankind than those 50women and children, and he never came to ‘Nord-Ost’. Welldone!

What can you say? Kadyrov is no Ella Panfilova who can go around offering himself up as a hostage. Heis a serious man with a big job. Yes, and the president, they say, forbid him from doing this. Well, maybe he never forbad him, but he certainly did not recommend it. Thepresident talked with us Russians the day after the capture of ‘Nord-Ost’, and the first thing he said was that the attack was planned in foreign countries. Which countries, he did not say, but it does not matter. Themain thing was to restore a system of coordinates that has been familiar in the public’s mind since school days: Russia is surrounded on all fronts. Putin did not say a word about the war in Chechnya, either then or later. Itwas as if there was no war. Itwas international terrorism, and that is all! Goodfor Our Guarantor that September 11th happened.

International terrorism is, of course, exists, but the Barayev family that gave us ‘Nord-Ost’ instead of ‘Sued-West’ was nursed by us, without any help from bin Laden. Incontrast to Maskhadov, whom our security forces caught during the latest antiterrorist operation using dogs, the uncle of our current Moscow guest is the famous murderer and slave trader Arbi Barayev, who all this time has been able to move freely about the country with the documents of an officer in the Russian Interior Ministry. Heis practically a servant of Mr. Gryzlov.

Then there was a very insightful story: a Chechen journalist went on the trail of slave traders, and the trail went quite a long way, perhaps even too far. Aswas reported in the newspaper ‘Moskovskie Novosti’, the journalist managed to write down the number of the federal document that provided Barayev with his reliable “cover”, but for some reason, it was not Barayev who began having problems with the security services, but this journalist. Thefederal authorities detained him, and he spent three days in a pit. Heleft it barely alive, and all the data he collected was destroyed by the feds. Ingeneral, they fought Movsar Barayev’s uncle as best they could, but he died at the hands of his clansmen, and later (well, he was dead anyway) this was discovered to be a victory on the part of our security services.

Our security services, however, got their great victory last week in Moscow, just before the assault. Thatwas when there was some real gas in your head! Ahundred times they rolled old Maskhadov footage on television, and three hundred times they connected these to the ‘Nord-Ost’ capture. Then, finally, Yastrzhembsky reported that it was known that Maskhadov organized the capture.
If Yastrzhembsky said something, then there is no doubt about its veracity. Heand Udugov are two of the most honest men in this war. But, true or not, given this sort of thing it would be unprofessional not to stamp out Maskhadov! Bythe way, right at the time of the ‘Nord-Ost’ capture there was once again a start to negotiations on a cessation of hostilities with Maskhadov, and it seems that Putin was not strongly against this, but

But only some senseless refugee, with at least a roof over his head that has not been bombed, can dream of peace in Chechnya someone who does not knows how much drugs are worth or what oil smells like or what earmarks look like. Butwhat about weaponry? Whatabout the military budget? And, finally, what about prestige? Andwhat about the one hundred and fifty agencies cutting their teeth in the war? Doesall this mean nothing? Ingeneral, what happened at ‘Nord-Ost’ somehow is just that Forsome it is war, while for others it is mother’s milk (a Russian maxim about war profiteering ed).

The gears of the plot kept turning, simultaneously and in different directions. OnFriday, the terrorists were threatening to shoot the hostages to force their families go out and march in a demonstration.

The country was faced with a terrible anti-war rally in Red Square, but it managed to put a stop to it. Thecampaign was not allowed, entrances were blocked, and people with signs were asked to disperse.

(Footage of a colonel): “Police colonel, my name I’m not required to give you Everyone, dear citizens, Iask you to disperse.”

The police, in general, coped well with the parents of the hostages. Godgrant Our Defenders good health!

The Kremlin’s refusal to make concessions warned the terrorists of an impending assault. Another twenty hours passed, for the twentieth time the authorities said that the most important thing was to save lives, and then they gave the go-ahead for a public gassing. Soviet determination, in conjunction with Russian folk sloppiness, very soon yielded the classic result, which went down in history as a brilliant operation by our security forces.

That was how it was decided, that was what is was called, and that was what was reported to the president. Butwhat was reported to the president is now becoming an ultimate reality. TheKremlin pop group ‘The Brilliants’ instantly entered the hit parade of the world news agencies, and a few hours later we saw the first footage from the assault. Someunknown Frederico Fellini over at the FSB did his best, and an especially nice touch was that bottle of brandy next to Barayev’s corpse. Youcan just see him shooting back with one hand and taking another sip from the bottle with the other.

When the assault was over, the commandos began carrying out the hostages, and then, after about a half hour, the police showed up. Thepolicemen started to help, but reflexes are stubborn things. Oneof the policemen started to, apparently automatically, rummage through an unconscious hostage’s purse. Whenshe suddenly woke up, he just as automatically gave her a kick. Commandos who saw this later told about it to ‘Gazeta’, and how they saw the policeman at the same place at the entrance to the building. Thatthey remarked with full knowledge of the subject, is, in my view, the only positive outcome of the operation.

Then General Patrushev appeared before the television cameras and said that all the gangsters had been liquidated or destroyed, but at the same time the Interior Ministry was announcing that several are still being sought. Onceagain, they cannot get their stories straight, just like with Barayev’s cognac and the Ryazan sugar (FSB officers were arrested planting explosives, which the FSB later claimed it to be sugar, in the basement of an apartment building in Ryazan during the infamous apartment bombings of 1999 ed). Evenmore difficult was getting the journalists on the same page. Theyimmediately tried to question Moscow vice-mayor Shantsev about the gas that was used during the assault.

(Footage of Shantsev): “Well (He shrugs and straightens himself.) What was it you were talking about?”

Soon, when the number of dead began to steadily increase, the Americans were already getting interested in the formula of the gas, but we did not give our military secret to the bourgeois! Wedid not give it to our own people, either. Eventhe doctors were not told the formula, they just injected with whatever they had. Ingeneral they were told nothing, not even about how there could hundreds of people dying of suffocation and intoxication showing up in a half hour. During those days, Health Minister Shevchenko manifested himself not so much as a good doctor, as a great statesman. While people were dying in hospitals, and doctors were trying to bring them back from the dead with their own hands, Shevchenko to the very last was defending his government.

(Footage of Shevchenko): “The professionals, including myself, were warned!”

It is pleasant to know that the Minister of Health was warned, but Ido not really understand why the ambulances did not begin arriving until a half hour after the assault, and why half the teams were made up of unqualified medical assistants. Ithink it was because from the very beginning the authorities placed above everything else saving the lives of the hostages! Apparently for this same reason the doctors were not permitted to communicate with relatives, and all information was made secret at the very root. Andthose bourgeois would never have found out our secret, had not for some German doctors in Munich who on the third day found fentanyl in the blood of two of their compatriots, former hostages. Before this, however, for two days in a row, our federalissimos played guessing games with the people: they admitted that it was a gas, but would not say which. Thenthey said it was usually given during anesthesia. Andthen the good news: the dead turned out not to have been poisoned, only suffocated. Someof them swallowed their tongues and others simply had their hearts give out. Theysoon found that many of the dead had health problems. Onthe death certificates was written: “the cause of death has not been determined”. Thiswas just in case, because, who knows? Somefamily will go and start a lawsuit, but too bad! Thecause of death has not been determined! Thank God for the authorities that it is all over. Atleast the President was not traumatized.

When the president offered to visit the suffocated, patients who were doing much better were quickly located, some who were never even hostages. Vladimir Putin quickly, for fifteen minutes, popped into the Sklifosovsky Hospital. Workis work. Heeven joked with the patients.

(Footage of Putin in the hospital ward): “Well, at least they feed you here.”

Well, apparently the president was rushed and there was no time for any texts to get to him. Herewith his text is our poet of truth, Igor Irtenev, who has residing within him a certain optimism about all that happened.

IRTENEV:

When it’s gotten a bit better,
We can admit to each other -
That everything could be worse,
That everything could be more terrible.

In places here and there
We sailed the ship through storms.
So what if we did not manage without losses,
But, they say they were within the normal range.

Iam ready to lay the whole bunch
At an alcove before my people
Since childhood it knows the word ‘dote’
And is unaccustomed to antidote.

The day after the commandos destroyed the bandits, the police returned to their traditional occupation of catching brunettes, but this is already no joke. Moscow is seriously talking about universal fingerprinting for Chechens. Hunting season for them, as a matter of fact, never really was over, but here they are going out with a fine-mesh net and statistics immediately accumulated like a rolling snowball. Atfirst they went looking for volunteers. Onedetainee was asked straight out: do you want a weapon planted on you, or drugs? Abusload of Chechens was stopped and patted down in the Moscow region, and a city map was found. Well, they took everyone in, because if there is a map, then they must be militants. Yetanother Chechen, this one in Chechnya, during a search was found to have a schematic of the ill-fated theatrical center. He, perhaps, did not destroy it and waited a week on purpose just so he would to be searched.

During our current broadcast we still have not said a word about the Federal Parliament. Asif anything in this country could happen without it! Andit will not. Parliament joined in the hostage rescue as early as last Thursday, immediately after the seizure of ‘Nord-Ost’, and at once it became clear that there would be a trainload of benefits for the MPs, because (remember?) the main thing was to save the lives of the hostages!

The Lower House rushed on all cylinders to rescue the hostages. Communist Kravets first thing offered a rebuff of Western television programs that were calling the theatrical center hostage takers rebels. Independent MP Fedulov (also taking care of the hostages) urgently invited consideration of introducing direct presidential rule (presumably, not inside the theatrical center), while Liberal Mitrofanov looked at the root causes and ordered an immediate act of patriotism be carried out. Well, at least they all tried.

After the assault, Parliament did not relax, and for a long time beat their patriotic tom-tom. Zhirinovsky suggested “dealing with MPs who negotiate with the terrorists.” A parliamentary inquiry into the terrorist attack, proposed by the right wing, gored the majority party (which, true, soiled itself in the process), and the Committee on Information Policy proposed the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the activities of the media. Committee Chairman Mr. Vetrov, sort of a Cassandra, said that some channels were already preparing a broadcast, the purpose of which was “to provoke anti-government sentiment among the public.” The goal of this commission of inquiry would be to stop this horror, and at the same time “not leave the offense unpunished” (referring to the work of media during the terrorist attack, not the poisoning to death of hundreds of Russians). Ohwow.

The press, indeed, is a terrible evil. Without it the State would be such a cool thing indeed! Butno: they climb into every crack, show up wherever they can and simply upset the leadership. Atfirst they were getting underfoot with their live broadcasts, then they went and started analyzing everything in general. Compare the films and documents with the chronology, and it does look so good.

For example, it turns out that the shooting that was used to justify the use of the gas and the start of the assault never happened. Itdid not happen immediately before the assault, as the last dead and wounded were taken away at two in the morning by ambulance that the bandits themselves had summoned, while the gas was not used until five in the morning and no one was doing any shooting before that. Ittook a long time to release the gas, and the militants knew that it was being used and that had time and a half to blow up the building, but for some reason they did not blow it up.

On Sunday, ‘NTV’ was examining everything, but on Monday its general director, Boris Jordan, was summoned to the Kremlin for his treatments. Hereturned barely alive. Onecan understand our Kremlin comrades: there is good reason why they are behind the toothed wall, since more than two years ago they took out Gusinsky for making such analyses on channel four.

It is fair to say that there are media outlets that work with greater governmental awareness. ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’, for example, wrote this harsh truth: “While Khakamada, Nemtsov, and Yavlinsky were energetically doing PR for the terrorists, one man in Russia was not talking, but working.” Can you guess whom? Themorning after the assault, a correspondent for ‘RTR’ said: “People are arriving at the theater building on Dubrovka and placing candles and thanking God that all ended well.” So Iwould like to say that the journalists are not hopeless, there are many among them who understand that the policies of the Party and the State are correct!

(Interlude with a portion of the song ‘I don’t know any other country’.)

When the brilliant operation to free the hostages from life had finally ended, Putin once again went on television and apologized to the relatives of the victims. Hesaid that they could not save everyone. Well, strictly speaking, it was not that that they could not save them, but that they destroyed them with their own hands, but these are just details. Onceagain, there was not a word about Chechnya, just more about global terrorism. Thiswas very competent of him, and the sociologists immediately recorded a further rise in his ratings. ThenPutin announced a period of mourning. Hedeclared it just a little early, since not everyone had a change to die yet, but the main thing here was to quickly get the even over with. Whenthe mourning period had passed, it was as if it was all over and questions now seemed out of place.

Some charity news: Tuesday at a Moscow hospital, the Filatov, children who were held hostage received a visit from ‘Pal Pavlovich’ (Pavel Pavlovich) Borodin, who during the time of the ‘Nord-Ost’ terrorist attack was nowhere to be seen. Thephysicians lined up on the hospital porch, and cameras came, and of course was everything organized by Pal Palych, but, as you know, this was not PR, but caring for children! Thechildren’s health was greatly improved by this visit, especially when Borodin consoled them, and Iam quoting from the publication ‘Gazeta’: “You,” Borodin said, “sat for three days, but Isat for three months (a reference to his arrest for money-laundering).” While leaving, Pal Palych spoke to the recovering young people, but whether these were merely parting words or a request for help is not known. Hesaid: “You must pull for our big, beautiful country.” Well, if anything is still left by the time they grow up, they may join in, but for now

But for now our weakening brains can draw certain somewhat stronger conclusions from the recent days. Ourpriorities, citizens, have finally matured, and that is what Iam going to tell you. Theyhave matured and have been established, it seems, for a long time. These priorities are proper, sturdy, and proven over the decades. Nononsense, and no democratic toys. Toput it very briefly: we can never negotiate with Maskhadov in any way, but we can poison and hundred and a half of our own citizens for the sake of our principles, and even for the benefit of our ratings. Overhere you do not see principles just lying in the street, they are for the State worth their weight in gold and must be maintained with bated breath. Youcan even stop breathing, as there is nothing scary about it. Treat the people like dirt. Ahundred and fifty more, or a one hundred and fifty less, does not matter, especially since the census is over and none of these will spoil the indicators. Andthat is enough with all the fuss. Wehave a nonstop road to the future! OnThursday, in support of this road’s directness, city authorities banned an anti-war rally at Pushkin Square. These had previously been allowed, but now that is all! Because times have changed.

Now it has already been a week and a half, and anyone who is still talking about ending the war is an accomplice of the terrorists. Theycall it ‘Stockholm syndrome’, ever heard the term? Theterrorists have made all those peacekeepers down there into zombies, and so they do not want any war, got it?

But Iknow another case of Stockholm syndrome, and it is quite massive. Itis when the entire country falls into the hands of a group of well-equipped security forces, headed by an elected president, and the country gradually becomes permeated with his purposes and ideals and after some time, quite frankly, even begins to sympathize with him because, no matter what, there is no escape, and so it is best to sympathize. Thisversion, however, we will be checking back on over time, in oh, Ido not know how many years, hmmm. Butfor now, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks about his favorite topic, the fight against terrorism.
(Footage of Putin): “No matter what, the terrorists have no future, and that’s the truth. Theyhave no future, but we do.”

Metaphor is such a good thing. Itwould really be quite a good thing, if it were not true, but that is our reality, and that is that. InMoscow last Wednesday, two children, two little artists from ‘Nord-Ost’, Arseny and Kristina, were buried. Ifyou added both their ages together, they were only 27. Sothat is that, and they have no future, Mr. President, but you probably do. Therefore Iam currently very interested in one question: where and when will something blow up again next time? Ablood bank employee told people coming to donate for the victims of the terrorist attack that something big was coming. Maybe she knows something?

(Footage of blood bank employee): “That’s it, everybody leave. Thank you all. There is no need right now for this many donors. Saveyour blood until the next time.”

When and where will be the next time? Andwhat? Akindergarten in Voronezh? Adormitory in Perm? Ido not know. Russia is big, and protecting it from global terrorism are still the same reliable warriors: Troshev and Patrushev, and the feds who protected Barayev from arrest, and that policeman who kicked the unconscious hostage Russians have a reliable defense, all we need do is wait and hope that maybe the next one will not be a kindergarten, but, say, the Kremlin. Because in that case, perhaps, they will not poison the hostages with gas, but in any case the human toll will be much lower. Goodluck!

Verses:

Broad is our native land
For its decisive leaders.
In it big policies
Kill young people.

We do not want Maskhadov
He is the offspring of Hell.
We will crawl to Hell
With our own reptiles.

Terrorists hide in the mountains.
The court shines for reporters.
Because of them the city thought
That exercises were going on.

There is in Russia a general,
Who never tells a lie.
This is a general Toptygin,
But he is a bear, and in an old book.

And in the theaters and in the apartments
We are now as if at war.
P--sing on them in the outhouses (a reference to a famous Putinism ed)
The fragrance wafts throughout the land.



* ‘Free cheese’ refers to a Russian maxim: “Free cheese is only in a mousetrap.” This is equivalent to the American saying: “There ain’t no thing as a free lunch.”


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