So why don’t I have more interest in digging around the ghost ship story? It has all the hallmarks of the kinds of stories we like to cover around here – with siloviki, arms, corruption, and cover-ups – but untangling all the conflicting versions just doesn’t seem too rewarding. It’s a strong reminder that nobody can produce so many stories of diametrically contradicting headlines as Russia. Today for example, Russian officials have gone to the press to angrily deny that there were ever any arms on The Arctic Sea ship:
Speaking to reporters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the reports: “This is absolutely not true.” (…)
“All will become transparent, and I hope that everyone will be convinced that the rumors you refer to are absolutely groundless,” Lavrov said.
Aside from the fact that saying “all will become transparent” about pretty much anything in Russia is an openly hilarious joke, there are other nagging details that make this move strange to me.
For one, the stories about this piracy event being related to anillegal arms shipment have been circulating for many weeks now – YuliaLatynina launched the theory back on Aug. 19, and Mikhail Voitenko, now in exile for his own safety, was appearing publicly at news conferences to talk about the arms deal around the same time.
Secondly, if the cargo was just relatively cheap timber, why then would Russia send “two giant IL-76 transporter planes“capable of carrying 50 ton loads to bring back the 11-man crew forinterrogation, followed by another series of flights of “eight largecargo planes” (according to Ron Ben-Yishai) to bring back the mysterious cargo?
Lastly, there is the timing. Why is Lavrov getting so uptight with the media’s portrayal of the ghost ship only now? The only new story elementsto get added is the presence of the Israeli Mossad in breaking up thedeal (were they the masked men who stormed the ship first or second?),and the alleged details that the cargo contained S-300 missiles forIran, which had caused so much diplomatic trouble between Russia andIsrael. Outrageous, right? Not really: the purchase contract for theS-300s dates back to 2007, and as recently as August 19th, Shimon Peres and Medvedev were chatting in Sochiabout delaying the deal. It’s as though Lavrov only took the storyseriously after Israel started naming the titles of the allegedweapons, not after the journalist fled or any other misleadingsensationalist report was published.
There’s also way too much going on here to support any grand conspiracy theory on behalf of the state – they worked closely and successfully with NATOin tracking down the ship, which wouldn’t be happening if the Kremlinwere in on the deal. I just don’t know what to believe anymore – wecouldn’t even get a straight story about whether or not Voitenko had actually fled in fear of his life (he did).
Like I said, this is just an unrewarding wild goose chase, but if I had to guess, I think one clan of siloviki was not following the rules, and embarrassed some of their patrons in messing around on this one. The Kremlin might even have clean hands, but giving us the “transparency” they are are talking about would expose too many other tricks of their trade, so I would predict we’ll continue to be fed more seemingly incriminating lies. Or in other words, “All will become more confusing.“