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By John Helmer, Moscow

The response of President Vladimir Putin to this month’s killings in Paris was immediate and unequivocal; so too Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (image, left). But on receiving French President Francois Hollande’s invitation to participate in the head of state, head of government demonstration in Paris on January 11. Putin declined, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (right) was not sent in his place. The substitution of Lavrov has not been noticed or explained in the Russian media.

The Russian response to the Charlie Hebdo demonstration wasn’t as absent the US government’s. No high US official participated in Sunday’s demonstration: Eric Holder, the US Attorney-General, was in Paris on the day, but not on the street. The only US representation there was the newly appointed US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, a money-raiser for President Barack Obama’s election campaigns.

On January 7, hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack had begun, the Kremlin announced that Putin had telephoned Hollande, and “expressed profound condolences… in connection with casualties caused by a terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices. The Russian President strongly condemned the cynical crime and reiterated Russia’s readiness to continue active cooperation in combatting the threat of terrorism. Vladimir Putin conveyed words of support and sympathy to the victims’ families and friends and wished a speedy recovery to all those who were injured as a result of the attack.”

The Foreign Ministry announced: “We condemn this act of terrorism. The tragedy proves that it is necessary to continue active cooperation in combating the terrorist threat. At this grievous time for France, we extend our heartfelt condolences and send thoughts of sympathy and support to the families and friends of those killed and wounded in the gun attack.”

Medvedev said nothing. Three weeks before, he had issued his “deepest condolences over the brutal terrorist attack on a Peshawar school that resulted in numerous civilian casualties. We resolutely condemn this barbaric attack and support the Pakistani people in their uncompromising struggle against extremism.” That was on December 17. Medvedev was silent on January 7, when the Paris attacks began. On January 9, when they ended, Medvedev announced from his dacha that he was holding a meeting to discuss housing and communal services.

At the same time, as European governments were deciding whether to send their head of state or head of government to Paris, on Arbat the Foreign Ministry revealed that Medvedev had been scratched from the lineup – or had been vetoed by the Kremlin from the start. According to the ministry notice, in its “Message for the mass media about a brief working visit to France of the Russian foreign minister S.V. Lavrov…representatives of various French political forces, and also of foreign states will take part in the action. The Russian delegation will be headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

Look carefully through French, British, and other international media reports, and you will not find Lavrov’s name identified in the lists of government participants. He does appear in the day-after editions of Kommersant and Vedomosti. There is no sign of him in photographs published in the non-Russian press:

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“Arm in arm, world leaders, left to right: Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Union President Donald Tusk, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Jordan’s Queen Rania, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other guests.”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Depending on which countries the media were reporting to, published photographs of the Paris demonstration emphasized the local boy or girl, such as this one from the London Guardian, making it appear that Prime Minister David Cameron was pointing the way to the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, while the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, expressed his uncertainty on the point, along with the Danish and Polish prime ministers behind Cameron to the right.

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Source: http://www.theguardian.com

Painstaking detective work by a Russian state television channel, Russia Today television (RT), produced this image of Lavrov six rows from the front:

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The film records are more revealing. Look carefully at this clip, broadcast by Ukraine Today in Kiev; this medium is owned by Igor Kolomoisky. At the 4th second, an unidentified hand can be seen pushing Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority, away from the position he had taken right beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The hand also moves Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to a front-row position.

Here is a still shot from Reuters of Abbas’s position before the hand acted:

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Source: Reuters — http://i.guim.co.uk

And here is a shot of the positioning afterwards: Donald Tusk, the Polish President of the European Council has stepped from the second row to the first, and is now between Merkel and Abbas, with Poroshenko three places to Abbas’s left, looking further to his left. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has kept his place, but his Queen Rania has been relegated to the row behind them.

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Source: http://wpmedia.montrealgazette.com

According to US media reports, the US Attorney-General was in Paris to participate in a meeting of security ministers. The New York Post said Holder “was scheduled to attend the rally, but even he was a no-show — despite having been in Paris in the morning long enough to tape a slew of TV talk shows. The US ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, appointed by Obama in June, was the sole official representative for America. It was unclear why neither Obama nor his top aides attended. He had nothing on his public schedule. Biden’s public schedule, too, was blank.”

The New York Post reported the refusal by the White House to explain. CNN has quoted an anonymous official as saying: “security requirements for both the president and VP can be distracting . . . This event is not about us.”

There has been no comment from Medvedev’s office or from his political supporters to allay the suspicion in Moscow that he is not trusted to stand in for Putin with the leaders of the US and European Union.

6As for Putin’s view of the sequel of the Charlie Hebdo campaign, Yevgeny Primakov (right), Putin’s strategic advisor, said in a public speech this week: “There has been a tragedy in France. Are there lessons we can take from it? The fact that freedom of the press is necessary for the construction of a democratic society is indisputable. But who says that freedom of the press should be supported if it is aimed at debasing and insulting religious sentiment? Calls to exercise freedom of the press through publishing caricatures, for example, of the Prophet Mohammed offend the sentiments of Muslims. And in Russia, Muslims constitute a significant portion of the population – more than 18 million citizens.”

Primakov is referring to the fact that at present, and according to projected growth of the Muslim populations of the European states, Russia has the largest number in absolute terms; more than one-third proportionally — and more than the Muslim populations of the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy combined.

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Source: http://www.pewforum.org
http://features.pewforum.org

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