Top Putin Lionizer Spun Untenable Tale to Cover for Putin Motive in Death of Russian General


Brandon Martinez / Non-Aligned Media

One of the West’s leading alt-media Putin lionizers is Dr. Matthew Raphael Johnson. Johnson has made a career in the alt-media out of Russophilia and Putin aggrandizement. Johnson runs a website called Rus Journal which carries the title “The Russian Orthodox Medievalist,” where he regularly dispenses his pro-Russian insights.

The main page of the website, ostensibly written by Johnson himself, hails Putin’s Russia as a “needed balance to the American empire.” He goes on to champion the rise of Novorossiya, Russian separatist forces currently waging an armed insurgency on Putin’s behalf in Eastern Ukraine, who are attempting to resurrect a “Greater Russia” modelled on Stalinist principles.


Johnson authored a magnum opus of Putin worship entitled Russian Populist: The Political Thought of Vladimir Putin and helped launch the modern-day Putin deification cult sweeping the alternative media through publications like the Barnes Review. Another one of his essays carries the title “The Third Rome, Holy Russia, Tsarism & Orthodoxy.”

The overriding theme of everything Johnson writes is: Russia is the global saviour from Western modernity, it is the “Third Rome” home base of Christian exceptionalism and rivalism, and Putin is its chosen messiah.

In an article for the Barnes Review entitled “The Judeo-Russian Mafia,” Johnson makes a number of unsubstantiated assertions about the death of Alexander Lebed, a popular Russian general and governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, who died in a helicopter crash in 2002.

Russian General Alexander Lebed
Russian General Alexander Lebed

Johnson claims that “at the time [of Lebed’s untimely death], every member of the Russian military was convinced the death of Lebed was no accident, but rather another hit by the inter-national Jewish mafia.” He provides no source for this claim, and the conspicuously hyperbolic statement that “every member of the Russian military” – meaning every single soldier, general, sailor, pilot, medic and reservist of Russia’s military – “was convinced” that the “Jewish mafia” killed Lebed discredits the whole argument. Unless every single member of Russia’s military was interviewed by Johnson and confirmed this view (which is clearly impossible), then he obviously just made it up to bolster his own opinion. Donald Trump uses similar tactics of argumentum ad populum when he invokes anonymous scores of “friends” and “associates” who “called him up” after he made a controversial statement to tell him he was “right.” As for a possible motive of Jewish mobsters to take out Lebed, Johnson claims that the Russian governor,

was going to build a national socialist empire—possibly with Chinese assistance—based on the massive oil and mineral wealth of the region. Had he succeeded, world history could have changed, and the 21st century would look very different.

This grandiose contention is equally unsubstantiated and sounds like something fit for a Hollywood movie script. Johnson then writes, “Prior to that, dozens of anti-Zionists in Russia had been murdered by car bombs or other devices, while none of the cases was ever solved. Only a handful was even investigated.” The evidence for this claim is likewise non-existent. No names, dates, or specific circumstances of the deaths of these unidentified “anti-Zionists” in Russia is provided. And why would there be no investigations of such murders under a Putin presidency if Putin is, as he claims, a secret anti-Zionist?

Besides the murkiness and lack of evidence to prove one way or the other that Lebed’s helicopter crash was an assassination, Johnson’s claimed motivation for a “Jewish mob” hit on Lebed is dubious. Lebed had made no known public statements about Jews or the Jewish mafia. On the other hand, Lebed was actually a political opponent and prominent critic of the Vladimir Putin regime and had been outspoken about his view that the Yeltsin-Putin clique had masterminded and executed the apartment explosions in 1999 as a provocation to prompt a war with Chechnya and elevate Putin to power. The Moscow Times, quoting a September 1999 interview Lebed gave to the french daily Le Figaro, reported:

Former General Alexander Lebed has suggested the bombing of Chechnya and bomb attacks on apartment buildings in Moscow could be part of a covert government bid to destabilize Russia and cancel forthcoming elections. 

Lebed, a possible contender to succeed President Boris Yeltsin next year, told French daily Le Figaro in an interview released ahead of publication Wednesday that the current bombing of breakaway Chechnya was either stupid or a sinister bid to destabilize Russia. 

“I am tempted to pick the latter. … It looks like a wide-ranging attempt at destabilization,” he said. 

Lebed said he was “almost convinced” that the government was behind bomb attacks that have killed more than 300 people in Moscow and other Russian cities. Russian officials have blamed the blasts on Chechen warlords. He said Chechen rebels would have targeted military or Interior Ministry buildings, arms dumps or nuclear plants, rather than civilian apartment blocks. “The president and ‘the family’ are isolated. They lack any political strength to win the elections. Faced with a desperate situation, the government can have only one aim: destabilize, so that there will be no elections,” he said. 


So, if there was any motive to kill Lebed it came from the Putin regime, to shut the general up about the involvement of Putin and the FSB in the apartment blasts and eliminate him as a potential political rival in future elections. If he hadn’t been killed, Lebed may have continued to pursue the truth about the apartment blasts which were an extremely sensitive subject for the Putin regime, having built its power base on the back of that false-flag. The general’s insistence that the Putin regime be looked at as the chief suspect and prime beneficiary of the apartment bombings threatened to undermine Putin’s hold on power. Knowing that dozens of Putin’s political rivals, critics and opponents have met mysterious and violent deaths, it stands to reason that Lebed – if he was indeed murdered – was another of Putin’s many victims.

Blaming nebulous, unnamed “Jewish mobsters” for Lebed’s death seems to be Putinist disinformation. And there is no shortage of that coming from Dr. Johnson, the Barnes Review, and other pro-Putin propaganda outlets.

In a comment on this website, Johnson himself criticized me in the following way:

The nature of your rhetoric and polemical tone is not foreign to me at all, but it harms your general argument. For something like this, you need to use more serious and scholarly language. Your emotional engagement blinds you to numerous non-sequiturs in this piece. You make assumptions about motive and jump to conclusions not contained in the data.

Johnson himself is guilty of all of these things. He relies on aggrandizement, brazen hyperbole, grandiose theorizing and unsubstantiated inference to support his pro-Putin positions. And evidently, he’s willing to twist reality to suit a narrative that shifts suspicions away from Putin for various reprehensible crimes.

Copyright 2016 Non-Aligned Media

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