A provocation was reported in the Hagia Sophia, which grew into manipulation across Russian media.
Curious developments unfolded yesterday in Istanbul and – oddly enough – in the info space of Ukraine's hybrid neighbor Russia. In the Hagia Sophia, someone allegedly unfurled the Taliban flag. At least, that's what a "respected" and influential agency INTERFAX reported in the Russian segment.
As it turned out, the "respected" agency was a little mistaken by claiming that the act presented as an initiative of the Afghan Taliban (isn't it too far off from Turkey?), which the Russian media systemically refer to as an "organization banned in Russia" (although its members are free to fly on political trips to Moscow). In fact, it was a different organization that stood behind the stunt.
First of all, I'd like to note that the Taliban flag has the following appearance. It's no secret to anyone and widely available in open sources.
So what we saw in the Hagis Sophia was a slightly different banner:
Incredibly, this is a banner of "Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar", a group of Syria-based Islamist militants opposing the government of Bashar al-Assad, foreign mercenaries, and Shabbiha militants. Moreover, the initial members of this group were citizens of the former Soviet republics (Chechens, Tatars and others), as well as Turks...
It is noteworthy, also that the act in the Hagia Sophia was suppressed by Turkish law enforcement. But something else is interesting here.
First, the primary source of the news with the "Taliban" context was the Greek online edition Vima Orthodoxias.
Secondly, the Russian media linked the act not only with the Taliban, an organization politically patronized by the Kremlin receiving funds and weapons from Russia, but also with ISIS, via a Twitter post by Nur Dahri, a British expert on combating Islamic extremism. This expert concluded that these persons were affiliated with ISIS, explaining his suggestion with the fact that one of perpetrators was seen pointing up his finger. Although, a "British expert", especially with such a distinctive name, should have known that a raised finger is a common gesture in Islam, not a distinctive gesture of ISIS members.
So what do we have in the end?
We have nothing but a developing information campaign by the Kremlin against the Phanar, against the background of the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul obtaining the status of a mosque. After all, this is where the Danilov Monastery, or to be more precise, Patriarch Kirill, saw an opportunity not only to hold on to his chair, but also to renew the "crusade" against Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Judge for yourself, Taliban terrorists (who are like family to Moscow) run around the Hagia Sophia with their flags! What a terrible connivance on the part of Bartholomew and Phanar as a whole. What's being overlooked here though is the fact that these flags didn't just remain there, and neither did they belong to Taliban, of which all the Orthodox (mainly Russians, who were the target audience of this manipulation) had definitely heard. And also quite remarkable is the fact that the Turkish police didn't give culprits much time to make any mess, while Russian media made no mention of law enforcement success in their coverage.
In addition, the coverage of the incident from the said perspective is also an element of heightened tensions between Turkey and Greece, especially after the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Russia would definitely benefit off of catalyzing a spat between Ankara and Athens and sowing a deeper conflict between the two NATO Allies.
In addition, focusing specifically on the Taliban, the Russian media paint a picture of the frivolous life terrorists are living in Turkey, under President Erdogan, which is supposed to raise questions on the part of Washington, which has initiated a prove into cooperation between Russia and the Taliban. Among other things, such cooperation included paying bounties, through the GRU, for ambushes and terrorist attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan. And, as we know, to divert attention from own crimes, this is a classic multi-move by the Kremlin, although a rather primitive one...
So, it was yet another banal hybrid manipulation carried out through the Greek information pad Vima Orthodoxias, with much broader accompanying goals… Of course, this seems obvious, but is this evidence of any interest to those vocal fanatics of the Russian Orthodox Church and fast food info consumers across Russia's vast territories?