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Culture War Roundup for the week of February 26, 2024

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Now this is getting interesting

Today, however, Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's GUR military intelligence service, suggested his death could be down to natural causes.

He told reporters: 'I may disappoint you, but what we know is that he really died from a blood clot. And this is more or less confirmed. This was not taken from the Internet, but, unfortunately, a natural [death].'

That makes no sense. Why would the Ukrainian chief of intelligence exonerate Putin and also put an egg on the face of all of the western allies that pearl clutched so hard? What are we missing?

Huh, very surprising indeed. The possibilities I can see are:

  • He expects that Russia will produce such conclusive proof that it was a clot that even normies abroad will have to concede. In such a scenario, this is a very strong way to build a reputation for accuracy, and counter what seems like an emerging narrative even in the West that the Ukrainian government may be Baghdad Bobbing (I've seen a lot of palpable irritation about Zelenskiy's recent implausibly low figure for Ukrainian casualties, and before that the stories like the Kramatorsk air defence accident already strained the relationship). The latter purpose may be served even if no proof is forthcoming from the Russians.

  • The pro-Putin part of my family is convinced that Ukrainian intelligence somehow got to Navalny in the camp and assassinated him, because with the given timing (just before the Munich conference and as the aid vote in the US was heating up) it brought maximal benefit to them in terms of reinflaming Western sympathies. Perhaps this implausibly turns out to actually be true, and he thinks the Russians are about to produce a smoking gun and wants to get ahead of the story.

I also think that the current pearl-clutching narrative is robust enough against the clot scenario: "sent to the camps and died of stroke because of insufficient/denied medical aid" does not read much better than "deliberately killed". Also, clots that cause infarction elsewhere afaik can form as a consequence of various forms of otherwise non-lethal physical abuse, such as circulation cutting to limbs - in fact some form of "unintentional death as a consequence of intentional roughing up" is my own leading theory for what actually happened.