By Erica Marat
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is known for his savvy use of online social networks. Medvedev has his own Twitter account and blog. He is “followed” on Twitter by over 174,000 users, among them US President Barack Obama and a myriad of other political leaders from across the world.
Given that Twitter is still struggling to gain its market share in Russia, Medvedev is among the chief promoters of this social networking sight.
However, some Russian social network users did not appreciate how the president learned about the January 24 Domodedovo airport bombing through Twitter.
Indeed, Twitter was ahead of all other media outlets in reporting the Domodedovo blasts. In this case, however, the president’s social networking skills did not add to his popularity, particularly because Russian security forces might have known about the possibility of an attack in Domodedovo but failed to prevent it. Medvedev exposed the unprofessionalism of the Russian security forces and his inadequate relationship with them.
Twitter user Igor Platonov wrote (in Russian): “Medvedev has learned from Twitter what’s going on in Domodedovo and has gathered an emergency meeting. What the hell is this [supposed to be], but a country.” Platonov’s “tweet” went viral online.
Twitter users and bloggers were frustrated with how they, too, had to rely on social networks to learn the latest about the Domodedovo attacks. National TV channels, infamous for being controlled by the Kremlin, were particularly slow to react to the news. “TV: First [channel] – [entertainment] show, ‘Rossiya’ – soap opera, TVTs – talk-show, NTV –soap opera, should I continue? CNN – live broadcast! BBC –live broadcast!”, wrote one Twitter user.
Popular Russian blogger Alexey Navalny wrote about the Russian media, “Right now we are witnessing the final death of television and mainstream media [in Russia] as a source of operational information in a crisis situation.”
“When it blasts, only then everyone panics, where were the special services, militsya and Domodedovo’s security, how did the bomb was brought to the airport??” wrote another Twitter user, reflecting the overall frustration with lack of information on how the government allowed the attack to occur.
The Domodedovo blasts took lives of 35 and injured over 180 people. According to some reports, the bomb was detonated by a terrorist. The Russian government has launched a special investigation into the incident.
Against the backdrop of Medvedev’s seeming inaptness vis-à-vis the attacks, Vladimir Putin has made some decisive statements. He promised to punish all those found guilty in the attacks.
In response to the bombing and the growing suspicion that Putin might use Domodedovo as a platform for reelection in 2012, a Twitter user named sedictor wrote, “Vladimir Vladimirovich, we would have elected you again even without terrorist attacks.”