Countering Guardian misinformation on Navalny

On Russia (and also on the recent Capital riots) this would be a full-time occupation. I don’t have the time. But a few comments on this ‘story’ in the Guardian about how an FSB ‘squad’ ‘stalked’ Navalny for several years.

  1. Bellingcat is not as it is described in the Western press an investigative journalist operation. It is a one-sided operation by an amateur sleuth which produces pro-NATO propaganda. The one time this website looked at a Bellingcat report it was noted that the report (on the MH17 shoot-down) was riddled with the most glaring and basic of forensic errors. One presumes that the reason they are so feted in the Western media is that they are consistently on message with anti-Russia stories. (Plus, of course, the general collapse in standards and integrity in the UK means that no one checks their work). (What looks like investigative reporting on RT has linked Bellingcat to Foreign Office funding for pro-Western media projects. [1])
  2. There is no mention in the Guardian article – all about Navalny’s poisoning – of the fact that his team have put out three completely different stories of the alleged poisoning – on a cup at the airport, in a bottle in his hotel room and, most recently, on his underpants. When different agencies in Russia put out different denials the Western media / UK intelligence typically gloats about having counted “x different lines of misinformation coming out of Russia”. Navalny gets a free pass.
  3. Navalny’s implausible sounding story about how he hoaxed an FSB agent into admitting the poisoning is reported as fact. Scepticism is as always reserved for the other side.
  4. “There has been almost no response from the Russian authorities on the very specific and detailed allegations, save for denials and bluster. ” Actually Shaun Walker is misleading you here. The Kremlin (in fact Putin) has freely admitted that Navalny was being tailed. Of course he was. This lie by Mr Walker is important because the whole Bellingcat story depends on eliding the (non-sinister) fact that the FSB had been tailing Navalny [2] with the allegation that they were responsible for the alleged poisoning. They can (perhaps) prove the surveillance but not the alleged poisoning by the FSB – hence Walker has to tweak the narrative a bit to try to suggest that the Kremlin is denying the surveillance to try to give the story wings. They aren’t.

At best what Bellingcat (or whoever may be behind them) have found is evidence that the FSB was tailing Navalny. Wow! MI5 has files on Michael Foot. There is no story here. No evidence of any actual poisoning by the FSB at all. Except for the curious underpants call with the details provided by Navalny himself (why not Bellingcat or one of their media partners?) – which seems implausible.

My guess (and it is a guess) is that Western intelligence provided Bellingcat with the phone records and what we are seeing here is a classic piece of MI6 media management. They are using ‘true’ information in order to achieve their murky aims. As, for example they did when then ran an operation in the run-up to the illegal Iraq war which was based around manipulating public opinion in various countries by leaking real low-grade intelligence on Iraq into their media – with the ultimate aim of gerrymandering the UN vote. [3] As I say this is speculation.

Update

This is another piece by one of the Guardian’s Russia ‘journalists’. The headline owes much more to political propagandising or even entertainment than political reality: “Alexei Navalny to fly into Moscow in challenge to Putin”. He is not going to ‘challenge’ Putin. In fact by all accounts he may be immediately arrested under Russian laws for violating his probation – related to a suspended sentence for fraud. Even if not and he takes up residence again in his Moscow flat it should be clarified that Navalny does not represent a direct challenge to ‘Putin’. He is able to call out relatively small numbers of demonstrators onto the streets of Moscow – of whom many are school-children. (In Russia he is known as the “King of the Kids”). When he did stand in the Moscow mayoral election in 2013 he came second to Sergey Semyonovich Sobyanin. Sobyanin is a member of Putin’s United Russia. For many, and perhaps the majority of Russians, he is not a political figure at all. He is trying to “challenge” Putin but that is not the same thing.

Navalny’s return is a direct challenge to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, which has sought to keep the opposition leader in exile by indirectly threatening him with prosecution and jail time if he comes back

It is not “the Kremlin” that is “threatening him with jail time”. It is the Russian Punishment service (ФСИН) and according to their statement Navalny has violated the terms of an existing suspended sentence. [4] Of course, it would be naïve to think that there is the same degree of independence of the judiciary in Russia as there is in the UK. But it does not follow from that that there is no functioning system of law in Russia. Interestingly it seems to be 100% factually correct that Navalny was under probation until the end of December 2020. (This is according to the BBC’s Russian service). [5] The original probationary service was extended – because Navalny had committed further, administrative, offences while on probation for fraud. [6] All this is in fact Russian law proceeding in a normal way. The story therefore that this is politically orchestrated by the Kremlin appears not to be factually based. For Roth though Russia, it seems, is not permitted to have a normal legal process like any other country.

Russian police have said they have begun detaining his supporters travelling to Moscow for planning to hold an “illegal” rally. The airport has said that it cannot host mass events due to the coronavirus epidemic

He doesn’t exactly say it but the suggestion is that this claim by police is an excuse. This is interesting isn’t it – when we consider that right now in the UK any form of political protest is outlawed and people can be and are being arrested for trying to protest. [7] Perhaps Roth doesn’t care if lots of people catch and spread Sars-Cov-2 at the airport in Moscow.

The Kremlin is likely to seek retaliation for a Bellingcat investigation that traced the movements of an FSB hit team that shadowed Navalny around Russia for years.

This is completely farcical. If Roth really believes this he should be in a mental institution. As per the above – the Bellingcat report, as reported in the Western media, if valid, simply shows that (guess what) the FSB has had Navalny under surveillance. It did not produce evidence of an “FSB hit team”. It did not show that the FSB or any other Russian state actors poisoned Navalny with anything. Period.

The revelations were deeply embarrassing for the Kremlin. Putin called the report a “falsification” and accused Navalny of being backed by western intelligence agencies. Investigators have also refused to open a criminal case about Navalny’s poisoning, saying they had “[no] concrete evidence about circumstances indicating the signs of criminal activity by members of Russia’s FSB”

For “revelations” read claims. And, again the “deeply embarrassing” claims in the Bellingcat report are in fact simply that the FSB had Navalny under surveillance for years. That isn’t embarrassing and the Kremlin has freely admitted that that is true. [2] This is, basically, a hoax. Again; the hoax is to exploit the dramatic and well-publicised “revelations” about the FSB having Navalny under surveillance to bolster the story about the FSB poisoning Navalny – for which there is no evidence.

It is strange how the Western media’s tendency to do “balanced journalism” – which so often seems to give power the last word – is completely absent from these articles on Russia. So, for balance; Russia is saying that they have requested information on the poison from German authorities and it has not been provided. [8] They are, presumably, unwilling to open an investigation on no more than the say-so of Navalny. The attempt to make them do so is, once again, a case of applying a special set of rules just for Russia.

The kind of “journalism” we see here is close to a form of racism. It is at best theatre, entertainment, adrift from facts and objective reporting. It is, strangely enough, the kind of ‘patriotic’ gibberish we would expect to see from a national media in a time of war…

Notes

  1. https://www.rt.com/uk/504694-bellingcat-foreign-office-higgins/
  2. https://www.rt.com/russia/509944-putin-claims-opposition-figure-cia/ / https://www.rt.com/russia/510348-navalny-fsb-officer-video/
  3. Scott Ritter and Williams Rivers Pitt War on Iraq. 2002.
  4. https://www.rt.com/russia/512510-prison-service-obliged-detain-navalny/
  5. https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-40830028
  6. https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-44605692
  7. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/video-woman-arrested-parliament-tory-b79028.html
  8. https://www.rt.com/russia/501510-russia-calls-opcw-navalny-data-release/

False news about Navalny in the Guardian

No real surprises here. This is the Guardian report about Navalny’s stated intention to return to Moscow. From the point of view of journalism it has two major faults. Firstly, it accepts and reports as fact some rather unlikely claims made by Navalny. Good journalism makes it clear when something is established fact and when something is a claim made by an interested party. With Navalny it seems, whatever he (or ‘Bellingcat’) says is taken as fact. The reason for this is that he is against the Kremlin. The second problem is that in one respect at least it consciously misleads readers.

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Censorship in the Independent? & the problem with ‘balanced journalism’

I thought this couldn’t really be true. A number of comments I made on the Independent comments section have dissappeared in the last few days. I thought that they couldn’t really have been censored for political reasons but today one was definitely “moderated”. It seems another reader may have reported it and …. it vanished.

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Western Media Misinformation on Navalny

Unfortunately I am very short of time. So I just have time for a few brief comments.

The UK media narrative on Navalny is written in the realms of delusion. Worryingly it is also part scripted by the intelligence services.

Standard fare (for which they don’t need direction from MI5/6) is to call Navalny “Putin’s most prominent opponent”. [1] This is fake news. Navalny is a blogger with a very limited political profile. His most serious showing was in the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections when he came second by a long way. This was in one of the two or three cities where has has anything which could be called a significant support base.

Continue reading “Western Media Misinformation on Navalny”