Guardian misinformation on Russia

The interesting question is why?

This piece contains straight lies. Not distortions, lack of balance, one-sided presentation – straight lies.

The level of violence was unusual for protests in Russia, where heavily armoured police usually methodically kettle protesters without resorting to open fighting in the streets. Videos on Saturday showed police beating protesters with truncheons, and one showed an officer kicking a female protester in the stomach and knocking her to the ground. She was hospitalised in a critical condition. The officer has not been identified.

Interestingly an admission that all the Guardian’s previous stories about riot police “brutally” suppressing demonstrations in Moscow have been lies.

The point here about the ‘female protestor’ is a) she wasn’t a protestor – she is a middle-aged lady who stepped in front of officers who were escorting an arrested man to remonstrate with them and b) while she certainly was kicked the police in St Petersburg have already admitted it happened and apologised. [1] There is some doubt about the “critical condition”. According to one news report she was well enough to meet the local police chief in hospital. He went to apologise. Roth is telling lies. He is a liar.

Update. According to a subsequent Guardian report by agencies the woman suffered concussion and needed stitches and is now well enough to ne giving interviews demanding the officer who kicked her be punished. So definitely not critically injured as Roth wrote. A lie and it is highly inlikely Roth will go back and correct it. Indeed the whole event is being misrepresented. At first she was a protestor and now she is a woman who simply ‘asked’ officers why they arrested a man. As the video in the link shows she blocked the path of the officers who were carrying out an arrest and remonstrated with them. A single abberant act which the police have already acknowledged as such is being used to create a ‘brutal crackdown’ narrative.

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Videos have also emerged of protesters attacking police and of several dozen smashing the glass of a car that appeared to belong to the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence service. The driver of the car was reported by the RIA Novosti state news agency to have sustained a serious eye injury, but this has not been confirmed.

The woman hurt by police is “in a critical condition”. (Doubtful). The security personnel attacked by demonstrators may be injured but here “it has not been confirmed”. (One wonders who Roth will turn to to “confirm” this – maybe Navalny’s press office?)

Authorities have required social media companies such as TikTok to delete posts from underage users supporting the protests.

I am 99% sure this isn’t true. All the reports I have read in the Russian media are that social media are being told to remove posts summoning children to illegal protests. A completely different matter. At best – both kinds of material are being removed. [2] Again – Roth is lying. (In the UK too this would be precisely the sort of thing which the police would get involved in: people inciting children to illegal acts on social media).

But why all these lies by journalists? It can’t surely be explained by entirely by “lazy journalism” though I don’t doubt that the Guardian relies very heavily on Navalny’s press releases in producing their copy on Russia. Is it hatred of the conservative and ‘illiberal’ regime in Russia? A straightfoward copybook regime change op. with the media fully understanding their role in serving the interests of corporate power?

Update 27-1-21

Why bother to full up the pages of a newspaper with lies? Why bother?

This is more from Roth

“alleged breaches of coronavirus restrictions during last week’s” – funny but in the UK at the moment no political protests of any kind at all are allowed and old ladies are being bundled into police vans for protesting.

“The raids put additional pressure on Navalny as the Kremlin weighs whether or not to risk giving its most stalwart critic the kind of lengthy prison sentence that could turn him into a political martyr”. Roth pretends he knows that Navalny’s case will be decided in the Kremlin. The situation may not be quite this simple. At any event Roth doesn’t know this and so this sentence fails a basic test of journalism; to report what you know not what you don’t and when you are speculating make that clear.

The whole piece is written in effect from the point of view of Navalny. His point of view predominates. As usual this is the underlying racism we see in these people; the people who don’t accept their liberal values (Russians who don’t support Navalny i.e. the clear majority) are simply de-existed – like the people in Donbass who are de-existed because they claim their own heritage and it just happens not to align with what the EU and NATO had in mind for that piece of territory.

“The powerful group [actually not a ‘group’ but a legally constituted criminal investigation body] has also launched an inquiry into alleged calls for underage Russians to join the protests” – in reality there is nothing alleged about this. Navalny is even doing it from his prison cell. (In England calling children out onto the streets would be immediately condemned across the political spectrum; liberals are however happy to see it happen in Russia even in the middle of a coronavirus epidemic).

“Meanwhile the Insider newspaper, in a collaboration with Bellingcat, released new information on the FSB hit squad that allegedly poisoned Navalny” – “information” – ho ho. Everything from this side is “information”. Everything from the Russian government is an “allegation”. The FSB “hit squad” with reference to Navalny is a fiction. 100% fiction. There is zero evidence of anything of the kind. (The evidence relates to a surveillance team. There is no evidence that the surveillance team poisoned Navalny with ‘Novichok’).

Roth goes on to reference new material from Bellingcat. Using the same apparent phone data that they have in their possession they claim to link the FSB to more assassinations. These include: “Nikita Isayev, a prominent political activist and pundit on state television, died of an apparent heart attack on a train in 2019. He was avowedly pro-Kremlin in his public remarks, and the Insider [Bellingcat’s media partner] said it was unclear why he was apparently targeted.” Which rather undermines the story it would seem. I.e. maybe he wasn’t and maybe the fact that someone was under surveillance by the FSB (if they indeed were) does not mean that when they die or fall ill it is because the FSB did something. One can see how wedded they are to their own narrative when facts they turn up which taken at face value oppose their conclusions are simply presented as surprising exceptions.

Notes

  1. https://www.gazeta.ru/social/news/2021/01/24/n_15529382.shtml
  2. https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4660588

The asylum trick

The background to this is extremely complex. I have only half-followed the story. The basic allegation is that there was a conspiracy in Scotland to fit up the previous SNP leader Alex Salmond by the current party leadership acting in cahoots with figures in the police and government bureaucracy.

You don’t need to have followed the story to follow this one point I want to make. Craig Murray (dissident blogger, ex-Ambassador and alleged conspiracy theorist), who himself is being persecuted by the same allegedly corrupt establishment, has been demanding the release of certain messages from the Crown Office in Scotland. He has also been asking why the Scottish Parliament inquiry into a botched attempt to bring down Salmond with a disciplinary process has not asked for all these messages.

Recently it was reported in the mainstream press that the Scottish Parliament inquiry has demanded the release of documents. This is the Guardian’s account. If you read that you will come away believing that this is a bold move by the committee that will get to the truth of the allegations (which are essentially of a conspiracy by senior Scottish government politicians and staff to stitch up Salmond).

Continue reading “The asylum trick”

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.

Continue reading “False news about Navalny in the Guardian”