Now’s The Time To Slander Russia – OpEd

Add the Litvinenko affair to the list of media stories that are maligning Russia in the final countdown to the Sochi Olympics.

A London Times headline proclaimed “There is proof Russia killed Litvinenko.” But there is not one word in that headline that is true. Not one word!

Did you know that Britain never has officially established that Litvinenko was killed? The London coroner is supposed to say whether it was a homicide, accident, suicide, or from natural causes. But in all the years since the 2006 death there’s been no ruling.

The Times also reported there is proof of Russian involvement. That’s not true either. Apparently the newspaper drew its conclusion from the words of coroner Sir Robert Owen. He claims to have seen government information that establishes a “prima facie case” against Russia.

But that’s not the same as proof. Only a court of law can come to a final conclusion like that. The Times claim of “proof” is just another distortion of theirs. What’s more, even the “prima facie case” claim is in doubt. The official record says that the government material Owen saw is a “prima facie case” only if “taken in isolation,” without the context of other available information.

The Litvinenko case has now stretched out for over seven years. It’s been full of complication and intrigue. But last December the coroner concluded that the matter of Russian state involvement should be removed from the scope of his inquest. Finally the witch hunt was over. But then the specious London Times story pops up as if nothing had been concluded. Why would a newspaper like the Times waste its precious space on nonsense like that? The likely answer: to kick Russia once again. It seems to be a popular sport.

Recent media stories included: Snowden was a Russian spy, the explosions in Volgograd were virtually next door to Sochi, Russia has criminalized being gay, and Putin is manipulating Yanukovych away from democracy. In the final days before the Sochi Olympics there seems to be a feeling of “who’s better to kick than Russia.”

Viewing all this from the U.S., it’s hard for me to avoid thinking that in the West, and indeed in Russia itself, there are many people who will go out of their way to spoil the allure of the approaching Games.


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William Dunkerley

William Dunkerley

William Dunkerley is a media business analyst and consultant based in New Britain, Connecticut, USA. He works extensively with media organizations in Russia and other post-communist countries, and has advised government leaders on strategies for building press freedom and a healthy media sector. He is a Senior Fellow at the American University in Moscow.

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