Friday, June 08, 2007

Let’s Play Boris Bingo!!! aka Welcome to Londongrad

There’s a little game I’ve been playing with every news story about Russia I've seen or read since Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned.

The game simply involves doing a Google search for the name of every Russian quoted in the story combined with the name ‘Berezovsky

Names such as
Stansilav Belkovsky, ‘
The National Strategic Institute of Moscow’, the ‘The International Foundation for Civil Liberties’, Yuri Felshtinsky (quoted in Counterpunch no less) and, above all, Alexander Goldfarb

Alex Goldfarb is frequently described in the press as a ‘family friend’ of the murdered ex-FSB assassin and freelance 'security consultant'
Alexander Litivinenko (described by one stupefyingly well-informed member of the audience on Question Time last night as ‘a good man’) and has co-authored a book with Litvinenko’s widow - Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB (Hardcover).

And, strangely enough, virtually all of the Russians quoted as first-hand sources of how Russia under Putin is sliding into barbarity turn out to be employees 'associates' of Boris Berezovsky.

You could write a book about the fascinating Mr Berezovsky, though I wouldn’t advise it. The last person to do that got shot.

Suffice to say, unlike all of the Muslims being arrested in this country on terrorism conspiracy (ho ho) charges, Boris has helped fuck up the way of life and democracy of an entire nation and he is attempting
to orchestrate the violent overthrow of that nation’s democratically elected government, behind the protection of a British passport sold/ given to him on the basis that he is a political refugee...

Boris Berezovsky is to honesty and democracy what Gary Glitter is to the child care industry

But strangely, media whores like fellow Question Time panelist Melanie Phillips don't seem that fussed about London becoming a home from home for anti-democratic foreign criminals - unless that is a) they don't exist, or b) their skin happens to be brown

(Possibly the most amusing moment in last night’s
Question Time was listening to people complain about the Russians not allowing murder suspect Andrei Lugavoi to be extradited to the UK. Someone had the temerity to point out that the UK has resisted requests to extradite Berezovsky to Russia for years but that was neatly dealt with by general agreement that the Russian legal system was crap and ours was ace. So, double standards are OK provided they are British double standards)

"And tonight’s guests on Question Time are Charles Manson, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, The Evil Hood from Thunderbirds, Gary Glitter, The Yorkshire Ripper ...and Melanie Phillips"

Curiously, in spite of a CV that would have made Al Capone blush, Boris and his ‘associates’ are quoted verbatim in the British Media and have contributed in no small part to the latest outbreak of anti-Russian feeling being stoked up by those media.


The hypocrisy being displayed by the Western Media and Politicians is breath-taking. When you actually try and quantify just what it is that Putin’s Russia is doing that is supposedly so repugnant to decent people, especially when compared to the actions of our own governments, it’s difficult to get a handle on what the problem is...
  • Putin was democratically elected – by a stonking majority in comparison to, say, Tony Blair
  • Aside from the Chechen mess that Putin inherited from the Saintly Boris Yeltsin, Russia hasn’t invaded anywhere on the basis of lies, unlike, er, Tony Blair
  • All of the ordinary Russians I've met, whilst cautious about Putin becoming a dictator, are profoundly thankful that he stopped their country imploding, unlike what ordinary people in this country think about, er, whatshisface...

The Russians have, however, kicked out a few (though not all) oligarchs, got a little pissy about the Americans ringing their country with missile bases, and they are using their copious energy resources as a geopolitical tool on the international stage

The bastards

Don’t they realise that having their country turn to shit is
a price worth paying for Western energy security?

All this talk in the West of civil rights and democracy in Russia is a lie. None of the people spinning this rubbish care two fucks about the Russian people, no more than they cared about the Iraqi people. They didn't give a toss when Russia was slipping into the void and I doubt very much if ordinary people in Russia would want to see their government ever talking advice from the West again.

The West had the option of investing in Russia in the 1990s but chose to crater its economy instead. And the forward thinking people in our establishment know that down the line we’re going to have to buy essential commodities off the Russians with nothing to offer in exchange except for our own increasingly worthless currencies.

And, bizarrely, such diverse, supposedly libertarian, characters as
Peter Tatchell and Craig Murray have spontaneously (?) joined in the Russia baiting. Peter Tatchell has always been a self-publicising tool so his behaviour comes as no surprise. However, along with his recent suggestion that punching policemen on the nose will stop the encroachment on our civil liberties (a very curious thing for a former establishment figure to say), Murray’s recent writings on Russia have been a, ummm, disappointment.


As far as many Russians are concerned the antics of Berezovsky and his ‘associates’ are so crude and so transparent that they actually suspect him of working with Putin (
contrary to popular belief, Putin didn’t crack down on all the Oligarchs and many are thriving in Russia)

Apparently, British journalists don’t think there’s anything crude or transparent about Berezovsky at all and faithfully repeat any old crap Goldfarb puts out on his behalf without even a whiff of criticism or context

Stuff like this picture…

"But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the Angel of Death... and Alex Goldfarb telling the photographer to take more close ups"

or Litvinenko’s surprisingly wordy death bed statement

... because staging pictures and extracting statements from someone dying from late-stage radiation-induced cancer is the first thing close family friends would want to do

Is it that our journalists are simply out of their depth when faced by such Machiavellian goings-on and reduced to mere 'repeaters' as a consequence?

Sorry, I’m not buying it.

And here’s where, as a unrepentant Conspiraloon, I diverge from the majority of people when considering the role of our Press in this shameful business. I just cannot accept that all of the people shoveling this stuff are that ignorant

If there’s one thing Berezovsky has shown us in the UK it’s how easy it is to hoodwink or buy our press with the aid of a compliant establishment

Forget worries over the freedom and objectivity of the press in Putin's Russia what about this country?

Five minutes of research would encourage even the most mentally-challenged but honourable journalist to inject at least a little scepticism into their coverage. And there is something more than a little outrageous about quoting people as being representatives of sham organisations such as the ‘International Foundation for Civil Liberties’ without at least mentioning that they are the creation of a billionaire exile wanted in his home country for theft and fraud. You wouldn’t get away with putting an unknown football commentator on television on the basis that he’s the spokesperson for the made-up ‘International Football Skills Foundation’ - total membership two people.

But there again, your average brain dead cunt takes football more seriously than matters of life and death. Probably because the sheer irrelevance and triviality of sport means that it’s OK to follow it in depth. No nasty surprises that will fuck up your perception of the world and the part you play in it.

OK that’s not entirely fair. Many people I meet are receptive to alternative explanations for current events to the ones permitted in the mainstream press, provided those accounts are cogent. However, they don’t have the time to dig this stuff out for themselves. And that’s the challenge. How to reach to them?


Alex Goldfarb Boris Berezovsky has very kindly offered to answer viewer's questions in response to last night's episode of
Question Time. I'll be sending in one or two of my own...



Alex Fear said...

Reminds me of the end of WW2.

Churchill wanted to freeze Stalin out, whilst FDR over-enthusiastically handed over Eastern Europe.

We just freed you from Hitler- Yay!
But we're selling you to Stalin- Boo!

Stef said...

Unless you were a Czech in which case it went...

We turned you over to Hitler - Boo!
We just freed you from Hitler- Yay!
But we're selling you to Stalin- Boo!

Shahid said...

"So, double standards are OK provided they are British double standards"

Quite possibly one of the most brilliant things I've ever read...

Anonymous said...

Russia, Israel and Media Omissions


As is often the case with AP's coverage of news having to do with Israel, there's a serious omission in its reporting on the Russia-Israel connection even when it involves oil and the United States.

The day after the State of the Union Address, two Interpol fugitives attended the "National Prayer Breakfast" held in Washington DC. The day before that, these fugitives from the law were the guests of honor at an hour-long meeting of the International Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, invited by ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (Calif.)

You would think it would be hot news when wanted men being hunted by European police suddenly pop up in the US particularly on Capitol Hill and at events attended by the US president.

Yet, there was not a single AP story in the US on any of this. [1] Not a single national network television or radio news program even mentioned these facts. In fact, Google and LexisNexis searches four days after these events took place turned up only three newspaper articles on them anywhere in the entire country. [2]

Who are these fugitives from the law, wanted by Interpol, who are meeting at the highest levels of the US government? And why didn't we learn of them?

Therein lies the story. These two men, it turns out, are just the tips of a colossal iceberg. And this iceberg doesn't just have 90 percent of its mass hidden under water; this iceberg is almost entirely submerged.

They are Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov, Israeli-Russian partners in the giant Russian oil company Yukos. They, along with a number of their cronies, are wanted by Interpol for allegedly bilking Russian citizens out of billions of dollars. To elude Russian prosecution, these men have taken up residence in Israel. [3]

As the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz explains: "In recent years Russian authorities began investigating [Yukos], its managers and major stockholders, many of whom are of Jewish origin. The probes caused several of the managers to flee to Israel, and resulted in Khodorkovski's [Yukos CEO] arrest and a Kremlin attack on Yukos."

The fact is that Israel is an important factor in the ongoing, nation-shaking power struggle now going on in Russia. Yet AP virtually never reports this connection. For example, a few months ago in a typical AP story on this power struggle, "Report: Russia again charges Berezovsky," [4] Moscow AP Bureau Chief Judith Ingram makes no mention anywhere that Berezovsky is an Israeli citizen, or of his many connections to Israel.

Such omissions by AP and large swaths of the American media leave Americans seriously disadvantaged in deciphering what is going on in Russia, and its profound significance for the world.

In order to make sense of this Russian power struggle, and to understand its importance to the rest of us, it is necessary to understand the usually omitted Israeli subtext. When this is understood, the friendship of such pro-Israel Congressional leaders as Rep. Lantos to fugitive Russian oil tycoons begins to make sense.

To explore this background it is often useful to turn to the Israeli press. In July a major Israeli publication, the Jerusalem Post, carried an article headlined: "Boris Berezovsky: Putin's Russia dangerous for Israel." Before describing what this contained, let us first go into a little of the background.

The Oligarchs

Boris Berezovsky is one of seven "oligarchs," as they are known both inside and outside Russia: massively rich, powerful manipulators who through violence, theft and corruption acquired a mammoth percentage (reports range from 70 to 85 percent) of Russia's resources, from its oil to the auto industry to mass media outlets.

At the same time, the group steadily gained control over much of the country's political apparatus. Using extraordinary financial resources and insider dealing, the oligarchs handpicked prime ministers and governmental leaders and barely even bothered to do this behind the scenes.

In 1997 Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the group and Russia's sometimes richest man (several of the oligarchs trade the top spot back and forth) told an interviewer before he was arrested and imprisoned by Putin last year:

"If we rank all the fields of man's activity by profitability, politics will be the most lucrative business. When we see a critical situation in the government, we draw lots in order to pick out a person from our milieu for work in power." [5]

Almost all of these oligarchs, it turns out, have significant ties to Israel. In fact, Berezovsky himself has Israeli citizenship a fact that caused a scandal of Watergate proportions in Russia in 1996 when it was exposed by a Russian newspaper. [6]

Do Berezovsky's dual loyalties really matter? Yes. In the realm of global dominance, Israel's interests and Russia's are considerably divergent. It is in Israel's interests to bring to power a regime in Russia friendly to Israel, rather than the current one under Putin, which Israeli leaders feel is supportive of its enemies. Not long ago, for example, Putin met with Syrian leaders an action highly disturbing to Israel.

Having an Israeli citizen at the highest levels of the Russian government is ideal, from Israel's point of view. In Berezovsky they had such a man. The Jerusalem Post article mentioned above is revealing. It describes Berezovsky as "the Godfather of the Oligarchs' and Kingmaker of Russia's Politics'" and reports Berezovsky's statement that "Putin's Russia is dangerous for Israel." Berezovsky goes on to assert that Putin "supports terror" in the Middle East through Russia's previous relations with Iraq and current relations with Iran. [7]

While Israelis may have been delighted at Berezovsky's position in Russia, It is not surprising that Russian citizens were somewhat less so. Finding that a powerful leader and member of the Russian Security Council was an Israeli citizen was disconcerting, at best.

As a result of the media uproar over Berezovsky's Israeli citizenship and other events, the Oligarchs' connections to Israel are widely known in Russia and elsewhere. In Israel they are covered frequently, often with adulation, including a recent hit Israeli TV series called "The Oligarchs."

"Some of its episodes," according to Israeli writer Uri Avnery, "are simply unbelievable or would have been, if they had not come straight from the horses' mouths: the heroes of the story, who gleefully boast about their despicable exploits. The series was produced by Israeli immigrants from Russia."

Avnery writes that the oligarchs used "cheating, bribery and murder," as they "exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and to amass plunder amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. In order to safeguard the perpetuation of their business, they took control of the state. Six out of the seven are Jews." [8]

According to a Washington Post story by David Hoffman, the group bought and controlled Russian governmental officials at the highest levels. After financing Yeltsin's election in 1996, Hoffman writes: "The tycoons met and decided to insert one of their own into government. They debated who and chose [Vladimir] Potanin, who became deputy prime minister. One reason they chose Potanin was that he is not Jewish, and most of the rest of them are, and feared a backlash against the Jewish bankers." [9]

In Russia, the oligarchs are deeply loathed, considered villains who worked to bleed the country dry; during their reign many Russian citizens saw their life savings disappear overnight. A new term was coined for their dominance, "semibankirshchina" (the rule of the seven bankers), and they were widely known to have wielded small, murderous armies. There are rumors that Berezovsky, subject of the respectful AP article, was even responsible for the gunning down of an American journalist, Forbes Moscow editor Paul Klebnikov.

While no one has been charged with the murder of Klebnikov, who had written a book on Berezovsky, many suspect a Berezovsky connection. As a friend of Klebnikov wrote: "Experienced expatriates in Russia shared an essential rule: Don't cross these brutal billionaires, ever, or you're likely to go home in a box." [10]

The Chechnya Connection

There is evidence that Berezovsky's responsibility for death and tragedy may be vastly greater.

"Berezovsky boasts that he caused the war in Chechnya," Avnery reports, "in which tens of thousands have been killed and a whole country devastated. He was interested in the mineral resources and a prospective pipeline there. In order to achieve this he put an end to the peace agreement that gave the country some kind of independence. The oligarchs dismissed and destroyed Alexander Lebed, the popular general who engineered the agreement, and the war has been going on since then.

"In the end," Avnery writes, "there was a reaction: Vladimir Putin, the taciturn and tough ex-KGB operative, assumed power, took control of the media, put one of the oligarchs (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) in prison, caused the others to flee (Berezovsky is in England, Vladimir Gusinsky is in Israel, another, Mikhail Chernoy, is assumed to be hiding here.)"

Yet, apart from the Washington Post, American media report on almost none of this. Instead, US coverage largely portrays Berezovsky and his crowd as American-style entrepreneurs who are being hounded by a Russian government whose actions are, to repeat the media's commonly used phrase, "politically motivated."

US news stories, even when they occasionally do hint at questionable practices, tend to use such phrases as "brash young capitalists" to describe the oligarchs. [11] For example, a long series co-produced by FRONTLINE and the New York Times referred to these men as "shrewd businessmen," and asked "what it's like to be young, Russian and newly affluent?" [12] Massive violence, dual loyalties, and control of resources are rarely, if ever, part of the picture.

When AP Moscow bureau chief Ingram was asked for this article about Berezovsky's Israeli citizenship, she claimed to know nothing about it, a curious contention for someone who has been an AP news editor in Moscow since 1999. When Ingram was queried further, she hung up the phone.

An examination of Ingram's reporting on the Berezovsky story cited above raises serious questions. Though she is located in Moscow, Ingram interviewed only two people for her news story: Berezovsky, who is in London, and Berezovsky associate Alex Goldfarb, in New York. One wonders why she interviewed none of the Russians residing around her.

Similarly, one wonders why not a single AP story has identified Berezovsky's considerable connection to Israel.

Further, nowhere does Ingram's article convey the ruthlessness of the oligarchs' actions, or the significance of their holdings, including control of its media. Unnoted in Ingram's report is the fact that her subject and fellow oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky have been two of Russia's most powerful media tycoons.

Before Putin's crackdown, according to the Washington Post, oligarchs had succeeded in seizing "the reins of Russia's print and broadcast media, vital to the evolution of the country's fledgling democracy and growth of its nascent civil society." Berezovsky crony Gusinsky, who is close friends with Rupert Murdoch and was about the launch a satellite network, fled to Israel when it appeared he would be arrested." [13]

Somehow, AP's bureau chief seems to have missed all this.

Does this matter to Americans?

AP is the major news source for the thousands of news outlets around the country who cannot afford to have their own foreign correspondents. When AP chooses not to cover something, its omission is felt throughout the nation. When national news networks and others leave out the same facts, the cover-up is almost total.

Russia, despite its current turmoil, contains enormous power. Its natural resources are gargantuan: it possesses the world's largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. It is the world's largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest oil exporter, and the third largest energy consumer.[14] Russia's significance on the world stage now, as in the past, is immense.

Similarly, the United States is currently the most powerful nation on earth. It is therefore essential that its citizens be accurately informed on issues of significance. Israeli citizens, Russian citizens, and citizens of nations throughout the world know the information detailed above. It is critical that American citizens be no less well informed.

For years, the neocons' push for war against Iraq was largely uncovered by the US media. For even longer, the neocons' close connections to Israel have gone largely unmentioned in mainstream American news reports. As a result, very few Americans know to what degree many of those responsible for the tragic US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been motivated by Israeli concerns.

The omission in coverage of Iraq has been profoundly disastrous, both for the Middle East and for Americans. In fact, it is quite likely that only history will show the true extent of this disaster. It is deeply troubling to see the same kind of omission occurring on Russia.

Alison Weir is Executive Director of If Americans Knew

[1] Interestingly, an AP report sent out only on its Worldstream wire (i.e. to Europe; Britain; Scandinavia; Middle East; Africa; India; Asia; England, but not to US papers) contained information on this at the end of the report.

[2] Washington Post: "Prayer Breakfast Includes Russian Fugitives" (overall, the Post has been an exception to the general blackout on this subject); the Seattle Times, which ran the Post story, and the New York Times, in a short story on page 12 on Sunday, three days after the event. Interestingly, the NY Times story was filed from Moscow (not Washington) and quotes a "spokesman" for the two men, Charles Krause, who has worked as a correspondent in Israel for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. In the Times story Russian attempts to prosecute these men are described as "politically motivated."

[3] This is a wise move, since Israel is known for never extraditing Jewish citizens, no matter what their crime. Even requests for such cooperation by the US, which gives Israel over $10 million per day, go unheeded by the Israeli government. Private citizens wanted for committing murder in the US, for example, are not returned for trial.

[4] Associated Press, Sept. 22, 2004

[5] "Tycoons Take the Reins in Russia," By David Hoffman, Washington Post Foreign Service, Friday, August 28, 1998; Page A01

[6] "Media and Politics in Transition: Three Models," Post-Soviet Media Law & Policy Newsletter, Issue 35, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Feb. 27, 1997

[7] "Boris Berezovsky: Putin's Russia dangerous for Israel.', Bret Stephens, The Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2005

[8]" The Oligarchs", Uri Avnery, CounterPunch, Aug. 3, 2004

[9] "Tycoons Take the Reins in Russia," By David Hoffman, Washington Post Foreign Service, Friday, August 28, 1998; Page A01,

[10] "Same Old Ruthless Russia," by Michael R. Caputo,

[11] Washington Post, Aug 28, 1998

[12] October 2003, Sabrina Tavernise,

[13] "Powerful Few Rule Russian Mass Media," David Hoffman, Washington Post, March 31, 1997; Page A01


Stef said...

Hmmmm, the Russia - Jewish thing

A tricky subject

I linked to an article in the eXile newspaper in the body of my post above that raises the subject of Jewish oligarchy

their take is that Russian Jews were somehow well-placed to take advantage of the chaos in the 1990s because they had been suppressed by the state prior to that and had learned how to cope in difficult times

Personally, I'm not buying that one. There were plenty Russian Jews in the Soviet System going all the way back to Trotsky. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has got into trouble writing about that...

My own take is that saying Jewish people are disproportionately represented in certain areas is no more racist than stating Italians are heavily involved in the ice cream business.

Nobody has yet demonstrated to me that there is anything inherently dodgy about being Jewish, any more than any other race. On the other hand, if someone with dodgy inclinations happens to be Jewish that almost certainly affords them some opportunities that might not be open to gentiles. On the other hand, other opportunities will be closed...

Stef said...

I am certain that people should be able to talk about these issues though without some twat comparing them to Hitler