Cliff Kincaid
The Putin regime fears a free press
By Cliff Kincaid
January 18, 2014

Journalist David Satter, denied a visa to report from Russia, writes in The Wall Street Journal that recent terrorist bombings in Russia may be modeled after the 1999 apartment bombings that served to solidify Vladimir Putin's control of the country and justify the war against the former Soviet republic of Chechnya. The 1999 bombings, Satter notes, were blamed on Islamic terrorists, but were proven to be the work of agents of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, a successor to the old KGB.

Regarding the December terror bombings in Volgograd, Satter says "The outlines of the story follow a pattern in Russia of Islamists being freed from [police] custody shortly before committing terrorist acts." He says these episodes "merit close scrutiny by the press."

But Satter, an adviser to Radio Liberty hoping to help investigate these matters, will not be allowed to do so in Russia.

In regard to the previous October 22 attack on a Volgograd city bus, Satter writes that "The crime was quickly blamed on a female suicide bomber from Dagestan, Naida Asiyalova, and her common-law husband, Dmitri Sokolov, a Russian convert to Islam who allegedly outfitted Asiyalova with the bomb. Sokolov, however, had been in police custody, as the authorities themselves acknowledged, until shortly before the attack."

The suggestion is that these bombings, like those in 1999, are being carried out with the approval, or even at the direction of, the FSB, for the benefit of the Kremlin, in order to justify "greater repression" by the Putin regime. Putin himself is a former Soviet KGB officer.

Indeed, the Russian government has reacted to the bombings by embracing new "anti-terrorism" legislation that includes measures to give security personnel the right to stop and search, and to "monitor" the Internet and social media.

Satter also raised questions about Russian handling of the 2004 Beslan school massacre, during which "the deaths of 334 hostages, most of them children, occurred after Russian forces stormed the gymnasium where the hostages were being held," and the regime refused to honor the terms of a peaceful settlement of the stand-off.

Satter said, "Other questions that hang over the Putin regime are the fates of his murdered political opponents, Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya, and Natalya Estemirova."

Litvinenko was a former KGB officer who revealed FSB involvement in alleged Islamic terrorism. He co-authored the book Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror. Politkovskaya was a journalist, and Estemirova was a human rights activist.

"I presented evidence that the explosions were a provocation carried out by the FSB, in my book and in 2007 testimony before the U.S. Congress," notes Satter. That testimony was provided in connection with his work for the Hudson Institute.

The Hudson Institute said that it "condemns Russia's arbitrary and punitive moves against David Satter in the strongest possible terms, demands that his expulsion and ban be immediately reversed, and urges the U.S. government and international community to make every possible effort to ensure that David Satter is allowed to continue his scholarly activities in Russia without further delay or interference."

The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. was quick to demand the release from custody in Egypt of Al Jazeera personnel said to be involved with the pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. But it's not clear what, if anything, the prestigious journalism institution will do about the Satter case.

The two cases could not be more different. Al Jazeera is funded and controlled by the pro-jihadist undemocratic regime in Qatar that exports revolution and turmoil to neighboring Arab states. Satter, on the other hand, is a veteran Moscow correspondent determined to help democracy survive and grow in Russia.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Radio Liberty and other U.S. international media, put out a statement saying that "Russian journalists from RT and other media are able to work in the United States without interference or censorship. We insist on the same for our journalists and our broadcasts in Russia."

In fact, Moscow operates several "news" agencies in the U.S., including Russia Today (RT), a propaganda channel funded by the Putin regime, which employs American "progressives" such as Thom Hartmann. It is not known how much Hartmann is paid by the Kremlin and he refuses to talk about his payments from Moscow. Former RT "journalist" Alyona Minkovski now works for The Huffington Post, where she promotes the idea that NSA leaker Edward Snowden, now living in Moscow under the protection of the Putin regime and the FSB, is a legitimate whistleblower.

Satter had moved to Moscow to advise the Russian Service of Radio Liberty, and work on a new book about Russia under Putin. But his visa to remain in the country was rejected. His work includes the book Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union, and a film based on the book is now being shown internationally.

On his website, he explains, "I was expelled from the country at the demand of the security services. This is an ominous precedent for all journalists and for freedom of speech in Russia."

Historian Ronald Radosh writes at PJ Media, "Clearly, in this precarious time for Russia and as Putin stakes his reputation on an unsullied Olympics, his security forces do not want a man of character such as David Satter reporting. New terrorist attacks have been taking place, and Satter is the man who provided evidence that past terrorism acts, such as the 2007 apartment bombings which the Kremlin blamed on the Chechens, were really carried out by the FSB, the successor agency of the old KGB."

In his Journal piece, Satter wrote that Putin is attempting to present Russia as "a moral alternative" to the West. But the failure to tolerate truthful reporting undermines this posturing and exposes the regime's use of Soviet tactics of repression, propaganda, and disinformation.

The reaction by the American media to Putin's treatment of David Satter will speak volumes about the character of today's U.S. media establishment.

As Radosh puts it, "How will the journalistic community respond? Will they take their credentials and just cover the Olympics – which would give much-welcome propaganda via publicity as determined by Putin's controlled news apparatus – or will they protest Satter's expulsion and threaten to report independently once in Russia?"

© Cliff Kincaid


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