More anti-Russian propaganda from the New York Times

black-horizontalTHE WEST’S GREAT WAR AGAINST RUSSIA
The object is the defeat and destruction of Russia as an independent world power.


horiz grey lineBy Barry Grey
SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, WSWS.ORG

The New York Times has been spearheading a media campaign to demonize Russian President Vladimir Putin and create an atmosphere of anti-Russian hysteria. This is in preparation for a sharp escalation of US military violence in the Middle East and stepped-up preparations for war against Moscow and Beijing.

Using unsubstantiated assertions, political amalgams and outright lies in a manner reminiscent of McCarthyism, the Times has published virtually daily articles, editorials and columns asserting, along with Russian “aggression” in Syria and Ukraine, that the Kremlin organized the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers in order to embarrass Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and tip the election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.


 “Kramer has a record of ‘reporting’ for the Times that makes anything he writes worthy only of contempt. He has been caught penning fabrications and the crudest sort of historical falsifications and lies.”

andrewEKramer-NYTimes
Timesman Kramer: Washington’s Man in Moscow. It’s hard to guess what motivates men like these. Is it just opportunistic careerism? A bankrupt ideology or a pathological lack of decency? Bright as they are, is it possible they are truly not aware of the terrible crimes they are enthusiastically setting in motion?

The claim—presented by the Clinton campaign, the Times and much of the US media as indisputable fact—is that Trump is a political ally, if not a direct agent, of Putin. This allegation has become the focus of an attack by Clinton and the Democrats on the fascistic Trump from the right. It has been used to line up former CIA officials and Republican neo-conservatives deeply implicated in the invasion of Iraq, torture and other crimes of the Bush administration, along with an expanding list of billionaire financiers and CEOs, in support of Clinton.

There are precedents for such exercises in state propaganda in the guise of journalism. They have all ended with mass killings, the toppling of governments and, in many cases, the murder of government leaders portrayed as the incarnation of evil—Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, for example.

In this case, the targeted leader presides over the second biggest nuclear arsenal in the world. Regime-change in Russia poses the very real threat of a nuclear holocaust.

On Sunday, the Times ratcheted up its propaganda campaign, publishing a front-page article by its Moscow correspondent, Andrew E. Kramer, under the headline “More Enemies of the Kremlin End Up Dead: A Pattern That Suggest State Involvement.” One might think that the so-called newspaper of record would make sure it had an airtight case before branding the president of Russia a mass murderer. Instead, it has published, with contempt for the most elementary principles of genuine news reporting, an example of the worst sort of yellow journalism.

The first thing to be said about the lengthy “news” article is that it contains no news. The author does not cite a single recent event. Why was it published? Why does it appear as a news piece on the front page? The answer: To advance the anti-Russian, pro-Clinton warmongering agenda of the Times and the ruling class forces for which it speaks.

There are precedents for such exercises in state propaganda in the guise of journalism. They have all ended with mass killings, the toppling of governments and, in many cases, the murder of government leaders portrayed as the incarnation of evil—Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, for example. 

The article is a classic amalgam, stringing together a series of cases of Russian oppositionists who allegedly were either poisoned but survived, who fled the country or who died. Some are named, many are not. In no case is medical evidence presented substantiating the claim that foul play was involved. No actual facts are presented proving Russian state involvement.

It is impossible from the article to determine whether or not the Putin government is guilty of the crimes alleged. The World Socialist Web Site holds no brief for Putin, the representative of a criminal oligarchy that enriched itself from the theft of state property during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and restoration of capitalism in Russia. We call on the Russian working class to deal with him and the rest of the Russian bourgeoisie with the methods of the class struggle and the fight for workers’ power. But one thing is clear: Kramer’s article is pure propaganda.


SIDEBAR
Those with strong stomachs can inspect the Kramer hatchet piece below.

More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead

EUROPE

More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead

By ANDREW E. KRAMER / New York Times
AUG. 20, 2016

Kramer-Litvinenko
The times’ captions reads: “The funeral of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a Putin opponent who died of radioactive polonium-210 poisoning in London in 2006.” The implication is that Putin ordered the hit. Which is a highhanded lie and the Times knows it. A pile of evidence has surfaced since the “Litvinenko affair” made world headlines ten years ago, and it all points to Litvinenko’s own sordid business deals, smuggling of dangerous materials, and machinations with international mafia characters in several countries, including Russia, France and Israel.

MOSCOW — From a certain perspective, certainly the Kremlin’s, Vladimir Kara-Murza’s behavior in Washington could be seen as treasonous, a brazen betrayal of his homeland.

In a series of public meetings on Capitol Hill, Mr. Kara-Murza, a leader in the Russian opposition, urged American lawmakers to expand economic sanctions against the Russian government under a law known as the Magnitsky Act. That would hasten political change in Russia, he argued.

Back in Moscow a month later, in May 2015, the changes Mr. Kara-Murza detected were going on in his own body. Midway through a meeting with fellow dissidents, beads of sweat inexplicably dotted his forehead. His stomach churned.

“It all went so fast,” he recalled. “In the space of about 20 minutes, I went from feeling completely normal to having a rapid heart rate, really high blood pressure, to sweating and vomiting all over the place, and then I lost consciousness.” He had ingested a poison, doctors told him after he emerged from a weeklong coma, though they could find no identifiable trace of it.

While Mr. Kara-Murza survived, few others in his position have proved as lucky. He said he was certain he had been the target of a security service poisoning. Used extensively in the Soviet era, political murders are again playing a prominent role in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, the most brutal instrument in an expanding repertoire of intimidation tactics intended to silence or otherwise intimidate critics at home and abroad.

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has made no secret of his ambition to restore his country to what he sees as its rightful place among the world’s leading nations. He has invested considerable money and energy into building an image of a strong and morally superior Russia, in sharp contrast with what he portrays as weak, decadent and disorderly Western democracies.

Dark Arts: Russia’s Stealth Conflict

This article is the first in a series on how Russia covertly projects power.

Muckraking journalists, rights advocates, opposition politicians, government whistle-blowers and other Russians who threaten that image are treated harshly — imprisoned on trumped-up charges, smeared in the news media and, with increasing frequency, killed.

Political murders, particularly those accomplished with poisons, are nothing new in Russia, going back five centuries. Nor are they particularly subtle. While typically not traceable to any individuals and plausibly denied by government officials, poisonings leave little doubt of the state’s involvement — which may be precisely the point.

“Outside of popular culture, there are no highly skilled hit men for hire,” Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University and an authority on the Russian security services, said in an interview. “If it’s a skilled job, that means it’s a state asset.”

Other countries, notably Israel and the United States, pursue targeted killings, but in a strict counterterrorism context. No other major power employs murder as systematically and ruthlessly as Russia does against those seen as betraying its interests abroad. Killings outside Russia were even given legal sanction by the nation’s Parliament in 2006.

Applied most notoriously in the case of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a Putin opponent who died of polonium-210 poisoning in London in 2006, murders and deaths under mysterious circumstances are now seen as such a menace that Kremlin critics now often flee the country and keep their whereabouts secret.

Kramer-Kara-Murza
Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition leader, said he had been poisoned. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

Russia has never acknowledged using the authority under the 2006 law and has specifically denied any government ties to high-profile cases, including the Litvinenko murder.


Among those fleeing Russia recently is Grigory Rodchenkov, a whistle-blower in Russia’s sports doping scandal.

This is not without reason. In the case over state-sponsored doping, two other officials with knowledge of the scheme died unexpectedly as the outlines of the scandal began to emerge. Just this month, another whistle-blower, Yulia Stepanova, a runner in hiding with her husband in the United States, was forced to move amid fears that hackers had found her location. “If something happens to us,” she said, “then you should know that it is not an accident.”

“The government is using the special services to liquidate its enemies,” Gennadi V. Gudkov, a former member of Parliament and onetime lieutenant colonel in the K.G.B., said in an interview. “It was not just Litvinenko, but many others we don’t know about, classified as accidents or maybe semi-accidents.”

Most recently, a coroner ruled that blunt-force trauma caused the death of a Kremlin insider, Mikhail Y. Lesin, 57, in a Washington hotel room last year, not the heart attack his colleagues first said. In July, the Russian Interfax news agency reported that Aleksandr Poteyev, 64, an intelligence officer accused of defecting and betraying a ring of Russian spies living undercover in American suburbs, had died in the United States.

Still, the Magnitsky Act, the law that Mr. Kara-Murza was in Washington urging lawmakers to expand, has proved to be perhaps the most lethal topic of all over the years.

Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor, was jailed on tax evasion charges while investigating a $230 million government tax “refund” that corrupt Russian officials had granted to themselves. He died in 2009 after having been denied essential medical care in prison, earning the Kremlin widespread condemnation.

In response, William F. Browder, an American financier who was the target of the tax fraud during time he spent working in Russia and had employed Mr. Magnitsky, campaigned in Congress for a law punishing the officials involved in the misdeeds and subsequent mistreatment of the auditor. The proposed measure, which eventually passed in 2012 as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, denied visas and blocked access to the American financial system for Russians deemed to have committed rights abuses and avoided punishment at home — including those involved in the Magnitsky tax fraud case.

Mr. Putin, perceiving an intrusion into his country’s affairs, campaigned hard against the measure. When it passed, he retaliated by ending American adoptions of Russian children. The law became a prototype for the blacklisting of prominent Russians accused of murders, human rights abuses and financial theft, among other violations.

The question of who was involved in the tax fraud became vitally important first to the investigation, and eventually to the final scope of the legislation. Access to inside information became pivotal and, it turned out, lethal. To date, five people who either handed over such information or were potential witnesses have died under mysterious circumstances that, in their sophistication, suggest state-sponsored killings.

One of the victims was Mr. Magnitsky, whose death was hardly the stuff of cloak-and-dagger security operations. Two others died before Mr. Magnitsky. And as the case gained greater prominence, others began dying under mysterious circumstances.

One victim whose death preceded Mr. Magnitsky’s, Valery Kurochkin, a potential witness whose name appeared on documents related to the fraud, fled Russia for Ukraine but died there of liver failure at the age of 43.

The other, Oktai Gasanov, a low-level figure in the fraud case but one who might have shed light on the group’s modus operandi, died of heart failure at 53.

Then, after Mr. Magnitsky’s death in prison, a fourth insider met an untimely end in a plunge from a balcony. A fifth, a banker linked to the scheme, Alexander Perepilichny, made it to London in 2009 and passed wire-transfer records to Swiss investigators. In 2012, however, at the age of 44 and in apparently excellent health, he suffered a heart attack while jogging. Police were left scratching their heads over the body found crumpled on a road in a well-guarded housing development, home to Kate Winslet and Elton John. An autopsy initially did nothing to clear up the questions.

It was not until 2015 that a botanist was able to identify the presumptive cause of Mr. Perepilichny’s death: His stomach held traces of gelsemium, a rare, poisonous plant grown in the Himalayas and known to have been used in Chinese assassinations. A coroner’s inquest is scheduled for September.

“All of this sounds like paranoid conspiracy theories,” Mr. Browder said in a telephone interview. “But there are too many of these happening to important people. Captains of industry and lawyers are not dying left, right and center like this in the West.”

Poison has been a favorite tool of Russian intelligence for more than a century. A biochemist, Grigory Mairanovski, labored in secret from 1928 on the task of developing tasteless, colorless and odorless poisons. In 1954, a K.G.B. defector described a secret lab near the agency’s Lubyanka headquarters and “experiments on living people.”

The agencies developed an arsenal of lethal, hard-to-trace poisons that, analysts of Russian security affairs say, is still in use. The Arab-born terrorist known as Khattab died in 2002 in his mountain hide-out in Chechnya after opening a letter laced with a form of sarin, a nerve agent.

In 1995, a Russian banker, Ivan K. Kivelidi, died after coming in contact with cadmium, which is deadly to the touch. His secretary died of the same symptoms, apparently because the poison had been spread on an office telephone handset. In 2008, Karinna Moskalenko, a Russian lawyer specializing in taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights, fell ill in Strasbourg, France, from mercury found in her car.

Kramer-3-Anna Politkovskaya
The NYTimes caption reads: “In 2004, an opposition journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, drank poisoned tea on an Aeroflot flight and survived. She was shot and killed in her apartment elevator two years later, and her funeral was held in Moscow in October 2006.” As in other examples used int his article, these figures —at least in the case of journalists—were not so much threats to the Kremlin or Putin, as to powerful and sinister figures in the Russian oligarchy created by the West and its corrupt puppet, Boris Yeltsin. Credit Natalia Kolesikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And in one case, a Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov, was killed on Waterloo Bridge in London in 1978 with an umbrella tipped with a pellet of ricin.

Mistakes abound. In 1971, a year after he won the Nobel Prize for literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn survived a poisoning attempt. Ricin, made from castor beans, was probably involved, according to news media accounts and a biography of the dissident writer. Ukraine’s former pro-Western president, Viktor A. Yushchenko, was left with his face disfigured after a dioxin poisoning — likely concealed in a meal of boiled crayfish — that Mr. Yushchenko attributed to Russian assassins.

The attempt on Mr. Kara-Murza’s life turned out to be one of those mistakes, though that was not immediately certain. As his colleagues looked on surprised, Mr. Kara-Murza’s sweat-covered head flopped down onto a table.

The poison threw him into a weeklong coma with a puzzling range of symptoms, from swelling in his brain to kidney failure, giving his legs and arms a blue hue, his wife, Yevgenia, recalled.

He endured nerve damage that left him limping, but has otherwise made a full recovery. A French laboratory found heavy metals in his blood but was unable to identify a specific poison or explain how he might have ingested them accidentally. Mr. Kara-Murza, 34, has insisted that police open an investigation. He is convinced he ingested the poison during a flight on Aeroflot.

If so, it would not have been the first time such an episode occurred. In 2004, the opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya drank poisoned tea on a domestic flight operated by Karat, another Russian airline, but she survived. Two years later, she was shot and killed in her apartment elevator.

“How can you protect yourself?” Mr. Kara-Murza’s wife asked. “What can you do? Not eat? Bring your own lunch everywhere? How can you predict a poisoning?”

Some do take precautions. Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and now an opposition figure, has long had bodyguards carry bottled water and prepared meals for him.

In a chilling epilogue to Mr. Kara-Murza’s ordeal, a warning appeared in February on the Instagram account of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya. It showed Mr. Kara-Murza outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he was speaking in favor of sanctions against Russia. He was in cross hairs, with the caption: “Those who haven’t understood will understand.”

Correction: August 23, 2016

An earlier version of this article misidentified the airline whose flight Anna Politkovskaya was aboard when she drank poisoned tea in 2004. It was Karat, not Aeroflot.

Note: This article is reproduced in toto here to insure it does not disappear from the scrutiny of history.  The original can be found here.


Before dealing in greater detail with the actual substance of the article, two points must be made.

First, even if one assumes that all the allegations made are true, when it comes to mass murder, Putin is a small-time amateur compared to President Barack Obama.

To this writer’s knowledge, no one has reported that Putin holds weekly meetings with top spies and professional killers to decide who is next in line to be assassinated by drone missile strikes, carried out extra-judicially on the say-so of the president. But as we know, based on the Times’ own reporting, Obama has presided over such “Terror Tuesdays” for years.

Kramer and his fellow pseudo-journalists and accomplices of US imperialism at the Times are scoundrels. Critical to the political education of workers and youth coming into struggle against the growing threat of world war, dictatorship and mass poverty is a clear-headed awareness of the fundamentally reactionary role of the corporate-controlled media and the class interests it serves.

As a result, thousands of men, women and children have been obliterated across a swath of territory stretching from Central Asia to the Middle East to North Africa. The death toll includes at least four American citizens.

In his article, the Times’ Moscow correspondent expresses particular indignation over the fact that “Killings outside Russia were even given legal sanction by the nation’s Parliament in 2006.” Presumably, he prefers the modus operandi of the White House, which does not bother to secure passage of a law sanctioning its assassination program.

“Other countries, notably Israel and the United States, pursue targeted killings, but in a strict counterterrorism context,” Kramer writes. “No other major power employs murder as systematically and ruthlessly as Russia does against those seen as betraying its interests abroad.”

Tell that to the families, loved ones and friends of the thousands of people who have been turned into headless and limbless corpses by Obama’s missiles!

Second, Kramer has a record of “reporting” for the Times that makes anything he writes worthy only of contempt. He has been caught penning fabrications and the crudest sort of historical falsifications and lies. A reputable newspaper would have long ago showed him the door.

In April of 2014, following the US-backed, fascist-led putsch that toppled the elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, Kramer co-authored an article plastered across the front page of the Times purporting to present photographic evidence that Russian troops were in eastern Ukraine, leading the pro-Russian separatist rebellion against the right-wing regime in Kiev. The US State Department and the Kiev government had given the photos to the Times, which, in line with its role as a de facto state propaganda organ, immediately published them.

It took less than one day for the photos to be exposed as doctored and the article to be discredited as a fabrication. The Times was forced to retract the article, publishing a clumsy attempt at damage control under the headline “Scrutiny Over Photos Said to Tie Russia Units to Ukraine.”

The following year, shortly after the government in Kiev enacted a law rehabilitating the World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, Kramer published an article whitewashing Bandera’s role in the mass murder of Jews and Poles as part of German imperialism’s war of annihilation against the Soviet Union. The article was another propaganda piece, written to justify Washington’s backing for its rabidly nationalist puppet regime in Ukraine.

A compendium of half-truths and lies, the article sought to foist the blame for the crimes of German fascism and its Ukrainian nationalist accomplices on the Soviet Union and the Red Army.

In his August 21 article on alleged Russian government killings, Kramer writes: “Muckraking journalists, rights advocates, opposition politicians, government whistle-blowers and other Russians who threaten that image are treated harshly—imprisoned on trumped-up charges, smeared in the news media, and, with increasing frequency, killed…”

Much of this is an apt characterization of the repression meted out by the Obama administration to those who expose the crimes of American imperialism. Kramer and his superiors at the Times seem oblivious to the fate of whistle-blowers and genuine journalists such as Julian Assange (holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for four years), Chelsea Manning (serving a 35-year term at a US military prison) and Edward Snowden (forced to live as a fugitive in Russia).

At one point, Kramer cites approvingly the role of multi-millionaire financier William F. Browder, a fanatical opponent of Putin who campaigned for the passage of the Magnitsky law, named after a lawyer Browder employed while he was making hundreds of millions of dollars as a financial player within the Russian oligarchy from 1995 to the late 2000s.

Magnitsky was jailed by the Russian government on tax evasion charges and died in prison in 2009. The law, passed by Congress in 2012, enables the US government to deny visas and block access to American banks to Russians accused of committing human rights abuses.

The Times' sympathetic picture of Magnitsty's funeral. The man was simply a scoundrel of the worst sort.
The Times’ sympathetic picture of Magnitsky’s funeral. The man was simply a scoundrel of the worst sort.

Indicative of Kramer’s journalistic methods is what he leaves out about Browder. The grandson of Earl Browder, the head of the Communist Party USA during the 1930s and early 1940s, Browder allied himself with Putin when setting up his hedge fund in Moscow. They had a falling out related to Browder’s investments in Gazprom, and the Kremlin shut down his Russian operation.

Thus, Kramer’s heroic fighter for human rights against the Kremlin is the heir of a Stalinist hack who made hundreds of millions off of the dismantling of state industry and theft of state assets and later ran afoul of his former protector. This is the man Kramer quotes to support his allegations of Kremlin poisonings and killings. “Captains of industry and lawyers are not dying left, right and center like this in the West,” says the former Putin ally.

Kramer and his fellow pseudo-journalists and accomplices of US imperialism at the Times are scoundrels. Critical to the political education of workers and youth coming into struggle against the growing threat of world war, dictatorship and mass poverty is a clear-headed awareness of the fundamentally reactionary role of the corporate-controlled media and the class interests it serves.

The Times, in particular, is fully integrated into the state. Its top personnel are state people. Kramer takes his orders from people such as the newspaper’s editorial board editor, James Bennet, a former White House correspondent who served later as the Times’ bureau chief in Jerusalem. Bennet’s father, Douglas Bennet, is a longtime Democratic operative who has held high positions in the State Department, was head of the US Agency for International Development, a CIA front, and oversaw National Public Radio.



Editor's Note
Barry Grey is a senior political editorialist with wsws.org, a Trotskyist organization. As such, accurate as they often are on most matters they analyze they maintain an unflagging hatred for the old Soviet Union, the old Communist party, and Stalin in particular that now also extends to Putin. This attitude we neither share nor find justifiable.  

 

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