Marina Litvinenko: we are trying to stop the Russian propaganda machine

Sep 13 2018

Free Russia Foundation and the Atlantic Council organized this week an event with Marina Litvinenko – the widow of slain former intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko – and family friend Alexander Goldfarb, to discuss their defamation lawsuit against Russian TV channels in the U.S. The panel discussion, held on Tuesday, September 11, also considered Russia’s use of the disinformation to discredit accusations over the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal.

Free Russia Foundation and the Atlantic Council organized this week an event with Marina Litvinenko – the widow of slain former intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko – and family friend Alexander Goldfarb, to discuss their defamation lawsuit against Russian TV channels in the U.S. The panel discussion, held on Tuesday, September 11, also considered Russia’s use of the disinformation to discredit accusations over the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal.

The panel included:

Dr. Alex Goldfarb, President, Litvinenko Justice Foundation
Ms. Marina Litvinenko, Co-founder, Litvinenko Justice Foundation
Mr. Bertrand C. Sellier, Member, Rottenberg Lipman Rich, P.C.
Moderated by: Dr. Lauren Van Metre, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

 

Reinvigorated propaganda after Skripal case

Alex Goldfarb filed the lawsuit against two Russian state television channels, RT and Channel 1, with a federal court in New York last Friday. Goldfarb said the broadcasters’ programs have falsely claimed that he himself was behind the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer murdered in London in 2006 after drinking from a poisoned cup of tea. The TV programs (short clips were showed at the event) show Walter Litvinenko, father of Alexander Litvinenko and previously a critic of Vladimir Putin, accusing Goldfarb on the basis of an account told by Goldfarb’s wife. The story goes on to accuse Goldfarb also of killing his wife for “knowing too much,” and of working with American and British security services to discredit Russia. Goldfarb, a US citizen, denies all of the claims.

“This is clearly a case of Russian effort to change public opinion both in Russia and in the West into a basic anti-American mode,” said Goldfarb. He added that the broadcasts should also be seen in the context of Russian government propaganda aiming to distance Russian authorities in the aftermath of the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury.

Marina Litvinenko, Alexander Litvinenko’s widow, said she decided to support the legal action because she could not stand by idly. “Almost 10 years we tried to get justice for my husband,” said Litvinenko, adding that the propaganda against her husband started after his death. In 2016, a UK government inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko concluded that the Russian state is likely to have been behind the poisoning, with intelligence officers Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun identified as the main suspects. In 2018, however, after the poisoning of Skripals, the Russian propaganda machine accelerated again, said Litvinenko.

“They try to use the case of Alexander Litvinenko to destroy the future case of Julia and Sergei Skripal,” said Litvinenko. In this regard, she said, the case brought to the U.S. court is “not only a personal case of Alexander Goldfarb,” but one against the “Russian propaganda-style machine,” and “we try to stop it.”

Bertrand C. Sellier, Goldfarb’s lawyer, said there are hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking people living in the U.S. and that the Russian-language programs on TV have made Goldfarb “a victim of the most heinous lies imaginable.” He added, “this is a case about an individual American citizen who’s been defamed, but I think we can see in this case some real echoes of what is going on generally with Russian propaganda – the attempts to disrupt democracy not only in our country but all over the world.”

 

New political environment and a new case

Marina Litvinenko said she had hoped after the findings of the British public inquiry that such a crime would never happen again. “I couldn’t believe it happened again,” said Litvinenko.

Though the Skripal case is very similar, the UK government’s reaction has been different the second time around, as exhibited by outrage and the EU and US expulsion of Russian diplomats. In contrast, in the aftermath of Litvinenko’s poisoning, British government was reluctant to investigate the matter. Marina Litvinenko had to sue the British government to open a public inquiry and a court compelled the government to do so, said Goldfarb.

The British government has already brought charges against two Russian men it believes committed the Skripal attack. “There is, of course, an additional national security argument,” said Goldfarb, as novichok, the poison used in the attack, is a more dangerous substance than the polonium used in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Marina Litvinenko said she doesn’t believe the suspects in either poisoning would ever be extradited by the Russian government and that the public inquiry into Skripal’s case could be a step in the right direction as it could help prevent such crimes in the future, as well as provide additional information.

After the Litvinenko inquiry in the UK was published, said Litvinenko, “I realized I have power.” She added that it was very difficult to change public opinion about the Kremlin because a lot of people still believed that Russia is a democratic country. After 2014, however, the situation has changed and people have seen the Kremlin’s actions and how propaganda actually works. “We see how they twist any information,” said Litvinenko. “People became confused on what is truth and what is not, because they believe it is just an alternative opinion and we see how dangerous it is. [But] it is not simply another opinion, it is propaganda,” said Litvinenko.

Bertrand C. Sellier said the accusations against Goldfarb have been rejected by the official findings of the UK public inquiry. The Russian-backed TV channels can claim they were just transmitting Walter Litvinenko’s personal opinion, and Sellier notes that “the Supreme Court said that if someone is a public figure you have not only say that something is false, but in effect to know that it is false. In this case the broadcasters were putting forth and endorsing the statement by Walter. […]The case was just filed a few days ago on Friday, so we haven’t heard yet from the defendants, but my guess is that they are going to defend the case vigorously […] We are prepared to fight it.”

 

By Valeria Jegisman

Free Russia Foundation and the Atlantic Council organized this week an event with Marina Litvinenko – the widow of slain former intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko – and family friend Alexander Goldfarb, to discuss their defamation lawsuit against Russian TV channels in the U.S. The panel discussion, held on Tuesday, September 11, also considered Russia’s use of the disinformation to discredit accusations over the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal.

The panel included:

Dr. Alex Goldfarb, President, Litvinenko Justice Foundation
Ms. Marina Litvinenko, Co-founder, Litvinenko Justice Foundation
Mr. Bertrand C. Sellier, Member, Rottenberg Lipman Rich, P.C.
Moderated by: Dr. Lauren Van Metre, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

 

Reinvigorated propaganda after Skripal case

Alex Goldfarb filed the lawsuit against two Russian state television channels, RT and Channel 1, with a federal court in New York last Friday. Goldfarb said the broadcasters’ programs have falsely claimed that he himself was behind the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer murdered in London in 2006 after drinking from a poisoned cup of tea. The TV programs (short clips were showed at the event) show Walter Litvinenko, father of Alexander Litvinenko and previously a critic of Vladimir Putin, accusing Goldfarb on the basis of an account told by Goldfarb’s wife. The story goes on to accuse Goldfarb also of killing his wife for “knowing too much,” and of working with American and British security services to discredit Russia. Goldfarb, a US citizen, denies all of the claims.

“This is clearly a case of Russian effort to change public opinion both in Russia and in the West into a basic anti-American mode,” said Goldfarb. He added that the broadcasts should also be seen in the context of Russian government propaganda aiming to distance Russian authorities in the aftermath of the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury.

Marina Litvinenko, Alexander Litvinenko’s widow, said she decided to support the legal action because she could not stand by idly. “Almost 10 years we tried to get justice for my husband,” said Litvinenko, adding that the propaganda against her husband started after his death. In 2016, a UK government inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko concluded that the Russian state is likely to have been behind the poisoning, with intelligence officers Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun identified as the main suspects. In 2018, however, after the poisoning of Skripals, the Russian propaganda machine accelerated again, said Litvinenko.

“They try to use the case of Alexander Litvinenko to destroy the future case of Julia and Sergei Skripal,” said Litvinenko. In this regard, she said, the case brought to the U.S. court is “not only a personal case of Alexander Goldfarb,” but one against the “Russian propaganda-style machine,” and “we try to stop it.”

Bertrand C. Sellier, Goldfarb’s lawyer, said there are hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking people living in the U.S. and that the Russian-language programs on TV have made Goldfarb “a victim of the most heinous lies imaginable.” He added, “this is a case about an individual American citizen who’s been defamed, but I think we can see in this case some real echoes of what is going on generally with Russian propaganda – the attempts to disrupt democracy not only in our country but all over the world.”

 

New political environment and a new case

Marina Litvinenko said she had hoped after the findings of the British public inquiry that such a crime would never happen again. “I couldn’t believe it happened again,” said Litvinenko.

Though the Skripal case is very similar, the UK government’s reaction has been different the second time around, as exhibited by outrage and the EU and US expulsion of Russian diplomats. In contrast, in the aftermath of Litvinenko’s poisoning, British government was reluctant to investigate the matter. Marina Litvinenko had to sue the British government to open a public inquiry and a court compelled the government to do so, said Goldfarb.

The British government has already brought charges against two Russian men it believes committed the Skripal attack. “There is, of course, an additional national security argument,” said Goldfarb, as novichok, the poison used in the attack, is a more dangerous substance than the polonium used in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Marina Litvinenko said she doesn’t believe the suspects in either poisoning would ever be extradited by the Russian government and that the public inquiry into Skripal’s case could be a step in the right direction as it could help prevent such crimes in the future, as well as provide additional information.

After the Litvinenko inquiry in the UK was published, said Litvinenko, “I realized I have power.” She added that it was very difficult to change public opinion about the Kremlin because a lot of people still believed that Russia is a democratic country. After 2014, however, the situation has changed and people have seen the Kremlin’s actions and how propaganda actually works. “We see how they twist any information,” said Litvinenko. “People became confused on what is truth and what is not, because they believe it is just an alternative opinion and we see how dangerous it is. [But] it is not simply another opinion, it is propaganda,” said Litvinenko.

Bertrand C. Sellier said the accusations against Goldfarb have been rejected by the official findings of the UK public inquiry. The Russian-backed TV channels can claim they were just transmitting Walter Litvinenko’s personal opinion, and Sellier notes that “the Supreme Court said that if someone is a public figure you have not only say that something is false, but in effect to know that it is false. In this case the broadcasters were putting forth and endorsing the statement by Walter. […]The case was just filed a few days ago on Friday, so we haven’t heard yet from the defendants, but my guess is that they are going to defend the case vigorously […] We are prepared to fight it.”

 

By Valeria Jegisman

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More

Civic Solidarity Platform Appeal with Regard to the Recent Events in Belarus

Aug 12 2020

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD REACT IMMEDIATELY AND STRONGLY TO RIGGED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND MASSIVE VIOLENCE OF SECURITY FORCES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTESTORS IN BELARUS More