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Russia Today and “The Syrian Defense”

An op/ed today in the Moscow Times argues that the Russian state’s continued insistence that the Litvinenko murder was actually carried out by enemies of the Kremlin is reminiscent of the murder of Bolshevik Sergei Kirov in 1934. This official government line is propagated abroad by the state-controlled network Russia Today, which also maintains a YouTube channel here. From Ira Straus in the Moscow Times:

It is often very difficult to watch Russia Today, the government-owned English-language global satellite television channel that was tasked with creating a positive image of Russia abroad. It has consistently presented the Kremlin version of Alexander Litvinenko’s murder: that he was poisoned by Boris Berezovsky or the British secret services. In classic KGB style, someone is found to claim that the British tried to recruit him into the Litvinenko-Berezovsky circle of agents. It is the sort of thing that has an almost comic effect when presented in the West. Inside Russia, perhaps this kind of broadcast sounds normal. After all, the state controls all the major television media, and Russians have a natural patriotic wish to believe the message — particularly when the media insist that the government had no role whatsoever in the murder. But in the West, this sort of stuff would not pass the smell test. It reeks of trying to shift the blame — projection of blame, to use the psychiatric term. It also reeks of what could be called “the Syrian defense.” Each time a leading anti-Syrian figure is killed in Lebanon, Syrian leaders say the opposition forces in Lebanon did it in order to embarrass Syria and harm its international standing. It is as if they are copying from President Vladimir Putin’s book, or vice versa. These lines become standard fare in the controlled media at home. In reality, the anti-Putin forces in Russia and London are afraid of getting knocked off by Putin, not by Berezovsky. Is Russia sinking to the Syrian level?