Kremlin-friendly takes are numerous and easy to find in the Russian press response to the UK nerve agent attack on Sergej Skripal. But as Miodrag Soric reports from Moscow, there are some critical voices in the country.
Regardless of what state-run TV channel you turn on, the British government’s accusation that Russia was involved in the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury is flatly rejected. Though more telling is how little significance anyone is paying to it. Until Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent decision to expel Russian diplomats, the topic was nowhere to be seen among the top news stories. Instead, the country’s upcoming presidential election, the situation in Crimea and the election of Angela Merkel as German chancellor dominated Wednesday’s TV coverage. What little media attention has been paid to the attack — chiefly the British ultimatum and Western accusations — paints Moscow as a victim that the West is once again trying to pressure.
A similar story is being told in newspapers friendly to the Kremlin. Nezavisimaya Gazeta said the West and NATO are ganging up on Russia. Izvestia wrote in similar fashion that there is little that can be done to stop “British media hysteria.” The publication cited Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko, who called the affair “A campaign of Russophobia.”
Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin depicted the drama as an attempt to interfere with the Russian presidential election. Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said someone in London “planted evidence” to make Russia look bad.
Russia: ‘Spawn from hell’
In the financial paper Vedomosti, three editors wrote that Russia has the same reputation in the West as did the Soviet Union: that the USSR murdered a number of opponents abroad — and denied doing so. “Moscow looks like a repeat offender that not just once, but repeatedly proclaims its innocence,” they wrote. That position, the editors continued, provides Russia’s critics in the United States and Europe the fodder to paint the country as the “spawn from hell” that violates peace.
The liberal and independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, meanwhile, compared Russia to North Korea. The well-known journalist, Julia Latinina, seems convinced that the Kremlin was behind the attack, and reacted with sarcasm to Russia’s response to the incident. “First, this is what happens to anyone who betrays us,” she wrote. “Second, it is our enemies who committed this crime.” Russia suffers from a paranoid worldview, she went on: aggressor as victim, making any discussion moot.