Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
28th March, 2016
"Information spin" in the form of sensationalism is being preparing against Vladimir Putin, said Dmitry Peskov. According to him, it is about the President personally, his family, and the businessmen Kovalchuk and Rotenberg.
Press Secretary of Russian President Dmitry Peskov said that in the coming days "information spin" is expected against the Russian leadership, primarily President Vladimir Putin. "Information is being prepared in the coming days that claims objectivity and sensationalism," — said Peskov to journalists, RBC reports.
Peskov became aware of upcoming publications because of the requests that the Kremlin received from media representatives. "We received very unctuously-kind requests, made in an interrogation manner in fact", — said Peskov.
According to him, journalists from ICIJ are interested in information about the President. "This is about Putin personally, trying to reach his family, talking about childhood friends, about business (Kovalchuk, Rotenberg), about some offshore companies with businessmen who Putin has never seen. All of this is repetitive, in different variations, although the next repetition is being prepared," — said Peskov.
The President's spokesman called the upcoming material "blatant bribery", noting that the Kremlin respects "those genres of journalistic investigation". "It's about asking questions that have been asked already hundred times, and answers were given hundreds of times, which were legal, emotional and factual. We are not talking about the desire to engage in an objective investigation, but the task is to perform an information attack, to direct, to concoct, and implement an information agenda. We don't like it," explained Peskov.
What is ICIJ?
ICIJ was founded in 1997 by American journalist Chuck Lewis as a project of the nonprofit organization "Center of Public Integrity". As is stated on the website of the organization, the objects of its investigations are "cross-border crime, corruption, and the responsibility of the government". The consortium is a "global network of more than 90 investigative journalists in more than 65 countries who collaborate in the work of deep investigative journalism".
ICIJ is the author of publications in which, in particular, the wife of the first Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and businessman Gennady Timchenko appeared in. In April 2013, the consortium reported that it would publish information about the owners of offshore accounts. In particular, among them were the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, as well as "two high-ranking leaders" in "Gazprom". The organization claimed that these Russians held accounts in the British Virgin Islands, although all three refused to comment. In February 2015, the consortium found businessman Gennady Timchenko fell under the US sanctions in 2014, among Swiss clients of the Bank HSBC. The representative of the businessman then told the organization that Timchenko "always fully complied with all tax matters", and that sanctions against him were "far-fetched and deeply flawed".
Simultaneously with ICIJ, a "very well known international news agency" is preparing a publication, added Peskov. "We're talking about some of the statements made by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which are rehashed from Putin with businessmen, providing businessmen with government contracts, and the enrichment of businessmen at the expense of Putin," — said Peskov. "We took specific initiatives to aim to announce our opinion concerning these kinds of questions".
The Press Secretary of the President listed the issues that the agency wanted to ask Putin: "Is it true that your accumulated amount is over $40 billion, is it true that you own the huge mansions, mega-yachts, and other assets. It is argued that Putin maintains a close relationship with Sergei Roldugin (Russian cellist, who the media calls a friend of Putin and is a shareholder of the Bank "Russia"), and it is reported that he is doing business that this is directly related to the President, and that this is nothing more than presidential fraud."
"Judging by the questions, there is a claim that Putin is in some way associated or has interests in companies" — said Peskov. He stated that these questions would not be answered in the Kremlin. "Of course, we are not going to respond to such requests. We repeat every time: no, no, no, but to tell them it that has no relation to us, it would be stupid. So yes, we will not answer," — said Peskov.
"We are sure that not only journalists, but also representatives of other organizations and services that are gathering in Germany, US, UK, Switzerland, France, Russia, and in several other countries, and will publish in the next few days the next opus," continued Peskov. The Kremlin has not excluded the possibility of not filing a lawsuit on the media in case false information discrediting the President is published, stressed the spokesman."Of course, if any distortion, any lie, and any unfounded allegations would relate personally to the head of state, then we have a whole arsenal of legal means, both nationally and internationally, to protect the honor and dignity of our President", — he said.
In 2015, Peskov once denied a publication in the media before its was made public, calling it an "information attack". The President's Press Secretary told journalists that the Kremlin received queries from "a reputable London newspaper" and some of the American outlets. One media agency, he said, sent a set of 21 questions "in the style of a "Prosecution's questioning" about direct or indirect linkage to the activities between the businessman Gennady Timchenko and Putin. In particular, journalists were interested in whether Putin, directly or indirectly, had approved a loan of a 20th trust to Gunvor, and discussed whether Putin and Timchenko, during business issues in the 90's, helped him to build a cottage on a "Lake", as well as cooperation on a number of other issues.
The answer is no to all the media's questions, Peskov told reporters. He called the queries evidence that "there are still many who want to attack our country and members of our leadership with informational spin, and they are not afraid of getting their hands dirty."
The day afterwards, the former St. Petersburg businessman Maxim Freidson told "Radio Liberty" about the participation of Vladimir Putin in corruption schemes in the 1990's in St. Petersburg. Text conversations with Freidson were published on May 23nd, but were later deleted. "The post was removed at the request of the "Radio Liberty" interviewee, who feared for his safety. Sorry about that", — stated the message on the page of the radio station's website where the interview was placed.
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