"At a time when Britain needs a strong voice in more than at any point over the past decade, the taxpayer-funded BBC Russian Service radio seems to have considerably mellowed in its tone towards the Russian government," The Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted the letter as saying. "By design or by neglect, it has become more accommodating of Russian government views, dispensing with difficult questions and denying a platform to some critics."
A BosNewsLife investigation meanwhile revealed that at least one senior Russian editor had links with the former regime and the KGB. Andrei Ostalski, the editor-in-chief of the BBC Russian Service in (pictured, left), admitted in an article on the network’s Russian website that he had worked for a decade for the Soviet-era news agency TASS, seen as a mouthpiece of the Kremlin and the Communist Party, during the height of the Cold War.
On the eve of the Soviet invasion of in 1979, an event he called "the entry of Soviet forces," Ostalski said he was asked, and agreed, to closely cooperate with the chief of the analytical department of the KGB, a man identified as Nikolai Leonov. He said that "on Christmas night" of December 24, 1979, they were asked to "attentively monitor the international reactions to the entry of Soviet forces in ." Ostalski, moved to the soon after the break up of the , in the early 1990s. BosNewsLife also established that several other editors and producers received prestigious Communist-era education in , which was closed for dissidents, their children, or those who were not loyal to the regime. While the BBC leadership has apparently tried to supervise the Russian staff, there have been serious problems with the implementation of that policy. "Our chief of the Russian service, Sarah Gibson, has a limited knowledge of the Russian language. She doesn't even speak good Russian," a source told BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity.
Gibson made clear however that she is competent to do her job and that she tries to ensure a more balanced and professional Russian service, BosNewsLife learned. "Yet we lost the best journalists, we are missing their independent and critical reporting," the source said. "Most items are now produced from the studio or with the current Russian staff." Under Gibson, tariffs for radio reports produced by often critical, independent, freelance correspondents and stringers decreased recently by up to 30 percent, from the original $130 to about $90. For often struggling journalists, that amount is barely enough to work on the required radio packages of up to four minutes in expensive capitals such as , where they have to cover their own travel and equipment expenses, correspondents said. The BBC has strongly denied it is silencing critical voices. "The service remains an important and strong source of impartial and independent news and current affairs renowned for asking difficult questions on behalf of its listeners. We reject any suggestion that we have made compromises in our questioning of any point of view in any debate."