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Monday, February 19, 2007

Update on Svetlichnaya

The Times of London has issued the following statement on their reporting about Julia Svetlichnaya:

Correction: Julia Svetlichnaja Our report on the investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko (“Kremlin wants to quiz exiles”, December 10) referred to reports that Julia Svetlichnaja, a researcher at the centre for the Study of Democracy at Westminster University, may have been part of a Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to discredit Mr Litvinenko and said it was believed that she had previously worked for a state-owned Russian company. We are happy to make it clear that Ms Svetlichnaja has never worked for a state-owned Russian company and we accept that she was not part of any Kremlin-inspired campaign to discredit Mr Litvinenko.
This does far more to muddy the waters than to clear them. Here are the four reasons why:

First of all, the article cited by the Times makes no reference to Svetlichnaya as it currently appears on the Times website. So what was actually said about her by the Times remains unclear.

Second, it wasn't the Times which reported the issues about Svetlichnaya, it was the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. If the Times did anything, it repeated what Aftenposten reported. Not only has Aftenposten not issued a correction, Svetlichnaya's threat to sue the paper has not materialized (in fact, it hasn't even been reported that she's obtained legal representation in Norway).

Third, the Times is just saying that it can't prove her denials of Kremlin affiliation are false, so it "accepts" her word that there are none. There's a big, big difference between that and the Times concluding she has no such affiliations. To begin with, the issue isn't whether Svetlichnaya ever worked for a "state-owned" Russian firm, it's whether she ever worked for a firm that was controlled by the Kremlin or one of its sycophant oligarchs. Svetlichnaya has done nothing to establish who owned the companies she worked for. Moreover, it's perfectly possible that Svetlichnaya was nothing more than a patsy, an unknowing pawn being manipulated by a Kremlin-connected Svengali. In that case, it could be perfectly true that she herself is unaware of her own connections to the Kremlin. That wouldn't mean she's not their agent.

Fourth, Svetlichnaya has still not come forward to publish the e-mails and tape recordings of Litvinenko that she claims she has. She still has not explained how she got in touch with him or why (it has nothing to do with her dissertation work), nor has she explained why she needs to work with the Marxist extremist James Heartfield or what her relationship is with him. She's claimed to have been no friend of the Kremlin in the past, but hasn't documented any published statements critical of it, and she hasn't explained who is paying for her education and her lawyer (these are just some of the critical questions she has left hanging, her story is chock-a-block with inconsistencies that need attention).

Now let's be clear: Nobody in the world would be better pleased than LR to learn that Svetlichnaya can't be counted among the Kremlin's henchmen. They've got more than enough as it is. If she's simply a ham-handed young lady who's ended up unintentionally giving aid and comfort to the Kremlin's anti-democratic forces in their hour of need, that's the best-case scenario we can imagine. But she's done virtually nothing to help clear up the confusion, and that can only cast the shadow of doubt upon her.


Anonymous said...

There is no mention of Svetlichnaya because the Times (presumably under instruction from their lawyers) have removed the offending paragraph from the version of the article currently on their website.

A bit of digging revealed the article reprinted in full elsewhere:

And here's the relevant paragraph:

There is also suspicion that the Kremlin might be orchestrating a campaign to discredit Litvinenko. It emerged yesterday that Julia Svetlichnaya, a Russian academic who suggested the former spy might be involved in a blackmail plot, is believed to have been previously employed as a communications manager for a state-owned Russian company.

La Russophobe said...


Thanks for the link!

Is this common practice in the British press? In America, I believe the common practice is to leave the offending material in place on the web and append a correction to the story itself.

It seems to me that it's unquestionably true that the Kremlin IS orchestrating a campaign to discredit Litvinenko. The only question is whether Svetlichnaya is, knowingly or unknowingly, a part of it or not. It also seems to me that when the Times reported "it is believed" they didn't mean THEY believed it but that others did, so their "correction" might not even be appropriate (until the other stop believing).