Polonium, Novichok, Propaganda
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Polonium, Novichok, Propaganda
23 October @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Since Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia in 2000, a defining trait of his regime has been its use of politically-motivated assassinations to silence its critics and opponents. Such assassinations have almost always been accompanied by disinformation campaigns in which Russia’s state-run media outlets have played a central role.
In early September, Alex Goldfarb, a close friend of Alexander Litvinenko, sued two Russian state-run TV channels — RT (formerly Russia Today) and Channel One — for claiming that he was behind Litvinenko’s poisoning in 2006. In a complaint filed in the US, Goldfarb accused both channels of libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. His case is supported by Marina Litvinenko, Alexander’s widow.
By kind invitation of Damian Collins MP, and on the twelfth anniversary of Alexandar Litvinenko’s death, the Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to join Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko for a discussion about how they are fighting back against Russia’s propaganda machine.
Alex Goldfarb – a graduate of Moscow University, left Russia thirty-eight years ago. He combined a successful career of a research scientist in New York with a life-long work for human rights and democracy in Russia. As a young man in Moscow he worked with Andrey Sakharov. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he returned to Moscow to direct philanthropic programs of George Soros. In 2000 he helped then largely unknown whistle-blower from the security service FSB by the name of Alexander Litvinenko flee to London. Since then Alex has not been permitted back to Russia. When Litvinenko was poisoned in London with radioactive Polonium in November 2006, Alex read out to the press his deathbed statement accusing Putin of his murder. Later Alex authored, jointly with Marina Litvinenko, a book entitled ‘The Death of a Dissident. The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB’. For the past decade, Alex headed the Litvinenko Justice Foundation, which helped Marina to campaign for a Public Inquiry of her husband’s death, the report from which was released in 2016. In the aftermath of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal last March in Salisbury, Russian propaganda falsely accused Alex of murdering Litvinenko on behalf of American CIA. He is suing two Russian TV networks for defamation in US Federal Court in New York.
Marina Litvinenko – an activist, campaigner and the widow of Alexander Litvinenko. Marina graduated from the Industrial Petrochemical and Gas Institute as an Economist-Engineer. In 1990 she began to teach choreography and married Alexander Litvinenko in 1994. After Alexander fled Russia in 2000, Marina and their son Anatoly followed and received political asylum in the UK, living in London for the next six years. On November 2006, Alexander died from radioactive Polonium-210 poisoning. Marina also suffered symptoms of radioactive poisoning. She pursued justice for her husband through the founding of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation and continues to speak out for the rights of Russian nationals. Marina co-authored ‘Death of a Dissident’ with Alex Goldfarb published in 2007.
By kind invitation of Damian Collins MP, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host human rights and democracy activist Alex Goldfarb and campaigner Marina Litvinenko, widow of Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London twelve years ago. Ms Litvinenko and Mr Goldfarb are founders of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation. The discussion focused on Russian interference in policies of other sovereign states.
Mr Goldfarb started the evening by recalling his meeting with Henry Jackson himself to determine how to respond to the USSR’s policies. He then explained how the murder of Mr Litvinenko received attention once more in the light of the assassination attempt against Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this year. British Prime Minister Theresa May referenced Mr Litvinenko’s case following the attempted murder in Salisbury. The Russian government and state media also picked up Mr Litvinenko’s death to push their own propagandistic narrative. Mr Goldfarb himself was accused of being a CIA agent who poisoned Russian spies, even though a British public inquiry identified two Russian agents as the culprits in Mr Litvinenko’s murder. Following a defamation lawsuit and discussions with members of the US Congress, Mr Goldfarb and Ms Litvinenko developed the action plan stoprussianlies.com to counter the spread of Russian propaganda. This action plan proposes three steps: legal actions against Russian propaganda outlets, sanctions, and disrupting their income through advertisements from international corporations. Ms Litvinenko pointed out the sensitivity of the issue of free speech and counteracting propaganda. Further work must be conducted carefully in order not to undermine previous achievements. She reminded the audience that like the title of the event suggests, propaganda is a poison directed against democracy. Trying to fight propaganda machines in Russian courts is futile, but legal action against them can be taken in democratic countries.
After the introductory speeches by Mr Goldfarb and Ms Litvinenko, the floor was opened for questions and discussions. Ms Litvinenko and Mr Goldfarb pointed to the differences in propaganda depending on its target audience. While RT aims to spread confusion and distrust against the mainstream media in the West, the Kremlin’s propaganda within Russia is much cruder due to a lack of alternative news sources. In the final part of the Q&A session, the delicate issue of free speech versus censorship was tackled. Mr Goldfarb explained that the dissemination of Russian propaganda must be stopped because it presents a danger to democracies and taking action against Kremlin-backed media is therefore a response to an immediate threat. The EU and the US have taskforces to counter falsehoods spread by Russian channels, but the struggle is expensive and uneven because unlike fact-checking propaganda appeals to emotions. But Ms Litvinenko reminded the audience again that democracies must think about how they can protect their citizens from Russian propaganda.
The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank Mr Goldfarb and Ms Litvinenko for offering their experiences and perspectives on this pressing issue.
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