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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media's Mudslinging Reaches New Depths

It seems the "bankers' war," which led to the recent demotion of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, will never end. The popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, controlled by Vladimir Potanin's Uneximbank, led Wednesday's issue with a fresh piece of kompromat, this time on Potanin's rivals Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky.

The story is far from being as iron-clad as the reports that traced Chubais' $90,000 book advance to a publishing house controlled by Uneximbank. It deals with a computer diskette mailed to a friend of Andrei Fadin, a well-known political journalist recently killed in a car crash. The diskette contained an article signed with Fadin's name. The article centered on what it said was the transcript of a telephone conversation between certain bankers B. and G., discussing how best to compromise Chubais now that they have information on the book deal.

"B.: I think maybe we should start with TV?

"G.: I don't know, we have to think about it. I think it would be wrong to start with TV. It would be better to start with print media."

Every single reporter, Russian and Western, who wrote about the book scandal mentioned the likelihood that the information was leaked by Berezovsky and Gusinsky. But there has never been any conclusive proof of this. Now Potanin's paper has printed something that some people may say constitutes this proof. "The text of the conversation has the ring of truth," Komsomolskaya's Vasily Ustyuzhanin writes.

The press conference where a friend of Fadin's unveiled the diskette was held Monday night, too late for most Russian newspapers to pick up. By the time Komsomolskaya Pravda printed its lead story, Gusinsky's NTV network Monday night played the diskette story as "Chubais' revenge" on Berezovsky and Gusinsky.

If this is indeed Chubais' revenge, then the mighty have truly fallen low. Chubais, the canny orchestrator of dozens of media campaigns, cannot have laid a serious political bet on a diskette mailed by God-knows-whom to a dead journalists's friend.

What is supposed to be Fadin's text accompanying the transcript talks obscurely about a conspiracy by Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the Communists in the State Duma to prevent Yeltsin from choosing a reformist successor to the presidency. The daily Moskovsky Komsomolets picked up those comments Wednesday and ran them, suggesting Fadin may have been killed before he made the conspiracy public.

This is truly getting too rich even for today's Russian media. There is too much information that is not information, but part of someone's conspiracy or counter-conspiracy. One cannot help but feel that some kind of political and journalistic catharsis must soon follow this paranoia.