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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Conspiracy Withdrawal Hits the Press

An indisputable contribution of the Yeltsin-era information wars to the nation's media industry was that well-known titles received epithets. What had been plain Izvestia before 1997 became, "Izvestia belonging to Potanin." The rather dry ORT was transformed into, "ORT controlled by Boris Berezovsky." Under President Vladimir Putin, many titles have changed their epithets, and information wars looked to be heading for the annals of history. But then September 2001 struck ...

The exposition is as follows. A few months ago, Berezovsky predicted that Putin would not serve out his first term to the end.

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In the final weeks of August, Novaya Gazeta printed the revelations of Alexander Litvinenko, former FSB officer and comrade-in-arms of Berezovsky. Then, Berezovsky's Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on alleged plans to unite the military and foreign intelligence services. And -- surprise, surprise -- Berezovsky's Noviye Izvestia, wrote that plans were afoot to ban the circulation of U.S. dollars in Russia.

On Sept. 5, Literaturnaya Gazeta -- which is owned by a group controlled by the mayor of Moscow -- titillated its readership with the headline: "Has the information war begun?" Continuing, "A familiar Russian war of kompromat. ... And all this comes in one easy-to-use package." The "package," by implication, goes by the name of -- Berezovsky, Boris Abramovich. A headline in Versia (part of the Luzhkov-friendly Sovershenno Sekretno holding company) reads: "The oligarch's journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Boris Berezovsky is preparing to make the trip." The article is about attempts by Berezovsky's media outlets to destabilize the situation in St. Petersburg. Moskovsky Komsomolets -- a paper also on friendly terms with the Moscow mayor -- ran the following headline: "Undermining the defense minister. Berezovsky gives the green light to ?wipe out' the guarantor's [i.e. the president's] entourage."

In other words, an epic drama ? la Tolkien is unfolding. The Dark Lord -- Berezovsky -- wants to bring Russia to its knees. In his path are the Company of Hobbits, Elves, Gnomes and Men, united by the unbending will of The Wizard, Luzhkov The Gray.

"Does this ring true?" I ask a person who knows what's going on behind the scenes in the media world. "I suspect that Boris Abramovich was pleasantly surprised on learning from the press that he had just started a new information war. Noviye Izvestia? They're just trying to get their ratings up in any way they can. What better way to achieve this than to scare fellow citizens by raising the specter of them being deprived of dollars? Novaya Gazeta, to all appearances, decided to make some money on Litvinenko. This newspaper has of late become somewhat promiscuous. Kiselyov's team on TV6, despite finding itself in Berezovsky's embrace, deep down still retains its loyalty to Gusinsky and continues to fight unfinished battles.

"Only the pro-Luzhkov press -- for which, repulsing Berezovsky is a knee-jerk reaction -- is capable of uniting all these diverse motives into one grand information war. I really don't think they received any kind of directive from above. It's just that after a dull summer, a lot of journalists are suffering from scandal and conspiracy withdrawal symptoms."

And what, one might ask, does the Head of the Council, Putin the White, think about all this? The above-mentioned article in Luzhkov's Literaturnaya Gazeta gives some idea. The well-known political scientist, Sergei Markov -- who is within Gleb Pavlovsky's orbit, who in turn is within the Kremlin's orbit -- concluded melancholically: "This whole story will only end with increased problems for Boris Berezovsky from the law enforcement agencies."

Information war it may not be, but you can always be certain that an assymetrical response is to hand!

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.internews.ru/sreda)