Evidence be damned!

Amy Knight missed a trick. In her book Orders to Kill, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, she recounts the stories of a whole series of people in whose deaths Vladimir Putin was allegedly involved. But she missed one – the former mayor of St Petersburg, and Putin’s one-time mentor, Anatoly Sobchak. It’s a strange error, for if the BBC is to be believed, Putin may have had a hand in Sobchak’s death too. It explains why he’s allowing Sobchak’s daughter, Ksenia, to run for president this March – he feels guilty.

‘What?’ I hear you ask. ‘Sobchak was murdered?’ If you’re old enough to remember such things, you probably thought that his death in 2000 was of natural causes. BBC reporter Gabriel Gatehouse has his doubts about this. He writes:

Some have suggested Putin may have had a hand in his death. Did Sobchak have something on him? [Sobchak’s widow Lyudmila] Narusova dismissed that idea out of hand.

I went back and looked at the footage of the funeral.

Putin really is distraught. His eyes are red, he seems to struggle to swallow as he embraces Lyudmila Narusova. Putin is not an actor. Nor is he prone to public displays of emotion. So it’s reasonable to assume that he is struggling with some genuine grief. Or is it something else. Guilt?

“There were people who were manoeuvring Putin into power,” Narusova told me.

She’s right. Back then, Putin was a vehicle to power for various factions inside the Kremlin. To some extent he still is.

If Sobchak was murdered, was it by one of those factions who feared his mentor’s hold over him? Maybe. And if so, did the old KGB officer realise his old friend died in the furtherance of Project Putin. It’s only a suspicion, but I’m beginning to think so.

Gatehouse doesn’t actually produce any facts linking Putin to Sobchak’s death. In fact, he points out that Putin was truly distraught, and elsewhere in his piece Gatehouse remarks that this is about the only time that Putin has been seen to cry in public. So, why does he think that Putin in some way felt guilty about Sobchak’s death? He doesn’t explain.

As in so many of these cases, what we have here is pure speculation and argument by means of insinuation, devoid of any actual evidence. Gatehouse admits that, ‘It’s only a suspicion’. Why then does the BBC publish it? All sorts of people suspect all sorts of things for no good reason. That doesn’t mean that premier media agencies give them space to print their crazy theories. If this was the Daily Beast, one might excuse that sort of thing. But this is the BBC. It’s meant to uphold certain standards of journalism, and as such not make wild accusations on the basis of absolutely nothing.

At least, one might imagine that that was the case. But what this piece indicates is that when it comes to Russia and Putin all the normal rules seem to go out the window and any sort of unwarranted ‘suspicion’ is permitted to be aired. What on earth is the point of this article? There can be only one – to taint Putin with some sort of responsibility for Sobchak’s death and so blacken his name further. It seems that that is reason enough to publish it. Evidence be damned!


8 thoughts on “Evidence be damned!”

  1. Some people just have no shame… Because it was Miriam Alexandrovna Gessen, writing for “The New Yorker”, who put the dibs on this conspiracy theory!

    See for yourself (12 Feb 2018):

    “…The other rumor concerns Ksenia’s father. Anatoly Sobchak had been campaigning for Putin when he died, of an apparent heart attack. The details are weird; the witnesses — two former K.G.B. officers who were accompanying Sobchak on the trip — are dead, both of gunshot wounds. Ksenia’s mother, a senator, has said that she knows the truth about her husband’s death but doesn’t feel safe disclosing it. Some people believe that Sobchak was killed in advance of Putin’s first Presidential election because he knew too much.”


    “Of course, that assumes that Putin isn’t going to try to stay in office indefinitely — and that he didn’t give an order to kill Sobchak’s father.

    “And what about those rumors? Sobchak believes that Putin is not a murderer: political murders that take place in Russia with some regularity are, in her opinion, the work of zealous supporters, rather than the execution of explicit orders. And back in 2000, she said, Putin did not yet have those kinds of zealous supporters. “I’m aware of those ideas,” Sobchak told me, about the whispers that Putin had her father killed. “But that’s just unthinkable. If that is true, then the world is an entirely different place than I imagine.”

    Now you understand the depth of this journalistic perfidy. Miriam Alexandrovna, a half-single elderly mother of 4, eternal victim of the Bloody Regime, twice refuge from the Mordor, the Icon of handshakability – she lost such exclusive way of making geshaft on Eternally Oppressive Russia! A backstab. Like a cold shower. Totally unhandshakbale. To quote great Lev Nathanovich Sharansky – “на чужой гранток не разевай роток!”.

    This way – they won’t prevail. Sad. So I’m asking all shy and conscientious members of intelligentsia, gays and democratic journalists, Euro-ukrs and members of the kreakleriat to boycott the thieving state-run (thus – a priori unfree, biased and totalitarian form of mass-media) BBC till they apologize and repay Miriam Alexandrovna fully for pioneering this juicy conspiracy theory for all liberal minded Russophobes.


  2. Evidence be damned!

    I’ll be needing this.

    Why don’t these lazy a-holes hurry up and write their Putin (anti-)fanfiction already? At least then their spreading of this nonsense could be justified on literary grounds.


  3. Unfortunately the BBC – has never been unbiased. They are government fun and follow the governments political agenda.

    -try watching what they say about Syria

    -or won’t say about Saudis Arabia or Israel.

    -they report a lot of American news
    ( which is favoured over reporting what actually goes on in other parts of the UK)

    -the anti Russian slant on the news fits the government agenda, occasionally they might bring one person on to counter a narrative – but that’s only so they can claim to be balanced.


  4. @James — indeed, you could have added that several recent British prime ministers are unindicted war criminals, which might be a tad more relevant to the lives of British citizens. Whatever Putin may be guilty of, it pales in comparison to the Iraq War.


  5. Paul,

    Not on the subject but don’t know how else to reach you.

    The email address for you that I send JRL seems to often not work.

    Also, Katrina vanden Heuvel of Nation magazine has been trying to reach you at the email address I gave her With no success.

    Can anything be done?


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