an extreme case of Russophobia

It is perhaps only a coincidence that the detention of the Russian researcher of Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock occurred within hours of Russia beating Britain to host the World Cup in 2018 and incidentally severely humiliating Cameron and co in the process.

The coverage of the story, in particular the attacks on the character and integrity of the researcher in question, Ms Ekaterina Zatuliveter, have been truly grotesque, if predictable. All the old clichés about Russian spies have been rehashed. The way she has been portrayed has been truly shameful.

Christina Patterson, writing in The Independent (08/12/2010), titillated her readers with a lurid description of the “leggy Russian blonde, who may or may not be a spy, and who enjoys being photographed in bikinis and grass skirts”, before resorting to cheap sexual innuendo to question her qualifications for the post.

It is a grave injustice that the victim is not even allowed to answer back as the full weight of the British gutter press is thrown at her to malign her character and integrity as a professional person and as a woman.

It is indeed a serious infringement of basic human rights that more than a week after Ms Zatuliveter’s arrest Russian consular officials have not been permitted to visit her. This is a disgrace and a real indictment of British law; it is no exaggeration to say that someone held on suspicion of mass murder would be granted more rights than this.

In this whole sorry affair what stands out most of all however is the extreme anti-Russian racism and sexualisation of Russian women that prevails in the media and among British politicians. Chris Bryant, the unrepentant Blairite MP for Rhondda, claimed that Ms Zatuliveter “was really only interested in doing Russia stuff. She seemed slightly odd.”

What does seem odd though is that people should feign surprise that a Russian citizen should take a pro-Russian stance on major international affairs like the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia; are only Britons permitted to demonstrate patriotism one wonders?

Surely we can agree with Alexander Sternik, charge d’affaires at the Russian Embassy in London, who expressed the hope that the issue would not mark the start of an “orchestrated campaign against Russia because it goes against the current of improving Russian-British relations…It is very conspicuous that as soon as the green shoots show through the rubble in the Russian-British relationship, these sorts of scandals break out. That’s a fact of life.”

From WikiLeaks we have learned exactly how desperate some members of the British establishment are to ingratiate themselves with the United States. I suspect that the only beneficiaries of this latest outbreak of Russophobia will be those forces who want to see the UK become ever more servile to Washington. I say free Ms Zatuliveter immediately!

3 Responses to “Russophobia”

  1. 1 morganshs
    29 December 2010 at 12:25 pm

    My challenge to the mainstream UK media in 2011 is to write something positive about Russia. I predict this will be a near impossible task given the entrenched anti-Russian bias prevalent among London hacks.
    Of course the latest “big scandal”, according to the British press, dutifully following the Washington line, has been the conviction of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which has prompted the press to descend into a predicable frenzy. Unfortunately, not one commentator seems to have questioned how Khodorkovsky acquired his immense wealth in the first place. It certainly wasn’t from entrepreneurial effort in the normal sense!
    The Guardian has also focused on a bank robbery during which “two guards and a man walking his dog shot dead” in the St Petersburg raid. Nice touch that “man walking the dog”; what could be better calculated to set British hackles rising?
    Other headlines in the same week have concerned an alleged Russian spy scandal in Spain (BBC, 28/12/2010) and the crashing of a Russian cargo plane with the loss of 12 air crew; perhaps it was too much to expect the reporter to refrain from referring to the “ageing Soviet-era turboprop plane”.
    Meanwhile, the furore surrounding the Russian researcher Katia Zatuliveter has continued with the court hearing that will determine her deportation scheduled for February. The lurid stories look set to resurface.
    Am I being too sensitive? I think not. It is virtually impossible to find any news reports about Russia that are not about crime, intrigue, corruption, disasters, spying, aggression, and the like. That is why I think it entirely appropriate to lay down a challenge to the media to find something more positive to say.

  2. 12 January 2011 at 10:46 am

    To be fair, David, a more balanced view of the Khodorkovsky case scarcely shows Russia – or at least its ruling elite and political system – in a more favourable light. Khodorkovsky got his immense wealth by engaging in some very shady dealing in the frenzy of privatisation in the 1990s. So did all the other Russian oligarchs. What distinguished Khodorkovsky from many of the others is that he imagined that his wealth could allow him to push a political line at variance with that of the Party of Power. He started trying to finance opposition free-market liberal politicians and parties – at which point his deeply compromised business past was remembered. Had he done what the smarter oligarchs have done, and thrown his lot in with the Party of Power, we can be pretty sure he would still be at liberty today and enjoying his immense wealth without let or hindrance. Khodorkovsky is no martyr for human rights. He is a crook who got what he deserves. But he got that not because Russia has a fair and impartial justice system based on the rule of law – it hasn’t – but because he crossed the more powerful bunch of crooks in charge of the state.

    Happily, there is more to Russia than just its high politics. It is quite possible to be sympathetic to Russia but thoroughly sceptical about its leaders.

  3. 3 david morgan
    12 January 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Sadly such nuances are lost on the media, which was the main target of my polemic. I am sure that Khodorkovsky’s remedies for the ills of his country would not do much good for the country’s people; having said that, I dont in any way carry any torch for Putin or Medvedev, both seem to suffer from the Napoleon syndrome. But I do like to rant now and again.

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December 2010

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