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David Satter, the Kremlins Bete Noire

Published: January 22, 2014 (Issue # 1794)


David Satter is a familiar figure to anyone who follows events in Russia. A scholar and journalist, Satter has been writing about Russia since the mid-1970s, when he was Moscow correspondent for The Financial Times.

In those Cold War years, Satter differed from many of his colleagues in the foreign press corps who had few contacts, were isolated from everyday life and produced articles based on rewrites of Tass official reports. Satter met with Soviet dissidents and traveled to parts of the country that no other Western correspondent had ever visited. The KGB agents assigned to follow him had to hustle to keep up.

Russia Bans U.S Journalist for 5 years

Therefore, in certain respects it was amazing that it took so long for Russian authorities to declare Satters presence on Russian territory undesirable. He readily admits to being critical of the Putin regime. But there is actually quite a lot to criticize, so if youre going to report honestly from Russia you almost have to be critical, he said in an interview to CNN.

The Kremlin couldnt have liked his publications in support of the U.S. Magnitsky Act. Journalist Vladimir Abarinov, who wrote about Satter on his Facebook page, thinks that support alone was enough for the Kremlin to blacklist Satter.

The Kremlin must have liked even less Satters doubts about the official version of the Moscow apartment house bombings of 1999, which played a significant role in raising then-Prime Minister Putins rating before he ran for president the first time. The official version blames Chechen separatists, but in his book Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State, Satter presents evidence to suggest that the Federal Security Service was involved. And as the 2006 death by poisoning of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London showed, poking your nose too far into an investigation as to who was truly responsible for those bombings might lead to consequences far more serious than a visa refusal.

Finally, Satter must have hit a sore spot in the Kremlin when he wrote in December for CNN that visitors to the upcoming Winter Olympics in the Black Sea city of Sochi are walking into what effectively is a war zone. This point of view may have been the reason that Dutch journalists Rob Hornstra and Arnold Van Bruggen were denied their visas in October.

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Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.