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David Satter, the Kremlin’s 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 Satter’s 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 you’re going to report honestly from Russia you almost have to be critical,” he said in an interview to CNN.

The Kremlin couldn’t 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 Satter’s doubts about the official version of the Moscow apartment house bombings of 1999, which played a significant role in raising then-Prime Minister Putin’s 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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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