Putin’s Secret Cult of "Journalists"

Novaya Gazeta reports:

Last week Vladimir Putin had a regular secret meeting, we would say the traditional one, with journalists of different degrees of loyalty. It was the third meeting in the last two years. We won’t read about this meeting in the newspapers — thought it was a very important public event — nor did we about the previous ones. TV won’t tell us about it either because it had been arranged that the meeting would have a closed format.

The meeting was held at the presidential residence Bocharov Ruchei situated in the City of Sochi. Among notable figures present were chief editor of Russia Today channel Margarita Simonyan, head of NTV Vladimir Kulistikov, the chair of Russian Broadcasting Company Oleg Dobrodeev, also TV journalists Alexei Pivovarov and Nikolai Svanidze. About 40 people were present altogether. After the dinner everyone got his own personal several minutes of talk with the President.

Nikolai Svanidze told Novaya Gazeta that the meeting wasn’t dedicated to a particular topic. The participants talked a little about different things. Svanidze didn’t give the details, pleading an agreement about non-disclosure of the circumstances of the event.

But still there was one episode the discussion of which went beyond Sochi’s lobby. Margarita Simonyan raised the question of the fate of head of Educated Media Fund Manana Aslamazyan. It will be remembered that a criminal case was started against Ms. Aslamazyan at the beginning of this year on the allegation of smuggling. Investigators say that when returning to Russia from Paris Ms. Aslamazyan didn’t declare in the technically correct manner the sum of €9,550 and 5,000 roubles. A criminal case was started and all of the Fund’s documentation was arrested after which the Fund declared a temporary suspension of its activity. Ms. Aslamazyan is abroad at the moment.

The head of Glasnost Protection Fund and also the acting chair of Educated Media Fund Alexei Simonov believes that the President hadn’t expected to have that conversation. But being reminded of the gist of the matter, Putin said “she may come back to Russia. Of course, no one can release her from administrative responsibility for this mistake. But mistake and crime shouldn’t be confused.”

Having learnt in more details about the Fund’s work, Putin expressed his view that the Fund, being sponsored with foreign money, cannot teach our journalists anything good. Nevertheless, presidential press secretary Alexei Gromov confirmed the guarantees made by Putin, asking to give advance notice about the date of arrival of the head of Educated Media Fund to Russia so that she wouldn’t be detained at the border. Later the President returned to this topic about Ms. Aslamazyan when talking privately to Nikolai Svanidze. It sounded like a joke, but it sounded like “let her come back while I’m still President” Svanidze said.

It should be noted that the President doesn’t seem to be aware of law enforcement bodies’ plans regarding Manana Aslamazyan. The Investigative Committee of the Interior Ministry – after Putin’s talks with the press – underlined that no trial in absentia had been planned.

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