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LETTER: Russians Outraged by Skewed Independent Reporting

Dear La Russophobe,

You may be aware of the crude propaganda article which appeared in The Independent last month, praising Valentina Matviyenko, the unelected and corrupt governor of St. Petersburg, as ‘Russia’s Thatcher’. That was, of course, a direct consequence of the Independent being sold to a veteran KGB spy Alexander Lebedev. Lebedev also owns the Evening Standard and has today launched another daily newspaper in the UK, called ‘i’.

We have complained about the Matviyenko article to the Press Complaints Commission and they have confirmed yesterday they are investigating it. The complaint is signed by St. Petersburg regional leaders of all major opposition parties and groups (‘Solidarity’, ‘Yabloko’, ‘United Civil Front’, People’s Democratic Party), leaders of St. Petersburg’s independent NGOs (including the city’s association of small businessmen and the trade union of small business employees, as Matviyenko is notorious for her stifling of small businesses), and other eminent Russians in St. Petersburg as well as several Russian exiles in the UK such as Vladimir Bukovsky and myself.

Although we do not discuss the question of undue influence from Lebedev in the text of the complaint, we are quite prepared to make such allegations on the record, tell about the common business interests Lebedev has with Matviyenko, and suggest that’s probably what was behind the article.

One of the issues in the complaint is the controversy about the Gazprom sky-scraper project, designed by the British firm RMJM, which is opposed by many in St. Petersburg. It was recently reported in Russian press that Charles Phu, the project’s chief architect, said at a public meeting that RMJM was getting regular ‘memoranda’ from Putin, encouraging them to go ahead with the project and promising support from the government. It is also reported that Anton Glikin, the Chairman of the Russian division of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU) has written to the INTBAU’s patron, the Prince of Wales, about Putin’s improper lobbying of the RMJM.

Best wishes,

Pavel Stroilov

Following the jump is the Complaint filed against The Independent.

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