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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

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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