Monday, August 2, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Media Play Up US Leaks While Ignoring Russian Ones, Soldatov Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 2 – Moscow media have been devoting enormous attention to the nearly 100,000 US documents leaked to the Wikileaks portal, but they have passed over in silence the leak of FSB documents to an Internet site earlier this summer, allowing the Russian powers that be time to plug that leak by shutting down the site.
In an article in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Andrey Soldatov, editor of and a leading independent specialist on Russia’s intelligence agencies, says that is especially unfortunate because as important as the US documents are in providing details, the leaked Russian documents may be far more “significant” (
The US documents leaked to Wikileaks and now widely published or at least commented upon, Soldatov says, “can certainly harm American interests in Afghanistan,” but “at the same time one must not say that the leak essentially changes our understanding” of what is taking place there.
Instead, “in this case,” he writes, “the importance of the leak is not so much in the content of the reports” but in “the new level of detail” they provide. “With each new level of detail, it becomes ever more difficult for the military and the special services to distort the picture of what is taking place” there.
“It is curious,” the editor continues, “that while Russian media have written about the American scandal, predicting a rapid defeat of the coalition [of forces there], entirely unnoticed has been another episode, also involving a leak which has a direct relationship to Russia.”
That leak involved FSB documents bearing the classification “top secret” which “were published on the site in June.” Not only was this “the first case of a leak of FSB documents to the Internet over the last ten years,” he points out, but the authors of these documents were among the most senior FSB leaders, including the head of that agency.
(Soldatov notes that there was “one episode when the Georgian special services published ‘an accounting list’ of a local political, but a scan of this paper,” the expert continues, looked so doubtful that it almost did not attract attention.”)
The FSB documents posted on the site were mostly reports of the Department of Operational Information “about operations on the territory of Ukraine, Turkmenistan and number of other former union republics dating from the middle of the [last decade]. “
They “not only show precisely what the FSB is doing in these countries but even reveal disputes between the Russian special services. For example,” Soldatov continues, “in one of the reports, there is a reference to a Ukrainian document concocted by the FSB which was found by the SVR and reported to the Kremlin as genuine.”
Soldatov points out that he is not providing any details about these documents because “there is one big difference between these documents and the collection on Wikileaks.” Unlike the American documents, the FSB materials, although posted on the Internet did not then fall into the public sphere.”
“The [FSB] documents were not republished by Russian newspapers and the site itself was closed two weeks afterwards.” Indeed, the only media coverage it received was from Armenian journalists who reported that the publications showed one of the leaders of their special services was working for Moscow (
“As a result,” Soldatov points out, “a paradoxical situation has arisen – the documents of the FSB, not having fallen into the public domain, have not become the subject of discussion and this means that their authenticity cannot be checked.” That’s why, he says, he “does not consider it correct to site them more fully.”
Moreover, and again in contrast with the situation arising from the American leaks, “there have been no official requests to the FSB and the Presidential Administration, no press conferences … and journalists have not checked them, based on their sources. Consequently, it is impossible to refer to these documents, and they as it were do not exist.”
Thus, “the inattention of the traditional print media in Russia” to the leak of FSB documents has the effect that these documents are not in “the public domain,” all the more so now because the site hosted in the US and registered in Egypt no longer works. Visitors to it find a message that it is “under construction.”

No comments: