On New Year’s Day, the Daily Telegraph reported on a letter that has been sent to the BBC by a group of dissidents from the former Soviet Union, led by Oleg Gordievsky and Vladimir Bukovsky. They accuse the BBC Russian Service of caving in to pressure from the Russian authorities to be less critical of Vladimir Putin’s policies:
They have written to Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, demanding an examination of what they claim is a string of examples of pro-Putin bias on the taxpayer-funded service, which has a weekly audience of two million.
The service went off air in Moscow and St Petersburg last month around the time of the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer in the Russian security service. “Unexplained technical difficulties” with the BBC’s local partners were blamed, but there is still no service in Moscow.
Meanwhile, The First Post has a column by Philip Jacobson warning that the Kremlin hasn’t given up its aim of securing the extradition of Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev:
Well-placed sources in Moscow have told The First Post President Vladimir Putin has personally warned Tony Blair that the continued presence on British soil of more than a dozen emigres who have evaded trial for a variety of serious offences is damaging relations between the two countries, already under strain as a result of the still unsolved murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. One official even indicated that without a breakthrough on extradition, negotiations over energy supplies from Russia might be affected.