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Thread: Putin

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    BBC whistleblower: bosses suppressing Russia stories

    BBC bosses have been accused of pulling the plug on politically sensitive reports into the close links between leading politicians and Russia.

    John Sweeney, a veteran BBC investigative reporter, has turned whistleblower and filed a complaint against the corporation with Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog. He alleges that investigations into Labour’s Lord Mandelson, the former Tory cabinet minister John Whittingdale, the Brexit funder Arron Banks, the oligarch Roman Abramovich and the far-right activist Tommy Robinson were all dropped. He claims that other potential reports into “the pro-Russian sympathies of Labour spin doctor Seumas Milne” were never even commissioned by BBC editors and raises more concerns about Boris Johnson’s links with Russian oligarchs. In 2014 Mr Milne, who is Labour’s director of strategy and communications, attended a conference in Sochi where he met Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

    In a hard-hitting letter to Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, Mr Sweeney says he worked on a Newsnight investigation into Mandelson in 2017 that led to the former cabinet minister changing his Lords register to show a shareholding in a Russian firm worth about 400,000. The investigation was never broadcast. Mr Sweeney accuses James Harding, the former BBC head of news of making a “direct intervention” to stop the broadcast. It detailed how in 2013 Mandelson had joined the board of Sistema, a Russian company that Sweeney’s reporting showed had historic connections to organised crime. The programme questioned whether Mr Mandelson, in his role on the company’s audit and risk committee, should have examined a billion-pound deal made before he joined the company. Mr Sweeney’s sources, including a former MI6 officer, suggested the deal might have been a bribe for the then Russian president Dimitri Medvedev. Mr Mandelson denied any wrongdoing and emphasised that the deal had been done before he arrived at the company. He severed links with Sistema in 2016.

    In his letter to Ofcom, Mr Sweeney also claims that a Newsnight investigation into the connections between John Whittingdale, the former culture secretary, and Dmytro Firtash, the pro-Kremlin oligarch, had been shelved. Mr Whittingdale made five trips as a backbencher to Ukraine. These were funded by the British Ukrainian Society, which was set up by Firtash. In 2016 Whittingdale’s former lover Stephanie Hudson, a topless model, said he had discussed Firtash with her. Mr Whittingdale’s spokesman said in a statement: “John has never received any money or any other financial benefits from Dmytro Firtash or his associates.”

    Sweeney also refers to investigations that he did not work on, including a Panorama programme on Abramovich and a BBC News investigation of Banks. He left the BBC last year after 17 years amid controversy over his unbroadcast film on Robinson. One of Robinson’s aides secretly filmed Sweeney to make a rival “documentary” and embarrassed him by showing footage of the reporter drinking on “expenses”. He insists the programme should have been broadcast anyway, even with the footage of his comeuppance, because it “had fresh information on Robinson’s links with German far-right sources”.

    Mr Sweeney writes: “BBC management, led by director-general Tony Hall, has become so risk-averse in the face of threats from the far-right and the Russian state and its proxies that due impartiality is being undermined and investigative journalism is being endangered.”

    Mr Sweeney responded: “High standards should rule out favouritism for friends — Peter Mandelson, Evgeny Lebedev, Seumas Milne — in high places. I hope OfCom will address these issues as BBC management clearly wants to hide them in the overfull skeleton cupboard in new broadcasting house.”

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    he's winning on most fronts, isn't he? disrupting the US election (again) and generally fucking with our heads on a daily basis with coordinated disinformation, the bogus Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election story flowing from the lips of GOP trump lackeys, in control in syria (well, pluses and minuses to that...), flaunting how they essentially got away with poisoning the Skripals on UK soil, etc.

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