Thursday, November 25, 2010

Will WikiLeaks Expose Corruption in Russia?

The Lubyanka, the historic headquarters of the Soviet KGB

"The U.S. State Department has said that whistle-blower website WikiLeaks' plans to post masses of confidential U.S. government are 'irresponsible.'"---RFE/RL (11-27-10)

The media has been reporting that the "whistleblower" website WikiLeaks, which was founded by the former computer hacker Julian Assange, may be about to reveal some information about corruption in Russia as soon as Friday (tomorrow).

[UPDATES] Here is the spin from Alisher Usmanov's Kremlin-friendly, climate-scientist-bashing, Russian business daily Kommersant (11-26-10), and here is an overview of the latest Wikileaks kompromat from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11-26-10), which notes:

[T]he imminent new WikiLeaks expose promises to be especially revelatory because, simply put, the Americans have dirt on everyone. Assange and company's logic is as elegant as it's unsettling: by revealing the secrets of the world's leading superpower, the secrets of the world -- namely, the all-too-often dirty web of interconnections between governments, corporations, intelligence and media agencies, and key personalities -- are also revealed.

Time (11-1-10) has an an older story, but the newest wrinkle in the tale connects a raid on a bank owned by the billionaire newspaper mogul and former Soviet and Russian foreign intelligence service officer Alexander Lebedev to the upcoming leak.

I wonder if the recent denunication of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, in Alisher Usmanov's business daily Kommersant may have been precipitated by these expected leaks.

The Daily Mail (11-14-10) reports:

Billionaire newspaper magnate Alexander Lebedev could have been targeted in a raid by secret service agents as a warning against co-operating with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to expose Russian corruption.

Sources in Moscow believe that Mr Lebedev, owner of The Independent and the London Evening Standard in the UK and the Novaya Gazeta in Russia, was being sent a ‘message’ not to threaten powerful interests.

The Mail on Sunday told last week how Mr Lebedev’s National Reserve Bank was raided by dozens of heavily armed law-enforcement officers, on the pretext of a fraud investigation, leaving the former KGB spy fearing he would be arrested.

Last night, Mr Lebedev said that one of his Russian journalists met Mr Assange at his base in Sweden – but it was ‘just a guess’ that the move provoked the raid...

Last month it announced that it was planning to make public classified documents about the ‘despotic’ Moscow regime.

There is speculation the papers focus on hidden business links and fortunes of government figures, top-level corruption or covert espionage operations.

Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB – formerly the KGB – reacted angrily to the threat.

Mr Lebedev, who has campaigned against corruption for more than a decade, said a ‘young, talented and brave’ reporter from Novaya Gazeta visited the WikiLeaks boss – an assignation the FSB is likely to have known about.

The Lebedev connection is also reported by Moscow Times (11-16-10):

Billionaire Alexander Lebedev said a police raid on his bank might be connected with a series of interviews his Novaya Gazeta newspaper has held with Wikileaks' founder, who has promised to publish sensitive information about Russian officials.

"It is just a guess — one of the possibilities," Lebedev told Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Lebedev said a "young, talented and brave" reporter had met Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden and conducted several telephone interviews with him.

He did not identify the reporter or provide information about the interviews.

Masked and armed police officers raided Lebedev's National Reserve Bank on Nov. 2.

Lebedev spokesman Artyom Artyomov said the banker was unavailable for comment Monday but said any link between the raid and Novaya Gazeta's interviews with Assange was unlikely.

Artyomov hung up without elaborating further.

Moscow News (11-15-10) reports:

Anti-corruption campaigning is the reason behind a crackdown on Alexander Lebedev, the businessman believes.

After recent raids at the Moscow HQ of his National Reserve Bank and his elite hotel in Ukraine, the Novaya Gazeta owner fears he is being sent a warning to keep his mouth shut over dodgy dealings in Russian business.

In particular he suggested that links between his newspaper and the controversial whistelblowing website WikiLeaks have prompted the sudden interest in his own companies.

The day before the raid on Lebedev’s bank, one of his Novaya Gazeta reporters met WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange in Sweden, gzt.ru reported.

And after the site caused international outrage with reports on the operations of British and American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan Assange has hinted that Russia could be his next target.

For Lebedev, who once said that the “the fight against corruption should be compared to the fight against apartheid,” the WikiLeaks connection is one potential explanation for the raids.

But in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail he warned Assange to tread carefully around the Russian business scene.

“Mr. Assange should be looking for allies – people who can look into computers in the banks,” Lebedev said. “But I would advise him against going to Russia after announcing that he is going to tackle its corruption.”

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