Top Russian diplomat suggests shutting down Radio Liberty
MOSCOW, Feb 25, 2000 -- (AFP) Radio Liberty should be shut down for pressuring the Russian government over the fate of its journalists who went missing in Chechnya this month, a Moscow diplomat said in an interview published Friday.
Viktor Kozin, senior adviser to the foreign ministry's European department, said the US-funded station should alone be held responsible for the fate of Andrei Babitsky, who the Russians reportedly handed to Chechen rebels in exchange for Russian soldiers.
The radio station, which broadcasts to eastern Europe and Russia, fears that its reporter may have been tortured by the Russians after his arrest in Grozny and possibly even killed.
"There is ... the question of responsibility for his fate by those who sent him to Chechnya -- and who paid for his trip -- to gather 'kompromat,' or compromising material on Russia, and to egg on its enemies," Kozin wrote in The Moscow Times.
"So in general, might it not be better to close down the branches of Radio Liberty on Russian territory, which once again is acting in the spirit of the counterproductive Cold War and has lost a sense of moderation," he demanded.
Kozin said he was expressing his own personal views and not those of the Russian foreign ministry.
Babitsky was one of the few Russian journalists to offer the rebel perspective in his coverage of the brutal five-month conflict.
Kozin conceded that Babibitsky was a professional reporter, but stressed that his efforts were wasted on anti-Russian propaganda.
"The reports Babitsky relayed from Chechnya were beyond compare on a professional level. But, however, both his courage and his journalistic qualities were not utilized for the good of Russia, but for its detriment," Kozin wrote.
He further accused the West of blowing the Babitsky case out of proportion in order to weaken the Russian government's and military's morale.
"And in exploiting the Babitsky phenomenon, the proponents of undermining Russian unity once again try to gain the upper hand in the information war, in which there has been a shift in favor of federal forces," he said.