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Hapless Russia-watchers canonize journalist Dorenko as ‘mysteriously killed’ Putin critic

Hapless Russia-watchers canonize journalist Dorenko as ‘mysteriously killed’ Putin critic
For some in the West, any death of a prominent journalist in Russia seems to be only a fortunate opportunity to speculate that he or she must have been an enemy of the Kremlin and died because of it.

The latest person to fall victim to this trend is Sergey Dorenko, who suddenly died on Thursday while out on a motorcycle ride.

"Anti-Putin journalist dies in mysterious motorbike accident days after criticizing Russian authorities over fatal plane crash," the Daily Mail chose to headline its report on Dorenko’s death.

The usual Russiagaters were quick to chip in with anger and disbelief. Bill Browder, the internationally famous anti-Putin crusader, called Dorenko "one of Russia's most outspoken independent journalists and critics of the Putin regime."

"Putin will be Putin," Bild editor Julian Ropcke declared as he retweeted the story. He added a translation of an angry rant posted by Dorenko in the wake of last weekend’s Superjet crash.

"One of Dorenko's last posts. Deadly? Rest in peace."

Good for Ropcke that the message he quoted didn't carry a date stamp. Otherwise his readers might have learned that it was posted right on the day of the tragedy, when the high death toll was suspected but not yet confirmed. Dorenko had posted no less than 59 messages on his channels after that "last post."

As for the Daily Mail’s insinuation that Putin's hitmen assassinated "Kremlin critic" for saying bad things about the Russian government, the autopsy has since shown that Dorenko suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm. This was reported by the very radio station that he headed. It's a relatively rare and usually lethal condition.

Also on rt.com Prominent Russian journalist Sergey Dorenko dies in Moscow after motorbike accident

For the sake of argument, let’s say the autopsy report can be falsified and the Kremlin did go after the journalist. The problem with that conspiracy theory is that Dorenko was not as critical of government policies as his colleagues at the Daily Mail and the “blame Russia” crowd want to believe.

The Mail paints a story of a brave no-nonsense reporter, who had spent years criticizing the Russian government. Dorenko was fired in 2000, after accusing the government and Vladimir Putin of lying about the causes of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster. In 2007, he released footage of his 1998 interview with Alexander Litvinenko, who died in Britain from Polonium-210 poisoning. Days before his death he "attacked an effort to blame the crew for a disaster that many suspect is the fault of technical problems with the Sukhoi plane."

Conveniently omitted were some of Dorenko’s other statements and ideas that didn't fit the narrative. For instance, he was a vocal supporter of the decision to reintegrate Crimea after it broke away from Ukraine in 2014, prompting the Ukrainian press to call Dorenko a “top Russian propagandist.”

“Those who don't support Russia's position on Crimea lack both heart and intelligence," Dorenko had said on the issue. On another occasion he literally threatened to violate any American with a fire iron if challenged in his opinion that the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov in eastern Ukraine were "our land.” As for the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, he wrote: "We can inflict pain indefinitely until people say they have realized that there will be no Ukraine that stands against Russia. If we have to keep proving it for ten more years, we will."

Good luck printing those opinions in the Western press!

The actual Dorenko – not the Daily Mail-Browder-Roepcke construct – was a controversial figure on the Russian media scene. In the 1990s he was famous as a reputation hitman for oligarch, media mogul and shady power broker Boris Berezovsky. One of his jobs was to conduct relentless attacks at ex-PM Evgeny Primakov on behalf of a presidential candidate by the name of Vladimir Putin.

In one report he was explaining to viewers at length that Primakov's recent surgery at a private Swiss clinic must have cost hundreds of thousands of euros or maybe more, considering how old and frail the politician was.

Yes, there was his famous report on the Kursk disaster, in which he accused Putin of mishandling the crisis. "The authorities disrespect us all. That's why they lie. And more importantly, they treat us like that solely because we allow them," was how he wrapped up the report, and was indeed sacked after that.

Yet despite his often abrasive personal style and strong opinions, he remained part of the media establishment in Russia, not some fringe voice delivering online rants about “evil Putin.” He headed one of Moscow's biggest radio stations. What could possibly make him a target?

Dorenko was many things. What he was not is a stock character for anti-Putin conspiracy theory peddlers and outlets that never let the facts interfere with a good a clickbait headline.

Alexandre Antonov, RT

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