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New York Times article on Salisbury incident reveals manipulative techniques — embassy

Russian embassy in London  REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Russian embassy in London
© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON, June 8. /TASS/. Even after being corrected, a New York Times article about the US president’s reaction to the Salisbury incident clearly demonstrates how political decisions are made in the era of fake news, the Russian Embassy in London said late on Friday.

"Evidently, the newspaper realized that dissemination of overtly fake information harms the paper’s reputation. However, at the core, even the new version portrays the leadership of US special services in quite an unsavory light. The readiness to manipulate political leaders and the global public opinion has become one of their favorite techniques long ago," the embassy said.

New York Times article

New York Times said in an article on April 16 that US President Donald Trump was initially reluctant to expel Russian diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury incident, but changed his mind after a conversation with CIA Director Gina Haspel. The paper claimed that the president was shown images, received from the United Kingdom, showing children allegedly hospitalized after being exposed to the Novichok nerve agent, and photographs of ducks poisoned with the same substance. Trump was reportedly stirred by the images and gave the green light to the toughest response.

On June 5, the paper corrected the article, saying that the CIA head "displayed pictures illustrating the consequences of nerve agent attacks, not images specific to the chemical attack in Britain." Although the paper admitted that some information the article was incorrect, it took it almost two months to clarify data.

"In 2003, Colin Powell [then UN Secretary of State] demonstrated the UN Security Council not actual samples of anthrax from Iraq, but just a vial that resembled a vial containing anthrax spores. In order to illustrate the so-called chemical attacks in Syria, TV airs footage (filmed by the White Helmets and funded by Western governments), demonstrating not children who were actually harmed, but just some children who look like children exposed to chemical weapons. In this case, too, Donald Trump was shown not photos of ducks, who died of poisoning in Salisbury, but just of some birds that look like birds killed by a chemical agent," the Russian diplomats said.

"All of this together creates a sad illustration of how major political decisions are made in the era of ‘fake news,’ ‘post-truth politics’ and ‘hybrid security,’" they said.

Skripal saga

According to London, former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia, 33, suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury on March 4. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia ever had any program aimed at developing such a substance.

However, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow without presenting any evidence of its involvement in the incident. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.

In the wake of the Skripal incident, a number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Washington expelled 60 diplomatic workers and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry later announced retaliatory measures against counties that had expelled Russian diplomats. In particular, Moscow expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg. The United Kingdom was requested to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.