The following is a response to Pavel Stroilov's "Lebedev's tangled web", which appeared here on 11 November 2010
I am not sure how long Pavel Stroilov has been living in Britain, but it is patently not long enough to have reached any understanding of British journalism. He still sees everything through an old-style, even dare I say Soviet, prism, and patronises his compatriots by assuming that they see things the same way.
The two central charges he makes are highly damaging, both to me and to the proprietor of The Independent. I cannot speak for the Lebedev family. I can speak for myself. As regards the article on the Governor of St Petersburg to which Stroilov – and so many others as to suggest an orchestrated campaign – objects, his allegations are 1. that it was “paid for” propaganda, and 2. that I wrote it on instructions from the Lebedev family who commissioned it in pursuit of their supposed interests in Russia.
These allegations could not be further from the truth.
The only person I communicated to about this article before it appeared in the paper was the foreign editor, who was running the foreign pages on Sunday, 5 September. I offered it in place of another I had proposed the previous day but which, because of a practical hitch, I was unable to write. No one else would have known that an article about Matviyenko was in the Monday issue of the paper until they saw it there. That is how the British press tends to operate: from hour to hour, minute to minute.
The notion that it was somehow written in collusion with the proprietor is equally absurd. I have never spoken to, or otherwise communicated with, Alexander Lebedev. The article was written entirely on the basis of my own observations and judgement as a long-time Russia-watcher. To suggest anything else, and specifically that it was “paid for” in the manner of certain articles in the Russian press, is defamatory.