Andrey Shilov at WordPress

The notes of a journalist working in Europe for Russian TV

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Shamil Basayev’s brother appeared and disappeared in Helsinki within a day. Indeed, it was worth watching. It still is.

Basayev’s name has been a symbol of terrorism in Russia for more than a decade and it stays so even after Basayev’s death. So the news about a trial in Finland on «a citizen of Finland and a citizen of Turkey» excited nobody in Russia. But the news about a trial on Basayev’s brother in Finland was reported by Interfax news agency and copypasted by dozens of Russian media.

Russian search engine Yandex gives at this minute 38 000 pages to the search «брат Басаева суд Финляндия» (meaning «Basayev’s brother trial Finland»).

Not all pages actually tell about the trial but quite many indeed. The news actually were published on the web twice: «trial is to start», «trial is over». Interfax even translated the news to English – « Brother of slain Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev to face trial in Finland» – what a shame, world media didn’t catch it.
If it is a report in Russian then «Basayev» is surely in the headline. Some media referred to a Finnish political author Johan Bäckman who claimed he saw the name «Basayev» in the trial documents, others mentioned just «trial documents». So far I actually didn’t see a single report in Russian with quotations by a representative of the court, by a prosecutor or by the «brother» himself.

The trial might be interesting for some people, it is a case about illegal immigration of Chechens to Finland. The accused one, Finnish businessman Mikael Storsjoconfirms the facts but says he helped Chechens  on humanitarian basis and wasn’t paid for that. Immigration service gives political asylum with the same motivation, that’s Storsjo’s argument. Indeed very many Chechens moved to different European countries, they survived two wars  during two last decades!

But this is not about Chechens or Storsjo. It is about Basayev’s brother who is on trial in Helsinki. I am based in Helsinki so of course in the morning I ran to the Vantaa court near Helsinki. The hearing was in Swedish because Mikael Storsjo is a Swedish-speaking Finn and Swedish is an official language in Finland. The judge, the prosecutor and lawyeers did mention «Storsjo», and some other names (of the immigrants, I suppose) but – to my surprise – no «Basayev». Why did I come here at 9am?

After 3 hours there was finally a break and I asked the prosecutor Mikko Sipilä:
-There is a young man near Mikael Storsjo. Is he a brother of Shamil Basayev?
-But there were reports that he admitted it.
-I can’t say anything about his relatives but there is no name of Basayev in the legal case.

But I can ask the brother, can’t I? According to the Russian media reports, his name is Deni Berkat (and earlier he was called Abdulkhamid Mechiev). Should I believe the media? Well anyway I don’t know his real name, I didn’t check his passport.
I approached the young man and asked him in Russian:
-Are you Shamil Basayev’s brother?
-But there were reports…
-Who said it? No!

The guy looked realy surprised and later  he came to me in the corridor and asked again: who said I am Basayev’s brother? I showed him dozens of reports in Russian on my phone’s screen.
-Basayev’s brother is in Turkey!
-And you are a Russian citizen?
-No, a Turkish one.
-But your Russian is so good!
-My English and Chechen are good, too.

Should I mention that Finnish press was laconic about the hearing? A short report in the main newspaper, that’s all. And no Basayev there! What a surprise.

The only thing I am happy about: not all Russian media reported about Basayev’s brother in Finland. Somebody just ignored the news. Or checked it and saw that there was no brother at all.


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April 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm

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Common values

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Some topics are supposed to unite people but it doesn’t always work. For example, world’s “green worry” doesn’t exist in Russia at all compared to other countries. Indeed, a typical story about wind energy in Germany had to wait it’s turn to be shown in my company’s news for more than a month. But the “crisis” suddenly worked: nothing unites Russia and the world better than news about crisis and the way people cope with it. Who the hell in Russia would be interested in some German car-sharing companies? Or some German tricks to boost consumer interest in cars? Now we are making the third story about cars in Germany during  just a couple of months – and all this thanks to a simple approach: how do they deal with the crisis?

Common values, so to say.

Thank you, crisis!

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March 29, 2009 at 7:18 pm

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A mind-blowing documentary

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I had discussion about this video in Livejournal (through my Russian language blog) and I just feel I must put the link here, too:



Indeed everybody has something to say about it. For example I see neither sparks nor drops in my head when I am dealing with figures. I don’t even see figures. I rather hear them.

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October 23, 2008 at 9:25 am

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Photographic crisis

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German magazine “Der Spiegel” published an interesting selection of photos on the financial crisis. It is indeed such a pain in the neck for the photographers: how to illustrate bailouts and Dow Jones points, shares and derivatives during more than a month?


I liked the picture of an Arab. Perhaps the photo with young women, too.


Russian stock indexes, however low they fell, didn’t impress photographers either. At least I didn’t see anything impressive.  

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October 21, 2008 at 3:10 pm

…and he manages somehow

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It turned out that Sergey Kupriyanov, press secretary of Chairman of Gazprom management committee, doesn’t speak English.

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September 11, 2008 at 9:27 pm

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From a dragon to a dragon

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I went to Poland to cover the ceremony of signing the anti-missile agreement between Poland and the US.

In Warsaw airport two Polish magazines are on sale side by side:


”Wprost” has on its cover today´s caricature on Russia, ”Polityka” has a caricature on Russia back from 1920 (the times of Soviet-Polish war), and they empasize it’s authenticity.

According to the issue of “Wprost”, 38% of Poles regard Russia as the main enemy. Germany is N.2 but with only 8%.

According to other polls, a half of Polish population are afraid of Russia today.

We have been just a couple of days in Poland and didn’t notice anything of the kind. Well what anti-Russian can one see when living in a nice hotel, going by taxi and dining in a cafe in the Old City? But many people heard us speaking Russian and asked: Are you Russians? Came because of the anti-missile agreement? What do you think about it?

It is a Polish-American deal but they bear Russia in mind. One has to think about neighbours.

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August 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm

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10 days ago, when Russian-Georgian war just started, a question I asked myself was ”Who will win the PR war?”

Later I could observe it personally in the NATO headquarter.

It was August 12, the day Russian President Medvedev announced that the military operation stopped. Russia’s and Georgia’s envoys to NATO were supposed to hold briefings then.
Who would be the last one, we tried to guess. The last speaker has the opportunity to say the last word – but both Mr.Rogozin and Mr.Beshidze started their briefings at the same time in different halls. We had to make a deal with another Russian TV crew that we film in different places and exchange the video materials, if necessary.

There were about 30 journalists at Mr.Beshidze’s briefing. He spoke English, was very calm – and looked perhaps not depressed but rather tired. His answers were different: some were short and clear, others were just attempts to leave a topic unanswered.

For example, he said Georgia asked NATO for military help. Which one, people asked.
-To repair the radar near Tbilisi, it has been bombed by the Russians.
-What else?
-It is the first step.

I asked his opinion about Medvedev’s announcement, he answered:
-I don’t know anything about it, I am just back from the meeting with NATO ambassadors.
Apart from “aggression” he used just one strong expression: it was “a big mistake”, he said, not to invite Georgia to NATO in Bucharest in Apriil 2008.

OK, we finished with the Georgian and moved to the Russian.

There were more people there, perhaps, 40. Rogozin’s voice was as usually strong and loud, if not aggressive. The answers were long and detailed but often going away from the topic. A lot of rhetoric, I must say. He knows a few languages, including English, but he spoke Russian – and somebody from the Russian embassy worked as an interpreter. It seems to be a common practice for Russian official representatives abroad, I have seen it already. Interpreter is not regarded as a special profession, I am afraid, and mistake after mistake appear even when “interpreter” speaks English quite well. “Gentlemen” were translated as ”guys”, many things were simplified and cut away. A journalist even asked Mr.Rogozin: “Did I get you right? Just to make sure nothing was lost in translation…”
Mr.Rogozin didn’t blame “Anglo-Saxon press” there, it is probably a term mainly for the internal usage. At least he used it twice deliberately in exclusive interviews with me.

World information agencies quoted both envoys very shortly that day, real questions were solved not in Brussels then.

A day later I did ask Mr.Rogozin whether Russia lost the PR war. He didn’t say “yes” but his answer kind of confirmed it. Georgia hired PR-agencies and “anglo-saxon press” worked in pro-Georgian way, he said. “Including CNN which was established just for that“. Unfortunately I can not give the link to the interview since it was aired not in the news and my company (NTV) uploads only news reports to the Internet.

At the very end I asked Mr.Rogozin whether he sees his own fault in Russia’s loss. He didn’t say no, of course, but again said “we did all we could” and “there is a lot to be done”.

So even the official representative confirmed Russia lost the PR war.

But was there actually an attempt to win it?

“Guardian” put it quite well. I often disagree with this newspaper and Russian mistakes have not been analyzed there (the information about 1500 victims have not yet been proved, for example) – but the article gives some picture of the situation.

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August 18, 2008 at 2:09 pm

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