Photo: Dr. Alexander Goldfarb, Marina Litvinenko, and attorney Bertrand ‘Randy’ Sellier. Credit: Oscar Montenegro

 

By Oscar Montenegro

 

After months of raising funds and planning, a lawsuit filed against two Russian media outlets accused of being propaganda platforms for Russian President Vladimir Putin is going forward.

During a press conference in front of the United States District Court in Lower Manhattan, Dr. Alexander Goldfarb, a Russian-American microbiologist, along with his attorney Bertrand Sellier and a supporter, Marina Litvinenko, announced they filed a civil lawsuit against two prominent Russian media outlets, Channel One Russia and RT America (Russia Today).

“From the beginning, the Russians created a false narrative to deflect blame on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko,” Sellier said.

According to Goldfarb, he is a victim of ‘malicious defamation’ by both outlets, after they accused him of murdering his friend, Alexander Litvinenko and his own wife. The Russian outlets also accused Goldfarb of being an agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Marina Litvinenko is the widow of Alexander Litvinenko, and has offered her support to Goldfarb during this lawsuit.

These accusations come in the aftermath of the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England in March. As in Litvinenko’s case, this poisoning has been blamed on the Russian government. Pushing the claim that the Russian government had nothing to do with these poisonings, both One Channel Russia and Russia Today broadcasted several programs about the Litvinenko case, accusing Goldfarb of being the murderer. They provided no evidence for their claim.

Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service who was living in London when he was poisoned and died in November 2006. On his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Putin of ordering his murder.

One Channel Russia and RT are funded by the Russian government and the latter, in the words of Putin himself, is on a list of “core organizations of strategic importance to Russia.” Both outlets are considered state-controlled media. Yesterday’s development in New York comes two years after a British judicial inquiry established that two Russian agents, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, poisoned Litvinenko. Both are believed to be in Russia.

When Marina Litvinenko was asked who she believes murdered her husband, she said, “This case is hard to bring to justice because the people who committed this crime are in Russia, and decided to destroy my friend [Goldfarb], who helped us.” She says the probability that Putin ordered her husband’s murder is “very high.”

Litvinenko said the world doesn’t know how to fight against Russian propaganda and has done little to stop it. She also mentioned how dangerous this all is to democracies in the West and around the world, when outlets like One Channel Russia and RT spread disinformation.

When asked whether he is scared of consequences from their lawsuit, Sellier said, “I’m not.” He added that he would not be traveling to Russia anytime soon. Responding to the same question, Goldfarb said he also had no intentions of visiting Russia.

Goldfarb said he didn’t have much of a reaction when the Russian media  accusations first came out, branding them as expected Russian state propaganda. But after hearing people call him a murderer, he had a “creepy feeling” and realized these kinds of accusations can have serious consequences.

Sellier said he and the others with him yesterday want a retraction of all accusations made by One Channel Russia and RT. Also, they want compensation for emotional distress and for the costs associated for the lawsuit.

Thirty thousand dollars has been raised on Goldfarb’s Go-Fund-Me pages, both in English and Russian, to help cover costs for this case.

When asked by a reporter if Sellier had a message for Putin, he chuckled and said, “It’s all in the case copy I gave you.”