Russian Intel Reporter Soldatov Profiled by Open Source Center

12.01.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Andrei Soldatov, the Russian journalist who runs the independent web site Agentura.ru that reports on Russian intelligence and security services, was the subject of a profile last week prepared by the DNI Open Source Center.

“Soldatov has regularly highlighted the increasing influence of the special services in Russian government, reported on the security services’ efforts to limit journalistic freedoms, followed spy cases, interviewed defectors, and chronicled personnel appointments and reorganizations of the special services,” the OSC profile stated.

“Despite being questioned and charged by the FSB [Russian Federal Security Service] on several occasions, Soldatov has continued to cover hot-button issues such as corruption, security service defectors, and the increasing role of the special services in limiting free speech in Russia.”

See “Profile of Prominent Russian Security Services Commentator Andrey Soldatov,” Open Source Center Media Aid, November 25, 2008.

The OSC write-up presents numerous interesting details about Soldatov’s career, many of which are rather obscure and bound to be unfamiliar to anyone who does not follow the Russian press closely.  But since the open source information it relies upon is “collected” rather than “reported” — where reporting means confirmation of facts and hypotheses, reconciliation of conflicting accounts, and discovery of previously undisclosed information — it also contains some significant omissions.

The OSC speculates that “Perhaps Soldatov has enjoyed protection because of his father’s position and ties to the security services.”  But Relcom, the Internet Service Provider of which the senior Soldatov was then president, decisively terminated its support of the Agentura.ru web site in 2006.

The OSC writes that “To those following the increasingly hostile environment for journalists in Russia, Soldatov’s career is a curiosity. In an era where journalists are regularly threatened or even killed for their reporting, Soldatov has [suffered] relatively few consequences.”  But on November 12, Soldatov’s employer Novaya Gazeta fired him and Agentura.ru colleague Irina Borogan “without explanation” (noted by Maria Eismont in Index on Censorship on November 27).  The “curiosity” of Soldatov’s career is thus diminishing and the Agentura.ru project may be in jeopardy.

In happier times, Soldatov was featured in “A Web Site That Came in From the Cold to Unveil Russian Secrets” by Sally McGrane, New York Times, December 14, 2000.