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Scott Ritter: US Complicit in Ukraine's War on Journalists

© AFP 2023 / OLGA MALTSEVAA portrait of Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, who was killed in the April 2 bomb blast in a cafe, is seen among flowers at a makeshift memorial by the explosion site in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2023.
A portrait of Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, who was killed in the April 2 bomb blast in a cafe, is seen among flowers at a makeshift memorial by the explosion site in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2023.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.04.2023
On Sunday, April 2, 2023, the well-known Russian journalist/blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was killed in what appears to have been a targeted assassination.
At the time of his murder, Tatarsky had over 560,000 followers on his Telegram channel, making him one of the most influential voices when it came to covering the ongoing Russian special military operation in Ukraine.
The Russian government has publicly condemned the attack, with Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova condemning the role played by the West, noting that the harassment of Russian journalists by the West constitutes a veritable “witch hunt” that represents an acquiescence, if not outright complicity, in the murder of persons like Tatarsky and Daria Dugina, the daughter of the noted Russian philosopher, Alexander Dugin, and a journalist in her own right.

“Not a single case of the violent death of a Russian journalist hailed as a ‘success’ by the Kiev regime and its thugs, has been investigated by Western countries, international organizations, or foreign professional communities, and not even basic human sympathy has been shown,” Zakharova noted.

Donbass-born war correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky. File photo. - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.04.2023
Tatarsky’s Colleagues Recall His Passion, Patriotism, Push to Improve Russia’s Drone Capabilities
The double standard of the collective West, and in particular the United States, which prides itself for its ostensible support of a free press, has been put on display for all the world to see. In 2012, Marie Colvin, a war correspondent for The Sunday Times, was killed while covering the conflict in Syria.
In February 2019, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of the US District Court in Washington, DC, awarded Marie Colvin’s estate damages in the amount of $300 million, claiming that Colvin had been “specifically targeted” by the Syrian government “because of her profession.” Judge Jackson further stated that “The murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide,” adding that “a targeted murder of an American citizen whose courageous work was not only important, but vital to our understanding of war zones and of wars generally, is outrageous.”

[Note: The Syrian government denies that Marie Colvin was specifically targeted. She died when a so-called “media center” in a rebel-held town that doubled as a command center was struck by Syrian artillery. Colvin was operating in Syria without the permission of the Syrian government, in an active war zone.]

The murder of Daria Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky clearly represents the deliberate targeting of journalists operating in their professional capacity. Both Dugina and Tatarsky provided reporting that was “vital to our understanding of war zones and war,” and yet, because this “understanding” came with a Russian slant, the US government remains silent. The “chilling effect” which Judge Amy Jackson warned about is, it seems, to be embraced when those chilled speak Russian, or whose facts sustain a Russian narrative.
Flowers at the site of the terror attack, which killed Vladlen Tatarsky - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.04.2023
Targeting the Unarmed: Ukraine's Grim Record of Terrorist Attacks
The compassion shown Marie Colvin by the US government, in the defense of a free press, is exposed as a lie when confronted by the silence that followed the deaths of Daria Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky. But this was to be expected — after all, the US is seeking the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange so he can be prosecuted for the crime of publishing so-called “secrets” that exposed war crimes and other official malfeasance on the part of the US government and military in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Putting a journalist in jail for 175 years (the maximum sentence Julian Assange would face if found guilty) is the same thing as a death sentence. Free speech, American-style, is not free — it comes with a heavy price, especially if one publishes material that runs against the US-backed official narrative.
Both Daria Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky were included on the notorious “Myrotvorets” “kill list,” purportedly promulgated by the Ukrainian Security Services, along with hundreds of others—many of them minor children—similarly marked for death for the crime of speaking out against the policies of the Ukrainian government.

I, too, am on that list, along with scores of other Americans and non-Ukrainians.

To date, the US government has yet to condemn the Ukrainian government for targeting US citizens to die for exercising their Constitutionally protected right of free speech.
If the US government won’t protect its own citizens, one cannot expect it to speak out in the defense of the lives of non-US citizens designated for speech-related assassination.
But this isn’t simply a case of remaining silent in the face of crimes being committed by others. The US government is an active participant in the Ukrainian government’s campaign to silence dissenting voices using whatever means possible, including targeted assassination. The US government funds, helps organize, and actively supports the work of the Center for Countering Disinformation, or CCD, a Ukrainian agency operating under the auspices of the Office of the President of Ukraine. The CCD publishes a so-called “black list” containing the names of persons designated by the Ukrainian government as facilitating "Russian propaganda," and designates those whose names appear on this list as “information terrorists” and “war criminals” who must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Just to be clear, the US actively hunts down and kills persons designated as terrorists. To fund and support similar designations of its own citizens by a foreign government — Ukraine — known to arrest, torture, and murder dissenting voices means the US, implicitly, supports marking them for death.
Door cam footage of Natalya Vovk, Ukrainian national suspected of killing Russian journalist Daria Dugina. - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.08.2022
Russia's FSB Releases Footage of Ukrainian Agent Held Responsible for Murder of Daria Dugina
This is the truth behind the US silence in the face of the murders of Russian journalists like Daria Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky. A nation founded on the principles of free speech cannot tolerate free speech when it is practiced by those who oppose the US-backed narrative. Rather than engaging these dissenting voices in fact-based debate, dialogue, and discussion, the US —cognizant of the fact that their side could not prevail in such a contest — opts to silence these voices forever. For Julian Assange, this means life in prison.
For Daria Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky, this meant death.
This is how you kill a free press. Hopefully the voices of dissent that remain will not be “chilled” by this result, but rather opt to double down on their commitment to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.
I know I will.
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