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Editor's Viewpoint

Russia just trying to stifle the truth

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Eyebrows have been raised by the inclusion of three DUP MPs on the latest ‘stop list’ of people sanctioned by the Russian government.

The Northern Ireland MPs appear to have been singled out for their support of Thales UK, the Belfast-based missile factory currently supplying weapons to the Ukrainian army.

It is difficult to see what impact banning Gregory Campbell, Sammy Wilson and Gavin Robinson from Russian territory will have on the war.

The three have never publicly expressed an interest in visiting Moscow on their summer holidays, or spending springtime in St Petersburg. But this has to be taken in context, as part of the propaganda fightback by Putin’s government.

The DUP MPs’ closeness to Boris Johnson’s government may have also put them on the Russians’ radar. It would seem the FSB have been watching the DUP and their political affiliations with interest.

In May, Mr Johnson visited the Thales factory in east Belfast, where a number of weapons systems currently being used in Ukraine are manufactured.

The praise for the work of Thales by some MPs may well have been what piqued the Kremlin’s interest.

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Members of the Thales management team are also on the sanctioned list. The move follows sanctions by Britain against Sputnik, which had a show hosted by former Labour MP George Galloway, and Russia Today that had its licence revoked by the regulator Ofcom.

Wars are now fought on two fronts, the military battle and the cyber war. Winning the propaganda war now is almost as important as the ground war.

Russia has banned a number of journalists it has accused of contributing to the “incitement of Russophobia in British society”. Among them are some of the UK’s most respected war correspondents.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin has covered conflicts on every continent, putting herself in perilous situations to get the story out.

Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay was shot and wounded in Ukraine in March when he and his four colleagues were ambushed. They are now on the banned list along with Channel 4’s Cathy Newman and Alex Thompson.

Banning the press is Putin’s attempt to stifle on the ground reporting, important journalism that has already uncovered atrocities against the civilian population as a result of the Russian invasion.

This will be seen as the latest attack on the freedom of the press. It must be resisted at all costs, lest truth be the first casualty of war.


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