Today finishing off this story, based on this piece by Elena Kalashnikova. We have discussed the sequence of events which led to Alexander Rastorguev getting fired from his job at Radio Liberty. Which, in case anyone doesn’t know, is a 501(c)(3) corporation funded by the American government, and whose mission statement is to broadcast news “in 20 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.” Anyone who actually reads the Russian press and internet knows that Russia does not actually fit that definition, there is actually a free press, but one must understand that RFE/RL’s definition of “free” means “agrees with American Foreign Policy”. Which the Russian press does not always do, although the Opps media most certainly does.
Before delving into the discord between two Opps superstars, Ksenia Sobchak and Alexander Rastorguev, we must try to get an inkling of this alien and cult-like Opps subculture, which is not united under a common political ideology (unlike, say Marxists), and yet exhibits all of the sectarian trimmings, including internal feuds. The American State Department regards all of these people as its assets; and, like animals, all assets are created equal but some are more equal than others. American officials, like Pontius Pilate in Rome, attempt to provide leadership and keep these children well-behaved and getting along with one another, for the sake of the greater cause. But it’s hopeless, almost like herding cats.
Some biographical information about Rastorguev, quoting from this piece:
Born in 1971 in Rostov-on-Don. Rastorguev studied at the Philosophy Department of Rostov State University and graduated from St. Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy. Rastorguev worked as a director on the state regional channel Don TV, but was fired along with the crew for directing the documentary Clean Thursday(2004). He also worked at the St. Petersburg office of Russia’s NTV Channel. In 2001 he founded Kino Studio. Rastorguev’s films were entered into various foreign festivals. Awards: the Laurel Branch at Moscow’s ArtDocFest (Mommies, 2001, and Tender’s Heat. Wild Wild Beach, 2007), the Grand Prize at the Russia Documentary Festival (Mommies, 2001), the Special Jury Award at the Amsterdam IFF (Tender’s Heat. Wild Wild Beach, 2007), the White Elephant Award from the Russian Guild of Film Critics (Tender’s Heat. Wild Wild Beach, 2007), Russia’s Triumph Prize Tender’s Heat. Wild Wild Beach, 2007). Rastorguev was killed in 2018 while filming a documentary about Russian mercenaries operating in the Central African Republic.
That last sentence stating a “fact” which was what Rastorguev and his comrades were attempting to prove; without actually getting to that point. Which, of course, never stops the “free” Western propaganda mill press from stating assumption as fact.
Rastorguev’s main oeuvre was a self-referential (from the Opps POV) documentary film called “The Term”, which is described thusly:
This documentary project was conceived in May 2012, when Putin had just settled into the Kremlin for his third term. The original experimental format of “documentary bulletins,” which were published daily online, allowed for wide-ranging content; the feature film focused solely on the members of various opposition groups. The work’s neutral position remains and viewers have to interpret the objectively presented situations for themselves. The characteristics of this movie include close contact with the protagonists and precise editing. It arches over the lives of men and women for whom protest became their raison d’être and provides a chilling discourse on democratic rights and freedoms, the relationship of state power toward differently thinking groups, and the tendency of the masses to seek out charismatic leaders.
Speaking of charismatic leaders, we mentioned Alexei Navalny’s role in getting Rastorguev fired from his job; and then subsequently kicking him under the bus. But returning to Ksenia Sobchak, who is not charistmatic at all — we learned from Elena’s piece that she and Sasha Rastorguev had a bit of a feud going on even before the election-day kerfuffle. What’s up with that?
As this Ria Novosti piece reported, Sobchak was angry with Sasha and threatened to sue him for illegally using video materials from her official website. Rastorguev was working on a joint German-Russian documentary film about the elections, titled “Electing Russia”. The film was to appear on the Franco-German channel Arte, and then on the German channel ZDF. In his film, Rastorguev used video clips from Sobchak’s site, which Sobchak said was a violation of her author rights. Just guessing here: but Sobchak may have felt that Rastorguev was attempting to profit from her delightful image.
In response to Sobchak’s outburst (which took place on her Facebook), Rastorguev defended himself vigorously: “Advertising materials of the Presidential candidates are not subject to author’s right, and it is permissible to quote them. We obtained special legal advice on this issue. This is the legal norm in election law. Like many others in their blogs and films, we showed clips and quotes but provided the sources in the closing credits. In general, I do not see a problem here.”
This incident could have gotten uglier, but then it seems to have faded. Calmer heads prevailed. Sobchak seems to have forgiven the film-maker: She deleted her angry threat to sue him, and even gave him credentials to her election HQ. Which Rastorguev mis-used, as we have seen. A furious Sobchak saw to it that he was fired from his job. Penniless, unable to make his rent, Rastorguev apparently had no other options at that time, but to accept the job offered by Khodorkovsky.
Not An Adrenaline Seeker
Sasha’s friend Albina Kirillova again, in a somewhat dissociative rant mixing third person and second person singular: “Sasha Rastorguev was not a war correspondent. He made films about love. [Addressing her dead friend]: You were a romantic, you hated war, you did not love death and investigative (reporting), this was all boring for you. Everywhere you went you were always looking for the personality, the personage, the person. You created films about the opposition, and you edited a film about love. I know that you didn’t want to go there, because there was no concept in this for you, Wagner, Fig-Avner, Tsur Schmur, this was not your cup of tea. You are a romantic, like a great parent, you loved people, you hated war, corruption, politics.”
Friends of one of the other slain journalists, Orkhan Djemal, also note the somewhat non-voluntary character of his trip to the Central African Republic (CAR). Blogger Rasul Tavdiryakov relates that he and Orkhan were previously planning to visit the Republic of Chad. “But Orkhan told me that [Khodorkovsky’s] Investigations Management Centre (IMC) was proposing a trip to the CAR. He agreed, since he needed the money. Djemal studied in detail the situation in the CAR and came to have doubts about the wisdom of such a trip. “I regret that I agreed to go,” [Orkhan told Rasul], “They kill journalists there without so much as a howdee-do.”
Khodorkovsky himself, perhaps stung by these criticisms, that he recklessly sent these three journalists into a meat-grinder, insists that he did not so much “hire” the trio, as “worked with them on a joint project”. Like, they really cared as deeply as himself (or the American State Department) about the Wagner troops in a small African nation. Oh, and these guys were not his employees, they were his “partners” and “colleagues”.
When asked whose idea it was to travel to the CAR, Khodorkovsky replied: “As you well understand, this was a joint decision. The IMC did not take upon itself the coordination of this project, but simply acted as a partner. If the IMC had been acting on its own, then we would have employed much cheaper local labor.”
Ouch! What an insult to a veteran film director and graduate of the prestigious St. Petersburg Theater Academy, being compared unfavorably to “cheap local labor” as would befit some under-educated African teenager hired to lug a camera tripod!
Hammering in this point, Elena sarcastically ends her piece with the following paragraph: “And thus, a film director who hates war, who makes films about love and who desperately needs money, convinced Khodorkovsky’s company to send him to the CAR. And also convinced the former shareholder of YUKOS to spend too much money on this trip, instead of using much cheaper local labor!”
Well, this is not the first time Khodorkovsky has squandered an opportunity to repent and try for at least a molecule of redemption, instead of using other people as objects to be discarded. For example, he could simply come clean and tell the truth about what he was trying to accomplish in Central Africa. Knowing the truth about why her friend died, might bring a quantum of solace to such a distraught woman as Albina, for example. But for that to happen, the heartless tycoon Khodorkovsky would have to find a vein of mercy hidden deeply inside his Heart of Darkness.