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The New Browder-Magnitsky Film Is a Trick

Don't be fooled by filmmaker Nekrasov's claim of an epiphany. There's reason to question his credibility

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

When I first learned that a new film was out that debunks the story of Sergey Magnitsky's death I was very glad to hear the news. Back in 2012 I had written articles to warn the American public and members of Congress that the tale of Magnitsky's life and death was a fraud. It looked to me like a campaign concocted to methodically stir up animus toward Putin through a clever distortion of the Magnitsky circumstances. Most people, though, seemed taken in by the false narrative

The National Interest describes the story this way:

"The generally accepted narrative of the Magnitsky affair is that lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was employed by the American-born owner of Hermitage Capital Management, William Browder, in an effort to investigate the theft of assets from his companies by the Russian police. Magnitsky then courageously exposed these actions, was arrested and died in pretrial detention in a Russian prison after being tortured, beaten and denied medical care."

But when I saw that this new documentary was a product of Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov I became very skeptical. 

Nekrasov is someone who first came to my attention while I was conducting research on the 2006 Alexander Litvinenko death case. I had been commissioned by the International Federation of Journalists to analyze and report on the news coverage of that affair. My later book The Phony Litvinenko Murder was an eventual product of that work.

During my research I found that Nekrasov was a part of Boris Berezovsky's inner circle. Berezovsky was an outlaw Russian oligarch hiding out in London. He was on a self-proclaimed mission to foment a violent revolution back in Russia and impose a monarchy. 

Berezovsky had hired Litvinenko, a fellow London-based fugitive from Russia, to be a political bomb thrower. Litvinenko threw out a series of fact-free accusations about Putin. He accused Putin of the actual bombing of Russian apartment buildings, killing journalists, and a litany of other specious claims. Following Litvinenko's death by polonium poisoning, Berezovsky fabricated the story that Litvinenko had been murdered on Putin's orders.

Nekrasov was in the thick of all that. He produced a documentary to support the apartment bombing fabrication. Berezovsky's fraudulent story about Litvinenko was the subject of two Nekrasov productions.

It's curious that Nekrasov has now put out a docudrama that shoots down one of the more recent Berezovskyesque vilifications of Putin.

As I understand it, he claims to have had an epiphany concerning Magnitsky. He set out to make a film to support Browder's story, but in the process discovered that the facts didn't check out.

Nekrasov said, "The story of Magnitsky turned out to be made-up." He added, "I saw facts that do not add up, that prove that the story of Magnitsky was faked by Browder."

That's basically the same tune I've been singing about the Litvinenko case: The story was made up, the facts don't check out, and there's clear evidence that the mainstream Litvinenko story was a fabrication of Berezovsky's.

Yet the Litvinenko and apartment bombing nonsense apparently seemed perfectly reasonable to Nekrasov. That leads me to think that Nekrasov himself does not add up. I say his claim of an epiphany regarding Magnitsky is a trick.

If nothing else, he's received much acclaim for his Magnitsky film. That has the troublesome consequence of creating an aura of credibility for his earlier malicious cinematic abominations. 

Based on the descriptions I've seen of the Browder-Magnitsky film, I don't disbelieve the story it tells. What causes my skepticism is the hint that Nekrasov has a hidden agenda.

He was quite late in coming to the realization that the Magnitsky story was just a hatchet job on Putin. Much has been written by many analysts in the intervening years.

My 2012 articles mentioned earlier are "Congress Members Duped by Foreign Agitators -- Again!" and "Magnitsky Bill Drags Senators into Foreign Plot," both appearing in I also wrote "Americans Duped in Anti-Russian Game"(in Russian) and "It's Time for Putin and Obama to Have an Urgent Talk" (in English) for Komsomolskaya Pravda. "Magnitsky Bill is part of an international effort to show Russia in an unfavorable light, and perhaps even delegitimize its leaders"  appears in Sputnik News.

For all of us who are glad to see the Magnitsky propaganda shattered, the Nekrasov film presents an awkward situation. Lauding the film is like playing into Nekrasov's hand. I guess we're left to acclaim the story but condemn the storyteller.

But out of fairness I'd certainly be willing to give Nekrasov the benefit of the doubt and reconsider my conclusions about him. 

He's admitted to not conducting a "scrupulous investigation" into the subjects of his earlier films. They lacked due diligence. Now, if he's really on the level about his Magnitsky epiphany, let him reexamine that past work with a degree of honesty and astuteness that equals his Magnitsky work -- and make an equally public disclosure on how those stories don't check out and are without merit too.

If he has the courage and integrity to do that, I'd be pleased to actually believe his story of an epiphany. Otherwise I think he'll continue to look like cinematic trickster.

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