A CONTROVERSIAL Russian news broadcaster has compared itself to the BBC at the launch of its new Scottish headquarters.
Sputnik – owned by Russian government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya – said they are an objective radio and web news outlet with “no agenda”, under no pressure from Moscow to produce government approved material.
Reporters at Sputnik also claimed that their funding came from similar sources to the BBC, and that their director and editor even used to work at the British public service broadcaster.
The organisation also denied accusations that they were aiming to destabilise the UK.
Speaking at the station’s launch in Edinburgh yesterday (WED) Oxana Brazhnik, UK bureau chief said: “We provide the most objective and balanced reporting of all the stories that we want to cover.
“Sputnik is publicly funded, the scheme is very similar to how the BBC is funded, although for the BBC there is a license fee. In Russia we have a general budget – it’s from taxes”.
She also dismissed concerns about her links with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who employed her as a political advisor, saying: “I don’t understand how my previous career affects what I do at the moment.”
Nikolai Gorshkov, editor and director at Sputnik, added that, like the BBC, Sputnik was independent and not accountable to the Russian government.
He said: “No-one has ever called me from Moscow, or sent me an email. I’m being completely honest.
“I can assure you there is no hidden agenda. We’re not in a conspiracy to undermine anyone. We’re here to offer an angle that you may not hear from anyone else.”
Sputnik has faced allegations that they are trying to destabilise the UK to further Russian foreign policy objectives.
The organisation has come under fire for publishing articles suggesting that the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence was rigged.
More recently, it was criticised for quoting Leave campaigner Brendan Chilton, as calling the death of MP Jo Cox “timely” for Remain campaigners, in the run up to the EU referendum.
Carolyn Scott, who presents Sputnik’s ‘World in Focus’ radio show, said: “[These claims are] a bit ridiculous. We’re never put in a position where we feel we’re here to destabilise the UK.
“We didn’t have a team on the ground [at the time of the independence referendum.] We cover an extremely broad landscape of news – the UK is not our focus of interest.”
Ms Brazhnik also defended the Cox article: “It just presented the quote of this particular person – if you go through the website, it will show a wide variety of views and opinions. This was not the only view presented on our website.”
“We never received any complaints from Brendan about his quotes.”
But Chilton said after the article was published: “I am appalled at how Sputnik have presented this.
“You can see the quotes they have used in the article are very selective indeed. It’s as if they have just taken anything I’ve said, selected which bits they’d like, and put them in their own article, peddling their own view of things.”
Sputnik broadcasting is currently available in over 80 cities in the world, and on the internet.
The organisation has two offices in the UK, with the other based in London.