Question: How does the Russian Foreign Ministry regard the recent leak of a list of names and pictures of BBC correspondents in Russia?
Response: Representatives of the Foreign Ministry continuously urge for the creation of comfortable and safe working conditions for journalists. For us, it has always been unacceptable to have a scandal-seeking website such as the Ukrainian “Mirotvorets,” which, among other things, also has a practice of revealing the personal information of journalists. Unfortunately, Western partners, including journalists from Western countries, simply decided to ignore our comments regarding the matter. One of the latest unacceptable occasions is the intentional publication of the personal information of eight Sputnik employees in British media. The practice of public intimidation and insults of journalists has been urged to stop numerous times by Western officials (British Prime Minister, French President, US Department of State, etc.). Any actions that obstruct the work of journalists is unacceptable.
Question: Does the Foreign Ministry have any evidence that a Russian official department had any contribution to the publication of the list?
Response: When the first speculations surfaced accusing the Russian Foreign Ministry about providing the personal information of BBC Moscow journalists to the mass media (furthermore, the BBC correspondents made this unequivocal accusation), we assumed that it was an unsuccessful joke, due to its obvious absurdity.
Question: On December 28th, in a comment to the Kommersant newspaper, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria V. Zakharova alleged that British hackers were involved in the publication of the list. Does the Russian Foreign Ministry have any evidence of hacking or any unauthorized access to its own data?
Response: We are quite surprised by the question about whether “the Russian Foreign Ministry has any evidence of hacking or any unauthorized access to its own data.” Recently, on December 17th, the online resources of the Russian Embassy in London were hacked, which the Russian side immediately announced (including during a briefing by the official representative of the Foreign Ministry on December 26th). We cannot exclude the possibility that hackers could have accessed various kinds of data, including information regarding correspondents of British Media working in Russia. Given that the Russian embassies are engaged in monitoring the publications of the correspondents of a given country in Russia, it also issues visas, etc.
Question: Is the Russian Foreign Ministry undertaking any investigation in this direction?
Response: We publicly drew the attention of the British authorities on the matter. We hope that our appeal will not be ignored.
Question: The BBC submitted a formal complaint to the Russian authorities regarding the incident. What comment can the Russian Foreign Ministry provide on the matter?
Response: We recommend asking the Russian authority which received the British complaint for clarifications. The BBC office in Russia has not addressed Department of Information and Press of the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the matter.
The BBC questions show the double-standards of mainstream media outlets in their coverage of such situation. Fort example, in December 2018, The Times provided a list of pictures and names of Sputniknews reporters in the UK, who were all accused of being “Russian puppets.” Nobody in the mainstream media was “outraged”.
On the other hand, answers of the Russian Foreign Ministry showed another innovation in the diplomatic dialogue between Russia and the Western states. Previously, the Russian side had never answered such cynically and sarcastically to questions from Western media outlets or diplomats.
In the current situation, it is not important how the list of names and pictures of BBC correspondents in Russia leaked. The situation itself shows that when one side [in particular the mainstream media and the Western states] uses unethical apporaches to pressure their “media opponents” like RT and Sputniknews journalists, this appraoch may become common for all the sides involved in the current geopolitical standoff. In the future the situation will likely develop further in the same direction.