24 Nov 2020
A longstanding critic of Kremlin corruption has accused NatWest of closing his bank account in the UK because it had been influenced by an intense and pervasive “black PR” campaign mounted against him by Russian actors in their home country.
“Black PR” is a term referring to a series of connected practices used by Russian state and non-state actors seeking to discredit individuals as part of political or business disputes, and can involve trying to create or obtain kompromat (compromising material) or generating fake media reports.
The accusation by Bill Browder appears in a thinktank report that warns the widespread Russian practice of disseminating falsehoods to ruin reputations is seeping into the UK.
The report calls for businesses, researchers and the courts to be more sceptical about media reports coming from Russia, for British PR firms to adhere to high ethical procedures and for lobbyists to declare when they are employed by foreign powers.
Browder said the example of his banking status can highlight the reach Russian black PR can have internationally, although NatWest said the decision to shut his personal account in 2015 was “a commercial one” that it had reviewed and stuck to.
Browder, once a large investor in Russia, was expelled from the country in 2005 and has actively campaigned against the Kremlin since the murder in prison of a tax lawyer who had worked for him, Sergei Magnitsky.
By Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian, 23 November 2020
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