Russian ambassador blasts Danish media coverage of Sochi Olympics

Freedom of speech requires professionalism and responsibility, Mikhail Vanin argued

The leading Russian representative in Denmark, Ambassador Mikhail Vanin, has written an open letter to the leading Danish newspapers in which he criticises their coverage of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi last Friday.

Vanin’s letter, which was sent to Berlingske, Politiken and Jyllands-Posten newspapers, lambasted the newspapers’ coverage of the opening ceremony, urging the media to remain objective and separate politics and sport.

“The freedom of speech requires a deal of professionalism and responsibility in order to objectively cover the topics that are written about,” Vanin wrote. “The coverage of the Danish media in connection with the 22 Winter Olympics Games reminded me of a scene from the Russian literary classic novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘Heart of a dog’, in which the main character, a professor of medicine, recommends his colleague to stay away from Soviet newspapers before breakfast to avoid digestion problems.”

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You want bears drinking vodka?
Vanin went on to ask which part of the Olympic ceremony contained the “vulgar” and “brutal aesthetics” that the newspapers wrote about?

“Was it the Russian ballet stars dancing in Sochi to the music from the famous composer Pjotr Tjajkovskij? As it was precisely Tjajkovskij’s ‘Swan Lake’ that the fine Copenhagen public applauded a short time ago,” he wrote.

Vanin, who gave his view of the Olympic Games in Sochi to The Copenhagen Post last week, wondered if the Danish journalists would instead have preferred Russian bears in hats with red stars drinking vodka from samovars.

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Berlingske brush off claims
Lisbeth Knudsen, the chief editor of Berlingske, disagreed with the ambassador’s points, arguing that the she didn’t think her newspaper’s coverage merited such a response.

“We have of course covered the background on why Putin wanted the Olympics and how he has used it politically, but we haven’t criticised the opening ceremony using the words that the ambassador’s letter used,” Knudsen said

Vanin’s letter can be read here (in Danish).