Council pressured to cut ties with chamber over Sputnik links

THE city council is under pressure to cut ties with the chamber of commerce if it refuses to ditch its relationship with a Russian news outlet.

Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 6:00 am
Sputnik UK has been operating out of the Exchange Tower in Edinburgh's West End for two years

Sputnik, the multi-media arm of Rossiya Segodnya, known as Russia Today, was recently admitted as a member of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

In the wake of the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, calls have been made for the chamber to reconsider any links to the “propaganda arm” of Russia.

The city council is now set to discuss whether it will continue supporting the chamber of commerce if the organisation doesn’t sever ties with the Russian media company.

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Cllr John McLellan said: “Although I put down the motion before the Salisbury poisonings, in light of this week’s events it would be advisable for the chamber of commerce to end its association with the Russian state propaganda machine with immediate effect.

“I fail to see what the chamber gets out of it, other than the subscription money and a damaged reputation, and I’d be surprised if a majority of its members are happy with the arrangement.”

The motion, which will be raised at the full city council meeting tomorrow, asks the Chief Executive to review the council’s association with the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce should Sputnik’s membership not be terminated.

Cllr McLellan added: “Sputnik exists entirely to advance the interests of the Putin regime, yet has just been admitted as a corporate member of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce which presents its connections with Edinburgh institutions as a major member benefit.

“The chamber’s head of corporate and international development, Alexia Haramis, said: ‘As an international news agency which is relatively new to Edinburgh, we look forward to supporting Sputnik to grow and raise its profile in Edinburgh, connecting them with fellow members and key city stakeholders.’ The chamber is therefore helping the propaganda arm of a state which is increasingly hostile to the interests of this country and when the news broke last month attempted to kick the issue into the long grass by saying the membership was under review.”

Sputnik UK has been operating out of the Exchange Tower in Edinburgh’s West End for two years.

A Sputnik spokesman said: “We hope that the chamber will ignore discriminative and groundless accusations and our relationship will continue to grow and develop as positively as it has done since we became members.”

A spokesperson for the chamber of commerce said: “The chamber is conducting its own review, and any decision we take will be made based on our constitution, on the legality or otherwise of member activities, and on the position taken by the Scottish and UK Governments regarding the trading licences of any organisation.

“We have nothing further to add at this time.”