WASHINGTON — Expatriates in Russia have started a new website to present an alternative to how Russia is portrayed in the Western media.
Russia Insider, which went live at the beginning of September but only started attracting notice this past week with a video featuring a Russian grandma cajoling Obama to leave Russia alone, is an "effort by a group of expats here in Moscow," said Charles Bausman, an expatriate who has been living in Russia since the early 1990s. Before founding Russia Insider, Bausman worked in private equity at a firm called AVG Capital Partners, which invests in large agribusiness projects.
"We felt that there was a demand among the reading public for a view of news about Russia that wasn't so critical of Russia," Bausman said. "Since that coincides with what we believe, we started this website."
Bausman, whose last experience in journalism was as a junior producer in NBC's Moscow bureau after college, says that the website has no relation to and is not funded by the Russian government.
"I know that that they might be very interested in doing that but we're not interested in that," Bausman said. The site, he said, is "a very amateur operation supported by a bunch of people doing this in their free time." Bausman is seeking to crowdfund the operation or attract investors.
So far, the content on Russia Insider resembles that of outlets like RT: "Common sense says it was the Ukrainian military or Ukrainian extremist militias waging war in east Ukraine on Kiev's behalf" who shot down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, one story reads. "Just How Civilized Is Western Civilization?" another piece asks.
The contributors page lists about 20 contributors, all of whom are volunteering their time so far, Bausman said.
The goal is "namely, attempting to answer all the lies in the American press," said Eric Kraus, an American-French businessman who splits his time between Russia and Asia and contributes to the site. "Like the entire coverage of everything that's happened in Russia in the last ten years."
"My assumption is that you're attempting to gather pejorative information about a website that I have contributed to, and that you are working for the empire," Kraus told BuzzFeed News.
Asked whether the site would be able to carve out a large share of the market considering the existence of pro-Russian outlets like RT and Voice of Russia, Kraus said, "How many neocon publications are there? I would say the number of pro-Russian publications in the West is a tiny fraction of the number of overtly hostile publications, so I don't think there's a problem with an overcrowded media space."
Bausman said that he was inspired to start the site partly because of his family's background in journalism — his father was the Associated Press bureau chief in Moscow in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he said — and because he knows several Western journalists in Moscow and found himself disagreeing with what they wrote.
But "when you talk to the guys from the banks and companies here," Bausman said, they have "80% sympathy with my side of the story."
"There are a lot of people who don't agree with the take that the Western media has on Russia," Bausman said.