Alex Salmond’s Russia Today show helped give Vladimir Putin’s regime “respectability” and he should permanently axe it, an Aberdeen University expert has claimed.
In a scathing open letter, history professor Robert Frost – an expert on eastern Europe – said the former first minister had been “useful” to the Kremlin as he accused him of “political naivety”.
Mr Salmond confirmed last week his show would temporarily be suspended until peace in Ukraine had been re-established following Russia’s invasion.
The ex-SNP leader repeatedly insisted his programme – which premiered in 2017 – has been free of editorial control.
But Prof Frost claimed the “very presence” of Mr Salmond was “quite enough” for the Kremlin’s propaganda.
Professor’s open letter
He wrote: “I read that you have ‘suspended’ your talk show on Russia Today. At first I wondered if I had read that right. ‘Suspended’? Not ‘cancelled’? ‘Renounced’?
“What kind of ‘negotiated settlement’ is likely to be acceptable to Mr Putin, Mr Salmond?
“He has expressed his clear view that the Ukrainian nation does not exist; he told his soldiers that the Ukrainians, supposedly led by a criminal band of ‘Nazis’ and ‘Drug Addicts’ would welcome liberation.
“You maintain that you have never had any editorial interference in the content of your programmes on Russia Today.
“Of course not, Mr Salmond. There was no need. Mr Putin and his cronies know very well your attitude to Britain and NATO. No need to interfere.
“The very presence of a former First Minister of Scotland on their channel was quite enough for their purposes.”
‘Offering Putin respectability’
He added: “As Putin was bombing Syrian cities flat in support of his friend Assad, another odious dictator, you were blithely doing his work for him by offering Russia Today respectability.
“I have never been a supporter of your policies, Mr Salmond, but I never thought you were an idiot. I do not think you are now, but you have certainly been useful to Mr Putin.”
Nicola Sturgeon said last week she was “appalled” that her predecessor was still involved with the channel as Russian troops advanced on the Ukrainian border.
The first minister said he should have never had a show on Russia Today and said it would be “unthinkable” for it to continue.
Last month Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton branded the show an “embarrassment to our nation” as he urged Mr Salmond not to be Mr Putin’s “useful idiot”.
While the Alba Party condemned the invasion, the ex-first minister later said that banning Russia Today in the UK would be “supremely counterproductive”.
In a statement at the time, Mr Salmond said: “The efforts of every single person should be to re-establish the peace.
“That certainly is our focus, and therefore Slàinte Media have decided to suspend the Alex Salmond Show until that can be secured.
“There is no productive point in having the future of a television show dominate Prime Minister’s Questions as it did yesterday, when politicians should be rising to the occasion of the great issues of peace in Europe.”
The former SNP chief claimed broadcasts on the channel might help to sway Russian opinion against the conflict.
But Prof Frost claimed that Russia Today programmes are aired primarily for “Western consumption” as he asked how peace could be achieved while Russia continues to bomb Ukraine.
Speaking later, he added that Mr Salmond’s view that his show can return once peace has been reached is “unsupportable”.
He told us: “Salmond was not unique. But he took it further by taking a contract with Russia Today. His position is unsupportable.
“He should be on the side of the Ukrainians. He ought to understand people who have lived in the shadow of a more dominant partner for centuries.
“He doesn’t seem to get it. I think he’s obsessed with a negative view of Britain.”
Alex Salmond was contacted for comment.