Newspaper article International New York Times

A Call from the 'President,' and Then the Plot Thickens

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Call from the 'President,' and Then the Plot Thickens

Article excerpt

The intrigue began last week when The New York Times received a letter on official-looking stationery marked "President of Ukraine."

The intrigue began last week when The New York Times received a letter on official-looking stationery marked "President of Ukraine."

The letter was addressed to the paper's executive editor, Dean Baquet (though he was referred to as Mr. Baquet Dean), and complained about an editorial that accused President Petro O. Poroshenko of failing to make good on pledges to prosecute corruption. The letter was forwarded to the newspaper's editorial board, which writes editorials.

"I would like to respectfully request a telephone conference with you personally in order to attempt to convince you that opinions published in the article are without merit," the letter read, finishing with the signature of Mr. Poroshenko.

A conference call with the editorial board was set up on Monday. The complainer's comments were so suspect that the Times participants, including some newsroom journalists listening in, declined to publish an article on the matter, but instead began to investigate.

On Wednesday, however, edited audio of the call was mysteriously posted on YouTube, and the Times participants found themselves caught up in an apparent propaganda war between Russia, which is backing separatist forces in Ukraine, and Ukraine's government.

The call was odd "because the more we got into it, the more we had questions," said Carol Giacomo, an editorial writer. "The guy who was supposedly Poroshenko was in the background, and we couldn't hear him very clearly, and the translator's voice was dominant."

The translator told the journalists that the president, who has been identified as an account holder in the Panama Papers revelations about offshore accounts, had $500 million stashed in them. …

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