A New York Times column
by Russian President Vladimir Putin urging the United States to back away from a potential military strike in Syria drew a huge number of readers Wednesday night—it’s still the second most-popular story on the NYT
website—and sparked tons of online discussion.
But how did it get in the paper? BuzzFeed has the answer
this morning, and it’s not that Putin simply dialed up the Times
’ editors to ask if he could have some space on the Opinion page.
A PR firm put it there. Times
spokeswoman Eileen Murphy confirmed that the column came through Ketchum, a firm that has worked with the Russian government to place opinion pieces praising Putin-led policies in other publications.
No one at Ketchum responded to BuzzFeed
’s requests for comment.
According to a ProPublica report
published in November 2012, Ketchum, which has a contract with the Russian government, has placed opinion columns by “seemingly independent professionals” in The Huffington Post
and on CNBC’s website. The practice of PR firms placing opinion columns isn’t unusual, ProPublica
points out. It’s just rarely discussed.
Landing a piece by the president of Russia in The New York Times
would seem to be a particularly huge coup for the firm.
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Putin’s Wednesday-night column in the Times
insists that a U.S. attack on Syria will “result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.” The Russian president also warns that the United States acting without United Nations approval could cripple the UN.
Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay voting on carrying out a military strike in Syria in light of a proposed, Russian-led diplomatic solution.