BBC TalkBack presenter William Crawley endured a verbal barrage by a former Kremlin adviser who took issue with the radio show host’s questioning of an independent unionist councillor.
Friday afternoon’s Radio Ulster TalkBack show focussed on the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury earlier this month.
It was Mr Crawley’s questioning of independent unionist councillor Henry Reilly, who had expressed a sceptical view of the assertion that the Russian government was behind the chemical attack, which drew the ire of former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov.
Mr Crawley began the discussion by asking Henry Reilly whether he was “with Britain or Russia”.
After Mr Reilly had said he was viewing the affair with a “sceptical eye” and suggested that “elements within the former Russian expats” may have been behind the poisoning rather than the Russian government, the TalkBack host said: “There are many people who will believe you have become a Russian stooge at this point Henry. You believe the Russian government over your own government. Why are you doing PR for Russia today?”
While Henry Reilly appeared to brush that question off, Alexander Nekrassov launched into a remarkable criticism of the radio show host when invited to share his view.
“I find your presentation very rude, very misleading,” he said. “I don’t think you’re a good presenter. You are asking questions which are provocative.”
In his thick Russian accent, Mr Nekrassov continued: “First of all, Theresa May’s government has nothing to do with Britain’s interests. You must understand this. This is a provocation to save that government. And you really shouldn’t provoke people like you are provoking. I am a professional journalist, with a much longer career than you. I would sack you tomorrow for what you are doing.”
William Crawley replied: “Well thank you for the reference Alexander, thank you very much.”
Mr Nekrassov added: “You are a disgusting man, disgusting.”
The TalkBack host was undeterred by the criticism. He asked: “I’m a disgusting man simply because I challenge people to give evidence for what they claim?”
The former Kremlin adviser, whose twitter account uses the handle @StirringTrouble, continued: “No, I’m just saying, the way you present it. You are a professional provocateur. You can’t do things like that on the radio. This is absolutely unbelievable what I’m hearing. ‘Are you with Britain or with Russia?’ ‘Are you a Russian stooge?’ Are you an MI5 agent by any chance William? Tell us. Excuse me, the way you are doing this show is absurd. You should be sacked for this. You are provoking people, you are saying things where you are basically slandering them. What do you mean a Russian stooge?”
Again, Mr Crawley was undeterred. He said: “Well, I’m asking the question. Is there an alternative explanation other than that Russia was responsible for this chemical attack? The European Union says there is no plausible alternative explanation, so now I ask you, what is the alternative explanation?”
Alexander Nekrassov replied: “Well first of all there is no proof of Russian involvement at all. There is more proof that Britian was involved, or rogue elements from Britain or America, because America is very interested. Why would Russia be involved at all? This is stupid.”