Censorship Max Blumenthal Ukraine

Ukrainian First Lady Zelenska Ordered The Grayzone’s Web Summit Cancellation

Irish media and sources close to Web Summit’s CEO confirm The Grayzone was banned from the gathering as the result of a personal campaign waged by Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Olena Zelenska 2021. President.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Max Blumenthal / The Grayzone

The Grayzone was disinvited from Web Summit, a tech industry mega-event in Lisbon, Portugal this November, following a personal lobbying campaign spearheaded by Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska. Zelenska was the surprise keynote speaker at Web Summit, addressing conference attendees on November 1.

This outlet learned of Zelenska’s role in our cancellation from several sources close to Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave. Their accounts were confirmed in a November 3 report by the Irish Examiner, which noted that The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate “had been cancelled from the event at the insistence of the first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska…”

According to a source privy to internal communications among Web Summit organizers, Zelenska “and the highest levels of the Ukrainian government” threatened to “apply significant influence on sponsors” if the summit did not cancel The Grayzone and academic Noam Chomsky, who had also been invited to speak.

“She basically said she was gonna yank the whole tablecloth off of the table and break everything,” the source said.

The source explained that in order to prevent the possible sabotage of his event, Web Summit chief executive Paddy Cosgrave decided to “give up” Blumenthal and Mate in exchange for “keeping” Chomsky.

Additionally, The Grayzone’s Anya Parampil was unable to access her Web Summit ticket upon arriving in Lisbon despite having been granted a press credential for the event.

A second source close to Web Summit organizing discussions emphasized the Ukrainian First Lady’s influence over the event, explaining Zelenska “would have been able to get quite a number of people to pull out, big companies or whatever, I would say that was a strong possibility.”

“The bottom line is you were dropped because that’s what she [Zelenska] wanted,” the source stated.

Yet Zelenska demands did not end with her call to cancel The Grayzone.

Zelenska cancels nuclear button memes

At previous Web Summit opening events, the headline speaker kicked off the summit by hitting a large red button. This year, however, a Web Summit source revealed the Ukrainian First Lady refused to participate in the ceremonial gesture, insisting the red button too closely resembled a trigger for nuclear war.

“She knew that there’d be lots of memes generated because of that,” the organizer said. “You can imagine it would just go viral, the picture of her pressing a red button. It would be too good. And they know it’s just not the look that they’d want.”

When Zelenska appeared by surprise on the evening of November 1, the button had been removed. Several summit attendees described her address as akin to “a corporate elevator pitch.”

During the Web Summit, Zelenska said she hoped Elon Musk’s call for peace between Ukraine and Russia “was a chance mistake.” In other words, she pleaded for listeners to give war a chance.

The Ukrainian first lady is due to remain in Lisbon throughout the week to lobby government officials and tech bigwigs to support the Ukrainian war effort.

A Web Summit source said their colleagues were well aware that “a small group of Atlantic Council people and Bellingcat people” helped coordinate the social media campaign to disinvite The Grayzone.

The Atlantic Council and Bellingcat are NATO-related lobbying groups which rely on funding from the US and British governments, as well as assorted pro-NATO oligarchs. The former organization, a DC-based think tank which has hosted Bellingcat founder Elliot Higgins as a resident fellow, has also received funding from the corruption-stained Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation and Ukrainian embassy in Portugal also participated in the censorship blitzkreig, delivering a letter to Web Summit organizers which demanded The Grayzone’s staff be banished from the conference.

Since the US-backed Maidan coup in 2014, Kiev has maintained an iron grip on the flow of information. All opposition media has been effectively banned under the watch of Zelensky, and of the 400-some journalists listed on the Ukrainian government’s semi-official “hit list,” known as Myrotvorets, at least a dozen have been murdered. Now, Zelensky and his wife have brought their government’s war on the press and free exchange of ideas well into the heart of Western Europe.

The Grayzone attends private dinner with Web Summit organizers

On the evening of November 2, The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, Aaron Mate, and Anya Parampil attended a private dinner in Lisbon organized by Web Summit chief executive Paddy Cosgrave. There, they and other guests discussed the proxy war in Ukraine, the dangers of NATO expansion, and the upcoming US midterm elections.

The Grayzone’s presence at the private dinner generated headlines the following day in the Irish Examiner and the Business Post, the latter of which tasked two reporters with covering the story.

Asked during a November 3 press conference about our invitation to the dinner, Cosgrave stated, “Web Summit should remain a big tent. People should disagree with each other and they should disagree fiercely.”

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Max Blumenthal
Max Blumenthal

The editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican GomorrahGoliathThe Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.


  1. Please avoid the ridiculous term ‘first lady’ for this despicable part of the Elinsky comedy team claiming to be in charge of an “independent, sovereign ,prosperous nation” (to quote the G7 report of their recent meeting!!)
    The fact that not only do the alleged advanced “democratic nations” support and encourage this vicious, lying, violent fake government which sends thousands of its men to be killed every month in a needless war against its neighbour, Russia, but they allow no dissent in any of their media (just now in France rumble has been cancelled, while Ursula’s laws apply to all 500 million of us in the EU).

  2. Wow. It sounds like the Big Summit is just a Bad Idea. It’s also clear the Zelly’s wife is as shallow and crazy and vindictive as he is. I look forward to the day when those two are a government in exile in Florida or some such place. They can commiserate with their soul-mate Juan Guaido and appear on The View.

  3. Yup, Western “values” all the way – cancel culture, squelching of the press, banning opposition parties, working with corrupt oligarchs – Yup, Ukraine fits right in – trying to think, who does Zelenska look like ….

  4. Gosh, what a relief this event wasn’t sabotaged by the likes of The Grayzone; with their indepth investigative journalism and sicko fixation with peace. “War is good for business and business is good.” Americans should be proud that the Afghanistan Corporate Cash Bonanza was replaced so quickly by another Peace and Freedom Mission. And we can rest assured that the Big Red Button hasn’t gone anywhere – the U.S. / NATO led dismantling of longtime central casting favourite villain Russia will end in an explosive climax.
    🇺🇦 🇺🇸 💲💲💲💥 💥 💥 ☢️ ☢️ ☢️

  5. Let’s face it, folks. Censorship works and isn’t going away. Most Americans still trust the MSM. They don’t know about alternative news sites or dismiss them as silly cranks. Of the alternative sites that are popular, the far right ones are much more popular than the left. I wish I had some good news for you…

  6. Zelenska ideologically reminds me of fanatical Nazi Magda Goebbels who in the end murdered her own children to “save” them from living under Russian rule. Zelenska’s warmongering has this same message.

    Similarities are uncanny as Magda was militant leader of German feminism seeing in every Jewish and Russian man a rapist of pure maiden German whore who should be happy to be raped by Nazi gangs as long as they are pure Aryan Nordic type.

    This incident telling us how much western fascists controls social institutions in the west as shameful idea of cancellation of Blumenthal, Mate and Chomsky was openly anti Semitic based on Nazi ideology of good and bad Jews.

  7. the true mccarthites in USA—the reactionary self described libs that align w the ruling class dimocrat party are terrified musk may not censor the truth….censorship is largely not relevant in a nation where thinking is rare, feeling more rare,,,,”americans do not converse–as tocdueville perceived…americans entertain each other…americans do not exchange ideas, americans exchange images…the problem with americans is NOT Orwellian, it is huxleyan: americans love their oppression”. Neil Postman

    1. Way to wreck a decent quotation with broken punctuation and trashed composition.

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