Rudy Giuliani and the Alleged Assassination Threat: Don’t Miss This Weird Subplot in the Trump-Ukraine Scandal

— In May, indicted Rudy Giuliani stooges Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman claimed they were forced to flee Ukraine after their lives were threatened by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who’d rebuffed the two men’s dirt-digging request re: the Bidens

— On Twitter, Giuliani publicly pressured Ukraine’s president to prosecute Kolomoisky as a “test” of his commitment to Trump. Parnas and Fruman later sued Kolomoisky after taking Giuliani’s legal advice

Rudy Giuliani (source)

Donald J. Trump is facing the possibility of impeachment following allegations he tried to coerce Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into investigating a domestic political rival.

The alleged quid pro quo involves claims that Trump threatened to withhold $400 million in foreign aid unless Zelensky agreed to investigate 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as part of a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the origins of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Biden, Trump falsely claimed, had sought the dismissal of Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general in order to protect his son from a criminal investigation into Ukrainian gas company Burisma, whose board the younger Biden sat on from April 2014 through early 2019.

The story escalated earlier this month when Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, clients of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, were arrested at Dulles International Airport trying to board a one-way flight to Ukraine. The two men, both foreign-born U.S. citizens, are accused of engaging in a complex campaign finance scheme “to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence.” The alleged scheme was first reported last year by Daily Beast political reporter Lachlan Markay (to read stories I co-authored with Lachlan, click here).

Lev Parnas (source)

Since their arrest, Parnas and Fruman’s exploits have headlined every major news outlet in America, not least for their ill-fated attempts to help Giuliani dig dirt on Trump’s political rivals. But there’s a weird subplot in this story that has largely gone unreported.

In May, Parnas and Fruman claimed they were forced to flee Ukraine after Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky threatened to have them assassinated. According to Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian service, the two men claimed that Kolomoisky was “preparing to kill” them after he promised to bring them “to the light of God” in an interview. As it happens, it’s not the first time Kolomoisky has been accused of ordering contract killings, among other misdeeds.

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Here is the relevant portion from that interview, in which Kolomoisky said that Parnas and Fruman — whom he described as Ostap Benders (a fictional conman from Russian literature) — had traveled to Israel to ask him “to communicate with Zelensky” about an undisclosed matter. Note Kolomoisky’s initial skepticism that the two men had any actual connection to Giuliani, as claimed.

There are two scams under investigation by the US. One seems to be Lev Parnas and the other [Igor Fruman]. And they go here Ukraine, collect money from people, tell them that they are close to Mr. Giuliani — and that they will resolve any question with [Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko]. Mr. Lutsenko does not even know it. And, I think, Mr. Giuliani doesn’t know about that either. Two Ostap Benders who walk between two countries and tell all sorts of things … And in the near future, believe me, we will bring these two “little ones” to the light of God. Lest they think … Remember these two names: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They came to Israel and told me how I needed to communicate with Zelensky. I said — I have nothing to do with Zelensky. After that, they disappeared — and then began all these provocations…

One day later, Giuliani tweeted the following:

source

If you can’t read that, it says:

An American analyst describes Kolomoisky as “super dangerous.” The notorious oligarch returned from a long exile and immediately threatened and defamed two Americans, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They are my clients and I have advised them to press charges [emphasis added].

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) 18 May 2019

In another tweet one minute later, Giuliani attempted to publicly pressure the Ukrainian president into prosecuting Kolomoisky as a “test” of his commitment to Trump.

source

If you can’t read that, it says:

This is a test for the Pres.-elect [Zelensky].He already has surrounded himself with some people that are enemies of Pres.Trump. Now this notorious oligarch is said to also have people around him. Kolomoisky should be prosecuted for the threat. Let’s see?It will tell us a lot about control?

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) May 18, 2019

A few days later, Kolomoisky gave an interview to Ukrainian news site Ukrainska Pravda, in which he clarified that Parnas and Fruman had in fact been seeking to strike a deal with Lutsenko to investigate the Bidens. Via The Washington Post, whose article on Kolomoisky’s involvement doesn’t go into detail about the alleged death threat:

“Look, there is Giuliani, and there [are] two clowns, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were milking the bull here. They are Giuliani’s clients,” Kolomoisky told the Ukrainska Pravda website. “They came here and told us that they would organize a meeting with Zelensky. They allegedly struck a deal with [Prosecutor-general Yuriy] Lutsenko about the fate of this criminal case – Burisma, [former vice president] Biden, meddling in the U.S. election and so on.”

Ihor Kolomoisky (source)

In July, Ukrainian attorney Alina Samarets filed a UAH 200 million (roughly $8 million) lawsuit on behalf of Parnas and Fruman, alleging that Kolomoisky had “damaged the honor, dignity and business reputation of two American citizens who are ‘respected businessmen in their country.'”

In comments to Radio Liberty, Parnas commented on the case:

It is all a lie that we are scammers, that we ask for money from someone, or that we have criminal cases in America … Why did he present such threats to us, such dangerous statements, I cannot explain, we are shocked. We fear for our lives. That’s why we wrote the statements. All we do is recommend our advocates. The lead lawyer is Rudy Giuliani [emphasis added].

Did Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman try to suppress Kolomoisky’s allegations by filing a frivolous lawsuit? What was Giuliani’s involvement in the case? Is the lawsuit ongoing? It’s unclear because nobody I contacted returned a request for comment.

I’ve requested a copy of any court documents related to the case and will post here if/when they become available.

Update, October 24, 2019: It appears the lawsuit has been settled after Kolomoisky countersued. Via Kolomoisky’s August 30 interview with Ukrainian news site, Censor.net:

I came from Israel to Ukraine. Two people who were somehow connected with Giuliani filed a criminal case against me in court, but I filed a counterclaim so that they no longer popped off. I think the reason is that some Americans came to Giuliani and said that this is what we are striving for, a certain oligarch is hindering us. Well, Giuliani said something there…

They needed a connection with Zelensky. They came to me by mistake, they were told that I can provide. [Former Ukrainian president Petro] Poroshenko said that Zelensky is someone’s puppet. Well, they obeyed this nonsense and ran to me: “Can I meet Zelensky?” Me: “You were mistaken with the address.” They were upset, offended, went to complain…

[But now] the conflict with Furman and Parnassus has been exhausted and will end with an amicable agreement.

BuzzFeed News reports that Giuliani does not appear to be replying to any requests for comments and, according to CNN, is currently shopping for a defence attorney. Early this morning, however — after I sent him a link to this post, and just a few minutes after I sent him a final invitation to comment — Giuliani tweeted the following from his iPhone:

source

If you can’t read that, it says:

With all the Fake News let me make it clear that everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges.Dems would be horrified by the attacks on me, if my client was a terrorist.But they don’t believe @realDonaldTrump has rights. Justice will prevail

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 24, 2019

WaPo Cites Article I Co-Authored for The Daily Beast

— WaPo’s story, about the Wikipedia fact-checking community, cited a July 2018 story I co-authored with Daily Beast political reporter Lachlan Markay

Via “Checking the Web on Hunter Biden? A 36-year-old physicist helps decide what you’ll see,” by Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post, September 25, 2019:

Wikipedia’s rules of engagement have gradually accreted over the years. The guidelines are most stringent for living people, governed by three main principles: neutral point of view, verifiability and no original research.

Bots are employed to guard against basic disruption, and the automated software is responsible for as many as one-third of the edits to the site globally, and many more to its underlying data, according to a 2014 paper . A “recent changes patrol,” or RC patrol, is composed of individual users, who watch for more subtle intrusion and hash out disagreements about edits on a page’s “talk” section. Administrators oversee the process.

The setup has faced high-profile tests before. In the spring of 2018, anonymous editors detected suspect activity on a page for Maria Butina, a Russian woman accused of running a covert operation to gain influence with American conservatives. Some of the activity — an attempt to excise unflattering information — was traced to the university in Washington where Butina had been studying. The information was restored [emphasis added].

And here’s an excerpt from “Who Whitewashed the Wiki of Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina?” by Lachlan Markay and Dean Sterling Jones, The Daily Beast, July 24, 2018:

Anonymous Wikipedia users engaged in a lengthy campaign this year to alter and whitewash the online biographies of two people at the center of an alleged Russian plot to infiltrate prominent conservative groups in America.

Starting in early spring 2018, the users, one of which maintained an account on Wikipedia’s Russian-language site, made a series of edits to bios for Maria Butina, a Russian national accused of conspiracy and illegal foreign influence, and Paul Erickson, a Republican political activist whom Butina allegedly roped into her espionage campaign and with whom she allegedly traded sex for political access as a “necessary aspect of her activities.”

The edits sought to discredit reporting on the FBI investigation into one of Butina’s alleged co-conspirators, and to scrub details of Erickson’s and Butina’s business history. It also downplayed attempts by Erickson to arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, allegations of fraud against Erickson, and Butina’s ties to a Russian political figure instrumental in her efforts to ingratiate herself with prominent political groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The identities of the people behind the Wikipedia editing campaign are not known. But other users on the site—including a veteran editor who says his mission is to “combat promotional editing”—publicly speculated that the accounts were part of a coordinated “sockpuppet” editing campaign. Sockpuppets are online identities created by a single person to covertly manipulate information.

Details gleaned through a review of Wikipedia’s edit logs link two of the accounts to the Washington D.C. university [American University] where Butina studied before she was arrested last week. The edits suggest that months before her life blew up, someone close to, or allied with, Butina knew what investigations into her and her associates might uncover and launched a clandestine campaign to expunge the record or at least downplay it…

A spokesman for American University confirmed that the IP addresses were associated with the school’s network, but declined to comment further, citing student privacy concerns.

Who Asked Google to Delist Negative News Reports About Trump’s Pseudoscientific Urine Test Marketing Scheme?

— Between May and August 2018, someone anonymously sent Google at least eight legal complaints in an effort to scrub the Internet of negative reporting about The Trump Network, a scammy multi-level marketing scheme that sold customised urine tests. Trump is currently being sued for his involvement in the scheme

source

President Donald J. Trump is currently being sued for lending his name to three multi-level marketing (MLM) companies plaintiffs allege amounted to massive consumer fraud. But just two months prior to that lawsuit being filed, someone sent Google a series of anonymous legal complaints in a surreptitious attempt to scrub negative news reports about one of those companies from the Internet.

Alleging defamation, the unknown complainant sought to remove reporting by The Washington Post, STAT News, and Quackwatch, that cast a critical eye on the now-defunct Trump Network, a new-age, pseudoscientific MLM scheme that purportedly offered “millions of people new hope with an exciting plan to opt-out of the recession” and “develop your own financial independence.”

At least, that’s how Trump pitched the company in a shouty 2009 pre-launch video aimed at prospective recruits. In reality, the company was a “thinly disguised pyramid scheme” that tried “to use people[’]s hopes and dreams to empty their wallets,” according to allegations published by The Washington Post in March 2016.

Originally named Ideal Health, the company invited independent salespeople to do their own marketing to sell a customised vitamin supplement package, which was determined by conducting urine hormone tests using the company’s signature product, the PrivaTest. But experts questioned the test’s medical value.

“Urine tests do not provide a legitimate basis for recommending that people take dietary supplements,” wrote Quackwatch founder Stephen Barrett in 2003 (to read STAT News’ definitive report on The Trump Network, click here).

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In 2011, Trump’s licensing deal with Ideal Health expired and was not renewed. The assets were then sold to a “health and wellness” company named Bioceutica, which until last year was still selling the rebranded Trump Network vitamin packages and urine tests.

The identity of the mystery defamer claimer remains unclear, but the wording used by the unknown complainant strongly suggests that Bioceutica, or someone acting on behalf of Bioceutica, filed the complaints.

Here is an example of one of the complaints from June 2018 that sought to remove the Washington Post’s reporting. Via the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown demands:

Defamation Complaint to Google

SENDER
REDACTED
COUNTRY: US

RECIPIENT
Google LLC
[Private]
Mountain View, CA, 94043, US

SUBMITTER
Google LLC

Re: Unknown
SENT VIA: UNKNOWN

NOTICE TYPE: Defamation

Legal Complaint
Dear Google, I want to discuss the defamatory page that has been created, and I wish to submit it for removal from google searches for ‘Bioceutica’. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/23/the-trump-network-sought-to-make-people-rich-but-left-behind-disappointment/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.90919a6e392f I have familiarised myself with Google’s defamation policy and have determined that the web page was clearly made to make my company appear fraudulent and deceptive. Defamation is defined as “the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image.” This webpage is suggesting that the Bioceuitca brand runs under a multi-level marketing system, through the term ‘as part of a controversial business model known as multilevel marketing, in which companies pay salespeople commissions for se …

And here is another complaint from April 2018 that sought to remove Quackwatch’s “Scaremongerish claims against Bioceutica’s PrivaTest”:

Defamation Complaint to Google

SENDER
REDACTED
COUNTRY: GB

RECIPIENT
Google LLC
[Private]
Mountain View, CA, 94043, US

SUBMITTER
Google LLC

Re: Unknown
SENT VIA: UNKNOWN

NOTICE TYPE: Defamation

Legal Complaint
I would like this URL omitted from the search results for ‘Bioceutica’ and ‘Privatest’. I understand that this will not remove the above URL from the internet entirely, but it will prevent this URL from being prominent in the searches for the above terms. The above URL is for a site that states itself as ‘Your Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud, and Intelligent Decisions’. And makes outdated, false, and Scaremongerish claims against Bioceutica’s PrivaTest. It claims that the company is making ‘Illegal Health Claims’, However, the documents it cites containing these illegal health claims are the creation and property of ‘Ideal Health’. This is despite the author earlier confirming that Ideal Health sold the PrivaTest to Antoine Nohra of Montreal, Canada thus becoming the property Bioceutica. This means subsequently, that Ideal Health’s 28-page “Opportunity Presentation” which the author states contains illegal claims is in no way r …

To read the complaint against STAT News, click here.

It does not appear that Google has removed any of the targeted URLs from its search results.

Bioceutica’s founder Antoine Nohra did not reply to a request for comment, although a message on the Bioceutica website says the company ceased operations in September 2018.

How Kremlin Mass Media Adviser Alexander Malkevich Helped Shape WaPo Russian Troll Arrest Story

— “Yes, I got telephone call from Washington Post and they asked me questions and they have published my answers in their article,” said Malkevich, who was source for WaPo story about alleged Russian troll Anna Bogacheva’s arrest. But the paper didn’t mention Malkevich’s own alleged ties to Russia’s disinformation apparatus

Alexander Malkevich (source)

Earlier this month, I blogged about Alexander Malkevich, a prominent Kremlin mass media adviser whose non-governmental think tank, the Foundation for the Protection of National Values (FPNV), was recently accused of attempting to illicitly influence African elections.

In that post, Malkevich denied having any knowledge of data analyst and alleged Russian troll Anna Bogacheva, one of 13 Russian nationals indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice last year for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election. I’d asked Malkevich about Bogacheva because she once co-owned a business with one of FPNV’s employees, Mikhail Potepkin. According to CNN, Potepkin helped facilitate the Kremlin’s entry into Sudan last year.

On Tuesday, Bogacheva was arrested by Interpol and briefly detained in Minsk, Belarus, reportedly at the request of the U.S. government. News of her arrest was first confirmed by independent Russian news agency Interfax. Their source? Alexander Malkevich.

Via “The Public Chamber reported the detention in Minsk of a Russian woman who fell under US sanctions,” Interfax, October 15, 2019:

Russian citizen Anna Bogacheva was detained in Minsk, Alexander Malkevich, member of the Russian Public Chamber and president of the National Values ​​Protection Fund, told Interfax, who spoke with the detainee’s husband … According to Malkevich, she went to Belarus with her husband and child on vacation. What her status is in connection with the detention, he does not know. Malkevich’s unnamed sources told him that the Russian woman was detained by Interpol at the request of the United States in the case of interference in the 2016 presidential election. He emphasized that this is unofficial information.

News quickly made its way to The Washington Post, whose article on Bogacheva quoted Malkevich, at length, without disclosing his own alleged ties to Russia’s disinformation apparatus. For instance, the article fails to mention that Malkevich is currently under U.S. sanctions for “attempted election interference” in connection with Project Lakhta, a massive election-meddling campaign allegedly orchestrated, in part, by — you guessed it — Bogacheva. Instead, the article describes Malkevich as the head of a “Russian watchdog group” whose main activities involve “monitor[ing] cases of Russian citizens who have been detained or arrested abroad.” In the article, Malkevich rails, unchallenged, against Bogacheva’s “absolutely unacceptable” detention.

I checked in with Malkevich to inquire about his apparent involvement in this story. Once again, he denied having any personal or professional ties to Bogacheva.

“I don’t know Anna Bogacheva. I didn’t met her in my previous life,” Malkevich said in an audio recording. “I was not involved, of course, in her case because, as you know, I live and work in Moscow since last year … But I did my best yesterday for Anna Bogacheva just because she is Russia citizen. And so I and my foundation, Foundation for National Values Protection, we all stood together and we were fighting for her.”

When asked how he first learned of Bogacheva’s arrest, Malkevich said that he “have read these news in social media.” Asked to identify his sources, Malkevich replied: “What about the sources? Each of us has a lot of them.”

I also asked Malkevich about his interview with The Washington Post, who’d contacted who, and if the paper had asked him anything about his alleged involvement in Russian interference efforts.

Here’s what he said:

Yes, I got telephone call from Washington Post and they asked me questions and they have published my answers in their article. Questions about my opinion, my point of view about this situation. Truly to say, I don’t remember exactly, just because you can’t imagine that each day I’m giving, you know — 10, 12, 15 — comments on many subjects of Russian political life and about some relations, international relations.

I’ve asked The Washington Post about its article and will post updates here.

Shooting the Messenger Referenced in New Book By Richard Stengel, Former Time Magazine Editor/U.S. Under Secretary of State

— “Information Wars” details modern disinformation tactics, from ISIS to the Kremlin

source

Richard Stengel, former managing editor of Time Magazine, has a new book out.

Recounting his experiences as U.S. Under Secretary of State during the Obama administration, “Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It” details the rise of modern disinformation tactics as practiced by the Kremlin and Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisation ISIS.

The book cites my February 2018 deep dive into the tactics used by the infamous Internet Research Agency (IRA) — better known as the Russian troll factory — in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. election (my post transcribed and analysed internal IRA documents obtained in 2015 by Russian news site MR7.ru. To my knowledge, my blog was the first publication to translate that information into English).

Here is an excerpt from the book:

The Internet Research Agency was creating hundreds of pieces of fake and misleading internet content an hour. Like a digital marketing agency, it operated across the entire social media ecosystem. The whole enterprise is financed by a tycoon who is an ally of Putin’s…

MR7.ru had actually published documents smuggled out by IRA employees. They ranged from overarching guidelines about posting (amount, frequency, use of keywords) to talking points about the news of the day (protests on the Maidan, American policy toward Syria) to a glossary of internet slang. The guidelines offered a blueprint for what the workers did and how they did it.

One document describes their job this way:

TROLL. The purpose of the troll is to produce a quarrel which offends his interlocutor. It is worth remembering that trolling is not writing articles to order. It is a deliberate provocation with the goal of ridiculing your opponent.[52]

The first thing workers needed to do, according to one of the memos, was to create online personas, sometimes called “sock puppets.” These personas are meant to look and sound like real people. They have names and photographs. They “like” other people’s photos and comments and statuses. Workers are meant to have multiple social media accounts – one memo said they should have at least three different Facebook accounts. There are also specific guidelines, for example, for posting pro-Russin material in the comments sections of Fox News, Huffington Post, Politico, and the Blaze. The guidelines suggest that these identities should mix political opinions with more mundane posts about things like music or movies or “the owner’s social life.”

And here is the reference to my blog in Stengel’s footnotes:

52. Translated from a lexicon of internet slang terms produced by the Internet Research Agency and leaked in 2015. See Andrei Soshnikov, “Столица политического троллинга” (“The Capital of Political Trolling)”, MR&.ru, March 11, 2015, https://mr-7.ru/articles/112478/; and Dean Sterling Jones, “Inside the Russian Troll Factory,” Shooting the Messenger, February 7, 2018, https://shootingthemessenger.blog/2018/02/27/inside-the-russian-troll-factory/.
53. Jones, “Inside the Russian Troll Factory.”

The book contains a few more references to information first published on my blog, including an IRA directive requiring its staff to publish socially and politically divisive content online in an attempt to “stir up dissatisfaction and grievance” around issues of racial inequality, police brutality, and gun control in America.

Following the Indian government’s recent attempts to censor my blog (click here and here to read), this is a welcome change.

Thanks Stengel!

WordPress Rejects Second Legal Request to Remove Photoshopped Image Mocking Indian PM

— Mumbai’s cyber police department seeks to remove content hosted on this blog, BuzzFeed, Google Blogger, Amazon CloudFront, Tumblr, and Flickr

In August, my hosting provider, WordPress, rejected a legal request by Mumbai cyber police to censor a clearly photoshopped image I republished from BuzzFeed last year.

The image, which depicted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi homoerotically embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach, was deleted by BuzzFeed following a legal threat from Mumbai police alleging defamation.

In case you missed it the first time:

Last week, WordPress rejected a second request by Mumbai police to remove the offending image from my blog. Here is an excerpt from that request as provided to me by Automattic, the company behind WordPress:

Subject: – Remove Photo, Preserve and Provide Details of Objectionable/morphed photo …SHO (SML 28/09/2019)

WHEREAS, Cyber Police Station, Crime Branch, C.I.D., Mumbai, has received a complaint regarding uploading of Objectionable Material by below mentioned link showing morphed/Vulgar Photos/Comments on Muslim Community gods and goddess, BJP Leaders & National Congress leader party in abusive and vulgar manner.

It is found that the suspects are posting such exclamatory and defamatory morphed/vulgar photos with the purpose to create UNREST, BREACH of PEACE which might result in LAW & ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India…

REQUIRED INFORMATION
1. Creation details -IP address with date and time.
2. Login and logout details I.P. Address with date and time from
date…
3. Address book and scraps details of the user
4. Registered Email ID used to access these URLs.
5. Registered Mobile Number of these URLs.
6. Any Other relevant Information of

Please furnish information on TOP PRIORITY BASIS so as to avoid Law and
Order problems in Maharashtra and INDIA.

Thanking in anticipation of an early response to facilitate the enquiries.

(S.S.Sahasrabudhe)
Senior Inspector of Police,
Cyber Police Station,
Crime Branch, CID, Mumbai.

Here is what a spokesperson for Automattic sent me in an e-mail:

As the request does not comply with our requirements, we will not be taking any action against your site at this time … While we may preserve information about your account, we have not turned over any information. We will not turn over any information unless we receive a valid request for the information, or a court order. If we do receive such a request, unless we are legally prohibited from doing so, we will inform you and provide you time when you may attempt to quash or legally challenge the request.

In addition to targeting content on my blog, the request also asked to remove content hosted on BuzzFeed, Google Blogger, Amazon CloudFront, Tumblr, and Flickr, including:

• This parody movie poster depicting Modi as an action hero (via Amazon CloudFront):

• This image depicting Modi as a Lion (via BuzzFeed):

• This image of Modi in a dress (via BuzzFeed):

• This image of Modi dressed as Aladdin (via BuzzFeed):

It does not appear that BuzzFeed, Amazon, Google, or Flickr have complied with the Mumbai police department’s demands. However, all the offending content hosted on Tumblr, including several anti-Islamic and pornographic images, has been deleted.

The Mumbai cyber police did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

You can read the full request via the Scribd embed below.

Sanctioned Kremlin Propagandist Alexander Malkevich Denies Allegations He Tried to Meddle in African Elections

“What does it mean – ‘the files lead to the trolls factory’? It’s a bunch of words,” said Malkevich, who is accused of orchestrating election interference campaigns in Africa

Alexander Malkevich (source)

Recently, reports have emerged of a new Kremlin-backed strategy to influence African elections.

In April, BBC News reported that dozens of Russian nationals masquerading as “tourists” and election “observers” had been spotted in Madagascar. Later that same month, CNN reported on an “insidious” Russian strategy to quell anti-government protests in Sudan. Then in July, Bloomberg reported that authorities in Libya had arrested two men for allegedly carrying out a Russian plot to influence African elections.

All three stories identified Russian catering oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin aka “Putin’s cook” as the man pulling the strings. But there’s another notable Kremlin-linked figure whose seeming involvement has largely gone unreported.

Readers of this blog will remember Alexander Malkevich as the former editor of Russian propaganda website USA Really, but “whose fumbling misadventures in American media have,” according to the New York Times, “made him seem more like a Sacha Baron Cohen character than a sinister propagandist.”

Malkevich exited USA Really in February shortly after the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned him for “attempted election interference.” Since then, he’s been heading up the Foundation for the Protection of National Values (FPNV), a self-described “small non-government organisation” that conducts sociological research in various countries to sell to “businessmen and for other people who are in need of them.”

FPNV recently made headlines after Malkevich announced the company was raising money to pay convicted Russian agent Maria Butina’s legal bills.

Maria Butina (source)

On FPNV’s site, Malkevich boasts that the two men detained in Libya — Russian political strategist Maxim Shugaley and his interpreter, Samer Hassan Seifan — currently work for FPNV. According to Bloomberg, information gleaned from laptops and memory sticks have further identified the two men as working for the infamous Internet Research Agency (IRA), better known as the Russian troll factory.

Reached by e-mail, Malkevich confirmed that Shugaley and Seifan currently work for FPNV, but dismissed all other charges as a meaningless “bunch of words,” insisting that the men were merely conducting “routine field research.”

“What does it mean – ‘the files lead to the trolls factory’? it’s a bunch of words,” Malkevich told Shooting the Messenger. “They had nothing criminal. Abstracts, transcripts of conversations, photos, videos and other multimedia files, on the basis of which our research was made. And the part of it is already absolutely openly published on our site!”

It’s not the first time Malkevich has admitted to employing prominent members of Prigozhin’s infamous troll factory.

Yevgeny Prigozhin (source)

In April, CNN reported on an “insidious strategy” to quell protests against Sudan’s dictatorial former president Omar al-Bashir late last year. The strategy — allegedly orchestrated by St. Petersburg mining company M-Invest with support from a military construction firm co-owned by Prigozhin — involved “spreading misinformation on social media, blaming Israel for fomenting the unrest, and even carrying out public executions to make an example of ‘looters,’” according to CNN’s sources.

Documents obtained by the London-based Dossier Center show that M-Invest’s presence in Sudan was facilitated by Mikhail Potepkin, a St. Petersburg press agent and, allegedly, a prominent member of Prigozhin’s troll factory.

Shortly after CNN’s report — which made no mention of Malkevich or FPNV — Malkevich published a statement on FPNV’s site in which he freely admitted that Potepkin and his colleague, Russian political strategist Petr Bychkov, traveled to Sudan on behalf of the company last year to carry out sociological research, advise al-Bashir’s government on ways to “[avoid] mass casualties among the civilian population,” and ensure “the bloodless transfer of power” in the country.

In an e-mail, Malkevich retracted his previous claim that Potepkin and Bychkov secretly worked for FPNV in 2018, but confirmed that the two men do currently work as consultants to its research in Africa.

“Several people in Africa worked as researchers for many months before the appearance of our foundation,” Malkevich explained in an audio recording. “In spring, it was easy and it was useful for me and for us to establish some working relationship, working negotiations with them because they do have special and deep experience in this field.”

Malkevich added that he “[knows] nothing about side projects of Petr and Mikhail” and denied having any connection to Prigozhin.

Mikhail Potepkin (source)

Online information about Potepkin is scarce, although his Facebook page states that he works as a press officer at the Russian state-owned “Fuel and Energy Complex of Saint-Petersburg.” He’s also identified in several news articles as a member of the Nashi movement, a Russian anti-fascist group.

Potepkin’s name also pops up in connection with another company co-owned by data analyst Anna Bogacheva, who along with Prigozhin was one of 13 Russian nationals indicted last year in connection with IRA interference efforts.

Malkevich denied having any knowledge of Bogacheva.

Petr Bychkov (source)

Bychkov is perhaps best known in the west for his attempts to meddle in South Africa’s general election earlier this year. According to South African newspaper the Daily Maverick, Bychkov, in coordination with yet another Prigozhin-linked NGO based in Russia, secretly campaigned to re-elect the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) by spreading disinformation about ANC’s political opponents.

The Daily Maverick’s exclusive does not mention Malkevich or FPNV, and Malkevich has not yet publicly addressed the article. Meanwhile, FPNV continues to publish research on its site while appearing to implicate itself in news stories about Russian interference in Africa.

You can listen to Malkevich’s full statement via the Soundcloud link below.