Trejo is the latest Hollywood celebrity to make headlines in Russia after recording a video in support of a notorious Russian political operative. The celebrities are seemingly being recruited through the pay-for-videos site Cameo.
Charlie Sheen, Dolph Lundgren, and Vinnie Jones appeared in their first ever film together last month, when an obscure Russian YouTube channel posted a suspicious video compilation in which they each expressed support for Russian political operative Maxim Shugaley, currently being detained in Libya on election interference charges.
The videos, seemingly commissioned by an unknown client through the celebrity video-sharing site Cameo, quickly made headlines on Russian news sites associated with Putin-linked catering oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin — the man accused of hiring Shugaley — as part of an ongoing propaganda campaign to raise his employee’s profile in Russia. (Click here to read more about the “increasingly bizarre” campaign, via me and Foreign Policy’s Amy Mackinnon.)
Now actor Danny Trejo has joined the growing list of unwitting surrogate propagandists, telling Shugaley to “stay strong” in a video published last month by Russia’s Federal News Agency (FAN), one of the sites associated with Prigozhin.
“Machete don’t text, but […] I’ll text you homie,” Trejo says in the video.
Here’s a screenshot of the FAN’s reporting, which made no mention of Cameo or any pay-to-play services. Via Google Translate:
And here’s a screenshot of Trejo’s Cameo profile, where he currently charges $125 to record personalised videos in exactly the same format as the video published by the FAN:
I was unable to reach Trejo for comment.
Alexander Malkevich, who insists that he, not Prigozhin, hired Shugaley to conduct harmless sociological research in Libya, has denied paying for any of the videos. Malkevich previously ran the clumsy Russian propaganda site USA Really, a subsidiary of the FAN.
Malkevich, Prigozhin and the FAN are all subject to U.S. government sanctions that prohibit them from doing business with U.S. individuals and entities.
I’ve contacted Prigozhin and the FAN for comment.