Russia Update: Conservative St. Petersburg Legislator Reported with Machine Gun in Donbass

August 31, 2015
Photo submitted to purporting to show St. Petersburg legislator Vitaly Mironov posing next to Russian-backed separatist fighters with a machine gun in August 2015.

Conservative St. Petersburg legislator is reported to have been caught with a machine gun on a trip recently to the Donbass.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Special features:

‘I Was on Active Duty’: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
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‘There Was No Buk in Our Field’
With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin


Conservative St. Petersburg Legislator Milonov Said to Be Shown with Machine Gun in the Donbass

Maksim Reznik, a deputy of the St. Petersburg legislature, has appealed to the prosecutor’s office to investigate the actions of his fellow legislator Vitaly Milonov who he said was caught posing with a machine gun in his hands during a recent trip to the Donbass, reported.

Translation: Milonov is once again posing with a machine gun in eastern
Ukraine. I urge the prosecutor to investigate his actions.

Reznik linked to an article in in
which editors said that readers had sent them a video and pictures of
Milonov holding the gun, then shooting it into the bush.

acknowledged he had made the trip to the Donbass, but said it was
“exclusively for humanitarian aid.”

“Regarding the photographs, I can’t
respond, someone has photoshopped them,” he said.

He said few people made
humanitarian aid trips to Gorlovka, and that he had gone to the
frontline city in order to bring assistance to orphanages and children’s
shelters (translation by The Interpreter):

“The shelter for girls with children is right on the
front line, and shells fly into their yard. The director receives a
salary of 4,000 rubles ($65) a month. We bought to the orphanage all kinds of
useful gifts so that they can start the school year. There isn’t even
soap or shampoo there. I would like to propose that the governor take
charge of Gorlovka. As for my photographs with weapons, these are
provocations and insinuations.”

This isn’t the first time that
Milonov has been shown with weapons and denounced the pictures as
“photoshopped,” says

In August 2014, he also traveled to the Donbass and
photographs also circulated at that time showing him with a machine gun,
grenade launcher and artillery. At that time he said he has “been in
Novorossiya,” but claimed the photographs were fakes.

this case, the video, embedded at is not clear enough to
determine who is doing the shooting, and the source is not given. The
pictures of the husky man with the distinctive red beard do look like
him, however.


However, in other photographs of Milonov such as on Wikipedia, a similar ring is on his right hand, not left hand:


But he must switch it from hand to hand, because here he is in a TV interview with filmmaker Michael Lucas with the ring on his left hand:


Milonov is best known for his anti-gay statements
as his call to ban Apple CEO Tim Cook from Russia for life “as a health
threat” because he is gay; his diatribes caused a statue to Apple
founder Steve Jobs in a university courtyard to be removed, as we
reported last year
. This prompted two lesbians who happened to be on a flight with him to take a selfie with him which became an Internet meme.

2015-08-31 16:47:21

An Internet meme was made of him with a rainbow version of the Apple trademark after he was caught himself using an iPad.


Last month, Milonov denounced the series “Game of Thrones” which has become popular in Russia as containing “sexually deviant characters,”

and his aides also launched a campaign against the St. Petersburg
Soldiers’ Mothers who were reporting on deaths of Russian soldiers in
southeastern Ukraine last August. He was instrumental in getting the
prosecutor to declare them as “foreign agents” for engaging in political
activity with grants from abroad, although they had not received any in
recent years.

War tourism by Russian celebrities has been a big
factor in the Kremlin’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda. Last November, a
famous actor with a press badge took a turn at a machine gun
in an
apartment building taking over by Givi, a separatist leader in Donetsk.

Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky made a high-profile donation of an armored jeep to the separatists.

Kurginyan, a prominent theater director and head of the
ultranationalist group Sut’ Vremeni (Essence of Time) bragged that he
had sent a repairman to fix a Buk anti-aircraft system supposedly stolen
from Ukraine’s arsenal.

But it was likely that this was part of a cover-up for the transfer of the Buk from Russia to separatists.

All of these larger-than-life dramas from figures more extreme than the Kremlin ensure that popular sentiment in favor of the Russian-backed separatists remains high even if for tactical reasons top officials have to mute their support during the Minsk peace talks.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick