A hacker who went by the name “Hell” is on trial today in Germany. Among his victims is Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, whose email he hacked in 2012.
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.
Russia This Week:
– Is âNovorossiyaâ Really Dead?
– From Medal of Valor to Ubiquitous Propaganda Symbol: the History of the St. George Ribbon
– What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
– Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
– All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
– ‘There Was No Buk in Our Field’
– With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
– Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
– Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
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Roof’s racist manifesto has been found online, which ties him to the Conservative Council, whose leader, Jared Taylor, attended the Russian forum, along with a member, Sam Dickson.
At the time, The Interpreter’s syndicated columnists Anton Shekhovtsev and Paul Goble covered the gathering of Europe’s far-right and Russian counterparts, which included these Americans. See their work below:
Max Seddon has published an article in Buzzfeed exposing the link, which had been noted by Twitter users earlier in a discussion with journalist Adrian Chen.
Jared Taylor, who has appeared in the media representing the Council
of Conservative Citizens in the days following the shooting, spoke at
the Russian Conservative Forum
in St. Petersburg in March, where they railed against the “alien
traditions” of non-white people. Sam Dickson, a member of the group and
lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan, also attended the conference.
“The religion of the U.S. is no longer Christianity, it is
diversity,” Taylor said at the forum. “We are to believe this crazy idea
that the wild mix of language, religion, people, and races that that is
a great and wonderful thing. In effect the United States is committing
apparently written by Dylann Roof, the suspect arrested in the June 17
shooting of nine people in Charleston, cited the Council of Conservative
Citizens’ website about “black-on-white crime” as a turning point in
his decision to “take it to the real world.”
In interviews, Taylor has
condemned the shooting, but broadly agreed with the racist views
expressed in the manifesto. Republican politicians have come under fire in recent days for their ties to the group.
Chen discovered that Roof’s website, which showed pictures of him with the Rhodesian flag promoted by white supremacists, was registered in Russia and Ukraine.
host in Russia, as it seems counterintuitive given how much the Russian
government censors the Internet. The reality is that such censorship is
uneven and selective.
As we reported, the St. Petersburg forum did not include some of the most infamous ultranationalists such as Aleksandr Dugin, a zealous supporter of Russia’s war on Ukraine, who was dismissed from Moscow State University last year after he published a number of incendiary posts calling for the killing of Ukrainians.
And technically, the forum was not run by the Russian
government, but convened by the Rodina [Motherland] party,
which was once
led by Dmitry Rogozin, the hard-line vice premier for defense and space
programs and former Russian envoy to NATO. Rogozin left the party in
2006, and later it merged into Just Russia, but then was reinstated in
2012 under the leadership of Aleksei Zhuravlyov.
But those with actual Kremlin support were present, such as a researcher from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), run by Reshetnikov, a former KGB official. And there were other pro-Kremlin figures believed to have covert Russian support such as Aleksei Milchakov, a notorious sadist and leader of the Rusich Battalion, which is fighting alongside the Russian-backed separatists in southeast Ukraine, and which has now established a base in a former school campus in Razdolnoye, Ukraine as we reported.
Milchakov has posted pictures of himself with the far-right leaders at the St. Petersburg conference on his account on the Russian social network VKontakte (VK), in which he openly described establishing contact with the European far right, including Greece’s Golden Dawn, Germany’s NPD, Italy’s Forza Nova, and Sweden’s Nord Front.
From all indications, Dylann Roof is a home-grown radical, although he is often described as having been “radicalized online.” The Council of Conservative Citizens is busy distancing themselves from Roof. They do not appear to be behind his website, although they share similar views, and they claim their association with the Russian conservatives is weak. As Taylor told Seddon:
Taylor and Dickson told BuzzFeed News at the time that they were
surprised by their invitation to the conference, whose ideological
purview fell outside their campaign for an all-white America. “We don’t
understand why we’re here,” Taylor said. “It’s a very strange lineup.”
Though organizers’ refusal to tell them who else would be speaking in
advance made them suspicious, they decided to go on the trip anyway.
Yet Taylor also organized a similar event in Budapest last year which was banned by Hungarian President Victor Orban; the Russian ultranationalist Dugin was unable to get a visa.
These stories are indicative of the support that the Russian government is giving in direct and indirect form to the European and American far-right, but just as with the violent ultranationalists from the BORN [Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists] group now on trial in Russia, who claim they were supported by Kremlin officials, no direct connection can be found between the Kremlin and violent racist attacks abroad such as what just occurred in Charleston. Even so, questions should be raised about the funding of these trips and conferences and why the hate website registered in Russia was not taken down by the usually-zealous Russian censors.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Savchuk was suing for failure to provide a labor contract and dismissal order,
unpaid wages, and compensation for moral damages, said Novaya Gazeta.
Ivan Pavlov, her lawyer, wrote an account on his Facebook (translated by The Interpreter):
Well, we expected a fight not for life, but death but it came out as “a little victorious war.”
The trolls themselves didn’t come to court, but they sent a girl lawyer to be eaten up. The girl lawyer agreed with our claims and proposed to pay Ludmila Savchuk all the compensations due.
Power is not in money however, but you understand in what. Therefore a continuation will follow. First, we must hold two meetings with Internet Research, Ltd., in order to discuss the terms of a peaceful settlement, one of which will take place right in the trolls’ lair on Savuchkina Street.
Interesting prospects are opening up : )
His reference is likely to the fact that Internet Research’s owner is believed to be related to Yevgeny Prigozhin, an entrepreneur with close ties to Putin. Likely the company settled quickly — or appeared to settle — to avoid more press scrutiny.
Adrian Chen published a major expose of the “troll farm,” tying it to a chemical plant disaster hoax in the US.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Russian bloggers have published the first pictures of a man on trial today in Bonn who is alleged to be the infamous hacker “Hell” who hacked the email of opposition leader Alexey Navalny in 2012, Snob.ru reported.
Sergei Maksimov, 42, is accused of hacking Navalny’s email as well as other opposition figures. Navalny is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, although he was unable to be present in court because Russian authorities will not allow him to leave Russia due to his two suspended court sentences.
Another man whose last name only has been given, Petrov, a Russian emigre who resides in Germany and claims to have been hacked in 2007 by Hell, is among the witnesses.
The blogger Semyon Zakruzhny is covering the trial for Open Russia.
Translation: “Hacker Hell” in a Bonn court room.
Maksimov is a Russian emigre who lives in Germany.
Translation: He’s alone. It appears to be him, we’ll check.
A German Internet provider has provided testimony that the hacks of accounts were made from Maksimov’s IP address, says Snob, and more information tying Maksimov to the hack has come out at trial.
Translation: IMPORTANT A policewoman has testified that during the search of Maksimov’s home, the cracked emali boxes were found, including the email of @navalny.
As Carl Schreck of the US-funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe reported:
For years, a mysterious self-identified “hacker” has boasted about wreaking havoc against prominent Kremlin critics, claiming responsibility for stealing troves of their personal e-mails leaked online and hijacking their social-media accounts.
To date, however, the true identity of the individual — known by the online pseudonym Hell and arguably the Russian-language Internet’s most notorious alleged hacker — has never been publicly confirmed.
But that may soon change for the pseudonymous blogger, who once bragged that “they can’t catch me.”
A Bonn court on June 24 is set to hear a criminal case against the online activist that opposition leader Aleksei Navalny claims is based on materials he provided to German prosecutors.
“Anyone who wants to personally get to know the hacker can do so just one week from now,” Navalny wrote in a June 18 post on his website.
Hell’s targets have included the famous novelist-turned-Kremlin-critic Boris Akunin; the fiery dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya, who died last year; and numerous journalists and political activists prominent in opposition circles.
The exposure of Navalny’s emails was a sensation at the time but in fact didn’t seem to harm his popularity as he went on to get 30% of the vote in the Moscow mayoral elections in 2013.
But as Navalny notes, most of the information that the Kremlin and docile prosecutors have used to trump up criminal cases against him have come from these emails. One item in particular is constantly used by trolls and hecklers at meetings, such as during his public appearance recently in Kostryoma, namely, that he had property in Montenegro that he did not report as an asset before the elections.
Navalny has repeatedly replied that while he formed a company to purchase real-estate, he never made any purchases, which is easily shown by records in Montenegro, so he had nothing to declare. The cases are believed to have been fabricated in retaliation for Navalny’s work as head of the Anti-Corruption Fund, which has targeted top Kremlin officials and oligarchs for buying properties and luxury items clearly beyond their means.
As Schreck points out, Hell, while mysterious has not been so inaccessible — he gave an interview to Izvestiya in 2012 in which he said he was motivated to hack Navalny because he was supposedly “a thief, a crook, an informer — and lies all the time.” This was an inversion of the slogan Navalny himself often used about getting rid of “a government of thieves and crooks.”
Hell has a Twitter account with an avatar of a baby in a bunny suit from which he taunts his victims. On June 18, he claimed that Navalny, whom he calls “Navalner” to imply he is Jewish, has fingered the wrong person.
Translation: So the funny monkey Navalner has turned in a completely irrelevant idiot, and thinks this is “Hell,” this guy told me this back in 2013 haha.
But he has also been caught in contradictions:
Translation: Here’s what is really important: Hell wrote that he had met with Maksimov. But Maksimov told me before the hearing that he had never seen him. ???
As @torquemada_hell, claiming to be the hacker Hell, has been publishing a steady stream of tweets laced with profanities all through the trial, it seems whoever is running the account is not Maksimov, who was obviously unable to tweet from court.
Russian bloggers have continuously speculated whether Hell was in the
pay of Russian intelligence, but he repeatedly claims that he hacks for
free and that he is even unemployed.
This has prompted questions about how Maksimov has afforded his lawyer.
Translation: my friend in Bonn: “I’m in shock that an unemployed person can hire Hans-Karl Hassel, the most expensive and respectable lawyer here.”
The trial is still under way.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick