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Behind the Dutch Terror Threat Video: The St. Petersburg “Troll Factory” Connection

April 3, 2016

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

At 13:30:09 GMT on 18 January 2016, a new YouTube channel called ПАТРИОТ (“Patriot”) uploaded its first video, titled (in Ukrainian) “Appeal of AZOV fighters to the Netherlands on a referendum about EU – Ukraine.” The video depicts six soldiers holding guns, supposedly from the notorious far-right, ultra-nationalist Azov Battalion, speaking in Ukrainian before burning a Dutch flag. In the video, the supposed Azov fighters threaten to conduct terrorist attacks in the Netherlands if the April 6 referendum is rejected. There are numerous examples of genuine Azov Battalion soldiers saying or doing reprehensible things, such as making severely anti-Semitic comments and having Nazi tattoos. However, most of these verified examples come from individual fighters, while the video with the Dutch flag being burned and terror threats supposedly comes as an official statement of the battalion.

The video has been proven as a fake, and is just one of many fake videos surrounding the Azov Battalion. This post will not judge if the video is fake — as this will be assumed — but will instead examine the way in which the video originated and was spread. After open source analysis, it becomes clear that this video was initially spread and likely created by the same network of accounts and news sites that are operated by the infamous “St. Petersburg Troll Factories” of the Internet Research Agency and its sister organization, the Federal News Agency (FAN).  The same tactics can be seen in a recent report from Andrey Soshnikov of the BBC, in which he revealed that a fake video showing what was supposedly a U.S. soldier shooting a Quran was created and spread by this “troll factory.”

azov_screenshot

The Video’s Origin

The description to this video claims that the original was taken from the Azov Battalion’s official YouTube channel, “AZOV media,” with a link to a YouTube video with the ID of MuSJMQKcX8A. Predictably, following the link to the “original” video shows that the video has been deleted by the user, giving the impression that the Azov Battalion uploaded the video and then deleted it by the time the copy (on the “Patriot” channel) was created. There are no traces of any video posted with this URL in any search engine cache or archival site (e.g. Archive.today or Archive.org).  It is most likely that a random video was posted to a YouTube channel, quickly deleted before it could be cached or archived, and then was linked to in the video from the “Patriot” YouTube account.

While the circumstances around the video’s original source is important in its own right, the manner in which the video was spread shortly after its upload yields interesting results.

The Initial Propagation

At 14:16 GMT on 18 January 2016 – 46 minutes after the video upload on the “Patriot” channel – a newly registered user named “Artur 32409” posted a link to the video and a message in Ukrainian supporting Azov’s alleged actions on the website politforums.net1

Starting four minutes later (14:20 GMT), two newly-registered accounts on the Russian social networking site VKontakte (VK) shared the video 30 times over a period of 24 minutes.2

During these 30 shares on VK (at 14:38 GMT), an exact copy-paste of the text written by Artur 32409 from politforums.net is published by a blogger on Korrrespondent.net. The author represents him/herself as a pro-Azov Ukrainian woman named “Solomiya Yaremchuk.” This user did not cite Artur as the source for the content. There is a strong possibility, if not certainty, that “Artur 32409,” the Korrespondent.net blogger Solomiya Yaremchuk, and the various VK users are either the same person, or part of the same group propagating the fake video. Further evidence provided later in this post reveals that “Solomiya Yarumchuk” is a fake account and has strong links to the “St. Petersburg Troll Factory.”

Appearance and Propagation of a Fabricated Screenshot

The Azov Battalion video was not the only piece of fabricated evidence created with this disinformation campaign. Following the video’s spread, a screenshot was created to supposedly verify the existence of the video on the Azov Battalion’s official YouTube channel (“AZOV media”). This screenshot supposedly proves that the flag burning video truly was posted by the Azov Battalion before its deletion and upload on the “Patriot” YouTube channel. As will be described in the following section, this screenshot is a fabrication and does not indicate that the video was truly posted to the channel.

screenshot

Replying to a post from the VK blogger Dzhelsomino Zhukov, a user named Gleb Klenov posted a screenshot that supposedly showed the video in the playlist of the official Azov YouTube channel. When asked how he got this screenshot, Klenov replied that it was “sent” to him in the comment thread of a group called Pozornovorossia (Shame Novorossiya), and the “source was sent by Gorchakov.” This group has since been deleted from VK.

When reverse searching the screenshot posted by Klenov, the two earliest results are in the VK groups Setecenter (19 January, 10:10am GMT) and Mirovaya Politika (19 January, 10:17am). A man named Yury Gorchakov, previously mentioned as the source of the screenshot, posted in both of these groups, defending the screenshot’s veracity. These two posts are identical, and were posted alongside the same text that blames Azov for playing out a hoax in order to blame the Russian side. Thus, the narrative has turned to provocations: Azov orchestrated this entire hoax in order to make Russia look bad, knowing that the video would quickly be exposed as a fake.

Yury Gorchakov replied twice in a thread on the “Mirovaya Politika” board, at 10:34 and 10:41am (19 January). In both posts, he was favorable towards Russia, responding to a user who said that the video was fake and spread by pro-Kremlin users. Gorchakov made two other posts at 10:34am where he explained to another poster that the flag being burned in the video was that of the Netherlands. He later (11:10 GMT) posted the full-sized screenshot himself.

It is quite likely that Gorchakov is the creator of the screenshot that supposedly shows the video being posted on the official Azov Battalion YouTube channel. He took a particular interest in defending the authenticity of the image on multiple message boards and VK groups, and posted the image in its first public appearances. Furthermore, he is an active member of the ultra-nationalist community in St. Petersburg, including heavy involvement of the “St. Petersburg Novorossiya Museum” project. Lastly, and most indicative of his likely role in the creation of the video and/or screenshot, the self-described “film director” Gorchakov was credited with uploading a fake video that supposedly showed members of Right Sector executing a civilian in spring 2014. The video has since been deleted, but links to the video’s description on the “NOD Simferopol’” YouTube channel remain, in which Gorchakov claims that he is being threatened in text messages by Right Sector for the video.

A Closer Look at the Screenshot

Upon close examination, it becomes clear that the screenshot was digitally manipulated to appear as if the last video posted on the channel “AZOV media” was the flag burning video. The white space was most likely clone-stamped over the actual last posted image, and a thumbnail of the “watched” video (with the text “Просмотрено,” or “Watched,” over the top of the video) was copied from a screenshot on the “PATRIOT” YouTube channel.

The pasting of the image was slightly imperfect: the space between the two last-watched videos is non-uniform in relation to the other squares on the screenshot, being about a pixel too wide. The thumbnail of the flag burning video is also a pixel lower than it should be in relation to the video to its right.

pixel_comparison

Moreover, the grey box with the “watched” text (Просмотрено) is slightly blurred, and the text does not match the other “Просмотрено” thumbnail in the screen, suggesting that the thumbnail was taken from another screenshot.

prosmotreno

Troll Network Exposed

Examination of the first users to disseminate the fake Azov video, including Artur 32409, and the sites used to spread it reveal an organized system of spreading disinformation—in other words, a “troll network” made up of so-called “troll accounts.”3

In one of Artur 32409’s three posts on politforums.net, he described a story about someone in Kyiv who was mugged for their groceries while returning home from the supermarket. Ten minutes after its appearance on politforums.net on 31 January 2016, the text from Artur 32409 was taken for a post by “Viktoria Popova” on Korrespondent.net. The exact same thing happened—taking 22 minutes instead of 10—when the post of Artur 32409 on the fake Azov video appeared on politforums.net, and then on Korrespondent.net. Viktoria Popova even replied to the thread started by Artur 32409 with the message, “You need to go for groceries by car… Or order them from home, just as the members of parliament do.” In another post, “Viktoria” added that she struggled to afford food other than bread and claimed that pensioners’ money was being used to fund the Ukrainian military operation in the country’s east.

“Viktoria” and “Artur” are far from the only profiles in the same troll network. The user “Diana Palamarchuk” shared the story of Artur 32409 on kievforum.org.4 Soon after, the exact same thread was shared on online.crimea.ua, but this time the poster was not Diana Palamarchuk, but “Diana Palamar.”

The troika of Artur, Viktoria, and Diana is clearly interconnected, and not a random group of users. On 4 February 2016, “Diana Palamar” started a thread on online.crimea.ua, and just four minutes later, Viktoria Popova made an identical blog post at Korrespondent.net. Both of these posts linked to pohnews.org, the same site used to host a story from Artur 32409 that “Diana” shared.

There is a systematic approach at spreading disinformation, as we saw with the grocery mugging story written by the same user (Artur 32409) who first posted the Azov Battalion video. There are usually two types of “troll” users who work in tandem to spread disinformation: supposed Ukrainians who are disgruntled, or Ukrainians who share extreme views or content that can be picked up by pro-Russian groups as examples of Ukrainian radicalism.

A clear example of this behavior can be seen in the group “Harsh Banderite” (Суворий Бандерівець), where we find posts from “Diana Palamarchuk” and “Solomiya Yaremchuk” (the user who posted the korrespondent.net post of the Azov Battalion video immediately after it was shared by Artur 32409). The post on this supposedly pro-Ukrainian group show discontent for President Poroshenko and admiration for the far-right/ultra-nationalist group Right Sector. Many posts “playfully” hint at genocide and terrorism, such as blowing up the Kremlin or killing civilians in eastern Ukraine.

Many profiles in these groups, which are likely creation of pro-Russian groups or individuals, appear alongside one another on other sites. For example, “Solomiya Yaremchuk” appears in the comments on an article on Cassad.net, a popular pro-Kremlin blog, alongside numerous accounts with overtly Ukrainian names, such as “Zhenya Bondarenko,” “Kozak Pravdorub,” and “Fedko Khalamidnik.”

The Petersburg Connection

The creation and propagation of the fake Azov Battalion video was almost certainly not the work of a few lone pranksters, but instead a concerted effort with connections to the infamous Internet Research Agency, widely known as the organization based in St. Petersburg that pays young Russians to write pro-Russian/anti-Western messages in internet comment sections and blog posts.

The fake Azov Battalion video is clearly linked to the interconnected group of users of Artur 32409, Solomiya Yaremchuk, Diana Palamar(chuk), and Viktoria Popova. The first two of these four users were the very first people to spread the fake video online, and copied each other in their posts. The video, uploaded to a brand new YouTube channel and without any previous mentions online, would have been near impossible to find without searching for the video title. Thus, it is almost certain that Artur (and by extension, the rest of the troll network) is connected with the creation of this fake video.

The stories written by this troll network are quickly hosted on the site pohnews.org, previously known as today.pl.ua. This site has a handful of contributors who later repost their stories (almost always around 100-250 words) on other sites that allow community bloggers. For example, the user “Vlada Zorich,” who wrote a story on pohnews.org that was originally from Artur 32409, has profiles on numerous other sites and social networks. Her stories are anti-Ukrainian, and written in the same style (and roughly the same word count) as stories on whoswhos.org, a site known to be part of a network created by the Internet Research Agency and a freelance web designer/SEO expert on its payroll, Nikita Podgorny.

The link between whoswhos.org, a site paid for by the Internet Research Agency, and pohnews.org, a site used to promote stories from a group of users who first spread the fake Azov Battalion video, is not just in similarities in style and content. The social media pages for the two sites have administrators named Oleg Krasnov (pohnews.org) and Vlad Malyshev (whoswhos.org). The two people both took photographs from the same person (who is completely unrelated to this topic) to use in their profiles–or, more likely, one person created both accounts and lazily used photographs of the same person.

vlad_oleg

As these accounts almost certainly do not represent real humans, they both have few friends or followers. “Vlad Malyshev” and the other administrator of the whoswhos.org VK page, Pavel Lagutin, each only have one follower: “sys05dag,” with the name “Sys admin” on VK. This user is strongly linked to cybercrime and runs a public group on VK that is focused on hacking methods and topics related to malware. For example, “Sys admin” once wrote a post requesting twenty dedicated servers to set up a botnet.  Circling back to the fake Azov Battalion video and the falsified screenshot, “Sys admin” shares many common friends with Yury Gorchakov.

Clearly Fake Accounts

When looking at the accounts that cross-post each other’s texts and post stories onto Petersburg-linked “news” sites, it is immediately clear that they are not real people. A survey of three users who appear often in this post shows common tactics used within the same network:

  • “Vlada Zorich” posts stories on pohnews.org and various Ukrainian blog sites, and does not go to great lengths to hide that “she” is not a real person. On her VK, Facebook, commenter, and blogger profiles, she uses photos of actresses Megan Fox and Nina Dobrev to represent herself. Her friends list resembles that of a spam bot, with hundreds of friends spread from Bolivia to Hong Kong.
  • “Diana Palamar(chuk)” spreads stories from Artur 32409 and other “troll” users, which later appear on sites like pohnews.org. Along with liking the pages of various confirmed Internet Research Agency/FAN-linked news sites, “she” has taken photographs from various users on VK to use for herself, including a woman named Yulia (Diana – Yulia), and a woman named Anastasia (DianaAnastasia).
  • “Solomiya Yaremchuk” was the first user to repost Artur 32409’s message about the fake Azov Battalion video, through a blog post on Korrespondent.net. She shares the supposed hometown of Diana — Lutsk, Ukraine. One of her photographs was taken from a woman named Tanya (SolomiyaTanya).

An Analytical Look

Analysis of the social connections between some of these users who spread the fake Azov Battalion video, along with other pieces of anti-Ukrainian disinformation and news stories, reveals deep ties. This analysis also reveals close ties between some of the sites linked to these users, ultimately leading back to the Internet Research Agency and Federal News Agency (FAN).

One of the simplest, yet effective, ways of rooting out fake “troll” accounts is by finding who frequently shares links to news sites created under the guidance of the Internet Research Agency. Searches for those who share links to whoswhos.org and pohnews.org reveal many shared users, including some easily-identifiable troll accounts. Some of these accounts, such as @ikolodniy, @dyusmetovapsy, and @politic151012, also share links to FAN, the news site that shared office space with the Internet Research Agency at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg.

Another way of findings networks between troll accounts is by analyzing their posting and re-posting habits, as seen earlier in the example of Viktoria Popova, Artur 32409, Solomiya Yaremchuk, and Diana Palamar(chuk). Less than an hour after the very first public mention of the fake Azov Battalion video (from Artur 32409), a user named “Faost” shared a post on fkiev.com. His role5 is to play a Ukrainian who supported the actions of the Azov Battalion, with the post:

“Everyone knows that the Netherlands is against Ukraine joining the EU. And this has somewhat confused Ukrainian soldiers since they really want to join the European Union. Here, fighters from the Azov Battalion have decided to make an announcement to the Dutch government. They explain their displeasure in this video announcement. And they called on them not to adopt this decision. They said they are gathering units which will be sent to the Netherlands to see this decision through. I am very pleased that our soldiers are worried about these events. I support them because they have put their efforts into this. Our soldiers have to defend Ukraine. These are the bravest guys in our country, they will prove to everyone that Ukraine worthy of EU membership”

Four minutes later, a user named “kreelt” started the same thread on doneckforum.com. These two users are either the same person or part of the same group of troll users. Users with these names were both banned from the forums of Pravda Ukraine within a short space of time of one another for registering duplicate accounts. Additionally, these two users (Faost and kreelt), along with the previously mentioned Diana Palamar, have started numerous threads under the “news” tag on a low-traffic forum.

While this is circumstantial evidence, there is much more direct evidence that these are all the same person, or different people working out of the same office. Both Faost and kreelt posted under the IP address of 185.86.77.x (the last digit(s) of the IP address is not publicly visible) in the same thread on Pravda Ukraine. As well as these accounts, the same IP was used by similar troll accounts “Pon4ik” and “Nosik34,” who both posted materials with similar content as the rest of this network of users.

The IP address used in the troll network linked to the spread of disinformation, including the fake Azov Battalion video, is linked to the GMHOST Alexander Mulgin Serginovic, which has launched malware campaigns from the same 185.86.77.x IP address. Completing the loop, users from this 186.86.77.x IP address, including the aforementioned kreelt and a troll account named “Amojnenadoima?”, have linked to stories from pohnews.org on the website dialogforum.net.

Other Fake Azov Videos Connected?

There are additional videos that may be connected to the first one, in which a Dutch flag was burned. The most relevant fake video was posted on February 1, 2016, fewer than two weeks after the flag burning video was posted. This video shows a similar scene to the flag burning video, but instead the Azov Battalion fighters are standing on a Dutch flag. The video was uploaded to a new YouTube channel, called “Volunteer People’s Battalion AZOV,” with only this video in its uploads.

second_video

Both of this and the flag burning video use the maximum resolution of 720p, compared to the 1080p resolution of the real videos released by the Azov Battalion at this time. Additionally, both videos show a “ghosting” effect with the introductory sequence. In the composite below, the genuine videos released by Azov Battalion are on the left, and the fake ones are on the right:

ghost_image_03

All of the uniforms use the same camouflage pattern. Strikingly, the patterns of the speakers’ uniforms are the same in both videos (click file to view at full size):

camo

These connections are not conclusive proof that the same people appeared in and created both videos, but considering these links and the similar messages and formats of the videos, it is a strong possibility.

Additionally, a video and accompanying photographs were posted in January 2016 by the group Cyber Berkut. These images and video, supposedly taken from Azov Battalion members, show members of the battalion wearing gear with the ISIS flag in an abandoned factory. Like with nearly (if not absolutely) all other Cyber Berkut “leaks,” this evidence is most likely a crude fake.

isis_azov

Like with the other fake video with the Dutch flag, there is no hard evidence that links this “revelation” to the flag burning video. However, considering all of these releases targeted the same group and were released within about three months of one another, it would be worthwhile to further investigate the possible links between these videos.

The Dutch Reception

For the most part, the mainstream Dutch media was not fooled by the video and its threats of terror. Hubert Smeets of NRC detailed why the video was likely a fake, as did NOS and Volkskrant. The popular blog Geenstijl, which is focused on being against the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, took a more neutral position, and did not state if the video was real or fake. At the same time, Jan Roos, who is associated with Geenstijl and one of the chief promoters for voting against the association agreement, suggested that the video constituted a real threat against the Netherlands. The site Deburgers.nu, also against the association agreement, showed the fake screenshot of the Azov YouTube channel as evidence that the video was real.  It seems that neutral and mainstream media outlets correctly portrayed the video was a fake, but individuals and outlets already taking a stance against Ukraine’s association agreement were more welcome to accepting the video as a true threat.

Conclusion

The very first public mention of the fake Azov Battalion video is from Artur 32409, a user part of a network of “troll accounts” spreading exclusively anti-Ukrainian/pro-Russian disinformation. The way in which this fake video spread is the same as the disinformation campaigns operated by users and news sites ran by or closely linked to the Internet Research Agency. Additionally, the video’s spread mirrors that of a fake video of a “U.S. soldier” shooting a Quran, which was orchestrated by St. Petersburg troll groups.

Moreover, the fabricated screenshot supposedly showing the authenticity of the Azov Battalion video was first spread by, and almost certainly created by, a man named Yury Gorchakov. Gorchakov has been previously linked to the creation of a fake video of Right Sector.

The “troll network” of Artur 32409 frequently uses pohnews.org to spread disinformation. This site shares its administrator with whoswhos.org, which has been confirmed to be under the umbrella of the Internet Research Agency and its sister news organization, FAN.  Leaked e-mail correspondences from 2014 courtesy of the hacker collective Anonymous International (aka “Shaltai Boltai”) confirm that these organizations do not act independently and, at the time of the leaks, received instructions from the Kremlin.

In short, there is a clear relationship between the very first appearance of the fake Azov Battalion video in which a Dutch flag is burned and the so-called “St. Petersburg Troll Factory.” The video was created and spread in an organized disinformation campaign, certainly in hopes of influencing the April 6th Ukraine-EU referendum. Most mainstream Dutch news outlets have judged the video to be a crude piece of propaganda; however, some online outlets, such as Geenstijl, have given some weight to the idea that it may not be fake. Therefore, we can say that the organization disinformation campaign has had minimal impact, as the only people swayed by the video seemed already be in the “no” camp against the Ukrainian referendum.

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203 Comments

  1. John Zenwirt

    WashPost

    “Weeks after ‘pullout’ from Syria, Russian military is as busy as ever.”

    MOSCOW — “Russia portrayed last month’s drawdown from Syria as a victory and a homecoming, after a six-month deployment in which its air force turned the tide of the long-running conflict. So it was a surprise this week that Russian state outlets quietly reported that powerful new Russian helicopters were seeing Syrian combat for the first time.”

    http://tinyurl.com/goh5q5x

    Reply
    • Greg Rabinovich

      “Russian state outlets quietly reported”

      ROFL The WaPo’s news coverage has seriously deteriorated since the newspaper joined amazon.com.

      Reply
  2. John Zenwirt

    Stranger: “In this pathological case it is enough just to know who the author is.”

    Why the word, “pathological”…?…the author is mentally ill, Stranger implies.

    In fact Gessen’s article is that from “ordinary” Russians; and why they die early, when its so hard for a social scientist to find an answer. All Gessen does is attempt to understand the continuing early mortality of Russian males in particular. The article is NOT political, so why is Stranger hating a social science article….?

    He uses the old Soviet, uSSr trick of labelling opponents “insane” to STOP you from reading and seeing what he does not want you to see…don’t be blinded by Soviet Propaganda, Gessen’s article is really excellent, she is known as a great writer….

    Reply
    • stranger

      John, I’ve answered above why I think so and gave the links to Forbes claiming her fact manipulations and her answer to Forbes. As for the epithets, that is just my option and the matter of a good taste.

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        But you don’t answer; if asked where you are posting from, or born, or live….

        Reply
          • Sam

            At least there is one somewhat honest Russian posting here.

            The rest of the trolls should be fired, they are ineffective.

    • stranger

      I’d call it not the social science, but a technological readers’ treatment in the spirit of Neuro Linguistic Programming. But of course please read and judge yourself

      Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Sorry, really don’t understand your logic here. She wrote nothing to disparage Russians in general and even shows a great amount of sympathy. She is not the only one to recognize this problem and she notes the results of studies by folks more capable than her. And, as I noted, her rebuttal seemed to be well organized and to the point, nothing disgusting that I can find in either of those articles. Maybe because she is Jewish or maybe because she is a lesbian is the reason you find her pathological (Back in the USSR!) and disgusting (Orthodox Catholic teachings). Am I right stranger??

        Reply
        • stranger

          No, she is completely ignoring the fact of the huge demographic drop down during 90th and the significant improvement during 2000s. She is comparing with 1989 the year of still stable USSR, instead of the 91-94 the max of the drop down caused by the collapse of USSR. She is showing the chart of total population, but is ignoring the charts of fertility rate and death rate because they completely contradict her statement. She is ignoring the fact that low fertility rate is intrinsic to wealth developed European countries and vice verse. The fact the population decreased much stronger in the post soviet Poland and Baltic countries as well as in Ukraine. She is perverting the facts and trick numbers all under the sauce of false compassion and deep philological insight. She is announcing political conclusions which are completely unrelated to the provided facts. If you read the Forbes article you would see that. Her sympathy based on misinterpretation of facts and tricking stats seems false to me, it looks more like snobbish attempt to sophisticatedly insult people. Jewish or not I didn’t tell that. I know a lot of good Jewish people. That is my impression.

          Reply
  3. John Zenwirt

    Stranger’s assignment from “The Agency” is to be Bellingcat’s Russian.

    This site requires much more from the poster, than just the absurd insults from the legions of Russian Trolls on GooglePlus….

    Oh, yeah…”disgusting” and “pathological”…maybe not…

    Stranger evinces a higher level of education, and the smarts, to tangle with some well-read posters, like Boggled, where-ever he is…

    As a Bellingcat author pointed out to us, Stranger had made over two hundred and fify posts, in a very short period of time, coming from a minimum of four IP’s. Two maybe, a mobile device, and home, but four or five IP’s? Is that the mannner in which Russian Trolls work…

    Reply
    • stranger

      John, that must be a compliment, I appreciate : ) Who told about 4 IPs, Aric said from a single IP, did I miss something? Don’t forget about free Wi-Fi in cafes etc.

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        stranger: “that must be a compliment,”

        It was meant to be …any forum in which every member agrees with every other poster, is one to leave, how boring it would be with-out you!

        Reply
        • stranger

          Thanks… Why are you saying about 4 IPs, do you have any insider information from BC, or just approximate?

          Reply
    • stranger

      John, you are smarter than your scenic image at BC. Also take a look at the next thread on Nagorno Karabakh. Why Armenians and Azeri there are not blaming Azeri ministry of truth, Armenian troll factories, disguised Russians army in Kharabakh? Interesting observation, isn’t it? : )

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        I fight forest-fires for a living. We are Helicopter-Attack only, I’m the 1st guy there…I have 30 years in, so Fire Boss B, and incredibly, I’m an “essential service” to my Canadian Province. One takes a special oath (one hand on Bible) to, basically, protect the reign of Queen Elizabeth II!

        Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        I’ve said that, historically, I view Armenia as the original seat of Western Christianity.

        Armenia’s beautiful culture, its amazing art, should, IMO, be protected from any harm by ANY means at our disposal.

        You know, Stalin himself, or his top NKVD guy, (Beria now?) drew the new borders, and Stalin deliberately set these two nations at odds, when Stalin creates these boundaries…

        Reply
    • Sam

      John,

      Right on….

      Stranger is the “sophisticated troll” but showed his true colors in this thread.

      Paid Troll.

      Now he (they) is going to have to invent a new persona.

      They just sabotaged their one decent troll “personality” by letting someone else post under “his identity”

      They shot themselves in the foot again.

      Like I always say, their bosses are incompetent and should be fired.

      They just burned their many month asset who was slowly trying to build credibility.

      Reply
      • stranger

        I’m not a troll, at least not paid or connected to anybody else. And regardless you are telling good or bad things about me, I’m not going to meet your expectations in either way : )

        Reply
  4. John Zenwirt

    “Russia jets make ‘simulated attack’ on US warship in ‘aggressive’ Baltic incident.”

    “Russia was accused of “aggression” on Wednesday after two jet fighters carried out practise attacks on a US destroyer, flying so low over the warship they created a “wake in the water”.”

    “The Su-24 strike aircraft swept past the USS Donald Cook at a height of only 30ft as the vessel steamed through international waters in the Baltic.”

    “The Russian air force is probing the defences of Nato countries on a scale that compares with the most dangerous periods of the Cold War.”

    http://tinyurl.com/jm7bo73 (Telegraph)

    Reply
    • stranger

      What did USS Donald Cook do in the Baltic Sea immediately next to Russian borders? When NATO demonstratively conduct military training and maneuvers while officially openly claiming that is targeted to warn Russia and neutralize ‘Russian threat’ that is not aggression. But when unarmed aircraft fly in the vicinity in the neutral waters so that the pilot could smile and wave a hand to say hi to the colleagues from NATO that is considered aggression.
      btw if NATO didn’t invente Russian threat if would die, because would not be needed in the eyes of the western public. So that Russian pilots risking their lives are trying their best to support the colleagues from NATO and let them moaning and complain in the mass media to beg some more money and a little bit of attention from their governments, and let them feel demanded and valuable in own eyes. Isn’t it? Why they are so not grateful?

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        Stranger: “USS Donald Cook do in the Baltic Sea immediately next to Russian borders?”

        Oh, come on man, the USN ship was in clearly demarcated International waters; ANYone can sail in International waters, you see that, eh…?

        Reply
        • stranger

          How would US reacted is Russia arranged a naval military training in Caribian Sea together with China, Mexica and Cuba and simulated the defending if Mexica and Cuba from the US military invasion according to the legend and also claimed in the media that US is the major thread to its neighbors – Mexica, Cuba, Latin America, Panama etc? Just change the roles to see how ridiculous it is.

          Reply
        • stranger

          Caribian Crisis, actually that has been already once in the history. US claimed they would sink Soviet ships and invade Cuba, everything not to allow Soviet nukes there. While soviets did that in the response to deploying US nukes in Turkey before, very close to Soviet borders.
          This military demonstrations are stupid and nobody actually takes that seriously in contrast to economical pressure, color revolutions and the information war.

          Reply
          • John Zenwirt

            But the USA was already committed to removing the Jupiters, when Krushchev set this Cuban Crisis in motion, eh…?

          • stranger

            Hardly, that is not in American character nor in the logic of that crisis. Vladimir Pozner gave the example of Cuban Crisis to illustrate that it was pretty legal according to any international law to put Jupiters to Turkey as well as Russian missiles to Cuba, but America said – NO, we will not allow that, up to the WW3. Russia is not USSR or America to play such games of course.

          • stranger

            “He’s a paid troll.” please note how (paid?) trolls are yelling louder than anybody else that the trolls are the others. You are from Ukraine, Sam, because you blame people personally too much, aren’t you?

          • Sam

            stranger,

            I’m not from Ukraine, never even been there.

            I live in Europe, and have Russian and Ukrainian friends. They are friends with each other, and think Russia is destroying itself.

            The Russians moved to Europe to get away from a society filled with people like you who support invading Crimea and support the corrupt Oligharchs.

          • stranger

            Sam,

            Where are you living in Europe, where was you born?

            If you are not from Ukraine, why are you trying to attack me personally? At this site everybody who disagree was announced to be a paid troll from Savushkina 55. Boggled, John Zenwirt, Dude and other roles repeated that again and again. In fact they seem to be a coordinated team of trolls themselves or may be some people are writing under different nicks. John recently claimed he knows from how many IPs I’m writing from, so he apparently is able to get insider information from Bellingcat or is not responsible for his words, may be both. Why are you repeating this nonsense after them, then?

            As for your Russian and Ukrainian friends, that is their personal opinion, which should be respected. I’m not saying I appreciate everything which is going on in Russia. But I just don’t like what i believe is an information campaign against Russia. As well as i cannot help to answer when i see some especially weird statements here.

          • Sam

            Your understanding, or lack of it.

            As a typical Russian, you think there is a coordinated attack on Russia from commentators on this website.

            Because that’s what Russia does….

            I don’t know anyone from this site period, no Twitter blah blah blah.

            I come here here as European individual, to comment on Russian BS…

          • stranger

            Why are you afraid to tell where are you living and where you are originally from, are you ashamed or for any other reason?
            You are just repeating the same lie about paid trolls or propagandists. I’m not saying they don’t ever exist, but not in my case.

          • Sam

            stranger,

            Why would give the FSB agents here my background?

            Maybe they’ll treat me to some tasty poison tea?

          • stranger

            Sam, i’m still almost sure you are from Ukraine, even if you are living in Europe. Which is great, and everybody may defend own views, just why wouldn’t tell that. But whatever you prefer

          • Sam

            stranger,

            You think I am from Ukraine……

            I’ve never been there, I’m just a European that see’s the truth of Russia invaded Ukraine.

            You assume I’m Ukrainian bc I disagree with you..

            That’s wrong and short sighted. Most of Europe understands this is all a mess of Russian making.

            The West never humiliated Russia, Russia humiliated itself by electing corrupt rulers.

          • John Zenwirt

            Stranger said the Jupiter Turk missiles were not to be removed:

            “The Jupiter, however, had quickly become obsolete. It’s mission had been replaced by the Polaris submarine launched ballistic missile. Moreover, the missile was considered to be an easy target for a Russian pre-emptive attack. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy administration secretly agreed to remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for the withdrawal of all Russian nuclear weapons from Cuba.”

            http://tinyurl.com/hpknv9w

            Removing the Jupiters was part of the deal Kennedy and Krushchev made, you are just wrong.

          • stranger

            John, OK, but Jupiters were withdrawn AFTER soviets removed nukes from Cuba as a part of the deal, right? You originally said – before…

            There is a more interesting question, how the former allies during ww2, soviets, US, UK, most of Europe, almost immediately became the enemies and the Cold War began? Churchill proposed to preventively nuke soviets. Then USSR got own nucle.r weapon several years later, originally spying and having stolen US technology, with a lot of own developments of course, the liquid fuel Soviet rocket engines are still among the best in the world. Then the military race began.

            Now US and Russian arsenals are enough to destroy everything living on the earth several times and prevent any live (except maybe immortal cockroaches) to appear for another million years.

            But the problem is, the nuclear demilitarization would give US the major benefit in conventional weapon. Nobody can compete with US in conventional high technological weapon and especially its amounts. In this case there will be no defense for Russia and other large countries. So the nucle.r race if far from the end. The much worst scenario would be nukle.r terr-ists of course.

            In an utopical ideal world countries would trust each other enough to demilitarize. Playing military muscles would be a dead-end way.

      • Sam

        Immediately next to Russian borders?

        No, 70 nautical miles away, 60 nautical miles into international waters.

        stranger, you are such a propagandist full of BS.

        Why don’t the Russian pilots respond to calls in Russian or English.

        “Way a hand to say hi”

        Is that the lies you were told at your morning meeting at the troll farm?

        When is Russia going to leave Crimea?

        These comment threads are Russian paid trolls vs the rest of the world, who a free and not paid by anyone.

        Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Cute reply stranger, interesting take on the situation. Don’t believe it, but it is funny, so thanks for the chuckle!

        Reply
      • Sam

        Russia and the US should not be allies when Russia behaves this way.

        You are not romantic, you are the aggressor.

        If the US did that to a Russian boat, Russia would have shot the planes down.

        Wake up troll, you are advocating WWIII you idiot.

        Reply
        • stranger

          Sam: “Russia and the US should not be allies ” please remind which side is using aggressive rhetoric and is demonstrating force very far away from own borders? If Russia used at least a fraction of such aggression toward the west it would be blamed for anti-Americanism.

          “If the US did that to a Russian boat, Russia would have shot the planes down.” – for what reason? The European fighters many times accompany Russian military planes in the neutral sky. Donald Cook can float in neutral waters, Su 24 can fly in the neutral skies – that is fair.

          Reply
          • Sam

            Flying 9 meters away from any boat is dangerous and stupid.

            The European fighters escort the Russian planes from invading the 10 nautical mile territorial borders.

            The Russians fly with their beacons off and refuse to communicate with the Europeans..

            This is the stupidity and aggressiveness of your “Motherland “

          • Sam

            Troll attention span is short…

            They always need new propaganda stories…

          • stranger

            Sam, I thought I have already answered. There are too many of you, our Ukrainian troll friends.

      • Mad Dog

        I would smile as well if a fast mover flew that close. Actually pretty impressive and not something you witness everyday.

        Reply
  5. Mad Dog

    Russia is in deep trouble and no matter what you say that fact cannot be escaped. Gessen is just pointing out the obvious. We can play number games all you want but without the huge numbers of immigrants, Russia would be in serious population growth trouble. The Death rate has dropped, but it is still far far above 1950 levels and the life expectancy of males is embarrassingly low. Geesen was kind enough to point out that alcoholism is probably not as great a factor as some believe, but it sure is a major factor IMHO….personal consumption of alcohol is far above most ‘developed’ countries. You can see the results of a lot of this from watching fail compilations mainly consisting of dash-cams recording the huge amount of accidents caused by blotto drivers among others. Russia ranks right up there with Viet Nam (pandemonium at best) Suriname and Brazil in terms of fatalities per 100,000 vehicles. Vodka has a lot to do with this. Good luck with attacking folks like Geeshen, but that just ends up ignoring the obvious and avoiding a solution.

    Reply
    • stranger

      When talking about Russia most common stereotype which comes into people’s mind is Vodka, and just after that Bears on the streets, Balalayka, Matryoshka and then, for some reason – Ba’bushka. But if we look at the stats it appears not so straightforward. The alcohol consumption by country:
      http://www.businessinsider.com/where-people-drink-the-most-around-the-world-2015-11
      Russia is not the first in the list and is comparable with western European Ireland, France, Austria and Germany. The other stats source WHO estimates give a bit worse picture but anyway Russia is not the first.

      As for the dangerous roads in Russia that is true and there are several reasons besides drunk driving. The roads are not so good, many highways are narrow and without a separation line between the opposite lanes. With the officially allowed speed 90 km/h at the most intercity roads, people are usually driving 120-140 km/h in average which is considered normal and some are much faster. The culture of driving is still developing, since most of the people could have afforded a first personal car only not so long ago. The culture has been noticeably improving, but still many people use a car for self affirmation and a source of adrenaline. That has been also encouraged by corruption when you could always have paid a policeman a very low fee (a bribery). It used to be as funny as $3-5 for almost everything in 90th. Recently has been toughen, and the drunk driving, moving by the opposite lane and the over speeding higher than by 60 km/h assume a driving license revoke, and if you wish to pay a bribery for that it might be very expensive now. That created more opportunity for corruption, but people also are becoming more careful. Dash cams are just very wide spread in Russia that’s why there are so many videos. That is explained mostly by people who want to protect themselves from the criminals who intentionally provoke accidents to demand compensation at the site. That has been also decreasing with the introduction of mandatory 3rd party liability insurance. So I believe the trends are positive. But I completely agree Russian drivers are reckless and the roads are awful.

      Reply
    • stranger

      It depends on what do you compare it with. Since 90th almost all aspects of life have been significantly improved especially to the middle of 100th. Yes oil money, may be. So I don’t understand the pessimism of Gessen and don’t believe her. But if you compare with developed countries there is still a long way to go.

      Reply
  6. Mad Dog

    Naw, the major reason behind a high accident rate is dufism. People doing dufist things, many time fueled by Vodka. As for the image of Russia and vodka, it is probably not so far fetched. Russia only comes in behind some Baltic states with Lithuania on top (more Russian speaking citizens there…LOL). Problem is, Russians also drink a lot of rot gut or moonshine and they hit the heavier stuff like vodka. I have seen Russians lined up in front of package stores early in the morning (like 3 am!) waiting for them to open and that was not for beer. Germans drink a lot of beer, but they are not known to be raving drunks like a lot of Russians are. Sorry, but your analysis really seems a bit deficient and I just have to dream of Russian sots wandering the streets of Moscow waiting for a store to open. Yahoooo.

    Reply
    • stranger

      Is what – ‘dufism’? That is not my analysis that is my experience. I bought my first car in 2001 and was driving daily in Moscow, many times to Sankt-Petersburg and back, and around.
      The lines of Russian sots for vodka at 3am sounds impressive – what year did you see that? The late USSR, Perestroyka – the end of 80th – the beginning of 90th, or when? Now it is not a problem to buy anything in Moscow 24 hours/day if you have money.
      Take a look better at something kind from the Russian roads. The good thing about Russians if you need help on the road there will always be people to help for free:

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        Stranger: “Matryoshka (Dolls)…

        I have one (!), an original I bought at a street market when I was in St. Petes. Took a cruise-ship up the Baltic…

        I like St. Petersburg better than I liked Moscow, sorry…

        Reply
      • Mad Dog

        stranger, I have nothing but admiration for the Russian people and I know many of them are very very kind hearted and helpful. Which is why I am so against this present regime. It is unfair to the Russian people as a whole. Ugh!

        Have you ever driven in the Caucasus region, say from the Baksan Valley to Minerlye Vodi (sp). That is quite a ride!

        Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Nice set of vids. I have seen some of them before. Just reinforces my opinion of Russians. However, I have also seen an equal number of vids of similar situations that did not turn out so well, dufism at the extreme. Help granny cross the street? Yeah, dufus #1 will either crash into the back of your car or try to go around hitting both you an granny. Stop your truck to pull someone out of a jam? Well, dufus #2 in a hurry to see his mistress down the road will go into a slide on the icy road and smack into the truck, force the person he was passing off the road and into a ditch, and slam back into a guy with bad Lada brakes who was trying to follow him. Sometimes or rather many times a good deed turns out horribly if Fail Compilations and statistics are any indication. BTW, I liked Moscow, but only had a short glimpse of Sankt Peter’s place…LOL.

        Reply
        • stranger

          Yes, of course I know what you are saying. And that is a part of driving skills or pedestrian must to know especially in Moscow. But after so many tragic videos it is a pleasure to see something kind. In my experience in Moscow when I needed to tow a car from snow or to charge a battery I was always able to find somebody on the road to help for a symbolic fee or free.

          Reply
          • Mad Dog

            of course, because most Russians are inherently kind and helpful. Personal experience in both the USSR and Russia. Still doesn’t account for all the dufuses out there though!

      • John Zenwirt

        This vid., which is great…. Just shows we love the long-suffering Russian people in this vid.,…NOT the Putin Junta….

        Reply
        • stranger

          John, I’m glad you are changing your image at the forum:
          “On the flank, gleaming in steel armour, rode Azazello, his face transformed by the moon. Gone was the idiotic wall eye, gone was his false squint. Both Azazello’s eyes were alike, empty and black, his face white and cold. Azazello was now in his real guise, the demon of the waterless desert, the murderer-demon. ” : )

          Reply
  7. John Zenwirt

    I noticed that at the Saint Petersburg street markets, the girl selling the t-shirts I wanted, could not make the haggle. Always, somewhere near, there’d be a big, burly guy who’s really in charge.

    When I made my final offer on the shirts, she had to rush to the man to get his OK to the deal. He looks @ me, and nods, I got my T-shirts. I think he’s in Russian Mafia, they govern these street stalls.

    Reply
    • stranger

      Who knows. May be just the owner of that trade point. She wanted to get his ok for the discount for you.

      Reply
  8. John Zenwirt

    BloombergBusiness;

    “Deutsche Bank Found `Systemic’ Failure in Russia Cash Flight.”

    “Red flags started popping up inside Deutsche Bank AG in early 2014 about billions of dollars in suspect trades from Moscow. A Cypriot bank sent a query to London. Russia’s central bank raised questions. Moscow back-office staffers compiled a list of dubious transactions.”

    “Deutsche Bank’s handling of the Russia trades is now being investigated by U.S. prosecutors and European regulators, adding to the string of legal challenges in the U.S. and elsewhere for the bank as it attempts to increase profitability.”

    http://tinyurl.com/gmc6zns

    Reply
    • stranger

      John, you didn’t answer why you said I’m writing from 4 IPs? Aric didn’t post that publically. Was that just your mistake or you work for Bellingcat and have access to some insider information?
      Because I understand that BC is interested in creation of some buzz in comments to be able to tell then they are attacked by hordes of Russian trolls from Savushkina 55. Let’s play in paranoia…

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        Yes, Bellingcat did say you post from four different IP’s, Eric Toler, I think, said this…

        Reply
        • stranger

          Aric said ‘from 1 IP’, not four, while the real number should be indeed 4-5 or more. That’s why I thought you might be friends with Aric or communicate with BC in any other direct way besides the forum. Was it too unjustified assumption? Never mind…

          Reply
    • stranger

      Because I apreciate your compliments. But honestly you are a little bit overplaying. May be for fun or may be you work for BC. Why does BC need that you can read from the Elliot Higgins citation in the latest article.
      There is another similar role here ‘Greg Rabinovich’ playing the antipod – a stupid Russian troll (not very Russian name – for fun) and a variety of others of course. : )

      Reply
        • stranger

          I meant the Department of State. You can count on my reference. I will confirm you have been fighting bravely and doughtily at the information front.

          Reply
  9. John Zenwirt

    NewYorkTimes

    “Kremlin Apologizes to German Newspaper for Wrongly Tying It to Goldman Sachs.”

    “During the national television show on Thursday, Mr. Putin said that Süddeutsche Zeitung, which first obtained the Panama Papers, was controlled by Goldman Sachs, and that the bank was part of an American plot to try to embarrass Russia through revelations about offshore accounts and shell companies.”

    “The newspaper announced that Goldman Sachs has no ownership stake.”

    http://tinyurl.com/h84jsd4

    Reply
  10. Mad Dog

    Maybe Czar Putin can apologize for saying Russia had no hand in taking over Crimea…

    Reply

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