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The Russian Troll Who Came in from the Cold

Russian “Troll Factory” story revisited

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The author is a Moscow based private practice lawyer. The first part of her investigation was published in RI here

Trolling has become America’s top export since the dawn of the 21st century. It has become the new American reality, through which every self-imposed tragedy is viewed, attributed and resolved. Facts can no longer be separated from fiction, and if anyone finds fault with this bold, new paradigm, then just blame Russia. Or Putin!

It was widely reported by the American  mainstream media that Russia-based Internet trolls have been working hard in socials networks for the last several years disseminating pro-Kremlin and anti-Western talking points on blogs and in the comments sections of news websites in Russia and abroad. The revelations were made by an “activist” Lyudmila Savchuk who worked at an alleged troll’ factory - the Agency of Internet Researches located at 55 Savushkina Street, St. Petersburg that purportedly employed as many as 400 people, from January through March 2015.   

Ms. Savchuk, a single mother of two, who allegedly signed up for the 40,000 to 50,000 Rubles ($700-870) monthly salary, must have worked under extremely dire conditions, for no video clip, email communications, trolling screenshot, salary slip or bank record has been spirited out to corroborate her allegations. Not even a cafeteria slip at the “troll factory” paid with a credit card. Security must have been tight; so tight that the cavity checks the FBI had subjected Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, over allegations of visa fraud and tax evasion, would have paled into comparison. Either that or the Russians may possess a magical delete button that can wipe out every incriminating nanobyte from existence. We can be sure that Hillary Clinton would have paid a premium for this technical marvel but for now, she has to settle for the hordes of trolls she probably helped create. Furthermore, no hard evidence regarding the sponsorship of this trolls’ Agency by the Russian government was ever provided either by Ms.Savchuk or her lawyers while the Kremlin officially repudiated any connection therewith.

It would have taken much audacity on the part of  Ms. Savchuk, a freelance journalist, whose only visible occupation according to her VKontakte profile and some other sources is the Information Peace (Информационный мир) movement created in 2014 by St. Petersburg citizens as counterbalance the official propaganda and paid trolls activities, to engage in such an undertaking as exposing Kremlin propaganda trolls and filing a lawsuit against the Internet Research Agency for a failure to formalize employment relations with her.  

Luckily, she was assisted by an informal association of lawyers and journalists  "Team 29" which  has picked up the baton from the Freedom of Information Foundation that had been defending the rights for information access for ten years before the Ministry for Justice of Russia marked it as a "foreign agent" NGO.". The Freedom of Information Foundation (FIF) was founded in 2004 by an advocate Ivan Pavlov and defended right to access to information on activities of government bodies and bodies of local self-government.

Among the sponsors of FIF according to its Web site were such institutions as:

  1. The National Endowment for Democracy, launched in the early 1980s, premised on the idea that American assistance on behalf of democracy efforts abroad would be good both for the U.S. and for those struggling around the world for freedom and self-government, supported by the U.S. Congress;  CIA Director William J. Casey worked with senior CIA covert operation specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to establish NED in 1983. Casey – from the CIA – and Raymond – from his assignment inside President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council –  focused on creating a funding mechanism to support groups inside foreign countries that would engage in propaganda and political action that the CIA had historically organized and paid for covertly.  NED board members and experts representing compromising corporate-financier special interests include: Marilyn Carlson Nelson (NED secretary), a co-CEO of one of the largest privately held companies in the world, Carlson Holdings operating hotels around the world; he also serves on the board of Exxon Mobil and chairs the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board;  Marne Levine (Facebook, Coo, Instagram), Mark Ordan (WP Glimcher – real estate), and with Carl Gershman, Princeton Lyman, Stephen Sestanovich, and Melanne Verveer serving as members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) – a corporate-financier funded think-tank representing the collective economic and geopolitical ambitions of Wall Street, London, and Brussels’ most powerful special interests.  According to a 2013 disclosure (.pdf) NED  is funded by among others, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, and the US Chamber of Commerce.

  2. The Open Society Institute (OSI) founded in 1993 by the multibillionaire hedge-fund manager George Soros. Open Society foundations are active in more than 70 countries around the world. OSI, for its part, is chiefly devoted to injecting capital into U.S.-based groups and causes. It reportedly pumped millions into opposition movements and “independent” media in Hungary, Ukraine and Georgia under the guise of strengthening civil society, only to have like-minded individuals nominated by Soros’s own foundation come to power in those countries.

  3. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) established by executive order of President Kennedy in 1961. It is confirmed that USAID, in particular, played a major role in funding opposition groups prior to the coup in 2014 in the Ukraine.

According to 5 Channel reportage Team 29 has been engaged in a scheme for  "laundering" NGOs grants, without registering as a foreign agent as required by Russian law. Mr. Pavlov was hasty to claim on his Facebook page that Team 29 specifically supplied to 5 Channel the false insider information on handling the grants but did not argue against the very fact of financing of Team 29 by certain non-Russian NGOs.

It mentioned that Mr. Pavlov’s wife, an American citizen, Jennifer Gaspar, who had been working in Russia for 10 years assisting various NGOs, in August 2014 was deprived of a residence permit and denied Russian citizenship due to her activities aimed at violently changing the constitutional order, as established by the concerned Russian agencies.

This is the thoroughbred pedigree of the US-sponsored Russian “truth” movement that bases its “human rights” crusades on a pack of lies, innuendoes and relentless trolling; most of which are funded at the expense of the increasingly impoverished US taxpayer.

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