Only Fools Didn’t Seek Payment: Estimate of Navalny’s Most Expensive Rally

Mass protest actions are not only eye-catching, effective and dangerous for the Russian political system, but also very expensive. The use of modern political technologies for organising colour revolutions costs huge, unimaginable money for most people. We know how much the protest costs and are ready to tell you about it.

The high-status oppositionists, returning home from illegal rallies, tried to convince the public that there was no organisation and could not have been. The most heartfelt post on Facebook was written by the manager of the foreign agent organisation, the Moscow School of Civic Education, Aleksandr Shmelev.

“The only problem today was THE COMPLETE LACK of any organisers, coordination and action plan. As a result, tens of thousands of people walked aimlessly back and forth along Tverskaya Street, adjacent alleys, Manezhka, and so on, not knowing where to go and where to gather…”

This, as the classic wrote, is a case of known lies, but lies are by no means meaningless. For Shmelev, like other revolutionaries, is very important to prove that there was no organisation. Why? For two reasons. Not to be accused of agitation for participation in illegal actions of minors and not to be involved in organising attacks on the police.

This lie is understandable, but ineffective: on both counts, it is obvious that the organisation of the protests this time was at the highest level. It is enough to look at the video of the coordinated and skilful actions of the militants attacking the National Guard and OMON, so that all doubts disappear. There is nothing to say about the massive and well-coordinated agitation on the internet: the revolutionaries used all social networks and all possible communication channels, from opposition media such as Dozhd and Meduza to individual city public pages.

Obviously, not the worst level of organisation of protest actions will be demonstrated in the future. Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s right-hand man, has already announced the “protest every weekend” tactic.

One of the most interesting questions in connection with the above is: how much does such work cost?

A billion on the Internet

Who pays is not a question. “It’s unsightly to suspect when you’re quite sure.” The efforts of “our western partners” in organising the protests were so obvious that it came to an official statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the call to the Foreign Ministry of American diplomats. The coordination of protest actions in European capitals was so good that it is absurd to talk about their spontaneity. There is, of course, the question of what kind of wallet it was paid from: The US State Department, the CIA, the European Union funds, or all of these sources at once. But this question is not so important: once they decided to strike the Russian state, they will not stop.

But how much money should be spent by the “Navalny support headquarters” to organise coordinated demonstrations throughout the country, with a total number of participants up to 100,000 people (the protesters themselves say there was up to 200,000, but this is a common farfetched lie), and how much will be spent in the future every week – this is really interesting.

The first answer to this question was given by one of the most famous Russian political strategists, the founder of the Baxter Group company, Professor Oleg Matveychev.

“We gathered with technologists from different cities tonight. Everyone told me what they knew. How much was paid in his city for the purchase for Navalny of local public pages. As a result, according to estimates, it turned out that about 1 billion rubles were spent throughout the country during the week. I.e., $15 million,” Oleg Matveychev wrote.

His opinion was supported and even strengthened by the head of the News Front news agency Konstantin Knyrik: “Recently, all fake accounts were bought up instantly on Internet exchanges… Our guys closely watched these processes in order to study the situation. According to our estimates, about 10 million accounts were purchased. If you take the three main social networks, you get 30 million, and taking into account the growing demand, the average price for an account was 150 rubles. Calculate how much money was spent just to create an imitation of mass participation in social networks.”

I.e., the assessment of Matveychev – a billion spent on promotion on the Internet – is the most modest, minimum estimate. A billion is two annual budgets of Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation in peacetime.

A small fee for trolls

However, in Professor Matveychev’s quick analysis, something else is interesting: he included only the direct costs of working on the Internet, but not the costs of organising rallies or paying for the work of those who, in fact, used these purchased accounts.

Yes, the message was delivered to the target audience with the help of purchased accounts and the placement was coordinated with the help of special programs, but the appeals were written by real people. Real people (the names of some of them are known) bought police uniforms and pretended to be “policemen on the side of the people”. Professional work required not only “actors”, but operators, editors, technical specialists, as well as trolls who wrote comments and answered doubters.

The total number of people who had to be involved in working on social networks is approaching 500. This opinion is shared by the sources of Tsargrad – political strategists who had to organise information, marketing and political campaigns at the federal level on the Runet. The salary fund of such a project, assuming that it lasts only one week, would be approximately 7 million rubles: on average, 10,000 rubles for a grassroots performer and another two million for managers, high-level “writers”, etc.

Of course, 7 million is a paltry sum compared to a billion. But this matter is by no means exhausted.

Good money for VIPs

Many people participated in the campaign “for Navalny”, i.e., “against Putin”, i.e., “against Russia”. Their working day is expensive – stars, of course, of not the first, but the third-rate in sports, cinema, and journalism.

Of course, some of these people acted out of ideological motives. But some of them probably combined the pleasant with the useful.

For example, Russian actors Maksim Vitorgan, Gosha Kutsenko and Aleksandra Bortich supported the illegal rallies and Aleksey Navalny. Interestingly, their services are offered on the market by the same agency called THOMAS Agency. The working (shooting) day of each of these actors, according to press reports, costs from $5,000-7,000.

Of course, we have no formal grounds to say “the civil position of Kseniya Sobchak‘s ex-husband is worth $7,000″. But, calculating the cost of organising a large-scale protest, it is logical to assume in the estimate the column of expenses “for VIP-agitators”. There will be quite a few people in this category of people – we repeat, who exactly received the money, we do not know, everyone is individually ready to believe that it is he who is selfless in his love for the west – here is the “satirist” Viktor Shenderovich, the star of our ranking of Russophobes, and retired TV presenters Avrora and Tatiana Lazareva, and rappers “Kasta” and Noize … In total, probably about 20 people. $7,000, let’s say, per round, plus fees to intermediaries – an additional $2,000. 15 million rubles.

Some well-known personalities are also in the regions, they sympathetically commented on the protests and “shone” in the ranks of the protesters. Again, each of these people can individually declare their selflessness, but the organisers had to assume self-interest in advance. And estimate it, most likely, according to the experience of regional election companies, at $1,000. In the regions, it took at least 100 such people, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad, $100,000, 7.5 million rubles.

That’s not all, either. The most interesting thing remains – paid agitators at the rally itself and militants.

Pennies for “foremen” and militants

An illegal rally differs from a sanctioned one, among other things, in that the organisers do not need a stage, sound equipment, or speakers. None of the famous people who came to the rally said anything there. Instead, the crowd from time to time, being given a break, was incited by chants. There were people in the crowd who were adept at guiding individuals. Watch again the broadcasts from the rallies. You will hear someone start “Release!”, and someone at the right moment shouts – “Turn!”, “Go right!”, etc. These people definitely do not work for free, and their work is heavy.

These “foremen” and their leaders are very necessary (and, by the way, completely apolitical) specialists. They worked in 2019 at the same Pushkinskaya, Tverskaya and in the surrounding area. Their services cost about 10,000 rubles per day of the rally (there are also those who will go for 5,000 or 7,000, but we take the average value). How many were required? For a crowd of 4,000-5,000 people – no less than 150. Here is another modest amount of expenses for the organisers – one and a half million rubles for Moscow and twice as much for the rest of the country. So, 4.5 million.

Now about those who “jumped” on the police. In total, these guys, who were called “radical supporters of Navalny” in western reports, were also at least 150 in Moscow and probably up to 100 in St. Petersburg. Some (about two dozen) can be seen in the reports from Vladivostok and Ekaterinburg. Let’s assume that in total in Russia they hired up to 350 people. Where did they come from? It is usually assumed that these are football fans from among the most aggressive, but also militants of ethnic diasporas and just hooligans are suitable. For the most of them 10 rubles, of course, is a lot, but, again, the fee and the benefit of intermediaries – here’s another 4.5 million rubles of necessary expenses.

Well, the general estimate

Well, last but not least, as our western partners say, the fees of the leaders of all the outrage that took place, of course, are so individual that they cannot be calculated. But the modest “field” political strategists who led the “fields” received barely 100,000 rubles. There were at least 50 of them – this increases the cost by another five million rubles.

I almost forgot. Payment of lawyers for those who were detained at rallies. This will need, if you work seriously, another ten million dollars. And, of course, the customer of the action can not refuse to pay for communication, office supplies, hiring drivers with personal cars and other small things. Another ten right there, no less.

So, what did the “Navalny calculator” have to calculate for the clients of the protest?

  • The lion’s share of expenses is campaigning on social networks – 1 billion rubles.
  • The fees of the performers of this work – 7 million rubles.
  • Fees of VIP-agitators – 15 million rubles.
  • Regional VIP fees – 7.5 million rubles.
  • Agitators in the crowd – 4.5 million rubles.
  • Militants – 4.5 million rubles.
  • Grassroots political strategists – 5 million rubles.
  • Legal support – 10 million rubles.
  • Organisation expenses, cellular communication, etc. – 10 million rubles.

The total, therefore, is 1,063,500,000 rubles.

How was it funded?

And now – attention – a question. How did this money get to the organisers? Did someone bring them huge suitcases full of cash? A billion is, you know, a pretty big room full of 5000-dollar bills.

But of course there was nothing of the sort. There was probably no cash at all. Well, maybe it took a few thousand to buy the notorious cookies for the detainees.

An idea of how an illegal protest is now funded is provided by one message (in itself, perhaps, not entirely accurate). In the media, it was reported that immediately after the release of the film about the presidential palace, one bitcoin was credited to the account of Aleksey Navalny. That is a little more than $31,000.

It is easy and pleasant to finance a protest in bitcoins, since it is impossible to track the receipt of cryptocurrency in Russia. One billion rubles, at the current exchange rate – is about 423 bitcoins. They can be transferred to the bitcoin wallet of the rally financier – and no one will know about it. They can be brought on a flash drive, which can only be used by those who need it. Bitcoins can be converted into dollars in very small amounts – so that the banking system will not have a reason to be interested in large receipts to someone’s personal accounts. And already these small amounts are quite microscopic portions to transfer to the performers.

This is one of the biggest problems of the modern political system – no one can track the financing produced in this way. It is possible to ban it, but to implement the ban – so far, as far as we can judge, no state has the technical means to do this. As long as this is the case, the western-funded Russian “revolutionary” semi-underground will be very rich.

Mark Andreyev

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