How Ukrainian Radicals Count on a Maidan in Moscow

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Behind the anonymous groups that on behalf of the Russian non-systemic opposition call for a new protest action on April 2nd the “Ukrainian side” stands. While functionaries of the opposition disown self-appointed “comrades”, videos appear online with appeals for a coup. These appeals are posted through fake, false accounts on social networks.

The Moscow central board of the Ministry of Internal Affairs warned citizens against participation in the unauthorized action on April 2nd, the announcement about which is posted on social networks.

“In connection with the appeals released on the internet for the organization of protest actions… the capital’s Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia notes that the city hall hasn’t received any applications for such a mass event on this day,” quotes TASS from the message of Moscow police.

As a reminder, earlier on social networks anonymous appeals appeared to come out on April 2nd for a new “peaceful meeting” against the authorities. In particular, organizers who don’t designate themselves in any way urge to stop military operations in Ukraine (where Russia doesn’t conduct any military operations) and in Syria, and also demand the resignation of the Prime Minister Medvedev.

The subject of these appeals differs from the slogans that were used during a recent unauthorized action, and is rather reminiscent of the bloody events on Kiev’s Maidan in 2014. Thus, in one of the videos posted on Youtube begins with the image of the President Vladimir Putin with a machine gun put to his nape, and with a mention of a military coup – in which the anonymous author believes in and hopes for. From a comment on another video: there is a call to throw Molotov cocktails at police officers.

The State Office of the Public Prosecutor reported that they sent to Roskomnadzor a demand to limit access to Internet resources that call to come to an unauthorized action.

According to the Ukrainian number

There is the whole series of proof that the Internet groups that were sent to organize disorder in Russia are coordinated by certain Ukrainian participants, and that the campaign in Russian groups on social networks with calls for provocations akin to Kiev’s Maidan in 2014 is organized from Ukraine.

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The first attempt of pushing information on Twitter about the “peaceful meeting on April 2nd” belongs to an anonymous user using a certain name similar to the community of the same name on a social network. While this community uses a number of a payment systems registered with a Ukrainian telephone number. According to representatives of the intelligence services, a number of circumstances also “allows to draw a conclusion on the existence of signs of the Ukrainian side’s participation in inspiring protest actions on April 2nd”.

It was established: groups on social networks, through which calls to come out to the action on April 2nd were introduced, had an artificial character. Originally messages were posted through false accounts imitating real users, and were published using bots – programs that automatically generate messages.

It was successfully found out that the most “popular” group on a social network, which was created immediately after the “peaceful meeting” organized by Alexey Navalny on March 26th, in 3–4 days gained some thousands of subscribers. At this time suspicion arose from the fact that real activists of non-systemic opposition participating in protest actions and intended to “come again” didn’t repost the messages from this same group.

According to the statement of Lyudmila Sobol – the lawyer of the “Anti-Corruption Foundation” (connected with Alexey Navalny), the administrator’s actions in other group – extending appeals for the meeting “RosPil – war on corruption – Alexey Navalny” – is being conducted by a certain “activist” who doesn’t have any relation neither to the “RosPil project” nor to the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

But this is created by anonymous authors – the group consisting of about 265,000 real subscribers actively distributed information that was earlier introduced through false groups.

The analysis of the structure of the most active of such Internet communities showed that most of the users added to group are bots. Also the account of the administrator of this group appeared also to be fake. The contacts specified on the page for donations lead to the page of “Team of Happy Santa”, which is engaged in the creation and sale of bots for circulation on social networks.

It is possible to buy a circulating account through any search engine. In particular, a Ukrainian bot with 3,000-4,000 “friends” will cost 120 rubles, with 2,000-3,000 thousand “friends” – 80 rubles.

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The opposition disowns unexpected “assistants”

In the message of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Moscow it is noted: those who the organization of this event is attributed to refute their participation both in the organization and in the circulation.

Even the activist of non-systemic opposition Mark Galperin, who earlier called to come out for a “walk” on April 2nd, explained in a comment on social networks that he isn’t related to this group that carries agitprop.

In the environment of the organizers of the unauthorized procession that took place in Moscow this past weekend, it was claimed that they aren’t connected with a new initiative in any way. As was mentioned above, involvement in Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation is denied. Also, other activists of non-systemic opposition disown this. Thus, on Friday representatives of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s “Open Russia”, the party PARNAS, “Yabloko”, and the movement “New Opposition” of Mark Galperin didn’t confirm their involvement in this protest action.

Mass riots are initially planned

The corporate lawyer Ilya Remeslo is sure that the anonymous organizers of an action on April 2nd want to stage the next provocation according to the scenario of Maidan – with the arson of tires and the throwing of Molotov cocktails.

“In this case there is no sense in trying to coordinate an action. They initially plan to carry out mass riots. Their aim is to bring destabilization according to the scenario of Maidan and the “Arab spring”. This is the aspiration to make such performances permanent so that the situation in the country is destabilized nearly every day,” Remeslo told the VZ newspaper.

The expert isn’t surprised that the representatives of the opposition officially disown the appeals to come out for an unauthorized action on April 2nd.

“Formally they reject it, but informally they support it. On March 28th I went to the ‘RosPil — Corruption War — Alexey Navalny’ page. It is the biggest group on the Internet that absolutely officially supports Navalny. And they completely openly repost these appeals to come out on April 2nd. This is such a cunning trick to stand aside, but also to bring people out. It is precisely like this that it looks,” considers Ilya Remeslo. He added that it is precisely Navalny and his adherents who called for unauthorized processions on March 26th, and who bear indirect responsibility for present calls and those consequences that can bring such acts in the future.

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This is logical, because it is exactly like that extremism is born. Navalny called on an uncoordinated action, and it took place in general without special excesses. The appeals sounding through the Ukrainian bots prepare people, apparently, for something similar – only here the result can appear much more sad this time.

“They work in synchrony”

Professor of the National Research University – Higher School of Economics Oleg Matveychev reminded the VZ newspaper that in Ukraine, since 2014, a Ministry of Information Policy exists, created according to the proposal of the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. The head of the Ministry Yury Stets for a long time was included into the supervisory board of “Channel 5” (which Petro Poroshenko owns), and also headed the management of information security at the National Guard.

The “Ministry of Stets”, which is also compared with Orwell’s “Ministry of truth”, supervises the work of dozens of groups in which several thousands of people are united. Their task involved the creation of accounts of allegedly Russian users. So that these accounts are not similar to freshly registered bots, they are artificially “aged”, i.e. they are bought from real users, and then the registration data is changed.

“It can be done having bought an old account from someone. They change the place of registration in Vinnytsia, Mariupol, Kiev etc. for Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk… Thus, it is not immediately perceptible that these guys are from Ukraine,” said Matveychev to the VZ newspaper.

Matveychev considers that such subversive activities can be effectively resisted only by means of toughening the legislation. “There is a necessity to bring legislation into the same norm as in all civilized countries. These are huge penalties, prison terms for unauthorized meetings that have to be stopped. Consequences for their organizers have to be very serious,” summed up Matveychev.

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