By Arthur Evans – Crimea and its semi-legal status is a perfect illustration of the impact that the “color” revolutions of the past decade have had on the freedom of speech in the countries where they happened. If you want to see what freedom of speech will look like in a disputed territory, you don’t have to go any further – just look at Crimea – it’s easy and legal.
On the one hand, under the watchful eye of the international community, the new Russian government is forced to ensure maximum transparency of all sources of information about the peninsula. On the other, the specific feature of the border territory, a “frontier” of sorts, the opposite side of which is viewed by local authorities as an openly hostile and anarchist Ukraine, necessitates the use of maximum caution when it comes to the release of information.
Attempts to “sail close to the wind,” to serve two masters and to please the West as a means of demonstrating the openness and transparency of Crimea’s information field, while simultaneously complying with all complex, sometimes openly totalitarian, laws in the field of security result in the emergence of a unique “gray” layer of information sources. What makes this layer different, however, is not that it is particularly informative, but the skill of imitation and masking. Moreover, it is not information that is imitated – it is often genuine, but the very role of an “independent” source, an “unbiased” blogger.
This is logical, because the only result of the combined pressure and fundamentally conflicting standards for the supply of information from the West and from Russian organizations responsible for information security, could be the horror-inspiring Orwellian “Ministries of Truth”(this is exactly how the Crimeans call their local Ministry of Information).
The local officials are not all stupid and hardened bureaucrats though and they know full well that official Crimean newspapers, television and radio are needed simply as a standard, while in reality people are looking for information and satisfy their hunger for justice elsewhere. These are pretty real programs that are being developed and funded. Only the lazy do not have bloggers and insiders on their payroll, but an outside observer should be able to sort them all out to avoid being duped.
Posing as independent journalists, these tame authors are doing their masters’ bidding and are rewarded with all kinds of perks, bonuses and jobs at pro-government TV channels and newspapers. As befits a decent dog, they bite everyone who dares to criticize their owners, and will not say or write anything without their command. Any online criticism of the authorities is immediately countered by a commentator, of course, under the guise of his own opinion. Dogs do not live long though and some tend to die before their time if, foolishly or by mistake, they bite their master’s hand. A mad dog is shot, of course, and is quickly replaced by a new one. This doesn’t cost much.
This variety is ready to jump at any flaw of the official authorities, at any complaint. They imitate official reception services and even create fake webpages. People’s real appeals to the authorities never reach them as they are just a pretext for sparking a scandal and become just an object of trade. Such vendors of “independent investigations” and “citizen appeals” shut up the very moment they receive their small pay.
These are a large stratum of former information policy advisers, press secretaries, court reporters. Some were fired for lack of professionalism, others for free-thinking, but they all promise to make a comeback. They actively react to any problem, unleashing numerous online comments in the form of advice, exposing the authorities’ incompetence and saying how easily the problem can be solved if they become official advisers again. Many of them are not experts in any field and immediately end their criticism as soon as they are handed even a minor job of an official government adviser.
These are people, who either had or still have access to official, often secret, documents of the Crimean authorities. Some of them, already fired, still managed to take out a stock of documents, which they are incrementally leaking to the Internet, thus winning people’s admiration for their “courage” on the one hand, and getting paid for not disclosing incriminating information on the other. Others, imitating independent journalism, simply throw dirt at their colleagues, while sparing their friends in high places in order to implement schemes of patronage and corruption. The most ardent anti-corruption activists are especially famous for this, because it is they who, while on duty, collect information about the authorities’ wrongdoings, but only if this meets their personal interests. These people play it big and only a minister-level post offered in exchange for silence is enough for them to end the flow of insights.
Law enforcement agents
The much-dreaded secret services are not that scary though, since they also have to act in the legal field. How to explain to the authorities, the courts and the defense why an investigation of a particular case was launched in the first place? Simple–it is imitation again. Independent bloggers are supplied with incriminating evidence directly from the special services and post online facts that do not require any proof. This done, it remains only to initiate an investigation on the basis of “facts”, which, of course, “quite accidentally” appear on Telegram channels. This is the Ouroboros – the serpent who is eternally eating its own tail and knowing exactly why it is doing that…
All these imitators of independent journalism are not the fruit of someone’s ill will, but simply because the field intended for cultivated and useful plants has been abandoned and not fertilized, with only thistle growing on the stones. Declaring Crimea a zone of exclusion unworthy of the attention of real journalism, the West and Russia have grown a garden of monsters. Now they either have to build an impregnable wall around it so that this evil does not get out, or in the best ancient tradition of sending heroes inside for extermination. Both options require a great deal of willpower.
As to the model, it remains such until a new, more realistic one comes along. Look at PostBelarus.
List of channels of dumped information:
Vladimir Andronaki “Petrovich” “Usaty”
He is currently one of the leading journalists of the “Crimea” radio station. Previously spent a long time working in media resources opposed to the “Russian World,” above all with politicians from the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. Expressed radically anti-Russian opinions, including during the first months of the “Crimean Spring.” However, upon the closure of the Black Sea TV and Radio Company where he worked, he started looking for a new job and took up any job he could get and saying what he didn’t believe in. Has no Telegram channel of his own, but actively runs his page on Facebook, actively comments in various groups, expressing not only his opinion, but also what he is told to say. … Currently, he is asked to speak in the interests of the Crimean government. He considers himself as Polonsky’s man, but in case of a serious mistake, no one will cover his back. In correspondence with commentators, he comes out as a rather quarrelsome and intolerant interlocutor, ready to insult and humiliate his opponents. Therefore, he has bickered with many Crimean experts and politicians. He is not shaking hands with Crimean journalists, although they do not speak about it openly. Absolutely unprincipled. Dumping information via any direct manager.
Alexander Gorny (Sergeyev)
Came to Crimea in 2014. The real last name is Sergeyev. Lives in Feodosia and Koktebel. Has a blog on “Echo of Moscow,” has no Telegram channel of his own, is active on social networks and on YouTube. Hosts his own Live Journal. Positions himself as a patriot of Russia, blaming the Crimean authorities for all of Crimea’s problems. Tried and failed to secure a comfortable seat in the local Council of Ministers, and now seeks the Crimean government’s attention by often unreasonably criticizing and distorting facts. Recently, apparently with some material benefits, he has become more loyal to the region’s head Sergei Aksyonov and his team. “As a pro-Russian public figure, I can hardly be suspected of any relationship with the [Ukrainian] SBU or the [US] State Department … Five years ago I felt myself being in the “loop,” but the Ministry of Internal Policy and Information has since managed to simply marginalize me and other public figures,” Alexander Gorny notes. He tells his readers about his allegedly direct connection with Aksyonov, but in reality, he communicates only with Aksyonov’spress service. Dumping information either directly or via Zubkov (lion-man).
Sergei Sardyko (Sergei Livadiysky)
Lives in Yalta. During the Ukrainian period, maintained ties with the Kremlin and its culturally expansive structures. For many years he was registered with a psychiatric institution, but after Crimea’s reunification with Russia, he managed to deregister and even ran for office. He works alternately as a journalist and a public figure. He registered several public organizations, occasionally speaking on their behalf. Created “Appeals to the Head of Crimea” – a fake resource on Facebook, which he tried to sell. He also created a similar resource for the new head of Yalta –Imgrunt. He also owns an official media outlet – a small-circulation newspaper. He does not shy away from participation in paid political rallies and harassment of political opponents. Very persistent, he is bombarding the authorities with complaints and inquiries. Conducts information attacks mainly through social networks by actively “scattering” comments, providing insights and distorted, false information. Is ready to sell mum for money. He is used by local political forces in their struggle for power, who also provide him with information leaks. Direct dumping, direct funding, if necessary.
A former SBU employee. Owes his access to multiple facts and information to past connections, including to sources in law enforcement agencies, inherited from Ukraine, which he actively posts online. Once a member of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, he worked as an assistant to First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Sheremet, but was accused of spreading confidential information and fired. He has since been actively cooperating with Ukrainian and opposition media, including in Crimea. Has been leaking information for many years now, hoping to thus return to power. Has a relatively large team working for him, is extremely active. Has his own Telegram channel “Crimean P.” According to available information, he lives off the money he receives through the previous channels from Ukraine. Presently, Talipov is the only person to have been sued by the Crimean authorities for defamation of character. Talipov lost the case. He also leaks critical information about what is happening in Sevastopol.
He purportedly runs one of the most popular waterways on the peninsula – the Crimean Canal. Information dumping is possible directly and through other bloggers.
Alexander Akshatin “Zorro” “Battery”
Head of the Anti-Corruption Committee. The most closed and newest Telegram channel “Crimean Zorro.” Uses an official position, including access to the EDMS (electronic document management system). Has access to archives (including Ukrainian) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. His main ambition is the post of a deputy prime minister in the Crimean government. Uses dirt on other members of the Crimean government, including directly from closed-door meetings. Aksyonov and (until the motives have been clarified) Romanovskaya (Labor Minister) are the only ones spared. Runs a skeleton staff. The channel is designed for reverse use – the information posted serves as the basis for initiating official, allegedly anti-corruption investigations. The arguments often come with threats and swearwords. Was identified by lexical and linguistic analysis and the Tomsk neural network. In addition, he was the only one, who had access to relayed documents during limited access to the Council of Ministers building during the COVID-2020 pandemic. During the process of de-anonymization will deny everything. Dumping is possible through other bloggers or by “accidental” leaks inside the building.
Alexander Yuryev “Brother2”
Has lived in Simferopol for over 25 years now. Since 2007, he headed the apparatus of Batkivshchyna party’s Crimean branch. In 2012, due to disagreements with the party leadership, he left the party and joined the Russian Unity party. He headed the committee on tourism of the Public Council under the Council of Ministers of Crimea. Yuryev was one of the active participants of the “Crimean Spring” events of 2014. In 2014, he was a department head at the anti-corruption committee of the Council of Ministers of Crimea. From November 2014, he headed for several years the Crimean branch of A Just Russia party. During his stint with the Council of Ministers, he refrained from making any loud statements, but as soon as he left, leaks started appearing on social networks and the media. He also has a channel on YouTube. However, with his former informants no longer working in the Council of Ministers, insights are now few and far between. The chairman of the Crimean Anti-Corruption Committee, Alexander Akshatin (see above), demanded satisfaction from Yuryev, who had shed light on the state of things in the regional government. Akshatin demanded 1.2 million rubles as compensation for moral damage. Yuryev also faced an anti-defamation lawsuit from Yevgeny Kabanov, deputy chairman of the Crimean government, formerly a deputy of the Crimean parliament and a Sevastopol developer. Kabanov filed a lawsuit against the Federal Press website and Yuryev for publishing the critical material about him. Currently, Yuryev continues his struggle with the Council of Ministers in a clear attempt to regain his place among the people in power. He is particularly critical of the Council of Ministers’ internal policy. Dumping directly or by transmitting other bloggers’ insights.
Vladimir Garnachuk “Our Volodya”
Resident of the Moscow region. Group “DPCHK (Board of shame of officials of Crimea)” and “Clean Coast Crimea.” Telegram channel “Garnachuk intolerant.” He assumed the post of the deputy of the Troparyovo-Nikulino Municipal Assembly in Moscow. Appeared on DozhdTV and Echo of Moscow radio. A Navalny supporter in 2013. Arrived in Crimea in the midst of the Crimean Spring events. Arrived on his own, became confidential with one of Sergei Aksyonov’s associates, Mikhail Sheremet, becoming his assistant. As such, he formed the “Clean Bank Crimea” public organization to look after the local beaches. Was fired after being accused of solving the entrepreneurs’ beach problems for money behind Sheremetev’s back. After that, Garnachuk started using his public organization and social media resources as a platform for making speeches on any issues, including political. He also tried to cozy up to the pro-Chaly forces in Sevastopol. Garnachuk has since returned to the Moscow region, but still persists in his attempts to get back into the “loop.” He gives numerous interviews to the liberal and Ukrainian media, also about the situation in Crimea. He claims that the authorities want to shut him up for his honest activities and even launched an official investigation against him under Article 282 of the Criminal Code (extremism). Direct dumping.
Arrived in Crimea from Irkutsk. A businessman. He uses Facebook for his publications, positions himself more as an activist than a blogger. Heads the “Anti-Corruption Committee of Crimea” – a public organization of his own making that imitates the real “Anti-Corruption Committee of Crimea.” He gives numerous interviews to pro-Ukrainian media, is ready to work with Kiev-controlled forces, presenting himself as a fighter against corruption and local lawlessness. Had an open conflict with Crimea’s head Sergei Aksyonov, who sued him for two Facebook posts where Bolshedvorov accused Aksyonov of land corruption. Bolshedvorov often stages one-man protests. Has the mentally disturbed Ilya Kocherov as an associate. Is striving to win a place for himself at the top; has repeatedly shown willingness to head a state unitary enterprise or a committee. Dumping directly, via Kocherov and a number of neutral social activists collaborating with him.
Leonid Karpov “Lyonchik”
“Simferopol Patrol” group. Was a journalist with the Black Sea TV and Radio Company. Following the company’s closure, became unemployed. Owns a small photo-video studio. Actively criticizes the authorities on social networks, the Simferopol city government, in particular. Regularly went to problem areas with a camera. His criticism eventually landed him the job of an adviser to the head of the city administration and his public activity quickly came to a near halt. Moreover, in social network groups that he administers Karpov started banning those who, like him before, criticized the city authorities. Dumping directly, when not ready to host the information, will transfer it to other channels.
ЧКХ – CHKH
Positions himself as a political strategist and media expert. In 2016-2018, worked as head of PR, advertising and exhibitions at the Development Corporation of the Republic of Crimea. Also hosted several Telegram channels, including the DionisTerruarovichApostolaki channel, which actively criticizes the authorities of Sevastopol and praises the Crimean authorities. Reports directly to Igor Ryabov. Speaking in the media after he was fired for voicing too independent views, he dumped all of his bosses and tried to defect to Sevastopol, but failed to take root even there. He still hopes to gain a foothold on the peninsula again. He made another attempt to return to Crimea with the help of a little-known media outlet. The attempt fell though and the media outlet was closed after the scandal for failing to pay the hired journalists. Has links to the CHKKhTelegram channel and eponymous groups in social networks. Prone to heavy drinking, aggressive. Dumping may be done under the guise of a “major client.”