Prank Reveals the Depths of Anti-American Propaganda in the Russian Media

Anonymity affords ordinarily timid individuals the courage and opportunity to behave dishonestly. That, anyway, is the story we typically hear, especially in the context of the Internet. As Oleg Kashin recently pointed out in his column [ru] at, however, it takes two to make a successful prank (the prankster and the sucker)—a point on vivid display in a minor RuNet scandal last week. On December 14, Komsomolskaia Pravda newspaper chief editor Vladimir Sungorkin received a fax [ru] supposedly from the American embassy in Moscow, informing him that his visa to the United States had been frozen in connection with the recently passed Magnitsky Act, which bars certain Russians from entering American soil.

Revealing something about the hierarchy of Russia's media landscape, Sungorkin took his case to Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of the (largely anti-American, pro-Kremlin) RT (formerly “Russia Today”) television network. Simonyan quickly tweeted [ru] at Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, complaining that America had lost sight of the Magnitsky case and demonstrated its own weak commitment to free speech (implying that Sungorkin had been targeted for his criticisms of the White House).

As it turned out, the fax was a fake, and Sungorkin and Simonyan had fallen for someone's gag, hook, line, and sinker, exposing a moment's gullibility, but also the consequences [ru] of anti-American propaganda on the people who manufacture the stuff: namely, that they so easily believe the American government would target them in such diplomatic maneuvers.


  • Mark

    Yes, it’s pretty unbelievable that special interests within the U.S.
    government would target Russian officials who had nothing whatever to do
    with Sergey Magnitsky’s death. Or expand the list to include Russian
    officials believed to be suppressing the Russian opposition, or to have
    harmed a journalist or a human-rights activist; ha, ha – can you imagine
    such a comical idea? Nobody would so blatantly interfere in the
    internal affairs of a sovereign nation by imposing laws where it has no
    jurisdiction and presuming guilt without a trial. The very idea.

    • mlpo

      Mark, first of all the stories you cite report on Russian interests seeking to expand the list, not American. More to the point, if Margarita Simonyan were any kind of journalist she would know that Rule #1 of real journalism is to verify reports by at least double sourcing, if not triple sourcing, their accuracy. The fact that she rushed to assume the fake report is accurate perfectly demonstrates that she really isn’t a journalist.

      • Mark

        Vladimir Frolov, the moderator who mentions the options for expanding the Magnitsky Act for the benefit of opposition political figures, is the President of LEFF Group, partnered with Washington DC’s Global Strategic Communications Group, which currently has Darren Spinck as its Managing Director. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Spinck “is an expert at earning national news placements for clients and has
        recently focused on international public affairs and crisis management.
        He has developed and placed op-eds and letters-to-the-editor in leading
        publications including Financial Times, Wall Street Journal,
        Washington Times, and International Herald Tribune”, and “…helping influence the court of public opinion before legal cases reach the court of law.” For his own part, Mr. Frolov is a prolific contributor to The Moscow Times. All the publications mentioned take, to varying degrees, a position opposed to the current government of Russia.

        It seems to me significant that political figures in the Russian opposition are sufficiently confident of American support that they speak of sending lists to the American government of persons they want sanctioned, most of whom have nothing whatever to do with Sergey Magnitsky.

        Exemplary of this is the newly-created “Independent Human Rights Council” which will, as one of its functions, lobby the U.S. government to add the names to the Magnitsky List of those who “promote laws that target protest and so-called “foreign agents” – with the plain intent of influencing Russian lawmaking and running interference for western NGO’s. Neither of these has the remotest connection to Sergey Magnitsky, in death or in life.

        Lyudmila Alexeeva is an American citizen. And there is plenty of support in the USA for expanding Magnitsky so as to interfere with business rivals, etc…

  • H.K.

    All right Kevin, it’s 24th of December, I hope your next news will be on the petition to Obama with request to add Duma’s law-makers ( all 400 of them who voted for ban on American adoptions of Russian children.) What’s your take on this, and Merry Christmas,


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