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New Document Leak Reveals Scope of Collaboration Between Moscow and Donetsk

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Breaking News, Citizen Media, Economics & Business, Elections, International Relations, Politics, War & Conflict, RuNet Echo
Image mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Image mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Anonymous Ukrainian hackers have leaked a cache of documents revealing the interactions between separatists in eastern Ukrainian and a Russian far-right political party. Among the seemingly endless bureaucratic documents, a few hidden gems reveal plans for a fuel delivery network between Russia and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), as well as an elaborate political campaign.

On September 23, a group of Ukrainian hackers claimed [1] to have stolen a large cache of files (nearly 2.4-gigabytes-worth) from the servers of the far-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), headed by the notorious Vladimir Zhirinovsky. On September 26, someone leaked 11 files from the cache on the ex.ua [2] torrent tracker. The data spread from there.

This is just a fraction of the hundreds of files leaked by anonymous hackers who allege these came from a server belonging to LDPR. Screenshot by Aric Toler.

This is just a fraction of the hundreds of files leaked by anonymous hackers who allege these came from a server belonging to LDPR. Screenshot by Aric Toler.

Neither the DNR nor LDPR has commented on the information leak, but even a cursory glance at the documents suggests that they're genuine. Unsurprisingly, most of the leaked files are incredibly mundane: scans of officials’ passports, receipts, records of TV ad purchases—but there are at least 19 files that concern the Donetsk rebels directly. These documents offer fascinating insights into the relationship between the Russian Far Right and the separatists now active in eastern Ukraine. 

Here are just a few items RuNet Echo has turned up, while investigating the data leak. (A note to readers: no, that last item isn't a joke.)

Ukrainian media outlets say Pushilin’s scanned passport is a smoking gun—proof that Russia is working with the separatists. The image, however, is only circumstantial evidence. A scanned passport photo doesn't necessarily prove anything, though a reverse Google image search reveals that the image taken from the LDPR servers did not appear online until two days ago.

The memo about a top-secret fuel delivery to the rebels, on the other hand, suggests the collaboration between Moscow and Donetsk is on a larger scale than either side lets on.

According to the leaked memo [3], Russia and the DNR agreed to prices and transit routes for diesel fuel deliveries as early as August 20. A report dated September 4 indicates that the transaction was completed “at the highest levels” in Moscow. The memo isn't addressed to anyone in LDPR, however, so it's impossible to say to what degree the party was actually involved in Russia's fuel negotiations with the Donetsk separatists.  

от «20» августа 2014 г. Совершенно секретно
По состоянию на 20.08.2014 г. мы имеем все необходимые договоренности, чтобы осуществить импорт дизельного топлива на территорию Донецкой Народной Республики с территории Российской Федерации.
Механизм осуществления импорта будет проходить по такой схеме:
1. Группа лиц имеющая на руках необходимую сумму в российских рублях, должна прибыть в г. Новошахтинск, для взаиморасчета с поставщиками ДТ. В присутствии этой группы купленный объем ДТ будет слит в схему скрытых и хорошо законспирированных подземных коммуникаций, которые проходят под границе Украины и РФ.

August 20, 2014. Top secret
As of 8/20/2014, we have all of the necessary arrangements to carry out the import of diesel fuel from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
The import procedure will occur according to the following plan:
1) A group of individuals, having on hand the necessary amount in Russian rubles, is to arrive in the city of Novoshakhtinsk [4] for settlement of accounts with the suppliers of diesel fuel. In the presence of this group, the purchased quantity of diesel fuel will be emptied into the system of hidden and well-concealed underground pipelines, which passes underneath the border between Ukraine and Russia.

The leaked data also includes a proposed plan (which apparently never got off the ground) to create a viral political campaign to be juxtaposed against the wildly popular campaign of Darth Vader [5] for mayor in Kyiv and Odessa. In the proposed “Political Project Buratino,” someone (likely an LDPR official) explains a plan to create a viral campaign for Buratino [6], a beloved character from a fairy tale by Aleksey Tolstoy loosely based on the Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio [7].

According to the plan [8], one of the most effective ways to generate interest—and potentially curry political favor—is through humor (as the Darth Vader campaigns demonstrated). The Buratino campaign was supposed to appeal to the “against-all” electorate, offering them a comical, fictional candidate to support in protest against the real contenders. This scheme gave rise to Buratino [8].

Дарт-Вейдер на прошлых выборах позиционировал себя как представитель – темной стороны силы. Буратино же, займет – светлую сторону. Таким образом, эти два персонажа, столкнутся в политической битве в своем – «стебном» сегменте. […] Буратино, как и Дарт-Вейдер будут вести предвыборную гонку используя лозунги и агитационную риторику «на грани фола». […] голосуя, за шуточного кандидата, электорат мстит всем надоевшим депутатам и власти, но подсознательно надеется, что хоть и шуточная, но приближенная к реальности программа и лозунги могут быть реализованы Буратино в случае прохождения в парламент.

In the previous elections, Darth Vader positioned himself as a representative of the dark side of the force. Buratino will work the same way—but from the side of the light. Thus, these two characters will face off in political battle in their own, “ironic” segment. […] Buratino, just like Darth Vader, will conduct his political race by using slogans and propagandizing rhetoric just on the verge of taking things almost “too far”. […] voting for the comic candidate, the electorate will take revenge against all of the boring deputies and authorities, but subconsciously hope that, even though it’s all a joke, the programs and slogans are realistic enough to be implemented by Buratino in the event of his winning a seat in parliament.

The political technologists responsible for this Pinocchio-inspired plot hoped to field a puppet candidate by exploiting a loophole in Ukrainian election law.

В случае принятия на этой неделе закона о система выборов с мажоритарными округами, кандидат в депутаты – Буратино (фамилия и имя меняются в паспортном столе, как это было с Дартом Алексеевичем Вейдером) выставляется на один из мажоритарных округов с большой плотностью студенческого электората.

In the event of the adoption this week of the law on the system of elections with majority districts, the parliamentary candidate Buratino (the first and last name would be changed in the passport office, as it was with Darth Alekseevich Vader) will be nominated into one of the majority districts with a high density of students in the electorate.

Looking at these documents, how certain can we be that they honestly belong to LDPR? There are at least three reasons this data leak is legitimate. 

The first and most convincing reason is that most of the leaked information directly relates to LDPR or its officials. If someone falsified these documents, it was nothing short of a Herculean effort, as many of these items date back years. In fact, some of the information found in the leak contains bank-transaction records and internal memos that were never available to the public.

Second, it is already public knowledge that LDPR provides material support to the separatists. On May 6 [9], LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky sent a “Tiger” jeep to separatists in Luhansk, and on July 11 [10] Denis Pushilin met publicly with Zhirinovsky in Moscow.

Finally, there are no bombshell documents in this collection. There are a few scans that lead us to believe LDPR and the separatists are closer than many once thought, but a conscious effort to incriminate either the DNR or LDPR would likely have called for uncovering, or fabricating if necessary, something quite incendiary. Instead, we're treated to reams of bureaucratic paperwork and a smattering of political campaign strategy. It's hard to believe that someone went to the effort to falsify 2.4 gigabytes of LDPR archival records.