Meet the Kremlin's Snitch

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

The Russian Internet group known as “Shaltai Boltai” (also called “Anonymous International”) has struck again, this time following up on a promise to release more damaging information about Kristina Potupchik, the former spokesperson for the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi and a current member of Russia's Civic Chamber. Shaltai Boltai has leaked a trove of emails allegedly between Potupchik and officials inside the Kremlin, showing that she reported regularly on the political activities of influential bloggers and independent journalists. 

These emails cover a wide range of topics, but focus primarily on figures in the anti-Putin opposition, as well as general political trends in Russian social media and political journalism.

The most recent email contained in the leak is just a few weeks old, dated December 16, when Potupchik—writing, for some reason, under the name Anna Veduta (the former press secretary of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny)—summarizes the general mood of the RuNet after the collapse of the ruble. In her summary, Potupchik includes some of the most popular memes of the day and draws attention to the opinions of particular figures, such as blogger Maksim Katz and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

In her reports, Potupchik doesn't just summarize the goings-on on the Web and in the media—she also suggests new policies for the Kremlin's propaganda efforts. For instance, she proposes various coordinated campaigns for blog posts, tweets, and even hashtags. In that December 16 report about RuNet reactions to the ruble crisis, she recommended stressing “the emotional aspect” of Russia's current situation:

Также разумно сделать акцент на эмоциональном аспекте. А именно, следует утверждать, что паника и обвинения в адрес руководства страны в допущении сложившейся ситуации лишь ухудшают ее. Вместе с тем та часть населения, которая в свое время заявляла о готовности терпеть некоторые лишения после присоединения Крыма, сегодня должна отчетливо осознавать, что все происходящие на валютном рынке изменения – результат давления Запада, недовольного тем, что Россия – самостоятельное государство, “посмевшее” претендовать на роль лидера в Евразии и диктовать свое суверенное мнение международному сообществу. Перед лицом трудностей каждый из нас должен отбросить панику и начать больше работать, больше учиться и больше делать для своей страны. Вместе с тем стоит отметить, что Россией руководят не новички и не профаны, и все необходимое для решения ситуации будет сделано в ближайшее время.

It's also reasonable to focus on the emotional aspect. Namely, it's necessary to stress that panic and accusing the nation's leadership of allowing this situation will only make matters worse. At the same time, everyone that declared before that they'd be willing to tolerate some troubles to gain Crimea needs to understand plainly today that everything happening on the currency exchange market is the result of Western pressure—of the West's anger that Russia is an independent state that “dared” to play the role of a leader in Eurasia and dictate its own sovereign terms to the international community. In the face of such difficulties, each of us must reject panic and start to work even more, to study even more, and to do even more for our country. However, it is worth reminding people that Russia's leaders are no novices, and everything that needs to be done to solve the crisis will be done very soon.

An email from February 17 provides an account of the activities she directed for the previous week, including this record for Wednesday, February 12:

The ruble's crash is perhaps an atypical example of Potupchik's reports, given the gravity of Russia's current economic woes. A email dated in mid-February gives us an idea of what her regular work seems to have been:

1. Отработали в блогах и в твиттере тему критики Шендеровича и радиостанции “Эхо Москвы”. По данной теме вывели в мировые и российские тренды. хештег #МатрасноеРадио
2. Отработали в блогах и в твиттере тему критики партии Навального
3. На сайте о слухах вокруг Олимпиады в Сочи на русском и английском языке
опубликованы 16 мифов с опровержениями. Русскоязычную версию сайта посмотрели более 130 000 раз, а английскую – 89 100 раз
Пост о проекте вышел в топ ЖЖ

1. In blogs and on Twitter, we produced various criticisms of Shenderovich and “Echo of Moscow.” We got into Twitter's global and Russian trends the hashtag #MattressRadio [referring to a bizarre sex scandal involving Echo columnist and opposition figure, Viktor Shenderovich].
2. In blogs and on Twitter, we produced several criticisms of Navalny's political party.
3. On a website about rumors surrounding the Sochi Olympics, in Russian and in English, we refuted 16 myths about the Games [that described Russia as a poor host]. The Russian version of the site was viewed more than 130,000 times, and the English version 89,100 times. A post about the project reached the top of Livejournal.

Shaltai Baltai has targeted Potupchik before, leaking of a photo of her posing next to a suspicious bag of cash. Additionally, Anonymous—the more traditional one, not Shaltai Boltai’s unrelated moniker of “Anonymous International”—targeted Potupchik in 2013, also leaking a cache of her emails


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