Anonymous International, often referred to as Shaltai Boltai (“Humpty Dumpty”), has released several troves of emails over the past two years, often concerning media censorship, the Kremlin’s battle with the Russian opposition, and the conflict in Ukraine.
This latest leak might seem inconsequential (it contains only 36 emails) or perhaps even silly (given some of Putin's antics), but the data (assuming it's genuine) does offer some insights into Putin's relationship over the years with leaders such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, former Finnish President Tarja Halonen, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The leaked emails can be sorted into three types of reports: menu options for meetings that Putin attended, summaries of the catering services rendered at Putin’s meetings with foreign leaders, and—most interestingly—outlines of Putin's conversations with his guests. All the emails were addressed to Concord Catering, a company founded by Evgeny Prigozhin, a man who's been described as “Vladimir Putin's favorite restaurant owner.”
(For more on Concord Catering, see RuNet Echo's June 2013 story on “The Kremlin's Kitchen.”)
The bulk of the e-mails are amusing, but unremarkable from a geopolitical standpoint. For example, a report dated on December 28, 2010, from the River Palace boat restaurant describes the late-night tequila-drinking spree spurred by the arrival of a D.S. Peskov, likely referring to Putin's mustachioed spokesperson, Dmitry Sergeyevich Peskov.
Гораздо позже, приблизительно в 23.00, приехал Песков Д.С. Все сразу оживились, и активно начали пить текилу. Хочу заметить, что к концу вечера все были изрядно пьяны, в том числе и Песков Д.С. Мероприятие должно было закончиться в 00.00, а закончилось в 02.00. Все гости были довольны и уходили в хорошем настроении.
Much later, at around 11:00 p.m., D.S. Peskov arrived. Everyone suddenly came to life and actively started drinking tequila. I want to note that everyone, including Peskov, was pretty drunk by late evening. The event was supposed to end at midnight, but it didn't end until 2:00 a.m. All of the guests were happy and left in a good mood.
Many remember Putin’s now-(in)famous rendition of “Blueberry Hill,” made popular by the American pianist and singer-songwriter Fats Domino.
According to the leaked emails, two days after Putin's December 10 performance at a charity event, he treated a visiting Finnish delegation, which included President Tarja Halonen, to a private encore:
В Лобби баре Владимир Владимирович попросил музыкантов уступить пианино и исполнил для финской делегации «Blueberry Hill». После чего поблагодарив персонал, музыкантов и всех присутствующих, гости покинули ресторан.
In the Lobby Bar, Mr. Putin asked musicians to let him take over at the piano, and he performed “Blueberry Hill” for the Finnish delegation. Putin thanked the staff, the musicians, and everyone present, and then the guests left the restaurant.
The leaks are filled with small anecdotes about the personal conversations and eating habits of high-ranking Russian officials, including Prime Minister (then-President) Dmitry Medvedev, Chief of the Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
There are also interesting clues about how Putin views the role of the media in his decisionmaking. On September 10, 2010, for instance, Putin and Berlusconi discussed how they interact with the press:
СБ поинтересовался, читает ли ВВ прессу перед сном. Оказалось, что нет. Чтение прессы является одной из причин по которой СБ ложиться спать столь поздно, так как около 01:30 ночи становятся известны «шапки» и содержание основных печатных изданий. ВВ возразил, что прессу не читает не только перед сном, но и вообще старается этого не делать, чтобы его мнение и дальнейшие решения не попадали в зависимость от мнений журналистов и редакторов. Лидер государства, по мнению ВВ, должен самостоятельно принимать решения, и не ориентироваться (оглядываться) на СМИ.
Mr. Berlusconi asked if Mr. Putin reads the news before going to sleep. The answer, it turns out, is no. Reading the news is one of the reasons Mr. Berlusconi goes to sleep so late, as the headlines and content of the media's main stories aren't known until about 1:30 a.m. Mr. Putin said he not only doesn't read the news before going to sleep, but he tries to avoid it entirely, so his opinions and future decisions don't become dependent on the opinions of journalists and editors. The leader of a state, in Mr. Putin's opinion, should make decisions independently, without orienting himself on (or looking back to) the media.
In addition to shedding some light on Putin's meal-time goings-on, Anonymous International also indicated indirectly how it came across these email records. In the past, many have speculated that the group accesses information by hacking user accounts on Apple's iCloud, similar to last year's Hollywood-celebrity photo scandal. One of the final emails in Anonymous International‘s new collection contains a photo of a message received from Apple support, warning of several attempts to access someone's Apple ID. The message advises changing the user's password.
Apparently, it was already too late.