Kremlin Fixer Behind Campaign Against Pro-Democracy Leaders in Russia

Lubov Sobol (second from left) after her detention in Moscow, Russia on July 14, 2019.

Kremlin-linked fixer Yevgeny Prigozhin worked to compromise pro-democracy leaders ahead of the 2019 Moscow City Duma Elections. This has been exposed by an investigation from Hromadske’s partner outlet, Novaya Gazeta. The report is based on leaked documents, which revealed how individuals linked to Prigozhin were given a detailed plan to smear and sabotage independent candidate Lubov Sobol – a lawyer for Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation who is also one of the most well-known faces of Russia’s pro-democracy protests abroad. In the lead up to the Moscow City Duma Elections, the Prigozhin-owned media group Patriot was broadcasting daily self-described investigations aimed at “exposing the provocations” that opposition candidates were allegedly carrying out. According to Novaya Gazeta, all of these misleading reports were part of a multi-million rouble disinformation campaign that pseudo-journalists performed on Prigozhin’s behalf. The leaked files revealed a variety of incriminating materials, including photos and handwritten documents, like payment receipts. The leak also included a detailed action plan called the “Sobol Hunt,” which uncovered ploys for attacks on members of her political headquarters, agents infiltrating her team, regular police detentions, complaints to government watchdogs and other provocations.

Ahead of the Moscow City Duma elections, the authorities banned independent candidates from running on the grounds that they had falsified campaign signatures. The Prigozhin-linked media outlet known as the Federal News Agency or RIA FAN (part of the aforementioned Patriot media group) stoked these claims, releasing a story on June 29, 2019, which falsified evidence of an underground workshop for stamping fake voter signatures to nominate Lubov Sobol as a candidate. The leaked documents also included receipts for attacks on election campaigners that the authorities had previously dismissed as the work of “ordinary hooligans.” For example, one receipt showed a 130 thousand rouble (about $2,100) payment for an operation in which real campaigners collecting signatures in support of Lubov Sobol were doused with excrement on the street. Following the publication of Novaya Gazeta’s report on the anti-Sobol campaign, Lubov Sobol filed a report demanding an investigation into the provocations against her during the Moscow City Duma elections campaign.
With high electability numbers, the Putin regime pulled out all stops to prevent Alexei Navalny activist Lubov Sobol from running for any Moscow city office.

'Democracy' in Putin's Russia.