Dmitry Khmelnitsky. OUR MAN IN THE BUNDESTAG

On July 5, 2023, the parliamentary faction of the far-right German party Alternative for Germany (AdG) filed a lawsuit in the Federal Constitutional Court against German arms supplies to Ukraine. There is nothing unexpected in this; the AdG is known for its close ties to the Kremlin and support for Putin’s policies. It is the fifth largest party in the Bundestag and has been gaining popularity recently. The surprises began when a team of investigative journalists led by Hristo Grozev published material from the hacked correspondence of Vladimir Sergienko, a Berlin-based emigrant from Ukraine, in the magazines Insider and Spiegel in August 2023.

Sergienko turned out to be a liaison between his Moscow handlers and AdG representatives. As it turned out, instructions from Moscow, topics for speeches and assignments were sent to Bundestag deputies through Sergienko. In particular, Sergienko was engaged in organizing the filing and financing of a lawsuit to ban arms supplies to Ukraine. In a letter dated the first of March 2023, Sergienko explains the essence of the lawsuit to his Moscow handler Alexei: “The work of the government will be hampered. This situation is a win-win for us, as the tanks will in any case either be delivered much later than planned or an injunction will be issued. The following is required to support these actions: approval, media support, financial support. A member of the Bundestag will be contracted to prepare the action. Parliamentary inquiries and responses from the Bundestag’s scientific service are used separately” Financing the operation was to cost 35 thousand euros, 25 thousand to the lawyers and 10 thousand — additional and representation costs. The lawsuit was successfully filed, the formal pretext being that the arms deliveries had not been agreed with the Bundestag, although there was no legal need to do so. This is only one aspect of Sergienko’s multifaceted activities in Germany. Today Vladimir Vladimirovich Sergienko is one of the most prominent, active and brazen agents of Russian influence in Germany. Since dozens of intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover were expelled from Germany and the agent networks and contacts they supervised were left unmanaged, the role of characters like Sergienko, who live in Germany and constantly and legally shuttle between Berlin and Moscow, has increased dramatically. At the same time, Sergienko is listed as an official employee of the bureau of the Bundestag deputy from the AdG party, Eugen Schmidt, also an emigrant from the former USSR. So he has free access to the Bundestag building, which greatly facilitates contacts with the right people. In general, the conditions for the existence of Russian agents of influence in Germany have deteriorated greatly over the past year and a half. The reputation of the Russian government, Russian politics and Putin personally today is such that only those who have nothing to lose in terms of reputation can afford to openly express support for them and campaign in their favor. Even the closest “friends of Russia” in the past are now trying to mimic decent people and not to show the FSB stamp on their foreheads. Sergienko is one of the few exceptions among this crowd. He stands out by his activity and exceptional unscrupulousness. On his example we can scrutinize the mechanism of creation and launching of Putin’s agents of influence. First of all, this is a demonstrative example of a “media persona” grown in a test tube from nothing, from “yard dust. Vladimir Sergienko is an emigrant, born in Lviv, living in Germany since 1991. He owes his fame among Russian TV viewers to the fact that since 2016 he has participated almost weekly in programs on central Moscow TV and radio channels on political topics as a guest of hosts Vladimir Soloviev, Yevgeny Satanovsky, and others. Sergienko uses his own Facebook blog for daily pro-Putin propaganda, quite successfully imitating the independence and spontaneity of statements on a variety of political topics. And he also maintained a personal blog on the Ekho Moskvy website and on the radio station of the Russian Defense Ministry. Sergienko differs from the other government propagandists on Solovyov’s team only in his eloquence. The beginning of Sergienko’s operational service can be dated back to February 2010 at the latest. At that time, he registered a public organization in Berlin under the teeth-grinding name “Schriftsteller Vereinigung Bundesrepublik Deutschland für Völkerverständigung e.V.” (“Schriftsteller Vereinigung Bundesrepublik Deutschland für Völkerverständigung e.V.”). At the same time, Sergienko is practically the only character who has been acting on behalf of this office since 2010. His actions in this capacity have usually been linked to pro-Russian propaganda against the Ukrainian government. In particular, in 2017, a document entitled “Monitoring of Some Aspects of Human Rights Violations in Ukraine for 2014-2016” was released in German and Russian. In the section “Impressum” there is: “Volodymyr Sergienko, President of the Union of Writers of Interethnic Harmony of the Federal Republic of Germany, Berlin; Center for Freedom of Speech, Kyiv; Institute of Legal Policy and Social Protection, Kyiv; Antifascist Human Rights League, Kyiv; With the assistance of: Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine (SPPU) and Committee for the Salvation of Ukraine (CSU)”. All of the above organizations, in addition to Sergiyenko and his “Union”, are also clearly created and supported by Moscow. This document was published at a press conference of the former Prime Minister of the Yanukovych government, Mykola Azarov, held in Berlin on February 22, 2017. Articles appeared in the pro-Russian press about it under the headline: “In the Bundestag, for the first time political repression in Ukraine was declared. Results of the press conference”. In reality, the press conference was held in a rented room in the Bundestag conference building and had nothing to do with the Bundestag itself.The organizer of the event was Volodymyr Sergienko. He distributed invitations, appealed to the Bundestag deputies with a proposal to meet with the authors of “Monitoring”. He also moderated the conference and made characteristic anti-Ukrainian statements. Since 2012, Sergienko, as president of the same “Union…”, has also been the founder of the Oles Ulyanenko Literary Prize. It was awarded in Ukraine and was considered German. Apparently, chronologically, the first mention of Sergienko’s international activities is an advertisement for a literary contest announced in 2010 by the Association of Russian-speaking Authors of Australia and New Zealand. Among the jury members is listed “Vladimir Sergienko — member of the International PEN Club, advisor to the regional department of the Union of Russian Writers Moscow organization, winner of the Chekhov Medal…” The organization of literary contests in different countries by literary clubs fronted or fully controlled by local Russian embassies is also a standard practice of the Russian secret services. In Germany, there are several other such handmade associations. In January 2016, the scandal of the “girl Lisa” allegedly raped by Arabs broke out in Germany. At that time, racist rallies were held across Germany with predominantly Russian immigrants against migrants from Muslim countries. They were provoked by a false report by Channel One of Russian television. Sergienko spoke at one of these rallies in Berlin. “The Union of Writers of International Concord” is a typical example of a fictitious public organization. In reality, there is no union. There is one man, Putin’s agent of influence, who serves the propaganda needs of the central Russian press in Moscow and performs tasks of the same kind in Berlin. However, the commercial register says that the board of the society consists of two people: chairman Vladimir Sergienko and deputy chairman Heiner Silvester.

Heiner Silvester is a German filmmaker, a Gäder dissident who came into conflict with the regime and left for West Germany in 1984. Sylvester does not visibly participate in the activities of the “Union of Writers of International Concord,” unless you count a trip with Sergienko to a publishing forum in Lviv in 2013, even before the Ukrainian-Russian crisis. And one more episode, which demonstrates well the methodology of making pro-Putin propaganda. In September 2016, Marina Akhmedova’s great piece “The Cobra Effect” appeared in the magazine EXPERT online (#14). It is a long interview in Berlin, including with Vladimir Sergienko himself, several German intellectuals, and the head of the pro-Soviet “Convent of Russian Germans,” Heinrich Groot. All meetings are prepared by Sergienko and conducted with his participation.

In this interview, director Heiner Silvester makes anti-American and pro-Russian statements such as: “Globalization, which comes from America, also brings a wave of new ideology, including the mood of the population against Russia. Through historical events, we used to look at Russia as our partner. But the press has created such a picture around Russia that … it is simply impossible.” Ulrich Kasten, another former Gäder director, speaks even more sharply in favor of Russia and Putin in the article: “You can hardly understand my disrespect for this country,” Ulrich says with feeling, emerging from the depths of his chair. — No, imagine when a European politician — and we have such a Schulz — declares in all seriousness on a Sunday talk show: “I don’t like Putin”! ….. If you ask me about Crimea, I’ll say that for me it’s just Russian policy based on reality. What does Germany have to do with Crimea anyway? Doesn’t Europe have its own problems?”. While the German directors’ reputations in Germany have been quite benign until now, Heinrich Groot is well known in Germany as Putin’s agent of influence. His organization is pro-Soviet and racist. And its website has the characteristic name “” (su stands for Soviet Union). Grote also makes quite racist remarks in the interview: “Russian Germans in Germany are like yeast: we can awaken and raise the national spirit in this mass of people who mentally have already accepted defeat. What did we think at first? We would come and stand behind the Germans, strengthen them. But as a result, we had to watch them being led like an ethnic herd to the cemetery. Amusingly, another interviewee, writer Frank Willmann, presented as an opponent of Putin and Russia’s seizure of Crimea, also makes characteristically pro-Russian and anti-American statements: — “You don’t pay attention to everything the German press writes. Just talk to people, and you will realize that Germans do not support sanctions against Russia and do not believe that Russia is to blame for everything. Always focus on one simple thing: Germany is an official ally of America. It is in America’s interest to weaken Russia.” Thus we have an interview by EXPERT magazine with two Russian agents of influence, two German directors, supporters of Putin, and one German writer, supposedly an opponent of Putin and his seizure of Crimea, who simultaneously protests against the sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with this seizure. This is a very characteristic, one might say exemplary, product of the Kremlin’s lying propaganda about Germany aimed at a Russian audience. The untrained reader may well fail to realize that he or she is not dealing with a broad spectrum of German public opinion at all, but with an elementary propaganda set-up, however, quite professionally manufactured. All of Putin’s fake propaganda has long worked according to this scheme. Thanks to his regular appearances on Russian television and radio, Vladimir Sergienko has become one of the most prominent figures among Russian agents of influence in Germany, imitating journalistic and cultural activities. Here is a small selection of Vladimir Sergienko’s public statements from 2017. It is characterized by the fact that it covers almost all the topics of the current pro-Putin propaganda at that time. There are anti-American, anti-Ukrainian, anti-democratic statements, attacks against Merkel and Erdogan, against Arab refugees… The selection can be continued endlessly, nothing that goes beyond the bureaucratic propaganda or contradicts it Sergienko does not voice: “Somehow it turns out that from a global gendarme, the United States is turning into a global racketeer.” “We see that human rights violations in Ukraine have become a system. But Germany has built a rather powerful system of protection from information, a kind of bunker where only limited information is received.” “Anecdote: Merkel in Turkey teaches democracy to Erdogan.” “…The imposed benevolence towards refugees, horror rather than professionalism in terms of security. Attempts to silence the wild antics of refugees from Arab countries, a different civilization, a different culture — sowing rejection of good neighborly relations.” “For some reason we took the moratorium on the death penalty from Europe. Why the fuck do we have to deal with the one who took another person’s life?!” Sergienko is a writer who published a book about Russian mate in German in 2013 in Germany and several books on blat themes in Moscow in the early two-thousand years, and who has made an absurd career out of it. The exotic and dirty epic of Sergienko’s elevation first to a member of the executive committee of the Russian PEN Center in Moscow, and from May 2021 to its president, requires a separate thoughtful story. It will simultaneously be a story about the degradation and disintegration of the Russian PEN Center itself. The piquancy is that International PEN, which includes the PEN clubs of individual countries, is a human rights organization. That is, support of any dictatorial regimes by it or its branches is impossible. However, the Russian PEN Center, which until 2016 was headed by quite respectable Andrei Bitov, has become an obedient pro-Putin tool in the years since the occupation of Crimea, and all decent and self-respecting people have left it. The situation in which the Russian PEN Center is headed by an outspoken Kremlin propagandist seemed so outrageous and paradoxical that Ouss PEN’s membership in International PEN was suspended in 2022. Rumor has it that Sergienko owes his election as president to the fact that he helped PEN regain the building taken away from him. This in itself can only be explained by his exceptional connections in the Moscow authorities — more than unusual for a foreigner with Ukrainian citizenship living in Berlin. Sergienko’s agent activity is multifaceted. In April 2020, the German publishing house “fifty fifty” published a book by Vladimir Sergienko and Alexander Rar “May 8. The Story of One Day” (“Der 8. Mai. Geschichte eines Tages”). Alexander Rahr is a German political scientist known as an agent of Kremlin influence and author of several books on Putin. Sergienko himself characterized their joint book on his Facebook page in his characteristic naively eloquent manner, depicting mental excitement: “Now when many people want to assure us that our grandfathers did not do the deed, did not liberate the world from the brown plague, who else but me, who else but you, reading this. Who but us? Will oppose jackals, with Nazi chevrons and wrapped in the wrappings of freedom of speech, liberal tolerance and democracy. All sorts of Svetlana Alekseevichs, subtly feeling the demand of the “West”, helping them to wash off the past, receiving Nobel prizes and grants for this, arguing that my grandfather was a victim of Stalinism. In general, a rapist, a robber and on occasion a traitor is a well thought out and paid policy. They’re my enemy pack. And our caravan goes on! Stories, memories, testimonies, newspaper clippings from and about far 1945”. Judging by this inspired text, the book is about the propaganda of Putin’s false historiography of World War II in the West. A few months later, in the same year 2020, another propaganda book by Sergienko was published in Germany, in the publishing house “Oilenspiegel” under the title “Europe’s Open Wound. How the EU Failed in the War on Ukraine.” According to Sergienko, its first title was “Ukraine kaput…” Accepting congratulations on his Facebook page, Sergienko lists those who participated in its creation, i.e. his colleagues in service to the Kremlin: Saadi Isakov, Frank Schumann, Matthias Oehme, Heiner Silvester. The director Heiner Silvester is already familiar to us. Saadi Isakov is an emigrant from the USSR, a journalist and pro-Putin propagandist, an associate of Sergienko in the fake “Union of Writers of International Concord”. Frank Schumann is a well-known German (formerly Gedera) publicist, formerly a secret employee of the STASI (GDR Ministry of State Security). Matthias Oehme is the head of the publishing house “Oehlenspiegel”. In June 2022, four months after Putin’s attack on Ukraine, the public organization Vadar.e.V. was registered in the German city of Chemnitz. Its official name is “Society for the Prevention of Discrimination and Isolation of Russian Germans and Russian-speaking fellow citizens in Germany”. According to the German channel ARD, the main organizer of the society was Sergienko, although he is not officially listed among the founding members. All of them are members of the AdG party. The chairman is Ulrich Oehme, a former Bundestag deputy from Saxony; the deputy is Eugen Schmidt, a current Bundestag deputy. The treasurer is Harald Weiel, deputy treasurer of the AdH party. In addition, the founding members include Olga Peterson, an emigrant from Russia who belongs to the radical right wing of the AdG, and Gunnar Lindemann, a member of the Berlin state parliament. A video clip with a report on the establishment of the Vadar.e.V society on the German pro-Putin propaganda channel “Voice of Germany” (director Sergei Filbert)

The sources of funding for the society are vague. According to the statutes, contributions of less than 10,000 euros can be anonymous. That is, they can come from anyone and anywhere. To collect donations in 2021, Ulrich Oehme and Vladimir Sergienko set up a special “institute” in Chemnitz, registered at the same address as Ulrich Oehme’s insurance agency and later the public organization Vadar e.V., to collect donations. According to the ARD channel, Oleg Slobodchikov, rector of the Institute of World Civilizations founded in Moscow by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, also belongs to the leadership of the institute. At Oeme’s insurance agency, Sergienko holds the position of “director for international relations,” but, judging by Oeme’s words, he works for free. One must assume that all of the above (as well as many things not mentioned in this short text) are only visible and relatively innocent traces of Sergienko’s activities. Over the past three years, according to Spiegel magazine, he has visited Russia two dozen times, mostly through Turkey. This included the day before Russian troops attacked Ukraine. Since then, there have been at least 17 such trips. In doing so, he uses a Russian passport with the number 76-75092932, obtained three months after the start of the war. Perhaps this is the only aspect that threatens Sergienko with official trouble. The fact is that he received German citizenship in November 2022, but he did not inform the authorities that he had a Russian passport. Photographs of two pages of his passport were found in his correspondence with his Moscow handlers, discussed above, and published in Spiegel magazine. Theoretically, this could be a reason to revoke his German citizenship, but no more. The activities of an agent of influence in Germany are unjustifiable. Numerous publications in the German press could damage Sergienko’s reputation in society, if he had anything to lose. He has not been caught on anything hotter so far.

Dmitry Khmelnitsky.