“Operation Party”

During the Soviet era Kremlin could influence few foreign states via recruitment of agents in business, political and cultural groups. The process of recruitment was rather an art and is still recognized to be efficient. The history of the Soviet intelligence is rich for agents’ names, who held the top posts in their states. The situation didn’t change until now, however the scope and massiveness of recruitment has significantly increased. 

Massive migration of compatriots from the dissolved Soviet Union abroad opened unprecedented horizons for intelligence. Among new methods — organization of shill Russian parties from composed of Russian migrants, whose task was to win seats at the parliaments abroad and the EU Parliament. There have been already several attempts. 

The first “Common European” attempt was made in 2004, the EU Russian-speaking Alliance (ERA) was established “to serve the social organization which unites Russian activists, journalists and politicians from the EU states”. The alliance is composed of the members from 20 European states. The first draft title of this organization was “Russian Party of Europe”. 

The conference on which the alliance was established took place in Prague in 2005. Simultaneously 4 already existing parties Russian parties of the EU voted “for” the Federation of Russian parties in Europe (Merge of the following: “For the rights of human beings in single Latvia”; “Union of Russians in Lithuania”; “Russian Party of Estonia”; “Party for the protection of Rusophony in France”). 

Eventually, the party failed to be established due to the low support from the emigrants. As a result, ERA remained functioning as a social movement. Since 2007 it has been headed by the MP from Latvia — Tatjana Zhdanok. Germany is represented by Larisa Yurchenko, the Chair of the All-German Coordinating Council of Russian compatriots. All kinds of “Coordinating Councils of Russian compatriots” operations around the globe as well as the European Alliance itself are nothing but branches of Russian intelligence under the disguise of social NGOs.

In 2013 the first party of Russian emigrants called “Die Einheit” (Unity) was officially registered in Germany. It`s statutory head was Dimitri Rempel, former activist of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD).

Who funded the party is not disclosed. During 2015-2016 Rempel frantically created party branches in various lands of Germany. The voiced political goals of the party look odd, «This is the only party in Germany that focuses social efforts to implement the guarantees, rights and interests of the migrants.»

In 2016, Rempel became famous for his statement in an interview with some Crimean TV channel where me delivered a message that half a million of «Russian Germans» are ready to return from Germany to Russia. In the parliamentary elections of 2017, “Die Einheit” received 373 votes and then conk out. In Germany, bribing the existing large parliamentary right-wing and left-wing parties turned out to be a much more effective method for Kremlin.

There are two Russian MPs in the Bundestag today, both are from the right-wing radical Alternative for Germany (AfD). However, the Party of the Left (Die Linke, former Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) is also openly pro-Russian party.

«Russian party» in Cyprus

The next attempt to create the Kremlin`s «Russian party» in Cyprus is pending final stage.

Cyprus is a small state with a nearly million people population. Worth mentioning that approximately 50-70 thousands migrants from the USSR, including Russia constitute a significant share of the overall population. Just imagine, only 15 years ago, Cyprus used to be an offshore zone destination for assets as well as their owners or beneficiaries. Undeniably, that majority of “Russian Cypriots” are loyal to Putin`s regime. Certainly a significant part of Russian businessmen settled in Cyprus are employees and agents of special services. Action speak louder than words. THREE HUNDRED is the number of staff working in the best interests of Russia for the Embassy of the Russian Federation as well as numerous governmental organizations. Why? Cyprus is a member of the European Union, which is beneficial for the Kremlin special services. They hold this springboard strongly and nothing indicate a release.

The party at issue was created in 2017 under the title «I am a citizen» — «Ego O Politis» (EOП).

The party’s official program is the fight against corruption, the omission by officials, and for the preservation of healthy environment. Given the party’s methods of action, which are discussed below, the purpose of “anti-corruption” functions looks particularly striking.

The founders of the party are Alexey Voloboev and Ivan Mikhnevich. Mr. Voloboev was president of the party until 2019. Later he was replaced by Yorgos Kunturis.

There are authentic real party leaders – Ivan Mikhnevich and Alexey Voloboev

The party has no ordinary members, there is only the Central Committee and the Politburo, consisting of a total of six people.

Yorgos Kunturis is simultaneously the president of the party and the head of Central Committee. He is a Greek Cypriot, conductor, head of the Cyprus Children’s Symphony Orchestra, member of the Expert Council of the Russian Cultural Center. He is alumni of the conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Vice President of the Central Committee of the EOP party is a Belarusian businessman, multimillionaire, founder of Wargaming, IT specialist — Ivan Mikhnevich. He was born and raised in Minsk

Adamos Katsantonis is a secretary of the Central Committee of the party. Mr. Katsantonis is a former member of the Communist Party of Cyprus, chairman of the Cyprus-North Korea Friendship Society, «a ally of Kim Jong-un.» Mr. Katsantonis is the only non-Russian speaking party member.

In March 2019, Katsantonis succeeded the office of Dimitris Mikhalakakos, who became the party`s spokesman, as Secretary of the Central Committee. Dimitris Michalakakos is a Greek Cypriot journalist who studied in Leningrad. Upon recently he was a member of Communist Party.

A member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the EOP, Dmitry Yakushev is a native of  Ukrainian from Mariupol. He is Dmitry Bosov`s, who is an oligarch, second self. Bosov is often referred to as “the coal king of Russia.”

A member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the EOP Igor Godovnikov is the owner of a travel agency.

Alexei Voloboev  is the first president of the EPO and currently a member of the Central Committee and Politburo. He claimed himself to be a Russian businessman who has been living and trading in Cyprus for 15 years and the creator of Russian Radio of Cyprus. Before moving to Cyprus, he was engaged in the oil business.

There are authentic real party leaders – Mr. Mikhnevich and Mr. Voloboev. In respect of routine affairs the responsible person is Voloboev. He is completely controlled by the Russian Embassy in Cyprus. He`s an active participant of all Embassy`s events and enjoys the full confidence of the embassy. To be more precise, secret diplomatic documents such as transcripts of negotiations between Lavrov and the Foreign Minister of Cyprus in February 2019  were disclosed to Voloboev. Voloboev takes an openly pro-Putin stance and coordinates all party statements with the Russian embassy.

Substitution of party`s Presidents is obviously associated with a change in the official concept of the party. From the very beginning, the party was proclaimed as working in the interests of “Russians,” and remains so in the eyes of others until now. Now the policy has changed and the party pretends to be an ordinary Cypriot party, just like any other and don`t show off itself. As Mr. Mikhnevich stated in an interview in 2017, “We are going to become a full-fledged Cypriot party, with representatives of all ethnic groups of the country, especially the Greek Cypriots.”

The appointment of the Greek Cypriot as president of the EOP was label change step to serve such disguise purposes. The Greek Cypriots are really represented in the Central Committee and the Politburo of the EOP, but they are “pro-Russian with their vested, non Cypriot, interests”. This is due to their education completed in Russia, and therefore relevant ties with special services or the communist past. Both indicate that people are not impartial.

The political views of the party leadership are completely pro-Kremlin. Mikhnevich and Voloboev believe that the Crimea is lawfully Russian, the referendum held there is a model for the whole world. They urge that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainians shot down a Boeing at the direction of the Americans to set up Russia. To put it mildly, fascists have conquered Kyiv.

 The political goals of the party are vague. Formally — for all the good objects versus all the bad. In fact, this is a project of the Russian special services, the purpose of which is to have a pocket party in Parliament in order to influence the political situation of Cyprus. Consequently, to destabilize the political system, to make the parliament obey orders from Kremlin and eventually make a president loyal to Russia. The strategic goal is to accelerate Cyprus`s withdrawal from the European Union.

According to eyewitness who accidentally gained access to party documents, the tasks facing the Russian special services in Cyprus look the following way: “Depending on the circumstances and the current situation, prepare and create a crisis in Cyprus.

Possible options:

  • financial options are being deliberated;
  • banking — withdraw one or two banks from Cyprus or bankrupt them;
  • economic – via active demonstrations and massive information processing, sharply reduce the flow of tourists;
  • political (most preferred) — using active measures and mass media processing to organize mass demonstrations of local residents against the current authorities with the aim of getting extraordinary elections.

The Parliament should initiate the adoption of laws on the withdrawal of British military bases from Cyprus and secession from the European Union. At the final stage, organize mass protests near British military bases with elements of violence. ”

The creation of the EOP is part of the implementation of the general plan for political destabilization in relation to Cyprus.

Party`s performance

Deriving from functions of an ordinary political party — the EOP does nothing. The party has no members and no supporters. It has not even a campaign, does not arrange public party events, does not distribute campaign materials. Sometimes political statements or party proposals are issued with the sole purpose of reminding the constituency that the party didn`t close yet. For example, once the EOP proposed the Minister of Defense to create a Russian unit as part of the national guard of Cyprus from Russian Cypriots under the command of Russian-speaking officers and conduct regular gatherings. Recently, the party has supported the ousted dictator of Bolivia.

However, the EOP controls almost all of the Russian media (except those controlled by the Russian Embassy and special services) and carries out pro-Putin propaganda on TV.

Aspiration of party to get seats in the parliament is connected only with the bribery of constituency.

Basically, the calculation goes to two groups of voters — Russian-speaking citizens of Cyprus and Pontic Greeks who emigrated from the USSR to Greece in the 90s. Greek Cypriots are practically not taken into account.

The main tool to affect Russian Cypriots is simple brainwashing through social networks. Xenophobia in this environment is actively stimulated. To this end, all the smallest everyday conflicts between Russian migrants and Cypriots are inflated. It is suggested to the Russians that they are constantly being oppressed in Cyprus, that they must defend themselves, fight for their rights and have their own parliamentary representatives. The fight against mythical Russophobia is a very important aspect of Moscow`s propaganda. It consolidates Russian migrants around the Putin regime. At the same time, the aversion to the regime itself, which is natural for people with democratic views, is explained by hatred of all Russians.

This method is exploited by Russian propaganda in all Western countries. The only part which shift — objects of hatred. In Germany, for example, Moscow propaganda sets Russian migrants on refugees from Muslim countries, Turks and Arabs. In France, hatred is set on Arabs and Africans, etc.

The pro-Putin, Orthodox, monarchist and chauvinistic TV channel called «Tsargrad» spoke very frankly on this subject in the material about EOP:

“As you know, Russians is the largest divided nationality, President Vladimir Putin backed this idea. Our compatriots are forced to live in foreign countries, which often tolerate Russians as second-class people. People who live in small communities think exclusively about how to survive in such an oppressive environment. People forgot Suvorov’s maksim, “We are Russians! What a delight!” And they begin to lose their identity, assimilating with the nation dominant in the country of their residence. In this sense, Cyprus demonstrates the absolutely fantastic success of our diaspora, which not only survives, but also fights for its political rights … Voloboev’s example once again proves that elite are people who own property and are educated. Such people must develop a sense of identity and spread it in a wider population.”

Even more clearly “Tsargrad” spoke about the real goals of the party:

“Perhaps, only a person who is not particularly acknowledged with the flaws of this system will write the panegyrics of democracy. However, sometimes you can benefit from it. Thanks to such a defect as pluralism, the Russians were able to successfully register their party and declare their rights publicly. Thus, they were able to use the loophole inside the system in order to make it work for themselves. Of course, such a manifestation of political savvy is extremely adorable.”

By demonstrating enthusiasm for the creation of the “Russian party”, the Tsargrad media didn`t express the slightest doubt about its anti-democratic goals. Such parties are created only to destroy democracy:

“… the party “Ego o politis” (I am a citizen) sets a stunning example for all Russian diasporas. Almost all over the world today, democracy is the dominant form of government, which allows to use its platform in order to self determine. Let’s hope that the example of the Russian Cypriots will fulfill the function of an early bird which will entail the domino effect. As a result such will begin to appear almost everywhere, well, or at least where there is an impressive number of Russians. ”

A juice piece of story is that stable opinion about the undoubtedly subversive and anti-democratic nature of the EOP party comes from its own representatives. Obviously, it’s hard to disagree with him.

Tactical steps

One of the important tactical tasks decided by the leaders of the EOP was the purchase of Russian-speaking groups on the Cyprus Facebook. On the eve of the parliamentary elections in 2021 there would not be any other Cypriot party besides EOR running for the seats. Further it was necessary to manipulate these groups with the help of trolls. By the spring of 2019, Russian groups were already bought up and later Greek-speaking groups were actively purchased.

In parallel, schemes for buying votes are being developed. One option is to buy the so-called “Team leaders” who receive money if at its polling station a certain number of people vote for EOP.

Another, already implemented, option for buying votes looks the following way. From the administration of the President of the Russian Federation, at the request of Voloboev, they turned to Ivan Savvidis, a billionaire from the Pontic Greeks, who lives in Greece, with a request to assist Voloboev in the parliamentary elections of 2021. Savidis suggested that Voloboev convene before the election of the leaders of the Pontic Greeks community in Cyprus, where he will give them urgent recommendations to convince community members to vote for the EOP.

The Pontic Greeks who emigrated from the USSR, all Russian-speaking (at least the older generation), all watch Russian TV and are generally easily influenced by Russian propaganda.

In the 2021 election, each Cypriot party must nominate 56 candidates (by the number of members of parliament).

In an interview in 2018, Mr. Voloboev said that the goal of the EOP party in the 2021 election would be, “To collect about 30,000 votes and get four seats in the Parliament of the Republic of Cyprus. ”

Since the party does not have any reasonable program that could attract voters, the candidates are selected not among like-minded people, but among people who could influence their personal business groups, acquaintances, family members, patients (if the candidate is a doctor), members of ethnic and religious communities etc. Such candidates for election can be attracted only by material incentives.

According to some credible sources, 500 thousand euros (according to other sources — 2 million) have already been reserved to buy votes on the upcoming 2021 elections.

The party’s only office is in Nicosia and it`s fully controlled by the security services. To be clear in order to change passwords on office computers the permit from Moscow is a must have. In reality, this means that the entire security system is controlled from Moscow.

In autumn 2018, a team of political strategists was sent from Moscow to help the EOP under the leadership of Andrei Ponomarev, previously known as the Agency for Effective Communications Insider. The coordinator of this group, Victor Perzhan, stayed in Cyprus almost the entire autumn. Earlier, Perzhan was tracked down in Transnistria, in the east of Ukraine and in the Crimea.

Financing

In some interview dated back in 2018, Alexey Volobuev said that, having decided to go in for politics, he left all his business projects, both in Cyprus and in Russia. So he is no longer a businessman, but a politician. From this one could conclude that he finances his political activities. Considering, however, that the EOP is not really a party, then Voloboev’s activities are naturally not political at all. It is called quite differently. But Moscow agents of influence, no matter what disguise they use, do not work at their own expense. This raises an interesting question about the financing of the EOP.

According to official data from the EOP website (and according to Mikhnevich), the financing of the party is as follows. 

By law, every citizen of Cyprus has the right to donate no more than 50,000 euros annually to any political party. Officially Mikhnevich and his wife Aigul  donate 50,000 euros each to the EOP every year.

However, there is also unofficial method. Voloboev is preparing a letter to the Russian ambassador asking for financial support. The ambassador writes a resolution in a letter addressed to a Russian businessman living or visiting Cyprus with a request to satisfy Volorboev’s request. In other cases, Voloboev communicates the presidential administration, which also may order one of many Russian businessmen in Cyprus to formally or unofficially donate some assets to support the party.

Strong friendships with compatriots

Another crucial aspect of the activities of party leaders. At least once, on 02.10.2019, the party’s political council was attended by the head of the Russian cultural center — Alina Radchenko.

In order to get the previous message some background information is necessary. Russian cultural centers, which operate in more than 60 countries, belong to an organization called the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation. Briefly — Rossotrudnichestvo.

Rossotrudnichestvo was created in 2008, but is the successor to the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS), which dissolved in 1958. Later it operated under different brands and continuously changed managers. In the USSR, ties with foreign countries traditionally fell under the competence of state security, and nothing has changed in Russia in this sense. With due respect to Rossotrudnichestvo it may surely  be considered a department of special services. In addition to purely propaganda and recruitment work in an emigrant environment, the tasks of Rossotrudnichestvo include the selection of foreign students for free study in Russia.

The 2016 Rossotrudnichestvo report said:

“The Agency pays special attention to foreign citizens who wish to complete Russian Universities. The annual quota for foreign students in set on the 15 thousand number. The quota for education has established itself as one of the effective tools of the Russian “soft power” in this area of ​​international humanitarian cooperation. In 2016, under this program, the Russian Federation attracted 1 thousand foreign young leaders from 100 states. ”

Cyprus also receives certain quotas. At a meeting of the EOP political council in the presence of the director of the Russian cultural center, in addition to the propaganda campaign for the celebration of Victory Day on May 9,  the possibility to let Cypriot students study for free in Russia was a hot topic.

Mr. Kunturis is a member of the Expert Council of the Russian Cultural Center in Nicosia, consisting of Cypriot political and cultural figures — “Russian allies”. This list begins with Bishop Isaiah, Metropolitan of Tamas and Orenia, and Michalis Azovidis, Assistant to the President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus.

Metropolitan Isaiah graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary in 1997, and in 2003 defended his thesis at the Moscow Theological Academy. He publicly expresses support for Russia and the actions of the Russian authorities. Other members of the Expert Council also have cordial relations with Russia and its special services. Among these people — Anastasios Kuzalis, President of the Cyprus Association of Alumni of Russian and Soviet Universities and Haris Trassu, President of the Cyprus-Russia Friendship and Cultural Relations Society . Both graduated at one time in Moscow from the University of Peoples` Friendship named after Patrice Lumumba and now occupy a prominent position in Cyprus.

As stated on the center’s website, “The Expert Club is an informal structure without governing bodies … The mission of the Expert Club is to consolidate Cypriots who studied in Russia, speak Russian, are open to cooperation with the Russian Centre for Culture in Nicosia and the Russian-speaking community of Cyprus in order to exchange expertise and opinions both current activities and major initiatives”.

READ MORE: Agents of influence

In other words, the Expert Council of the Russian Cultural Center consists of agents of influence of Russia in Cyprus, whose functions include affecting the policy of the authorities of Cyprus and recruitment of prospective candidates for the role of agents of influence.

Fake activity

The process of creation of fake public organizations was demonstrated on the example of the EEOP party. Party`s connection with Moscow and its values is undeniable. Having thoroughly studied its activity we reached a conclusion that this is not a party at all, but a pure operation of the special services. Everything what party owns is just a disguise. Imitation of party ideology, imitation of party programs, imitation of party activity, imitation of public support are all integral parts of a show. The actors themselves, playing this performance, imitate politicians.

In reality, there is neither a party, nor its members, nor a party leadership. There are no social movements as declared by the party. There is only a group of hired individuals who solve operational tasks set by Moscow and are paid by Moscow.

All other countless quasi-organizations created by Moscow around the world — the “coordination councils of compatriots”, “friendship societies with Russia”, all kinds of cultural, scientific, literary, political, sports and student organizations and foundations — operate in approximately the same way. They wait for a convenient time in all countries of the world, especially where there are relatively many migrants from the USSR and Russia. The environment and society is the only leverage of such parties.

Their task is 3 tier. 

Firstly, to gain the support the emigrant groups, advocate Putin`s regime and recruit its supporters. 

Secondly — to find an ample room in the public and political life of foreign states, destabilize it, recruit agents and influence in a direction favorable to the Putin government.

The third task — military and industrial espionage. Fulfillment of operational tasks of the Russian special services is the main goal.

This whole complex, comprehensive system of phantom public entities exists only with funding from Moscow. There is no doubt that it will be completely paralyzed when any donations cease.

Dmitry CHMELNITSKI

DISCLAIMER: The English version is a translation of the original in Russian for information purposes only. All names, titles of organisations and governmental bodies are up-to-date and correctly translated into English. In case of a discrepancy, the Russian original will prevail. Source: Cyprus Daily News