Known as troll factory 2.0, the Cyberfront Z movement has organized a discussion club. There they confront Biden’s envy, discuss with the State Duma deputies about the Z-Agenda and the “Ukrainian fakes”. Fontanka visited Yevgeny Prigozhin’s bar one of these nights.
The embankment of Vasilyevsky Island is full of holidaymakers. Despite the hot sun, at the pier opposite the Mining University, the crowd is fascinated by the reconstruction of the water battle. At the same time, another battle is taking place in a dimly lit bar at the Universitetskaya Embankment – informative.
Dozens of men and women listen to young people talk about the situation in Ukraine.
“This is very interesting – the statement of the former Ukrainian ombudsman. He admitted that all sorts of tales were deliberately fabricated that the Russian army was raping Ukrainian children and women. I do not know why they open when they become ex. But for whom did he say it? Some people already believed it and storms and negativity broke out, but for us it was not news anyway. Raise your hands those who believed in it! a young man 20-30 years old invites the audience. Having taken a look at the room and without seeing a single raised hand, he goes on – these are well-known technologies. If you can not find something new, take the old one. This was also the case during World War II. The fact is that at that time Europeans were forbidden to have abortions. The only time they allowed it was if a woman reported rape. That’s what they were saying en masse about it. “
All snacks are offered locally. The bar at Universitetskaya Embankment, where the meetings take place, has not only been renamed Cyberfront Z. The menu includes Topol-M hot dogs, Biden’s Envy hamburgers, NATO Enemy cheeseburgers, Katyusha french fries and two types of shawarma called AK-12 and AK- 15. Soon after, however, Vienna sausages are on the menu. The screens on the walls play shots from military operations, rocket launches, war helicopter flights. “Z” flags hang on the wall with the inscription “We do not leave our own”.
“Here is another piece of news: the Verkhovna Rada has announced that it will revoke the citizenship of those accused of treason. Why can’t Russia pass the same law? Why Nevzorov this passport? He blames the motherland for terrible things. “This is a painful situation for me, perhaps because I do not yet have citizenship,” said Sasha, who arrived in St. Petersburg from Kazakhstan several years ago. The last time we met him was at the office in the Arsenal factory. He was the webmaster of YouTube. Under his leadership, two dozen people wrote critical remarks under a video of damaged Russian military equipment, speeches by an adviser to Ukrainian President Oleksiy Arestovich, and drew Z letters with Russian-flagged icons under a video of Vladimir Putin played in a concert in honor of the annexation of Crimea. For this project was paid 45 thousand rubles a month. Commentators and their editors called themselves the “Cyberfront Z” movement, but were called “troll factory 2.0” in the media.
Now, in addition to online activity, the Cyberfront movement has decided to organize offline. This form has existed since the end of April. They gather at a bar on Vasilyevsky Island on weekends. Each time the meeting has a specific topic and an expert is invited to visit it. Deputy Vitaly Milonov, political general Maxim Shugalei, who has been held captive in Africa and is believed to be linked to businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, and patriotic blogger Trofim Tatarenkov have already appeared in meetings with Cyberfront fighters. Members of the discussion club are photographed with each guest. Judging by these photo reports, for two months about ten people watched these events at regular intervals. According to the assurances of several of them – exclusively voluntarily. Internet activity is also reportedly no longer done for money – there were, say, “cyber frontiers”, several people ready to fight the “Ukrainian fakes” for free.
“Ukraine must not remain”
State Duma Deputy Anatoly Wasserman was invited to the meeting on the eve of Russia Day. It is true that he did not go offline and agreed to communicate with activists only via video link.
Dima asks him questions. He came to Cyberfront in March. And he did it quite deliberately, having read Fontanka’s own post about “anti-fake fighters.” A few years before that, he became interested in politics, went to a forum organized by Smolny, followed the city agenda, and became interested in the work of officials. Dima reads questions from a piece of paper. The first is how the State Duma will consolidate the success of the special military operation. “I do not yet know what the outcome will be and when it will be achieved, but, in my view, Ukraine should not remain. Places where the majority of Russian citizens are trying to turn into something anti-Russian. How this will be achieved – in the form of the creation of several federal districts or in the form of democracies that are gradually becoming part of Russia – is a technical question. Various options are possible. “An independent Ukraine is a danger to its citizens, but also to those around it.”
It quickly becomes clear that if you look at the abyss for a long time, it starts looking inside you. In a sense, the Fontanka correspondent is recognizable by sight. The coordinator announces on the microphone, they say, that Ksenia Klochkova is among us, for her everything is to the detriment of the foundation. Generous, but the prices here are already canteen. The plot with the treat fades quickly: the waitress, without waiting for any additional orders, simply brings another glass of fruit.
In the middle of the discussion, other participants in the meeting joined the Cyberfront tactics. The microphone was handed over to a middle-aged woman who introduced herself as a resident of Odessa. He asked Wasserman, as a native of this city, what to expect for the inhabitants of Odessa. The question, however, turned out to be not entirely in the box office: the MP did not know what was going on in Odessa or even did not really want to know. “I do not monitor the situation, because I know that the only cure for Stockholm Syndrome is the elimination of terrorists. “Now Odessa is being held hostage. What the Odessas now think is scary, but it does not matter. What matters is how they start thinking after the liberation.”
Wasserman ended with a prediction with a reference, incidentally, to Churchill: “Blood is shed now, tears come when we mourn all the dead. “We will sweat a lot, restoring Russia.”
In this, the organizers thanked the speaker (the Zoom program just fraudulently showed that the free talk time was over) and hung up the phone. The participants discussed the issue for quite some time. Then one of the regular guests of the talk club named Stepan sang a song of his own composition about blood, earth and shrapnel wounds on the guitar. After that, the concentrations were continued for a few hours. The bar was sometimes visited by occasional visitors, some of whom remained, without paying attention to the design of the bar in military style. Someone, assessing the situation and, obviously, feeling uncomfortable in it, turned and left. By 10pm, guests had settled in and Cyberfront waiters and coordinators were getting ready to go home.
Whose kitchen is this?
In other cases, other than Cyberfront events, the line does not open. Until recently, the Street Food Bar used to work in this place and before that the Russian restaurant Kitsch. Both works belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, his presence is evident even now. The tax receipt indicates the legal entity Concord Management and Consulting LLC. This company is 100 percent owned by businessman Prigogine.
The connection between Cyberfront and the famous “Olga troll factory” was described by Fontanka in March. The organizers of the anti-counterfeiting movement used to work for legal entities that were subject to US sanctions for alleged interference in the 2016 US elections. In the United States, these companies were also affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin, who denied the allegations.
Prigozhin did not even acknowledge his involvement in the appearance of Cyber Front Z. In May, the Concorde press service published excerpts from his letter to the British government: “Unfortunately for an advanced European country that considers itself the stronghold of truth and the citadel of justice, the major British media immediately took the government statement, without avoiding the word “misinformation”, “lie”, “manipulation” and called the founders of this activity “Cyber Front Z “, including me. I, to my great regret, do not stand at the beginning of Cyber Front Z, but I sincerely sympathize with them. “And I think it is extremely immoral to call the patriotic statements of the Russians and Cyber Front Z lies, and to call on the whole world to block them is unacceptable.”
In Cyberfront itself, and from the beginning, anonymous entrepreneurs were called sponsors of their activities. And in May, when asked by an Italian journalist, they said that the ties with the company, which is accused of interfering in the American elections, as Fontanka wrote, are fabricated: “It is better to ask the authors of this material. We do not know what they have in mind, what conspiracy theories they believe. “They may tell you that the Cyber Front is a secret agent of Zelensky’s office, or it may sound more outrageous.”
Ksenia Klochkova, Fontanka.ru