A guide on Putin’s experts

If one watches Russian TV, it may seem that the president of Russia is almost constantly surrounded by intelligent people. Russian and foreign experts, academics and prominent journalists are always curious about Vladimir Putin’s opinion on current events, interviewing him and sometimes even politely polemicising with him. Who are these experts? How do they end up close to Putin and how valuable is their expertise? Finally, why does the Kremlin need these people? The results of Proekt’s large-scale investigation clearly show that this is a mutually beneficial symbiosis: the Kremlin needs to present the head of Russia as a wise and public ruler, while Putin’s experts are driven by self-interest and hypocrisy.  

Katya Arenina, Alexei Korostelev, with contributions from Mikhail Rubin, Mikhail Maglov, Roman Badanin and other Proekt journalists

December 20, 2023

1. How much Channel One is paying the son of Soviet dissidents

2. What ties the expert who called for Europe’s bombing to it

3. The place of residence of Sergei Kirienko’s favourite expert

4. How the “Russian world” came to kindergartens

Русская версия

None of your statements about Ukraine causes as much annoyance in the ‘collective West’ as the statement that Nazi forces play a major role in Ukrainian politics. They respond to you by saying: ‘Zelensky is a Jew’. What is your response to this?

Vladimir Putin received this question along with numerous compliments from the moderator of the main session of the St Petersburg Economic Forum in June 2023. The announcer in the audience introduced the moderator as Dmitry Simes, honorary president of the American Centre for the National Interest and Channel One anchor. To emphasise Simes’ connection to America, his name on the plaque was spelled in the English style: ‘Dimitry’. Given the fact that foreign leaders and businessmen, with very few exceptions, ignored the meeting in St. Petersburg, it was important for the organisers to show that a US citizen was participating in the main session. 

Dmitry Simes and Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, 2023

Simes’s question was obviously staged. In response, Putin not only said that he “has many Jewish friends” who consider Vladimir Zelensky “a disgrace to the Jewish people,” but also showed the audience a pre-made documentary about the brutal massacres of Jews by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II. The audience nodded; Simes not only nodded, but played along with Putin. He said – citing people he knows – that it wasn’t that long ago that Zelensky “did not identify” as a Jew in any form. “Dmitry, thank you for our collaboration,” Putin said at the end of the session. The audience applauded.

Some of those who saw this performance knew the American expert as Mitya Simis, the son of Soviet dissidents – legendary lawyer Dina Kaminskaya and lawyer Konstantin Simis .

Boris Zolotukhin and Dmitry Simes’ parents – Konstantin Simis and Dina Kaminskaya

However, those who had known both Simes and his parents for a long time were not surprised by this performance. “Alas, he was always like this, even in the Soviet times,” Alexander Daniel, a human rights defender and son of Kaminskaya’s client, dissident Yuli Daniel, commented on the incident in St Petersburg. Simes’s case is very indicative – Putin’s experts, regardless of their country of residence, love money more than anything else.

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Episode 1

Raised amid searches and surveillance, Dmitry Simis may have become disillusioned with his parents’ views in his early years. While still a student, he called himself a “statist” , although he was expelled from the Komsomol and seemed to have suffered from the Soviet regime twice during his student years .

Dmitry Simes

After graduation, thanks to his father’s connections, Simis took a job studying the American labour movement at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), which was called “the cesspool of the KGB’s First Directorate,” referring to its close ties to the Chekists . There he was reinstated in the Komsomol, joined the ideological commission, and later became head of the IMEMO Komsomol cell. He acted mysteriously, often hinting at his “connections at the top,” which made his colleagues consider him a KGBist, recalls Galina Rogova, who worked at the institute in those years.

In 1973, at the beginning of Jewish emigration from the USSR, Simis, who had just run a Komsomol cell, moved to America. “It would seem that Simis was facing the prospect of a career as a successful researcher. Suddenly, he submitted to the directorate a discouraging application for dismissal from the institute,” says a book on the history of IMEMO. “Such cases were seen as a blow to the authority of the team, these people were practically kicked out of the institute with a ‘wolf ticket’,” recalls Galina Rogova. – That was not the case with Simis, though. In a closed meeting of the Komsomol committee he was timidly persuaded to think about it! And then, Mitya departed safely and without delay. “‘Isn’t he under custody of the KGB?!’ – we said in unison.” “In a matter of months, he managed to get locked up for fifteen days, face the police several times, and put his signature on various petitions,” writer Kirill Henkin, who knew Simis, recalled the circumstances of his departure.

Henkin himself, as well as dissidents Alexander Gribanov and Alexander Daniel, who knew Simis, believed that the reason for his departure was that his parents’ human rights activities were interfering with his career. Others, like Galina Rogova, suspected Simis of having connections with the KGB. His Moscow acquaintance of those years, who asked not to be named, recalled the following episode: after a Jewish demonstration, Simis was kept separately from other detained protesters. Also once during a conversation with the authorities, Dmitriy allegedly said the phrase “I was promised after all”.

After arriving in the USA, Simis himself said that he had dreamed of living in America since he was 13 years old – it was at that age that he allegedly noticed the contrast between what was written about the USSR in books and what he saw in reality. In the States, Simis became Simes and, by boasting of his connections in his homeland, became an expert on Russia . In 1978, one of his first articles in the U.S. appeared in a collection published under the auspices of Columbia University. In it, the émigré accused the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group , led by dissident Yuri Orlov, of trying to discredit the Soviet regime under the guise of human rights defence.

“It makes a lot of sense to ask how most Americans would react if a group of dissidents showed up in the U.S. pretending to be busy monitoring compliance with the Final Act [of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe] , but limiting their activities to human rights violations in the U.S., adopting as their main method of work appeals to governments of other countries, including unfriendly ones. Members of such a group would have been met with extreme hostility in the U.S.,” Simes wrote.

Dimitri K. Simes, «Human Rights and Détente»
Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 1978

The article was so “successful” that it was quoted in the Soviet propaganda book “CIA vs. USSR” by Nikolai Yakovlev, an Americanist working for the KGB, with the comment: “This is correct and to the point.” Yakovlev used Simes’s words to illustrate his point that the CIA was using dissidents to its advantage.

As a result of such writings, Simes also gained a reputation abroad as a KGB agent, at least among some of the emigrated dissidents – but this has only had a positive, if any, effect on his career. In the 1980s, Simes became an unofficial adviser to Richard Nixon, the only U.S. president in the 20th century to resign under the weight of accusations of illegally prosecuting his political opponents. Simes organised Nixon’s visits to Moscow, and in 1994 he became the head of the Nixon Center, a centre-right think-tank established by the former president shortly before his death.

Richard Nixon and Dmitri Simes

After that, Simes also became the publisher of The National Interest, a magazine that pro-Kremlin media love to cite. It has published articles by Putin, Maria Butina, Valery Solovey and other odious authors. As soon as Donald Trump emerged in American politics, Simes found himself a new idol.

In 2016, the political scientist became an unofficial adviser to the campaign of Trump, then a US presidential candidate. Simes not only organised Trump’s address to the foreign policy elite in 2016, but also helped draft a speech in which the candidate called for a “fresh start” in relations with Russia. As a result, when America began investigating Russian interference in the election, Simes also became the subject of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe. After two years of investigation, Mueller deemed that the political scientist, despite having close contacts with Russian officials, had not passed any secret messages from them to Trump.

Over the course of the investigation, the Simes-led centre spent more than $1 million on legal services, and the centre’s main donor, businessman Maurice Greenberg , reduced his donations from a million to $25,000 a year . Even earlier, Nixon’s heirs began to suspect Simes of being at least overly sympathetic to the Kremlin. As a result of a conflict with the Nixon family, Simes’ institute changed its name back to the Centre for the National Interest in 2011. As a payoff, the Nixons contributed $2 million to the centre . Recently, that money ran out, as did Greenberg’s funds. 

As a result, Simes’ centre has been left virtually bankrupt . Back in 2018, Simes lowered his annual salary from $586k to $400k, but the drop in income had to be offset somehow.

It was then that Simes became co-host of The Big Game talk show on Russia’s Channel One. In 2019, he received 14 million rubles ($217,000) from Channel One (i.e., de facto from the Russian state and Kremlin-connected oligarchs), and in 2021 he got 37.8 million rubles ($512,000), an amount comparable to his salary at the American foundation .

Dmitry Simes on the air of The Big Game talk show

Simes’s Channel One co-host Vyacheslav Nikonov, grandson of Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s closest associate, receives half as much as the son of Soviet dissidents – about 10 million rubles ($155,000) in 2019 and 14 million rubles ($217,000) in 2021 . If there is any symbolism in this, it is that all the experts surrounding Putin are hungry for money, some a little more, others a little less. 

“When I was a student, I got involved in the dissident movement for a while. The reason I moved away from it was not because I was afraid, but because I understood the nature of the choice that was in front of me. I could get interesting work, comfort, a decent salary, and various pleasures. The second option was to give it all up and it was not clear to me what I was supposed to give it up for,” Simes admitted in the same 1973 interview where he spoke of his love for the USA from an early age.

A logical outcome of Dmitry Simes’ career was the fact that in 2022, he resigned as head of the Centre for the National Interest and, according to the data at Proekt’s disposal, was granted Russian citizenship . If one goes to the Gosuslugi website and enters Simes’s Russian passport number , one will find that the prominent American expert with the name Dimitry, which is foreign to the Russian ear, has once again become Dmitry.

Checking Dmitry Simes’ passport on the State Services website

Simes did not respond to messages and calls from Proekt’s correspondent, and later blocked him altogether

Episode 2

“I have more than once been present at the speeches of the ‘Valdai people’, who, assuming a solemn pose and changing the pitch of their voice, looking sympathetically at us who are not close to the Kremlin throne, would say to the hushed audience: ‘As Putin told me recently…’ or ‘Let me explain it to you now…’ And the Kremlin began to speak through their mouths,” political scientist Lilia Shevtsova recalls her meetings with foreign experts, participants in the so-called Valdai Club.

Established in 2004, the Valdai Discussion Club – named after the site of the first conference near Putin’s favourite residence in the Novgorod Oblast – offered Western experts from Harvard, the London School of Economics and other renowned academic centres a unique opportunity to talk to the Russian president in private, without cameras. It was founded by the state news agency RIA Novosti and the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy (SVOP), a formally non-governmental organisation closely linked to the authorities

Vladimir Putin and RIA Novosti Editor-in-Chief Svetlana Mironyuk at a meeting with participants of the Valdai Club, 2012

At first, the Valdai Club looked like a logical part of the Kremlin’s policy at the time: to charm the West with Putin, his openness and willingness to talk. Moreover, in the first years of the club’s work, Putin was clearly interested in communicating with the guests.

However, the backstage life of the Valdai Club was already following the Kremlin’s favourite pattern. Money for the club’s work came from oligarchs and state companies close to the president. At various times, these included Sergei Chemezov, Putin’s KGB colleague and head of Rostecn, Ziyavudin Magomedov, a now-disgraced businessman close to former President Dmitry Medvedev, companies of billionaires close to Putin – Alisher Usmanov, Viktor Vekselberg, Alexei Mordashov – as well as banks such as Alfa-Bank and state-owned Vnesheconombank (now VEB. RF) and VTB . What was the money used for? Mainly to charm the Western guests. Everyone was flown to Russia in business class ; at one meeting, held in an artificial cave, vodka was served in ice-cold glasses; at another, octopus carpaccio and lobster lasagne were served; and once, in Novo-Ogaryovo, Putin introduced his Italian chef to the guests .

Putin was quite talkative at first, too. “My Russian friends were miffed of us, western experts, because we had the opportunity to talk with Putin for three or four hours, without any assistants and prepared help. We could ask any question,” Andrew Kuchins, who worked at the Carnegie Endowment at the time, recalled in a conversation with Proekt. Russian colleagues wondered why Western experts would agree to participate in a project that “is being used as a blunt instrument of Kremlin propaganda” (this is a quote from former Chatham House political scientist Nikolai Petrov from 2008), but foreigners still kept coming to see Putin.

Putin at a meeting of the Valdai Club, on the right – Valdai participants correspondent of The Financial Times Andrew Jack, political scientist Nikolai Zlobin and President of the French Institute of International Relations Thierry de Montbrial, in the background Valdai organizer Svetlana Mironyuk and Institute for Global Security Analysis expert Ariel Cohen, 2007

Here’s one telling detail. The first meeting of the Valdai Club was held in early September 2004, during the days of the terrorist takeover of the school in Beslan. The experts who had already flown in, having learnt the news, thought that Putin would not have time for them. But just three days after the storming of the school, where hundreds of children and adults were killed, the president spent almost four hours with foreigners. His visit to Beslan was twice as short. This did not prevent some Western guests from claiming that Putin was receptive to their arguments about the wrongness of Moscow’s policy in the Caucasus . A similar story would happen in 2008, when the meeting was held a few weeks after the war in Georgia. The foreigners were even invited to attend a meeting with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia . After those meetings, German political scientist Alexander Rahr claimed that about 80% of the members of the Valdai Club allegedly agreed with the Russian position . In 2015, Rahr would become an advisor on Europe at Gazprom, probably receiving money directly from the Russian state. Another German participant of the Valdai Club, journalist and writer Hubert Seipel, who wrote several books about Putin, was receiving money from Alexei Mordashov, an oligarch close to the Kremlin, during the exact years that he was participating in the club’s meetings .

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Rahr at a club meeting, 2011

With the beginning of Putin’s third term in 2012, the Valdai Club began to change dramatically. It was obvious that Putin was no longer interested in socialising, even purely for show. “In the early years, 40-50 people would be invited, but as time went on, the number of participants grew larger and larger, and Putin seemed more interested in speaking from the stage than in discussion,” remembers Valdai Club guest Daniel Treisman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. That boredom culminated in a real show at the 2013 Valdai Club meeting. In the past, guests would first engage in several days of discussions, ending with a private meeting with Putin. That time, the meeting with the president was not closed at all – it was televised and all the forum participants, some 250 people, were invited, including even representatives of the Russian opposition, such as Vladimir Ryzhkov. Ryzhkov, at the suggestion of Putin himself (the president called him “Volodya”), asked a question about the fate of those involved in the Bolotnaya Square case. The president promised on camera to consider amnesty, which was granted exactly three months later . Since then, there have been no more closed meetings with experts, and the Valdai Club has become more like another presidential press conference.

Meeting of Vladimir Putin with participants of the Valdai Club, 2022

At the same time, the Kremlin also began to make organisational changes to the Valdai Club. The club’s founder, Svetlana Mironyuk, was fired from RIA Novosti, and the agency was disbanded – just because of RIA’s coverage of the Bolotnaya Square rally . The club, which had previously toured various Russian cities, has been settled in Sochi, Putin’s favourite resort town, since 2014. Andrei Bystritsky, a former top manager of VGTRK, became the head of the Valdai Foundation .

Who comes to Valdai

Surprisingly, neither all these changes, nor even the annexation of Crimea, which happened soon after, made foreign experts refuse to participate in this Putin theatre. Only Ariel Cohen, an expert at the Institute for Global Security Analysis, publicly refused to attend the 2014 meeting, saying that participation in the event would send the “wrong signal” that Russia was “immune from international condemnation.” At the same time, the Kremlin was padding the guest lists with participants from China, India, Latin America and Africa.

While at the end of the noughties, almost all guests were from Western countries , in 2017, for example, there were almost as many Western experts as participants from Africa and Asia. And in 2023, there were already half as many Westerners as Asian and African guests . The Valdai Club did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

By 2023, the logical outcome of the club’s existence was the following: important roles in it are now played by Russian experts who have long since found themselves close to the regime. Apart from Bystritsky, among those playing important roles are former top manager of the Rossiya TV channel, Fyodor Lukyanov, Valdai Club’s director of research, and Sergei Karaganov, Valdai Club’s co-founder and former dean of one of the departments of the Higher School of Economics. In the autumn of 2023, Karaganov asked Putin the following question at the Valdai Club meeting:

“Isn’t it time for us to change the doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons in the direction of lowering the nuclear threshold and to walk down the ladder of sobering up our partners? They have gotten so brazen that they are directly saying: ‘your doctrine is such that you will never use nuclear weapons’.”

Sergey Karaganov at a club meeting, 2023

Before that, Karaganov published an article in which he actually suggested that Russia should launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Europe, arguing that “the emergence of nuclear weapons is the result of the intervention of the Almighty.”

“This is a morally terrible choice – we use the weapon of God, condemning ourselves to grave spiritual losses. But if this is not done, not only Russia may perish, but most likely the entire human civilization will end”.

Many of Karaganov’s acquaintances were shocked by his article and subsequent speeches. In the past, the political scientist held quite different views. Here is what he wrote in his article for Rossiyskaya Gazeta in 2010:

“I am a Russian European and I believe in the great European values of rationality and reason. In the world of the future, Russia and Europe acting separately are doomed to degradation and weakening”.

His acquaintances explain this evolution of views in different ways. Vitaly Dymarsky, an old acquaintance of Karaganov’s, is sure that the political scientist acted in the Kremlin’s interests: “I think they wanted to see the reaction, including that of the West.” This version is probably close to the truth. Responding to Karaganov at the Valdai Club meeting, Putin noted that he sees no reason to change the doctrine: “Another thing is that, for example, I’m already hearing calls to start testing nuclear weapons. The USA has signed a treaty banning nuclear tests, and Russia has both signed and ratified it, while the USA has signed but not ratified it . It is possible to mirror the US in this regard.” Two weeks later, the State Duma withdrew the ratification.

“I assure you, this was not a call to drop a nuclear bomb on Europe, and Karaganov himself hardly wants that,” Dymarsky believes. This is probably true – after all, Karaganov was not kidding when he called himself a Russian European. As Proekt found out, he and his wife own a two-storey flat in Venice, one of the most beautiful European cities, in the Castello district, a popular tourist destination.

  • Karaganov’s House in Venice
  • Statement of ownership of the apartment

However, Karaganov cannot use it now – a few days after the publication of that very article about a nuclear strike on Europe, he fell under EU sanctions. But this does not prevent Karaganov from receiving income from his Venetian flat – it is now available for rent on Booking.com – also the doorbells have a corresponding registration number next to the sign with Karaganov’s name on it.

  • Door to Karaganov’s house in Venice. Next to the nameplate with is the rental number
  • Karaganov’s apartment in Venice, available for rent on Booking.com

There is another reason for Karaganov not to want nuclear war: it would probably upset the family of his daughter Alexandra, who is married to UK citizen Gwynne Hopkins, founder of the law firm Perun Consultants, and has two children from him. They now live in Hong Kong . Karaganov did not respond to calls and messages from Proekt’s correspondent, despite having read them.

Episode 3

In addition to Western experts, there is, of course, a considerable number of Russian experts who are also needed by the Kremlin, mostly for “internal use,” i.e., to justify its policies to the citizens of their own country. In its relations with these people, the Kremlin also uses money, but with far less concern for external decency. The experts reciprocate – many of them do not even try to hide their own hypocrisy.

October 2023. Press centre of the Rossiya Segodnya agency, the Kremlin’s main propaganda mouthpiece. The event is devoted to how Russia influences foreign elections. It’s organised by the Social Research Expert Institute (EISI). Behind this complicated name hides the Kremlin’s key think tank, which was created under domestic policy supervisor Sergei Kiriyenko when he joined the presidential administration in 2016. Formally, the foundation is independent of the Kremlin, but political strategists and officials familiar with its work refer to it simply as “a branch of the Presidential Administration” .

Round table “Russian Map” in Foreign Elections 2023. On the screen is the head of the EISI expert council Gleb Kuznetsov, at the table from left to right: the head of the Center for Political Analysis Pavel Danilin, sociologist of the EISI Laboratory of New Technologies Ilya Kazakov, political strategist Evgeny Minchenko, member of the Russian Association of Political Science Vladimir Shapovalov, member of the Digoria Expert Club Evgeny Kislyakov. Source Telegram channel EISI

At the round table, experts spoke in unison about how ordinary European citizens are fed up with the “Ukrainian case”, which is why they are now electing politicians who can be described as “pro-Russian”. The meeting could have been considered a passable propaganda routine, were it not for one striking oddity. One of the experts, none other than Gleb Kuznetsov, head of the entire EISI expert council and long-time acquaintance of Alexander Kharichev, deputy head of the internal policy department of the presidential administration, was for some reason absent from the room, his face looking at the audience from a large screen behind the speakers. 

Gleb Kuznetsov. Source: portal of the government of the Amur region

One might have assumed that Kuznetsov was on a business trip to the Russian regions. Вut his EISI colleagues have long known that one of their leaders rarely visits the institute in person. The thing is that Kuznetsov has been living in two countries for a long time – in Russia and in Portugal, a NATO member country. So when he said in October 2023 that everyone in Latin America “holds views loyal to Russia,” he probably was in Portugal. However, Kuznetsov said even more remarkable things from Portugal – for example, after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny, he mocked the “disappointment of the foreign opposition and their expertise,” whose hopes for the “collapse of Russia” had once again failed to materialise and claimed that Europe was run by “elites from Assholeburg”.

Gleb Kuznetsov in Portugal in 2016. Source: social networks Karine Sargsyan

Kuznetsov’s wife Karine Sarkisyan received a Portuguese passport in October 2022, as she herself wrote on Facebook. After moving to Portugal no later than 2014 with four their children, Sarkisyan started restaurant business in Lisbon. One of the restaurant companies she once owned jointly with her husband . Thanks to this business, the family was able to obtain legal status in Europe. Kuznetsov now has a European residence permit, and until 2021, according to his own words, he used to visit Portugal on tourist visas. Kuznetsov refused to answer Proekt’s question whether he owns property in Portugal.

Kuznetsov and Sarkisian told Proekt that their marriage is now a mere formality, which is necessary because of their child’s illness. Both spouses claim that Kuznetsov did not participate in the business or invest in it, and that the period of their joint ownership of the same company had “no legal or financial implications”. Kuznetsov asked Proekt to quote him in full as follows: “As the number and duration of the child’s hospitalisations increased, there was a risk that the tourist visa might not be sufficient in terms of time and duration of stay. I applied to the embassy for an unlimited stay national visa, which was refused and I was asked to apply for a residence permit “for family reunification” instead, which I did.”

In any case, even if Kuznetsov did not receive any income from the restaurant business, he was hardly upset. The thing is that his main income comes from Russia, or rather from the Kremlin, which pays the expert substantial amounts of money every year through the EISI, as follows from the financial documents of this and some other Kremlin organisations handed over to Proekt by a source and studied by the editors. For example, in 2019, the EISI paid its expert almost 10 million rubles (about €140,000) .

Transfers to Gleb Kuznetsov from EISI in 2019

The pattern of the Kremlin’s interaction with domestic political experts becomes clearer if one examines the financial records of the EISI.

In March 2018, Pavel Grudinin, the CPRF presidential candidate, made a scandalous statement: right during a debate on Channel One, he called it a “bazaar” and refused to participate in it. The Communist had every reason for this decision: the channel decided that the debate participants should only answer the host’s questions, and that the presidential candidates were forbidden to argue with each other, as is the norm for debates. Pro-Kremlin media lambasted Grudinin for this refusal. For example, Ura.ru published two articles about the debate, in which Grudinin was outright ridiculed by prominent experts – political scientists Yevgeny Minchenko, Oleg Matveychev, Anna Fedorova, Dmitry Gusev, and Alexei Martynov . Some of them even argued that Grudinin was worthy of being removed from the presidential race. In those days, Ura.ru devoted a lot of scathing texts to Grudinin. Not only Kremlin-affiliated political analysts Vyacheslav Smirnov and Pavel Danilin criticised him there, but also Abbas Galliamov, a regular commentator on the liberal media, who said that the politician was “killing his advantage”.

Abbas Gallyamov’s comment

In response to Proekt’s inquiries, Gallyamov referred to his own interview, in which he said that people from the Presidential Administration sometimes asked him to write about something and he would do so if that matched his own opinion. According to him, in 2018, the approach of the Presidential Administration changed, they started requiring him to say only what they would approve, after which the political scientist completely fell out with the Kremlin.

Almost immediately, the Kremlin was suspected of organising this anti-Grudinin campaign, but there was no evidence of this at the time . However, such evidence is contained in the EISI documents.

Transfers from EISI to experts participating in the campaign against Grudinin in 2018

These files show that all the experts who criticised Grudinin on Ura.ru signed contracts with the EISI in the same year for some kind of “expert and consulting services” as well as “preparation of reports and analyses”. Even the contracts for reports informally oblige political scientists to publicly express the point of view desired by the authorities , while the contracts for “expert and consulting services” do not imply anything other than comments to the media. After the documents are signed, the Kremlin sends lists of experts to be contacted by the controlled media on important political topics .

Naturally, the above-mentioned experts are by no means the only recipients of the EISI’s money. Over the course of its existence since 2017, the foundation has received almost 12 billion rubles in “donations” and has further transferred money to dozens of political scientists and sociologists, including those with a reputation for liberal views.

People who received money from the Kremlin through the EISI

The situation is similar with two other organisations of importance to the Kremlin, which are also responsible for commercial “interaction” with experts and media personalities. Proekt studied the financial documents of two other organisations with similar goals – the Foundation for Civil Society Development (FCSD) and the little-known but very important company DA TEAM (a contractor of EISI and the Kremlin’s Institute for Internet Development).

The FCSD is no less prominent than the EISI. It is run by Konstantin Kostin, former head of the Kremlin’s domestic policy department, famous for his long-running campaign against Alexei Navalny. The Kremlin also uses the FCSD to finance political analysts who are important to it, and to “thank” loyal people for special favours.

People who received money from the Kremlin through the FCSD

“Don’t demonise me, but I have another mission here. So, [Demyan] Kudryavtsev said that he would close down this media outlet [“Vedomosti”]. And the people who bought it put me here as a representative to prevent this media outlet from being closed down. And this piece is fraught. It is fraught with lawsuits, which there have been threats of.”

This is how newly appointed acting editor-in-chief Andrei Shmarov explained at a meeting with the editorial board of the Vedomosti newspaper on 13 April 2020 why he had removed Konstantin Sonin’s column about Rosneft from the website. That state-owned company had by then taken control of the newspaper , having appointed Shmarov. He stayed in the editorial board for just over a year, during which time he virtually destroyed Vedomosti’s reputation by introducing censorship in the newsroom. A year later, in May 2021, Shmarov’s mission was complete and he resigned. And in June, he received 1.6 million rubles for preparing some “analytical material” from the FCSD (СНОСА, according to the FCSD financial records examined by Proekt). Shmarov did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

In some cases, however, Kostin simply pays money to companies related to himself or his family members. For example, in 2021, the FCSD ordered some “work or services” worth 14 million rubles from the Centre for Humanitarian and Political Technologies, in which Kostin himself holds a major stake. At the same time, another 10 million went to the Crime Victims Support Foundation, whose board is headed by Olga Kostina, the wife of FCSD head. These contracts may have been among the reasons why the couple was able to afford a house worth about €1 million in Tuscany .

The extent of inefficiency with which the Kremlin’s contractors spend their money is well illustrated by another example.

“When you look at Ukraine, you look in the mirror… We are one nation. And what is happening there is a rehearsal of what is being prepared for us,” – this phrase was said by blogger and film translator Dmitry “Goblin” Puchkov in the studio of the programme of a political scientist named Mark Arkadyevich. The latter agreed in a squeaky voice. This is what Mark Arkadyevich looks like – it’s a not very well-made puppet.

Interview with Dmitry Puchkov in the show Mark Arkadyevich

The propaganda show Mark Arkadyevich would not be worth our attention if it weren’t for one thing. On Youtube, the interview with “Goblin” literally bombed, barely gaining a thousand views. .The picture is quite different on VK, a video platform loyal to the authorities. Each of Mark Arkadyevich’s interviews (there were four of them, and in addition to Goblin, these were other speakers favoured by the Kremlin) garnered at least one million views, and the conversation with Goblin got almost 3 million. At the same time, the videos have disproportionately few likes – usually less than a thousand. Many signs suggest that fake views have been added to these videos. By whom and how?

The strange show with the puppet is a joint product of the Institute for Internet Development (the main state customer for online military propaganda, headed by former Kremlin official Alexei Goreslavsky) and the hitherto little-known company DA TEAM . The latter is run by a nominee, Pavel Rychkin, who previously worked as a courier and studied to be a PE teacher. The company of the former courier rents several floors in an expensive office on Arbat.

DA TEAM office on Arbat in Moscow

On each floor there is a lock with a fingerprint scanner . There is an explanation for these security measures: the company was actually created by the team of Stepan Kovalchuk, one of VK’s executives and the grandnephew of Yuri Kovalchuk, a friend of the president .

Stepan Kovalchuk

According to DA TEAM’s financial reports, the company spent 10 million rubles on the production of Mark Arkadyevich, which means that it cost an impressive 2.5 million rubles to produce one interview . We found the explanation for the show’s strange figures in another line of the reports – in the same 2022, the company transferred 18.5 million rubles to VK for advertising. And since the supposed owners of DA TEAM are part-time managers of VK, they could have essentially paid themselves for advertising and content. It seems that VK probably persistently recommended the video to its users, and when they saw it in their feed, the video would automatically play and that would count as views. VK asked Proekt to publish thier answer: “Information provided anonymously or ‘from sources’ is not true. VK employees have no relation to this company and, accordingly, to this community.”

Translations from DA TEAM in 2022

The DA TEAM documents reveal more high-profile recipients of the money, including video producers with reputations as independent bloggers. For example, in early 2022, Alexei Pivovarov, the author of the Redakciya YouTube channel known for his slogan “You can draw your own conclusions,” received 2.5 million rubles from a Kremlin contractor.

Alexei Pivovarov’s comment

Pivovarov told Proekt that the state company Russian Railways paid him through DA TEAM for the purchase of the raw footage of the film about the Baikal-Amur Mainline. He specified that the contract was concluded before the invasion of Ukraine and before he was recognised as a foreign agent

Azhur Media, the publisher of Fontanka, received almost 5.6 million rubles from DA TEAM in 2022-2023 .

People who received money from the Kremlin through the DA TEAM

Where do the Kremlin institutions themselves get their money from? After all, all of them are formally unrelated to the state. However, financial records show that all three are actually funded from the budget, receiving billions of rubles for their activities from state-owned companies. For example, in 2018, the EISI received 1.25 billion rubles from Techsnabexport (a subsidiary of Rosatom – the structure that Sergei Kirienko headed before moving to the Kremlin), Rusgidro, and VTB Bank. In 2019, it received 1.2 billion from Rusgidro, the Russian Regional Development Bank, Transneft and VTB. The overall budget of the FCSD is lower than that of the EISI: in 2018 it received 853 million rubles, in 2020 – 350 million, in 2021 – 460 million. This money came from the same Tekhsnabexport, Transneft and the Russian Regional Development Bank (a subsidiary of Rosneft), as well as unofficial foundations of United Russia. The third company, DA TEAM, is also funded by the Kremlin. It is especially actively supported by projects related to Sergei Kirienko – his son Vladimir heads VK, where the probable owner of DA TEAM, Stepan Kovalchuk, works. As such, in 2021 DA TEAM received at least 200 million rubles from the EISI and other Kirienko-related projects , Russian Railways and the Petersburg TV company (controlled by Yuri Kovalchuk’s holding). In 2022, it received about 500 million rubles from another Kremlin structure – the Institute for Internet Development – as well as from Russian Railways and the Petersburg TV company. DA TEAM and Stepan Kovalchuk did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

However, there are also those among Putin’s experts who work not only and not so much for money. We are talking about the fanatics who aspire to become the nation’s ideologues.

Episode 4

“Hello, my dear! During a recent meeting, there was not enough time to touch on the most important issue. I just wanted to pour out my heart.

The adopted course towards negotiating a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis will not bring Russia the desired result. The Americans have long adopted their plan to “work” on us. Our Russian people are dying in the Southeast. […] With all the understanding that we are being provoked, we cannot limit ourselves to Lavrov’s vague statements. Everyone is ready. Kadyrov is one of the few who regularly voices the mood of the majority, demonstrating 100% readiness. […] 

Now the fear that we won’t survive the fight with NATO is working against us. There is not much time. Could it be that we are trying to postpone the beginning of World War III and prepare ourselves? Maybe. But, apparently, the decision to hit us (indirectly at first) has already been made across the ocean. We need to strike at the criminal junta (the army, the guard, the [Right] Sector). We cannot delay […]

What are your thoughts on the subject? We could discuss it verbally sometime… I realise that it’s not easy for you to make personal conclusions on this matter either. Or maybe I don’t understand shit, due to the lack of accurate information…”.

Original spelling and punctuation retained, the letter is given in abridged form

These are excerpts from a lengthy and convoluted letter that Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov received back in the summer of 2014 . The sender is Shamalov’s friend, political scientist Georgy Filimonov, who was a guest at the wedding of Shamalov and Putin’s daughter. As it is clear from the quotes, Filimonov was already proposing to launch a large-scale aggression against Ukraine at that time, and probably wanted to convey his thoughts not only to his friend, but also to the friend’s high-ranking relative. The invasion wouldn’t happen until eight years later, but Filimonov’s ideas had etched into the soul of the ruling family. Shortly before that letter, Filimonov had been made director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Predictions at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, and then put in the chair of the deputy governor of the Moscow Oblast.

Georgy Filimonov

Could Filimonov’s aggressive views have played a role in his rapid career rise? Most likely, as is suggested by one episode from Shamalov’s correspondence. In the same 2014, when blood was already being shed in Donbass, Putin’s daughter Katerina, Shamalov’s wife, revealed herself to be an admirer of the same views as Filimonov. She sent her husband a collection of scholarly articles titled Eurasian Arc of Instability. Its editor was Nikolai Kolotov, head of the department at the Oriental Faculty of St Petersburg University (where Katerina Putina (Tikhonova) studied). Putin’s son-in-law forwarded it to his other address – probably to read it later. In addition to Kolotov’s own article on the harm of “orange revolutions,” the collection also includes a work by retired general Leonid Ivashov on “the crisis of the liberal West. Filimonov, Kolotov and Ivashov have something else in common besides their wild views: they all participate in the so-called Izborsk Club, an association of conservative experts established in 2012 to counterbalance the “liberal” Valdai Club .

Георгий Филимонов на заседании Изборского клуба

The Izborsk Club was conceived by two of the most prominent figures on the conservative spectrum – writer Alexander Prokhanov and philosopher Alexander Dugin . On 6 May 2012, the two met at a rally to celebrate the birthday of the All-Russian People’s Front, which the authorities had urgently convened as a countermeasure to the anti-Putin “March of Millions” planned for the same time. The opposition march ended in a violent crackdown and subsequent repression. The meeting between Dugin and Prokhanov led to the emergence of a circle of ultraconservatives. The government wanted nothing to do with these people for a long time, but eventually found itself at the same table with them. 

Alexander Dugin and Alexander Prokhanov during a conversation for the newspaper “Zavtra”, 2017

By 2012, both Prokhanov and Dugin were already known in the Kremlin, albeit mostly in a negative light. Dugin, who had begun his career as a philosopher in the esoteric circle of writer Yuri Mamleyev, had met journalist and writer Prokhanov, then nicknamed “The Nightingale of the General Staff,” in the 1980s . At his prompting, Dugin began giving lectures at the General Staff Academy. In 1997 he compiled them into his best-known book, Foundations of Geopolitics, in which he argued, among other things, that Ukraine should not be an “independent state” but rather a “projection of Moscow”. But that was not enough for Dugin – he wanted to get closer to power by any means.

In the early 1990s, Dugin, together with writer Eduard Limonov, created the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), which explicitly stated that it was planning to come to power and try former officials. This is how Limonov described Dugin’s role in the NBP: “Dugin brought in right-wing impulses, right-wing fairy tales, myths and legends. Right-wing energy. It was as if he decoded and translated the vivid shock that a Soviet child felt when uttering the acronym ‘SS’.” However, Dugin did not stay in the party for long and left it in 1998 after a conflict with Limonov.

In 2002, Dugin met the Kremlin’s domestic policy supervisor, Vladislav Surkov, and tried to interest him in his projects, such as the nationalist Eurasia party. But Surkov did not take the Eurasianist seriously . “We tried to stay away from such marginalised people,” says a former high-ranking official of the Presidential Administration about the situation in the noughties.

Meeting of the Izborsk Club, from left to right: director of the Mendeleev Institute of Socio-Political Forecasting Andrei Shcherbakov, deputy chairman of the Izborsk Club Vitaly Averyanov, club chairman Alexander Prokhanov, deputy chairman Oleg Rozanov, club member, former adviser to Putin Sergei Glazyev

With the beginning of Putin’s third term, when the concept of “spiritual staples” was proclaimed, the situation began to change for the better for the marginalised. The Izborsk Club, founded by Dugin and Prokhanov, immediately received support from the authorities. Economist Sergei Glazyev, who was then Putin’s advisor, was among the club’s members; Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky and Governor of the Pskov Oblast Andrei Turchak took part in its first meeting. The meeting was held in Izborsk, a territory under Turchak’s jurisdiction, and the regional authorities provided the patriots with accommodation, transport and food . Dugin’s admirers among conservatives close to the government have apparently also managed to find a use for his talents – Dugin speaks several languages and has a wide circle of acquaintances abroad . In February 2014, Dugin sent a letter to his associate Georgy Gavrish with a file containing a long list of foreign names . The list was titled “Countries and persons where there are grounds for creating an elite club and/or information influence group under Rossiya Segodnya” and consisted mainly of experts and journalists, with a few active politicians, such as current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. It also specified: “All of these people had personal meetings with either AGD [Alexander Gelievich Dugin] or his representatives, directly or indirectly touching upon the possibility of their participation in an organisational and/or informational initiative of a pro-Russian nature”. The file was created in December 2013, a week after RIA Novosti was transformed into the Rossiya Segodnya news agency, which then appointed Margarita Simonyan as editor-in-chief and some of the people on the list subsequently took part in programmes on the Russia Today channel, which is also headed by Simonyan .

However, the Izborsk Club conceived by Dugin and Prokhanov has been implementing much more important projects than some old list of foreigners for the Simonyan-led media for several years now. In 2017, the club established an educational centre that develops courses and manuals for schools, including those in the occupied territories of Ukraine. This centre produces “multimedia complexes” for children, consisting of videos, posters and study guides. The complexes “United History with the Donbas Heroes”, “Heroes of the Motherland XX Century” and “My Russia” have already been released, the latter is recommended by the official portal of the Russian Electronic School, one of its parts is called “Crimea and Russia – a Common Destiny”. It is easy to guess what they will help to teach children just from their titles. For example, the film “Together with Russia”, which is part of the “United History with the Donbas Heroes” complex, begins with the following words: “Russia has long tried to negotiate and solve everything peacefully. Today, the collective West has risen against the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, we are standing up for the Russian world”. These “complexes” are ordered not only by schools, but even kindergartens . The Izborsk Club did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

The meeting with so called Heroes of Russia organised by the educational centre of the Izborsk Club in school in the occupied territories of Ukraine

In 2023, after the death of Alexander Dugin’s daughter Daria, he began to receive invitations to meetings in the Kremlin and was even invited to speak at the same St. Petersburg Forum, where Dmitry Simes was the host . As for political scientist Filimonov, the author of the rambling letter to Putin’s son-in-law, he was appointed head of the Vologda Oblast in October 2023 . Thus, marginalised people, who Putin’s administration had once wanted to keep away from, ended up infiltrating all spheres of Russian life – the government, the media, and schools.

Nevertheless, money and political calculation are not the only things that drive experts in Putin’s Russia. There is also love. 

At one of the first Valdai Club meetings in 2005, Russian political scientist Nikolai Zlobin, who has lived mostly in the USA for many years, asked Putin if he would run for a third term. Putin tried to avoid answering, but Zlobin suddenly pounded his fist on the table and exclaimed: “I’m the one asking the questions here!” The president then promised not to seek a third term and not to amend the Constitution. After the meeting Zlobin asked Putin if he could write a corresponding acknowledgement. Putin did not chicken out . Zlobin put the paper in a safe deposit box at Bank of America in Washington, D.C. .

Vladimir Putin and Nikolai Zlobin at a meeting of the Valdai Club, 2014

On 25 February 2022, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Zlobin published the name of his own Telegram channel Absolute Evil on Facebook in case the social network would stop working in Russia. But over the next 1.5 years, Zlobin never posted anything on either Telegram or Facebook. Neither did he write a single article about the war in Ukraine; it was as if the prominent expert simply disappeared. 

It is likely that the author of the sharp question to Putin decided to avoid unforeseen consequences for himself and his family. Such consequences could happen both in the USA, which Zlobin has good reason to consider home, and in Russia, where he has a wife. The name of Zlobin’s wife is Anna Revyakina, she is a Donbas poetess who supports the war and member of the Civic Chamber of Russia from the DPR . In 2014, as the war broke out in southeast Ukraine, Revyakina wrote the following lines:

You know, I really do not need much
In my life, just letters and pictures,
To wake up in the morning and put cream in my coffee
In a world where God has banned war forever.

But in March 2022, Revyakina published a picture with the letter Z – the symbol of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine .

Editors — Roman Badanin, Mikhail Rubin
Fact-cheking — Mikhail Maglov


Oleg Matveychev, RUB 231 million from EISI and RUB 33 million from other organisations

Political scientist and political strategist, member of the State Duma since 2021, EISI expert in 2017−2020

One of the most odious experts, political strategist, author of a book on the benefits of corruption (the book Myths about Corruption says among other things that even very high corruption does not damage the state, as the stolen money remains in the economy anyway), State Duma member from United Russia since 2021. Matveychev once became famous for expressing his desire to «wind opponents of the current government onto the tank tracks». Back in the early noughties, he established a company called the Foundation for Fundamental Futurology (now renamed the Vremya Foundation for the Implementation of Public Projects). This entity received 78 million rubles from the EISI in 2018 (the money received from government-affiliated entities in 2018, 2019, and 2021 totalled about 264 million rubles). These are payments with the abstract wording «grant for targeted use», as well as payments for organising events important to the Kremlin, e.g., «Russia — Land of Opportunities» or «Expert Clubs of Russia». Matveychev received these payments not only from the EISI, but also from My District, a structure of the Moscow authorities, and foundations affiliated with United Russia. Matveychev did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Alexei Chesnakov, RUB 64.6 million from the EISI and RUB 32.5 million from other organisations

Political scientist, head of the Centre for Political Conjuncture, professor at the Higher School of Economics

In three years alone (2018, 2019 and 2021), the centre, headed by a former Presidential Administration official and a crony of Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin's number-one domestic policy advisor, received almost 65 million rubles from the EISI and (in 2021 alone) more than 30 million from United Russia-affiliated foundations. Back in 2008, Chesnakov's foundation established the Aktual'nye Kommentarii media outlet, which publishes the opinions of other pro-Kremlin experts.

Dmitry Zhuravlev and Natalia Lindigrin, RUB 9.7 million from the EISI and RUB 57 million from other organisations

Political scientists, former and current heads of the Institute of Regional Problems (IRP), EISI experts since 2023

The institute headed by Zhuravlev received money from the EISI on the eve of the 2018 presidential election. After the election, Zhuravlev published columns and posts touting the record turnout and predicting an economic growth caused by Putin's victory. In 2021, the IRP was awarded a contract by the Moscow City Hall-affiliated My District to conduct a 57-million-ruble social survey on courtyard landscaping. At the time, its experts were praising Moscow's anti-COVID measures in media comments. Zhuravlev told Proekt that he did not know the details of the contracts concluded by the institute; Lindigrin did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Igor Bunin and Boris Makarenko, RUB 34.4 million from EISI

Political scientists, former and current presidents of the Centre for Political Technologies (CPT), Makarenko has been an EISI expert since 2023

The foundation established by the now deceased Bunin also received contracts from the EISI for reports and analysis on the eve of the 2018 presidential election, as well as for sociological research in 2019. Bunin said on the eve of the election that Putin would have no real rivals in it, and after it was over he said that «the election was absolutely honest and crystal transparent.» Makarenko told Proekt that the contract with the EISI had no additional conditions.

Gleb Kuznetsov, RUB 23 million

Political scientist, head of the EISI Expert Council

A long-time acquaintance of Alexander Kharichev, the Kremlin official in charge of cooperation with the experts, receives about 10 million rubles a year for his work at the EISI. It's not only for the comments he gives to the media, but also for «services in selecting and attracting experts,» i.e., recruiting others.

Pavel Danilin, RUB 21.8 million from EISI

Political scientist, head of the Centre for Political Analysis, EISI expert since 2023

Danilin's centre received 5.5 million rubles from the EISI in 2018 for «expert and analytical services». The EISI continued to pay him at least in 2019. In a conversation with Proekt, a former employee of the pro-Kremlin media outlet Ura.ru named Danilin as one of those on the list of political commentators (e.g., on the topic of Alexei Navalny) sent to the editorial office from «above». Danilin did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Maxim Grigoriev, RUB 11.7 million from the EISI and RUB 7.8 million from other organisations

Political scientist, director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy Problems, member of the Civic Chamber, EISI expert since 2017

The Grigoriev-controlled foundation received grant money from the EISI in at least 2018, 2019 and 2021. Grigoriev himself appears to be on the same list of experts that the Kremlin advises loyal media outlets to turn to for commentary: accusing the Golos movement of poor election observation, telling them that Alexei Navalny was running out of money, and explaining that rapper Oxymiron participated in protests just to avoid criticism. With the support of other state funds, Grigoryev prepared the exhibitions «Human Rights Violations in Ukraine,» which was opened by SVR head Sergei Naryshkin, and «Ukrainian Crimes Against Humanity.» Grigoriev did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Alexander Brod, 15 million roubles from the EISI

Member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Chairman of the Independent Public Monitoring Association, Head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights

The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights headed by Brod received 15 million rubles in grants from the EISI in 2018−2019 alone. During this period, he, among other things, called on law enforcers to deal with the Golos observer movement, saying they were «stirring up the situation» before the elections and hiding foreign funding, whereas human rights advocacy «should be as transparent as possible,» and defended Interior Minister Alexander Kolokoltsev, claiming that in the case of Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov, Kolokoltsev «constantly kept the situation under his personal control and demanded the resignation of several generals» when it became clear that the case was trumped up.

Lyudmila Shuvalova, RUB 14 million from the EISI

Head of the Centre for Socially Conservative Policy (CSCP)

The centre, headed by the wife of Yury Shuvalov, an employee of the Presidential Administration and member of the EISI Board of Trustees, also receives payments from EISI with the cryptic wording «for the formation of a political agenda in the public field». In addition, it prepared a report for the EISI with the eloquent title «Vladimir Putin — Global Political Leader». Other payments had the enigmatic wording «for the formation of a political agenda in the public field». Shuvalova, whose thesis was found to be plagiarised by the Dissernet project, defended it under the scientific supervision of Andrei Shutov, dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Moscow State University and chairman of the EISI Board of Directors. The Shuvalova-headed centre did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Experts of the Centre for Applied Research and Programmes, RUB 13 million from the EISI

Consulting and analytical centre

The centre received grants from the EISI at least in 2019. The experts of the centre listed on its website, for example, political scientists Alexander Asafov and Alena August, gave comments to pro-government media, and both became EISI experts in 2023. The centre did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Igor Zadorin, RUB 4.6 million from the EISI and RUB 5.9 million from other organisations

Sociologist, founder of the Zirkon Research Group

A research company in which Zadorin holds a stake received a grant from the EISI in early 2018. At the same time, the Open Opinion sociologist community, in which Zadorin plays an important role, conducted a study of polling stations that showed «anomalous» results in the presidential election; the community's website stated that the study was supported by the EISI. Other researchers thought that this might indicate electoral fraud, but the study funded by the EISI showed that everything was fair. Zadorin's projects also received money from the Moscow government organisation My District and the Institute for Internet Development. Zadorin did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Alexei Martynov, RUB 7.9 million from the EISI

Political scientist, head of the International Institute for Emerging States, EISI expert since 2023

In 2018, when the campaign against Grudinin was underway, Martynov's foundation received 3.5 million rubles from the EISI to prepare a report, and he himself received another 450,000 rubles for «expert consulting services.» The foundation did produce a report on «foreign think tanks generating anti-Russian agenda». Martynov commented not only on Grudinin. For instance, after the 2018 presidential election, he said: «A brilliant election. But the high turnout was also helped by an external factor. External pressure on our elections, on us — the voters. This was especially evident in the way our citizens abroad voted en masse, the citizens who simply live in this atmosphere of Russophobia. Vladimir Putin's victory was to be expected».

Dmitry Orlov, RUB 7.5 million from the EISI

Political scientist, founder of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications (APEC)

The agency of Orlov cooperated with the EISI at least in 2018 and 2019. Orlov's comments complimentary to the authorities were published not only by pro-Kremlin media, but also, for example, by BBC News Russian or the then-independent Vedomosti. Orlov told Proekt that his agency prepared regional analytical monitoring for the EISI and that these contracts did not have any additional conditions, formal or informal.

Dmitry Gusev, RUB 6.7 million from the EISI

Political strategist, co-founder (together with Oleg Matveychev) of the Baxter Group agency, State Duma member since 2021, Moscow mayoral candidate in 2023, EISI expert in 2017−2022

In late 2017 and early 2018, the EISI ordered «research work» from Gusev, which apparently included comments about Grudinin. The strategist received 3.7 million rubles for them and his other work. Gusev also praised the turnout at the 2018 election and said that calls for a voting boycott proposed by Alexei Navalny «lead to the opposite result.» Gusev refused to provide any comment.

Vitaly Ivanov, RUB 6.5 million from the EISI

Political scientist, former Head of the Institute of Politics and State Law, FCSD expert

Ivanov signed a contract to «analyse the socio-political situation in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation» with the EISI in March 2019. In the same 2019 and 2020, Ivanov criticised opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman and the Governor of Khabarovsk Krai Sergei Furgal, who has fallen out of favour with the Kremlin, in media comments, and called the resetting of presidential term count «legally flawless».

Alyona Bulgakova, RUB 4.7 million from the EISI

Chairperson of the Corps for Clean Elections movement and executive director of the Independent Public Monitoring Association, member of the Civic Chamber since 2020

The Corps for Clean Elections movement, headed by Bulgakova, received a grant from the EISI in 2019. Bulgakova explained to the media that same year that the rally against the non-admission of opposition candidates to the Moscow City Duma elections was disrupted by a rain storm because its participants had no real beliefs: «It is clear that internal beliefs cannot be influenced by weather conditions, so, as it turns out, there was no protest at all.» The following year, Bulgakova became a member of the Civic Chamber and continued to give media comments flattering to the authorities, for example, about the West's attempts to influence the Russian elections.

Yevgeny Minchenko, RUB 3.5 million from the EISI

Political strategist, president of the Russian Association for Public Relations (RASO), EISI expert since 2023

In January 2018, EISI commissioned some kind of report from Minchenko. During Putin's 2018 presidential campaign, the political scientist was noted among those criticising Grudinin and other rivals of the incumbent president. Minchenko did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Marat Bashirov, RUB 2.2 million from the EISI

Political strategist, in 2014 Chairman of the Council of Ministers of LPR, professor at the Higher School of Economics, author of the Politjoystik Telegram channel (over 200,000 subscribers), EISI expert since 2023

In February 2019, he signed a contract with the EISI to «monitor socio-political activity in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation». After that, media outlets like Ura.ru began to constantly cite him and his channel, mostly on the topic of Ukraine. In 2023 he became an EISI expert and a source of news like «Political scientist Bashirov reported on the West's order to attack Crimea».

Andrey Manoilo, RUB 2.1 million from the EISI

Political scientist, professor at the Faculty of Political Science of Moscow State University, EISI expert since 2023

At least in 2018−2019 he received money from the EISI for «expert and consulting services». In 2018, he published a report on Western interference in Russian elections and actively spoke about it in pro-Kremlin media. Manoilo also took part in the campaign against Pavel Grudinin — he told Ren TV how the latter allegedly lied to his voters. He participated as an opponent in the defence of five theses in which Dissernet found plagiarism. Manoilo did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Anna Fedorova, RUB 2.1 million from the EISI

Political scientist, EISI expert since 2023

Fedorova received money from the EISI for «expert and consulting services» at least in 2018−2019 (in 2018, when she actively criticised Grudinin, the political scientist received 600 thousand rubles). In addition to picking on Grudinin, she told the media that people only attended the 2019 protests in Moscow for the musicians who performed there, that opposition activists who ran that year falsified the signatures in their support, and that Lyubov Sobol flew to Europe during the trials on those detained at the rallies, not caring about them. Fedorova's cooperation with the EISI apparently continued in 2020−2022: she made comments in the media that the Anti-Corruption Foundation's investigation into Putin's palace was a fake and that Navalny's poisoning was staged from abroad. Thanks to such comments, she became a full-time EISI expert by 2023 and now tells how, after the war began, almost all Russians became patriots «because of pressure from the West». Fedorova refused to provide any comment.

Mikhail Kovalev, RUB 1.65 million from the EISI

Political strategist and former PR manager of the Russian Party of Pensioners and A Just Russia. EISI expert since 2023

Kovalev signed a contract with the EISI for expert and consulting services in 2017, under which he received payments until at least 2019 inclusive. During these years, Kovalev told the media, among other things, that opposition activists were deliberately not agreeing to organise authorised rallies in order to raise a ruckus and «attract sponsors».

Mikhail Remizov, RUB 1.1 million from the EISI

Political scientist, president and co-owner of the National Strategy Institute, EISI expert since 2023

Remizov and his institute received money from the EISI at least in 2018−2019 — for a report and expert services. Unlike many of his colleagues, Remizov did not pay attention to Grudinin and Navalny, but was a consistent speaker on the topic of the Donbas, calling on the Russian authorities to recognise these territories and introduce troops there. As of 2023, Remizov is a full-time EISI expert and war apologist, having called for mobilisation as early as May 2022. Remizov refused to provide any comment.

Viktor Poturemsky, RUB 1 million from the EISI

Political scientist, Director of Political Analysis at INSOMAR, EISI expert since 2023

Poturemsky signed a contract with the EISI for «expert and consulting services» in the summer of 2019. At the same time, he became a regular commentator in pro-government media — praising Putin, United Russia and amendments to the Constitution, and berating Navalny. Poturemsky did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Abbas Gallyamov, RUB 900,000 from the EISI

Political scientist and political strategist, formerly worked in Putin's speechwriting team, foreign agent since 2023, wanted in Russia

Gallyamov received money from the EISI during the 2018 presidential campaign and elections. All these months he often criticised Pavel Grudinin — including in articles published by the pro-Kremlin Ura.ru, where, as a former employee of the outlet told Proekt, editors were usually «handed down» lists of commentators on political topics. In response to Proekt's questions, Gallyamov referred to his own interview with Nino Rosebashvili, in which he said that people from the Presidential Administration sometimes asked him to write about something and he would do so if that matched his own opinion. According to him, in 2018, the approach of the Presidential Administration changed, they started requiring him to say only what they would approve, after which the political scientist completely fell out with the Kremlin.

Igor Kuznetsov, RUB 600,000 from the EISI

Political scientist, professor at the Faculty of Political Science of Moscow State University, EISI expert since 2017

Kuznetsov received money from the EISI in 2018−2019 for preparing reports and participating in events. However, Kuznetsov became a truly active political commentator only after the outbreak of war. Nowadays, he explains that Putin was able to convince CIS leaders of the Nazi threat, Russia and Belarus are linked by «spiritual roots», «the West pursued a Russophobic policy in Ukraine», and sanctions «failed to split the Russian society». Kuznetsov did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Vyacheslav Smirnov, RUB 600,000 from the EISI

Political strategist, since 2019 chief advisor to the Presidential Directorate for supporting the activities of the State Council

In 2017, Smirnov received several contracts for «consulting and expert services» from the EISI, and the following year he moved to work in the Presidential Administration. However, even before his appointment, Smirnov managed to give the media plenty of comments in a tone close to that of his future employer: he mocked Grudinin, blamed Mikhail Khodorkovsky for the deaths of Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic, and spoke about Navalny's «crisis of the genre». Smirnov did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Boris Kagarlitsky, 500,000 rubles from the EISI

Sociologist, Moscow City Duma candidate in 2019, former political prisoner, foreign agent since 2023

Kagarlitsky received half a million rubles from the EISI in July-August 2019 for the preparation of «analytical material». Two days after the money transfer, he published a column criticising the «Smart Voting» of Alexei Navalny. Kagarlitsky told Proekt that he used to prepare analyses on Western left-wing ideologies for the EISI, but the cooperation stopped after he was recognised as a foreign agent. According to Kagarlitsky, the column in question has nothing to do with the EISI; he claims that he has always been speaking out against the «Smart Voting».


Ruposters, RUB 260 million

Web portal established by the FCSD under the leadership of Stanislav Apetyan, a former employee of the Presidential Administration and United Russia.

In 2018 and 2020−2021, Ruposters received 260 million rubles from the FCSD for «project implementation». All this time, the portal published articles with headlines like «Expert: Leonid Volkov has once again completely failed» and «The Berlin Patient's Fiasco: How the President ended Navalny's political career». The portal's content was even used in Navalny's trial: prosecution witness, pro-Kremlin lawyer Ilya Remeslo, retold his own columns published on the website. Such columns were generously paid for — according to the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Remeslo received about 10 million rubles from Ruposters and other FCSD-affiliated legal entities in 2020 alone. Head of Ruposters Stanislav Apetian did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Leonid Davydov, RUB 136 million

Political consultant, author of the Davydov. Index Telegram channel, former head of the FCSD Expert Council, founder of the Petersburg Politics Foundation

The author of a very popular and usually politically neutral Telegram channel receives payments from the FCSD for a variety of work, research and monitoring. Davydov refused to provide any comment.

Konstantin Kostin, RUB 76 million

Head of the FCSD, former employee of the Presidential Administration and United Russia, advisor to the Kremlin's domestic policy supervisor Sergey Kiriyenko

Kostin is a very highly paid manager. His monthly salary averages 1.7 million rubles. However, even this is not enough for the former AP employee — since 2020, the FCSD, which he heads, has been ordering certain «services» from the Centre for Humanitarian and Political Technologies, in which Kostin himself holds a major stake. Kostin did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Olga Kostina, RUB 32.5 million

Konstantin Kostin's wife, political consultant, former member of the Civic Chamber and Putin's trusted representative, as well as prosecution witness in the Yukos case. Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Crime Victims Support Foundation (formerly the Resistance Movement)

The foundation established by Kostin's wife received contracts for some kind of «work» from the organisation he heads at least in 2018 and 2020−2021. Kostinа did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Vitaly Ivanov, RUB 23 million

Political scientist, former Head of the Institute of Politics and State Law, Advisor to the Chairman of the FCSD Board of Directors

In addition to his co-operation with the EISI, which we described above, Ivanov receives a salary at the FCSD — an average of 635,000 rubles a month. Ivanov also regularly provides commentary to the media, including commenting on Navalny. For example, in 2021, he told BBC News Russian that Navalny's associates refused to hold new rallies in his support because they «realised that they had reached the limit of their mobilisation capabilities». He did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.

Mikhail Vinogradov, RUB 16.5 million

Political scientist, president of the Petersburg Politics Foundation, EISI expert since 2023

The foundation established by the aforementioned Leonid Davydov and headed by frequent liberal media commentator Mikhail Vinogradov was awarded a contract with the FCSD for «information services» in 2018. Vinogradov refused to provide any comment.

Alexander Astafiev, RUB 7.2 million

Political scientist, FCSD board member

Astafiev, who founded several legal entities together with Kostin, also receives personal monthly FCSD contracts for «monitoring services». He did not respond to Proekt's inquiries.


Igor Ugolnikov, RUB 52 million

Actor, TV presenter, director

Ugolnikov's studio Corner Work received money from DA TEAM in 2022 to create some kind of «content». In recent years, Ugolnikov, who supported the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine, has only been making military-patriotic films. Ugolnikov did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

Bogdan Sidorenko, RUB 41 million

General producer of the PoTalkuem educational show for the VK channel of the Znaniye Society

In this show, motivational speeches about business, technology and the modern world are read by showmen who supported the war — Amiran Sardarov, the author of the Dnevnik Khacha blog, What? Where? When? contestant Maxim Potashev and motor racer Vitaly Petrov, the son of a criminal mastermind. Sidorenko, who produces content for projects of the Kirienko family (the supervisory board of the Znanie society is headed by Kirienko Sr.), lives in Dubai and regularly visits Berlin, judging by his wife's Instagram page. Sidorenko did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

PostNews media outlet, RUB 22.5 million

This outlet, which publishes criticism of Vladimir Zelensky and articles about the failures of the Ukrainian Armed Forces mixed with texts about sex and pandas, appears to be owned by DA TEAM itself. It is located at the same address in Moscow, and is owned by DA TEAM's former owner Alexandra Modestova. Its website grew out of a VK group, with about 2.7 million people subscribed to it there. An average of 210,000 people visit the website per month (СНОСКА, according to similarweb.com). Postnews did not respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

Fontanka media outlet, RUB 5.6 million

Azhur-Media, the publishing company of Fontanka, received payments from DA TEAM in 2022 for the implementation of some «project».

Alexey Pivovarov, RUB 2.5 million

Author of the Redakciya YouTube channel

Known for his slogan «Draw your own conclusions», the blogger was paid by DA TEAM in February 2022 under a licence agreement. Pivovarov told Proekt that the state company Russian Railways paid him through DA TEAM for the purchase of the raw footage of the film about the Baikal-Amur Mainline. He specified that the contract was concluded before the invasion of Ukraine and before he was recognised as a foreign agent.