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Tommy Carcetti

Tommy Carcetti's Journal
Tommy Carcetti's Journal
May 2, 2018

PART FIVE (CONCLUSION): Assessing Russian propogandist Konstantin Rykov's pro-Trump "confession"

**PART ONE can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210416264

**PART TWO can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210416302

**PART THREE can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210430029

**PART FOUR can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210567354

Rykov's melodramatic interactions with Anton Nossik were just a part of his online footprint in later years. Since leaving the Russian Duma in 2011, Rykov has moved from being an active participant in mainly Russian online circles to involving himself heavily in western social media, to say nothing about western political affairs.

Rykov's Facebook and Twitter accounts are filled with literally thousands of entries discussing the politics and news of countries worldwide. He would even create specialty Twitter accounts based on a targeted country. In August 2014, Rykov registered the Twitter account @rykov_usa. Besides re-posting a few random clickbait styled articles on topics such as Sex and the City and Chinese "facekinis", Rykov--who adopted the Anglicized "Constantine" first name for account purposes--focused almost exclusively on a single topic , that being political unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown. There was no singular message being espoused by Rykov; articles seemed to target both those angry at police as well as those critical of protestors. Rykov's U.S. targeted Twitter account did not appear to gain much traction; in the end, it only attracted 169 followers (mostly fellow Russians) and Rykov abandoned it after only two weeks. However, the account remains active for the public to see.

Rykov's direct social media involvement in other areas of the world proved to be far more substantial. Perhaps his most notorious adventure (prior to his professed involvement in the 2016 US presidential election) came out of France. As Vice News and The Telegraph reported in April 2015, a series of leaked text messages from 2014 between Rykov and Russian internal affairs department head Timur Protopenko have Rykov claiming to have communicated with Marine Le Pen regarding supporting the dubious results of a Crimean referendum supposedly endorsing the Russian annexation of that Ukrainian region following the invasion of the Crimean peninsula by unmarked Russian troops. Once it becomes clear that Le Pen has endorsed the referendum, Rykov remarked to Protopenko that "It will be necessary to thank the French in one way or another." Eight months later, Le Pen's Front National Party received a large loan financed via a Russian bank for their 2017 presidential election campaign fund.



But it was another European political referendum that served to underscore an unusual social media dynamic between Rykov and perhaps his most high-profile nemesis and spark a feud that would continue all the way through the 2016 US elections. In September 2014, voters in Scotland went to the polls to decide whether they wished to remain a part of the United Kingdom or, alternately, become fully independent of the Crown. Seeking to legitimize the controversial Crimean referendum earlier that year (that featured none of the electoral safeguards and procedures that the Scottish referendum had) Russian propagandists and trolls glommed onto the measure, hoping that a Scottish schism would damage the UK and the EU. Konstantin Rykov helped lead the charge himself, and on Twitter, temporarily adopted the handle "McRykov." While arguably this was simply a joking tribute to Scottish surnames in general, it's also possible that Rykov intended it as a mocking insult to one of his most common targets of online vitriol: former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

As the state of US-Russian relations entered a freefall around the time of Putin's return to the Russian presidency in 2012--with that freefall accelerated after the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russia in 2014 for their illegal invasion of Ukraine's Crimean region--there were several individuals who were the target of extreme ire amongst the Russian internet community. Naturally President Obama received a brunt of the hatred, as did Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, U.S. Ambassador Geoffery Pratt and State Department Spokesperson Jenn Psaki also were routinely roasted over social media by Russian trolls. But Michael McFaul was an entirely different creature from the rest altogether . Far from shy, McFaul (now a professor of political science at Stanford, a position he also held prior to his government service) made it a point to have a very visible presence over social media. Both during his tenure as ambassador and afterwards, McFaul would constantly engage followers in casual conversations with followers.

Most of these conversations were pleasant and conciliatory; however, some were decidedly not. As Ambassador, McFaul was notoriously harassed by Russian state media and saw his own family threatened while in Moscow. His treatment over Twitter was no less ruthless, and Konstantin Rykov was certainly not afraid to join in the fray.

The feud between McFaul and Rykov started in the middle of 2014, and it's clear as to the reasons behind the mutual adversity shared by these social media titans. Rykov saw McFaul as being emblematic of U.S. imperialism and interventionism in the world, a key obstacle to Russian greatness in the former Soviet world. McFaul saw Rykov as epitomizing the Kremlin's strategy of asymmetrical warfare on the West, plugging up the internet with false information and propaganda.

Things would soon come to a head between the two as the Scottish independence referendum drama unfolded in September 2014. Rykov's "McRykov" postings on Twitter failed to make sufficient inroads in the Scottish community, which voted by a 10% margin to remain part of the United Kingdom. Recognizing Rykov's role in attempting to influence public opinion, McFaul couldn't help but spike the football in the end zone and directly rub the results in Rykov's face:

One can debate whether or not a former senior government official taunting a known Russian propogandist was the wisest course of action; however, from that point forward, it was on between McFaul and Rykov. The two sparred over the 2016 election and candidates, with Rykov (and a band of supporting trolls) chiming in to McFaul's commentary on the 2015 Republican primary debates. At one point in September 2015, McFaul adroitly points out, "Pro-Putin bloggers love Trump. Follow @rykov."

But as fascinating as McFaul's willingness to engage Russia's social media army head-on is, it is Rykov's response that is even more notable. Because as Rykov's plot to influence the 2016 U.S. elections from Russia progressed deeper and deeper, Rykov increasingly felt it imperative to actively tag--and mock--McFaul (who Rykov frequently referred to as "the old man" ) as he openly discussed his operations. If anything, this underscores Rykov's modus operandi when it came to the 2016 U.S. elections, he wanted to punish the United States, and let them know they were being punished, regardless of whether Trump would ultimately win or not. A prominent and socially active figure like McFaul was the perfect conduit for a Russian ultra-nationalist like Rykov to brag to the West--to borrow the lyrics of Taylor Swift--"Look what you made me do."

So it was no real surprise that Rykov chose to tag McFaul on November 12, 2016 when he begun to tell his tale about how he claimed to have helped Donald Trump win the White House. And while that posting has slowly but surely garnered some attention amongst the internet universe, another bombshell confession by Rykov to which Rykov knowingly made McFaul privy to has gone by virtually unnoticed so far. And unlike his November 2016 confession, this prior admission occurred right in the thick of the 2016 campaign.

In July 2016, Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page travelled to Moscow to ostensibly deliver an address before the New Economic School, a think tank known for attracting numerous Western figures. Page has claimed the trip to Moscow was for personal reasons only and was not sanctioned by the Trump campaign itself. However, in a July 7, 2016 Facebook posting--made while Page was still in Moscow--Rykov claims Page "came to Moscow for other reasons." He then goes on to say, "I can only imagine how worried old Michael McFaul is", tagging the former U.S. Ambassador into the post.

That's not the end of it. In the comment section in the post, when prompted by a follower, Rykov admits Page "also came to the intelligence service to understand the reaction to Donald." And in classic "Hi Mom!" fashion, McFaul jumps in and replies with a "Starik", which Rykov himself translates back as "Old friend."

Taken on its face, this is an absolutely stunning exchange that may have direct implications to the Mueller investigation. Here, we have a known Kremlin insider admitting that a member of Trump's campaign came to Moscow not just to deliver a speech on an individual basis, but rather to meet with Russian intelligence services about information pertaining to Donald Trump. All of this was freely admitted in the presence of the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. And this was all done before Christopher Steele ever reported his intelligence to the FBI in late July 2016 about Page's activities, meaning the Steele Dossier could potentially be independently verified.

As Benjamin Wittes might say, "Boom!"

One would think that McFaul would passed this invaluable information that had fallen directly into his lap onto U.S. intelligence services. And knowing Rykov's propensity to spill the beans about his actions, it's quite possible McFaul wouldn't even have to do that; intelligence may have already been monitoring Rykov's activities on his own. There's nothing whatsoever to suggest that McFaul has been co-opted by the Russian government; his harsh anti-Kremlin statements belie such a possibility. However, it's likely that McFaul knows far more about Rykov and the Kremlin propaganda machine than he is at liberty to publicly discuss. He has, however, officially branded Rykov as a Russian state sponsored agent. And his instant reaction on Twitter to Trump's electoral victory (which he shortly deleted for no specified reason) left no doubt as to Russia being the key the deciding factor in the election: "Putin intervened in our elections and succeeded. (Well done.)"

In the long running McFaul-Rykov feud, it was Rykov who appeared to have gotten the last laugh.

In the pre-dawn hours of November 9, 2016, supporters of Donald Trump gathered at the Union Jack Pub in central Moscow, just several blocks away from the Kremlin and Red Square. Customers were decked out in the navy blue Trump-Pence hats and t-shirts that had just arrived days before. Maria Katasonova--always a friend to the cameras--was there, as was Mikhail Kovalev. Also in attendance was Artem Klyushin--who partied hard with Donald Trump during his 2013 Miss Universe pageant visit--although he was without Yulya Alferova, his ex-wife who talked up Trump on Twitter on Election Day 2012 and then went on to personally talk business with Trump in 2013. An author named Cyril Benediktov hawked copies of his Russian language book Black Swan, featuring an ominous looking photo of Donald Trump on the cover. The most curious attendee of them all was Jack Hanick, an original founder of Fox News and friend to Sean Hannity who had moved to Moscow to start his own media company, Tsargrad; Hanick spoke about how both Russia and Trump sought to embrace Christian principles and regain their respective "moral compass".

The purpose of this early morning soiree was of course to celebrate the election of Donald J. Trump to the U.S. presidency, and it was organized--and publicized via Facebook (complete with a mock invite to Michael McFaul)--by none other than Konstantin Rykov.

Partygoers were greeted at the door with the "Triptych", a three paneled painting featuring highly idealized portraits of Marine La Pen, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin all stoically looking off into the distance. Televisions inside the British styled pub blared live election coverage from CNN and other western outlets as the results from states rolled in.

A video posted to Youtube several weeks later would capture the mood at the bar that night. As more and more states were called in Trump's favor, enthusiasm of the crowd grew and grew. At one point, Katasonova grasped a fellow supporter's hand in anticipation as results were announced, her eyes watering in tears of unbelief.

And then, at a little after 3:00 in the morning Eastern standard time--or 11:00 a.m. Moscow time--the news everyone had been waiting for came across the television screens; Donald Trump was officially projected to become the 45th President of the United States.

The pub erupted in jubilation. Dmitri Drobinski--a self-described "political scientist" and close associate of Rykov's--exclaims (in English, no less): "We've done it! We've fucking done it!" Drobinski and another supporter named Egor Kholmogorov rise from their seats, and then out of a darkened corner of the bar, like a star actor returning to stage after a curtain call, Rykov emerges wearing a black hoodie jacket over his Trump-Pence t-shirt. Klyushin--who would tweet "For once, I am amazed at the genius of Rykov"--cuts across in the background. Drobinski, Kholmogorov and Rykov meet and embrace, and then break out into song. Fittingly, in this English themed pub, it's from a British band; it's the well-known, often-sung celebratory refrain from Queen's "We are the Champions."

Even approaching two years since the election of Donald Trump, it's still not completely clear how to view Konstantin Rykov. Is he a brilliant mastermind who weaponizes propaganda and shakes up Western political landscapes all for the glory of Mother Russia? Is he nothing more than a self-important braggart who tells big fish stories over the internet? Or is he somewhere in between? That has yet to be determined. Whether his name--or the name of his cohorts--will be mentioned at all in the Mueller investigation is still unknown.

Regardless, it is undisputable that for Rykov, the four-year journey between November 2012 and November 2016 was as remarkable as it was tumultuous: from openly pondering Donald Trump's state of mind on Election Day 2012, to launching subversive social media campaigns in Scotland and France; from the imposition of sanctions against Russia in 2014 for its actions in Ukraine to the development of psychometric tools for Cambridge Analytica; from his online sparring with Ambassador Michael McFaul to his bitter fallout with his former friend Anton Nossik; and ultimately ending up in the morning hours of November 9, 2016 at Moscow's Union Jack Pub, watching Donald Trump "smash America as we know it."

The singing that morning from Rykov and Company was loud, and the message was clear. "We are the champions of the world....."

May 2, 2018

PART FOUR: Assessing Russian propogandist Konstantin Rykov's pro-Trump "confession"

**PART ONE can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210416264

**PART TWO can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210416302

**PART THREE can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210430029

“Trump will smash America as we know it, we’ve got nothing to lose."--Konstantin Rykov, as reported in The Economist, September 8, 2016.


The dubious-minded question asked by the Washington Post's Avi Selk--regarding Seth Abramson having brought Konstantin Rykov's purported Facebook confession to light--is a fair one: "Would those involved in a Kremlin-orchestrated plot to put Trump in the White House really spill the beans unprompted on Facebook?"

A fair answer might be that people with only a casual familiarity with Rykov have a flawed understanding of who he is and what type of mindset consumes him. By all appearances, Rykov seems to be a denizen of the dark web, running brothels and orchestrating subversive influence campaigns over social media. In the West, such individuals are counter-cultural and steadfastly do all that they can to shield their privacy, deeds and their very identities from open scrutiny and legal liability.

Rykov, however, is not operating out of the West. Rykov is operating out of Russia for the express purposes of furthering Russian interests.

In sum, Rykov's mindset is more of Al Qaeda than it is Anonymous.

In the end, Rykov is a Russian Ultra-Nationalist, no more and no less. Looking over his social media postings, he professes a steadfast loyalty and enthusiasm towards the Russian state, both pre- and post-Soviet. The fact that his personal hero is Yuri Gagarin should not be ignored; Gagarin's historic first spaceflight--beating the Americans to the punch--arguably represented the pinnacle of scientific achievement during the Soviet years and was a huge matter of civic pride. And Rykov has been known to exhibit legitimate displays of Russian patriotic fervor; when the Russian ambassador to Turkey was gunned down in December 2016, he angrily proclaimed about those involved in the plot, "You are fucking dead!"

And when protests against Vladimir Putin erupted in Moscow in 2011 (which were openly praised by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), Rykov declared, "I've counted my cartridges. I have three clips. I'll take 30 or so liberals with me. I want to die for Russia tomorrow."

Konstantin Rykov is by nature an extremist, and while in the years following September 11th Americans have been trained to think of extremists as being stodgy, uptight religious fundamentalists , there is nothing that prohibits extremists of displaying the more casual, tech savvy "anything goes" attitude that young Silicon Valley tech gurus or internet hackers might display.

But most importantly, not only is Rykov an extremist, he is a state-sponsored extremist. He is a ally--and arguably a direct agent--of the Kremlin who is doing the express bidding of the Russian government. Accordingly, so long as he stays within his Russian safe space, he can act with full impunity and without any type of repercussions whatsoever. Given the kleptocracy that surrounds Russia, Putin's government is not going to suddenly crack down on the people who act to advance its interests.

So when one views Rykov as an extremist, one should consider that most extremist organizations thrive not on keeping their deeds secret, but boasting of their actions in furtherance of their agenda (e.g. ISIS claiming responsibility for a terrorist act).

One illustration of Rykov's zeal to punish perceived traitors to the Russian regime would be how in December 2015 he bragged over Facebook of having infiltrated the offices of the Echo of Moscow, a private media venture that has been critical of the Kremlin at times. Rykov claimed that people working on his behalf had gained access to emails and electronics of Echo staff and as a result numerous persons employed there would be subjected to further prosecution. While such violative actions in the United States might be considered unfathomable, in Vladimir Putin's Russia Rykov was given free rein to do his tricks.

The bottom line is that Konstantin Rykov has no incentive to conceal or hide his activities, and every incentive to brag about them in furtherance of his mission.

But what strikes one most about Konstantin Rykov is the paradox that surrounds him. Here we have someone who is not afraid to openly boast about his exploits for Mother Russia in full detail, but someone who keeps his own personal life a close, guarded secret. On his social media pages, you'll not find any pictures of his children, romantic partners, parents, or virtually any other significant individuals in his personal life apart from his work partners. One can find only tiny breadcrumbs of details of Rykov's personal life on the internet.

So who is Konstantin Rykov?

According to his Wikipedia page, he was born May 27, 1979. Naturally, this means he grew in the socially turbulent times where the Soviet Union collapsed and was replaced by the Russian Federation, and on Facebook he spoke fondly of his days as a member of the Soviet youth Pioneer program.

It's not clear who Rykov's parents were. Interestingly enough, there was an Oleg Rykov who worked for the KGB in the 1980s developing computer systems for the Soviet government and later butted heads with Mikhail Lesin (a Russian government official who died in the US in 2015 under suspicious circumstances). However, with Rykov presumably being a fairly common surname in Russia, it's impossible at this point to see if Konstantin is of any relation to Oleg.

Rykov claimed on Facebook his first job was at the age of 10, where he sold candy and cigarettes to people on the streets of Moscow. As the Daily Dot profile on Rykov's Dosug online prostitute service mentioned, Rykov visited the United States around 1995 and by 1998 he was already making a name for himself as being a key figure of the development of the internet community in Russia.

Based on his Facebook posts from 2012, Rykov has/had either a wife or romantic partner named Maria ("Masha" ), although it's unlikely that it's the same Maria as Maria Katasonova, his far younger partner-in-crime in social media activities in recent years. He has at least two children, a daughter named Katya and a son who was born in November 2012. He also has referenced having a younger brother in his social media posts.

One surprising fact about Rykov is that he claims to have authored a children's book titled The Invisible World. Related artwork on Rykov's Facebook page reveals the protagonist of the book to be a young girl with colorfully braided hair. Rykov also professes to be a fan of numerous western-produced television shows such as House of Cards and Game of Thrones.

But as humanizing as this all might seem for Konstantin Rykov, one cannot put aside his inherent extremist nature and unsavory aspects of his business. There is no better example of this than the volatile nature of his relationship with a former associate by the name of Anton Nossik.


On the surface, Anton Nossik was the exact opposite of everything Konstantin Rykov was. He was an observant Jew who spoke fluent English and fashioned himself as an intellectual and a liberal. He hardly seemed like someone who would pair up with a fervent Russian ultra-nationalist, but from the time they started working together in 1998 all the way through the following decade, the two were as thick as thieves.

Together, Rykov and Nossik helped develop the network of Russian bloggers who would weigh in on Russian news and policy. Nossik's personal blog on the Livejournal blogging website would soon become one of the most popular in Russia. He would become known as the "Godfather of the Russian internet."

As the 2007 Washington Post article on Rykov points out, Nossik helped arranged for funding of Rykov's projects via Putin's domestic policy advisor Vladislav Surkov.


And both Nossik and Rykov were in attendance at the Kremlin for then President Dmitri Medvedev's 2011 forum of "Internet Community Representatives."

However, Nossik and Rykov's friendship suffered a rather dramatic schism by the time 2012 came around. According to a March 2012 article in Open Democracy magazine, in January 2012 Nossik accused Rykov of orchestrating a hack on the Livejournal wesbite and accused him of being used by the Kremlin in attacking Russian bloggers.


Nossik subsequently became more and more openly critical of the Kremlin, alleging they were increasingly involved in a crackdown of internet speech and oppression. He came to the defense of the band Pussy Riot, who were imprisoned for their vocal protests against the Putin regime.

The Kremlin appeared to have taken note of Nossik's advocacy. In October 2015, Nossik authored a blog entry regarding Russian military actions in Syria which essentially advocated a scorched-earth strategy for the Russians, lives of civilians be damned. While undoubtedly a harsh position to take, it was still pretty much in line with the reality of what Russia was doing in Syria. Yet, it was supposedly that post by Nossik--and not the dozens of posts before taking the Kremlin to task for clamping down on online speech--that caused Nossik to be arrested for "extremism."

Nossik was convicted and in October 2016 was scheduled to be sentenced for his offenses. He faced a likely prison sentence of two years. But on October 2, 2016, something extraordinary happened. Nossik's old friend turned bitter rival Konstantin Rykov weighed in on Facebook.

Rykov visciously attacked Nossik as a "professional scoundrel and slanderer, " "Judas," an "envious and vile hypocrite" and said that he had "personally deceived me and betrayed me" numerous occasions in the past.

And then, amazingly enough, Rykov advocates that Nossik not be imprisoned, claiming Nossik "would have nothing to do" in prison. Such a sentiment echoed in the court; the judge in Nossik's case ultimately chose to fine Nossik for his offenses without any prison time.

While that might have been the end of the Nossik-Rykov saga, it wasn't. Soon after the US elections, it appeared there was a reconciliation of sorts between Rykov and his old friend. Rykov claimed he and Nossik had agreed to work on a "joint television project". And on May 8, 2017, Nossik showed up at a party hosted by Rykov and Maria Katasonova celebrating French candidate Marine La Pen as she faced off against Emmanuel Macron in that country's presidential elections.

Two months later, on July 9, 2017, Anton Nossik suddenly died while staying in a vacation house outside of Moscow with unspecified "friends." The stated cause of death for the 51 year old--who on all outward appearances looked to have been in good health--was a heart attack.

To be fair, sometimes a heart attack is just a heart attack. There has never been any sort of formal accusations of foul play in Nossik's death. But in a country where far too many government critics have turned up dead under suspicious circumstances, Nossik's unexpected death has raised more than a couple of eyebrows. And Rykov's bizarre behavior towards Nossik--brutally excoriating him and yet asking for leniency on his sentence, and then making sudden, unexplained overtures towards reconciliation--also makes one wonder how genuine and legitimate the level of Rykov's "forgiveness" towards his Putin-critic colleague really was.

**PART FIVE (CONCLUSION) can be found here: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100210567386

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