The Guardian is reporting that the emails detail conversations between Vasily Yakemenko, the Kremlin’s Federal Youth Agency head, and its spokeswoman, Kristina Potupchik. The emails talk of payments to journalists and bloggers.
The Guardian contacted Potupchik for comment who only said, “I will not comment on illegal actions.”
The current leader of Nashi, Nikita Borovikov, said that the group is used to its email getting hacked every few years, and the news of this potential hack doesn’t surprise him. He says that he is a “law-abiding person, and have nothing to fear of hiding.”
The emails detail a period between November 2010 and December 2011 where the group, funded by the Kremlin, attacked enemies and paid for positive reports while reasserting Putin’s popularity.
The emails detail the group’s attempt at boosting pro-Putin coverage on the Internet. They claim that the group hires pro-Putin bloggers and commenters to leave hundreds of comments on press articles that are critical of the Kremlin. It goes on to say that some of these people are paid upwards of $19,000 to improve Putin’s online image.
One email suggested that the group was going to spend about $335,000 to buy a series of articles about its annual Seliger summer camp in two popular Russian tabloids. The tabloids denied any such action and said that their journalists were not paid money for their articles.
Other tabloids said that the news that they were bought and paid for to run stories on a pro-Putin event doesn’t interest them.
The emails point out that Nashi manipulates YouTube viewcounts and ratings and has anti-Putin videos bombarded with “dislikes.”
The emails also point out that Nashi pays particular attention to an anti-Putin blogger named Navalny. They talk about various things they can do to discredit the blogger such as dressing up as him and begging in front of the U.S. embassy.
The hackers told a Russian Web site on Monday that they had been planning the attack since last year “as a sign of protest against the government’s actions in the public Internet sphere.”
As the Guardian points out, these leaks could not have come at a worse time as anti-Putin sentiment is rising in Russia. Thousands of Russians turned out last Saturday at the Kremlin to protest Putin and his bid for the presidency.
According to the leaked emails, Nashi went into high gear looking for ways to counter the protests. Borovikov allegedly said that they need to keep up the pro-Kremlin rhetoric or the country will see a revolution like the 2004 Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.
It remains to be seen if the leaked emails will have any effect. The attitude being displayed by the those in power in Nashi seem to indicate that it’s business as usual for them.