Swedish investigative journalist Mattias Carlsson from the newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an article that his Russian colleague from Karelia was trained in Kalmar (Sweden) on the instructions of the FSB. According to the description, it was Alexey Vladimirov (the real last name — Alekseev), the editor of the “Chernika” online journal. Vladimirov himself admitted that he had previously served in the special forces of the Main Intelligence Directorate and now he has an acquaintance among the FSB officers. «7x7» tried to get more information and received details of the Swedish investigation.
Swedish investigation data
Swedish journalist Matthias Сarlsson has repeatedly received awards for his investigations. In November 2018, with the help of sources in the Scandinavian special services, he learned that his colleague from Russia went to a journalist training in the Swedish Kalmar in 2016 on the instructions of the FSB to collect information about the Russian participants. According to him, he did not carry out the training’s “homework” in the form of an investigation.
Carlsson confirmed «7x7» that in his article he wrote about Alexey Vladimirov, named the FSB officers with whom Vladimirov coordinated the task (the names are available to «7x7», these people really work in the Karelian UFSB). According to him, Vladimirov came to journalism at the age of 40; in the USSR he served in the GRU special forces, and in the 1990s he founded with the other former special forces an alliance of veterans of the special services “Nobility and Faith”, full name — The Fund for the Support of Veterans of Special Purpose Units of Law Enforcement Agencies and Special Services. According to the Swedish journalist, this organization had a website, fsp-veteran.ru, which is not working now. Carlsson said that he compared the data of his source in the Scandinavian special services with the results of his research, and decided that Vladimirov was still connected with the special services through veterans' organizations. Carlsson seemed suspicious that Vladimirov, in a telephone conversation with a journalist, did not confirm the very fact of communicating with those FSB officers who were listed in Carlsson’s sources (later, Vladimirov told «7x7» that he knew these employees).
In an article of Dagens Nyheter, they noted that Vladimirov did not include this information about his past in the questionnaire for training on the SCOOP project in Kalmar.
Opinion of the training organizers
Swedish journalist Bjorge Nielsen, who was among the leaders of the SCOOP project, said that it was impossible for them to check a participant for connections with the FSB. But all candidates are selected in several stages — including the ones recommended by the Russian coordinators. From the Russian side, the project was coordinated by four people, including the «7x7» journalist Anna Yarovaya, who in 2018 received a residence permit in Finland and moved there with her family. She said that she knew that Vladimirov had once served in intelligence, and, according to her, the journalist himself never hid it:
"I knew that he had sources in different structures, but I would never have thought that he would go to Kalmar on the instructions of the FSB. Alexey has repeatedly helped us get information for materials, always participated in protest actions, wrote his investigations. He complained that he lacked the skills to make investigations as modern journalists do. Therefore, he applied to SCOOP. And it was decent. We selected this application with a clear conscience."
One of the trainers for journalists in Kalmar was Ukrainian Oleg Khomenok, who in 2012 was deprived of Russian citizenship. In his opinion, the organizers take into account the risk of introducing undercover agents. The organizers once denied a journalist who worked in the army newspaper For the Defense of the Arctic, after examining her career. Khomenok was confused by gaps in the biography of Vladimirov (in the questionnaire), but not the project management.
Director of the St. Petersburg Institute of Regional Press from St. Petersburg, Anna Sharogradskaya told Dagens Nyheter that the Russian special services are seeking to interview all participants and coordinators of the SCOOP project, and in her opinion, the Russian participants have nothing to hide because they act according to the law.
"I don't want to do a show"
On November 19, Alexey Vladimirov, in a commentary to the Fontanka, said that he worked in Tajikistan as part of the GRU unit:
"Yes, I worked with dushmans. Yes, I served in the GRU special forces. And now what? Is this a stigma? Snitching on my comrades is beneath my dignity. Remember this. It's not happening."
Vladimirov gave a more detailed answer to «7x7». He did not refuse to have a polygraph test; this was suggested by one of his former colleagues from "Chernika" to refute the conclusions of a journalist from Sweden:
"This is not a problem, I can easily take a polygraph — if I snitch or not. But this is childish. I am ready, but I have already written that I am not going to make a show around this situation. A polygraph is part of the show. At the moment, they even offered me a teleconference with Carlsson at the federal level. I refused, because I do not want to do a show from a situation that is connected with me. If I refused the TV bridges, I will refuse the polygraph. And don’t say: "Look, he is scared!" I am not scared, I’m not afraid of anything in this life. But to do it in order for the public to sit and eat popcorn… Go to hell. This is my personal insult, I am going to investigate and punish everyone [who benefited from this investigation]. I will prove without a polygraph. I repeat, I am ready for a polygraph, but not to please public.
Vladimirov said that he was familiar with the press secretary of the Karelian department of the FSB Sergey Bondarev — they are compatriots, and from time to time they meet over a cup of coffee. Bondarev, according to Vladimirov, helped him obtain data from the archives of the Great Patriotic War for an article in "Chernika".
According to Vladimirov, for special services it does not make sense to spend money on the introduction of their people into foreign seminars:
"When someone comes to the seminar, tracking begins. Why spend money on an agent's expenses when you can find out everything from social networks? Who, what, how — everything is on the net. And I post too. When I was there, I also posted photos: "So I went to see the castle, I went there, here we sit at the table." And I think that it is not even advisable to send people there when you can find everything on social networks. And I think the office is engaged in this — tracking social networks."
Vladimirov linked the investigation of Carlsson with a spate of espionage mania after the poisoning of Skripal in Salisbury. The Karelian journalist suggested that he himself would, in the place of his Swedish colleague, make such an investigation, but would try to double-check the facts. Vladimirov has two versions of who would benefit from denigrating him: either merchants whom he touched upon in his investigation on the extraction of mineral resources near the anthrax cattle clime, or his former colleagues from “Chernika”. He considers journalist Carlsson only a tool.
On November 28, Vladimirov turned to Roskomnadzor with a complaint against media "Stolica na Onego", which, in his opinion, revealed his personal data when referring to the Swedish Dagens Nyheter.
"Even if his materials come from the special services, many of them serve society"
The head of the Union of Journalists of Karelia, Evgeny Belyanchikov, who was with Alexey Vladimirov at a training in Kalmar, characterized his colleague as a "scandalous" but "adequate" employee:
"I have been known Alexey for a long time, as well as I know that he has been cooperating with law enforcement agencies for a long time. He has his sources in the special services, which, as far as I know, give him information on hot topics. I see nothing wrong with that. The journalist himself is free to choose his sources. At the seminar, he behaved absolutely adequately, talked a lot about his investigation, did not do anything suspicious. He was an active participant in the seminar and communication. He was always on public and did not disappear. On the contrary, he was the center of attention. However, did not write the investigation. I think not for the reason that he was not going to, but because he did not cope with the task. Previously, as a media editor, I collaborated with him, and similar cases occurred."
According to Belyanchikov, Vladimirov did not hide the fact that he had previously been associated with military intelligence, and even at the seminar in Kalmar had nickname "Major."
"I admit that the information published in the Swedish newspaper may be true, since he, like the former military man, may have some connections in the bodies. If this is the case and he really recorded information about journalists, this is sad, of course," said Belyanchikov. "Alexey is perhaps the most scandalous journalist in Karelia. He always gets into trouble. He has a conflict with businessmen and other heroes of publications, he is slammed in the nose at a rally, he is not allowed to attend an open meeting, or they are trying to beat him. This suggests his active journalistic activities and urgency. Even if his materials come from the special services, many of them reveal problems and, therefore, serve society."
What is SCOOP
The SCOOP project positions itself as a network of investigative journalists in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and West Africa. The SCOOP project was founded in 2003, and since then it has supported many journalistic investigations. The program is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Sida, which is subordinate to the country's Foreign Ministry.
Daniil Kuznetsov, Sergey Markelov, «7x7»