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Home POLITICS The mystery man who promised that Putin's friends will explode soon

The mystery man who promised that Putin’s friends will explode soon

Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Reuters

Nearly a decade after his exile, a former Russian statesman has emerged from the shadows this week as a new thorn in the side of the kremlin.

In a shocking televised speech from Kyiv last week, a 47-year-old former politician Ilya Ponomarev he debuted as a self-styled courier for what he says is an underground resistance movement operating in Russia, the National Republican Army. Ponomarev read the group’s so-called manifesto on a Kyiv-based television channel he founded seven months ago, called February Morning, in which they claimed responsibility for the car bomb that killed Daria Douginathe daughter of the Russian nationalist and staunch ally of Putin, Alexander Dugin.

“The activists chose a holy figure of Russian fascism and it is not for me to criticize the objective of their action,” Ponomarev said in an interview with The Daily Beast, stating that he has been in contact with the “resistance fighters” since April. . In addition to relaying his messages, Ponomarev said his “job is to provide commercial support” to the group as needed.

Ponomarev’s connection to the alleged partisan movement is murky and he has been unable to provide evidence that they played a role in the attack on Dugina. But that hasn’t stopped a wave of press coverage highlighting Ponomarev’s accusations and fueling skepticism that Russian citizens could be behind the car bomb incident. (Russia since then blamed the attack on a Ukrainian operativealthough Kyiv has denied any responsibility).

“We have been receiving videos and text messages from the Russian rebels about their actions almost every day,” Ponomarev said. “They throw Molotov cocktails at military recruiting offices, blow up railway tracks, slash car tires with pro-war Russian symbols, and attack activists who were raising money for the war.”

<divclase=A Russian passport is engulfed in flames started by Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the State Duma who emigrated from Russia in 2014.

Pavlo Bagmut/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty

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Pavlo Bagmut/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty

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A Russian passport is engulfed in flames started by Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the State Duma who emigrated from Russia in 2014.

Pavlo Bagmut/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty

Ponomarev’s associate at February Morning, Aleksey Baranovsky, a former supporter of far-right organizations in Russia, told The Daily Beast that the media group received messages from the National Republican Army an hour after Dugina’s attack in Moscow. He claimed that the group had asked Ponomarev to represent them and share his manifesto, in which they promised that “those who do not relinquish their power will be destroyed by us.”

“The initiative came from the group. They acted completely autonomously. We don’t call them terrorists, they are an army of rebels,” Baranovsky told The Daily Beast. He said around 10 channel employees had gathered for a meeting with Ponomarev on Sunday to discuss his direction. “He read the statement we had received and commented on it.”

Ponomarev first fled Russia in 2014 after being the only member of the Russian parliament to vote against the annexation of occupied Crimea. He eventually settled in Kyiv, where he became CEO of an American investment firm in the oil and gas industry in Ukraine, although without much success. He told The Daily Beast that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is what prompted him to launch his media group, run exclusively by Russian exiles living in Ukraine. “My war started that day,” too, he told The Daily Beast.

Russian exiles risking Putin’s wrath to return home

Roman Popkov, the exiled former leader of Russia’s far-left Bolshevik National Party, told The Daily Beast that he is convinced the partisan group really exists. “Personally, I know about 10 people in the partisan movement in Russia… they are 20- to 25-year-old activists with both left and right political views,” he told The Daily Beast. “The war has changed Ponomarev a lot. He was reading the manifesto with a stone face: We are all different now, after seeing horrible violence and atrocities during this war.”

However, some independent experts have expressed skepticism about Ponomarev’s claims and reputation. A Moscow-based specialist in radical activist groups, Alexander Verkhovsky, suspects that the group is just an army at the head of Ponomarev.

“Of course, there are anti-war partisan groups in Russia. They throw Molotov cocktails, they blow things up, but if they were united in one big army, they would have had at least some independent Ponomarev channel on Telegram,” Verkhovsky told The Daily Beast. But let’s see what else they do.

However, Ponomarev’s longtime ally, former Russian MP Gennady Gudkov, said he had no doubts about a rebel movement made up of Russian exiles in Ukraine, and that they could be linked to the partisan movement in Russia. “I could guarantee them that Ponomarev is not crazy and that he is not an agent of the Russian Federal Security Service, although there could be a power playing in his interest,” Gudkov told The Daily Beast, referring to suspicions that Ponomarev’s so-called “connections”. partisans” are, in fact, undercover agents of the Kremlin. “But I can also confirm that there are dozens of Russian exiles in Ukraine fighting the war against Putin’s army and that Ponomarev knows these guys well.”

<divclase=Russian State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev (right) with anti-Putin opposition activists at a rally in support of imprisoned Left Front leader Sergey Udalsov at Pushkin Square on December 29, 2011, in Moscow.

Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty

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Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty

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Russian State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev (right) with anti-Putin opposition activists at a rally in support of imprisoned Left Front leader Sergey Udalsov in Pushkin Square on December 2, 2019. 29 , 2011, in Moscow.

Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty

Tetiana Popova, a Ukrainian politician and media expert, also has doubts about Ponomarev’s story. “We have known Ponomarev for many years, mainly as a businessman; we think he might really want to see an armed rebel movement in Russia, but the source for him could easily be a Russian Federal Security Service and the NRA could be his idea.” she told The Daily Beast. “Furthermore, we don’t understand why Dugin’s family was targeted. It’s just a finger, not the hand of those who are fighting the war against Ukraine.”

Russia was quick to claim that it had solved the Dugina murder case. On the eve of her funeral, the FSB accused a Ukrainian woman of carrying out the attack from a distance from a Mini Cooper, claiming that she had brought her daughter in the vehicle. “It all looks like a poorly organized show,” Popov said.

Whether the Russian “investigation” has any water in it or not, Ponomarev says he is already drawing criticism from those who don’t buy his story or say he has become too “radical.” In his interview with The Daily Beast, Ponomarev complained that many of his old friends in the Russian opposition turned their backs on him after his announcement, adding that he was kicked out of the Free Russia Forum scheduled for the finale. . this month in Vilnius.

“All of them, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Garry Kasparov, Yulia Latynina, are afraid to deal with me,” Ponomarev said. But he insisted that he won’t let that stop him: “I’m at war.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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