The leak trove was huge in size, and some of the documents inside were – befittingly for Zhirinovsky – scandalous. Typically for Western press, though, the sheer size of the leak, and the fact it was in Russian, discouraged any mainstream media from covering any of it (it didn’t help that most of the documents were smart-phone photos that didn’t lend themselves easily to Google-translation).
I thought at least Ukrainian media would have paid attention to the Zhiri-leaks, but on election day I was shocked to find that they hadn’t. Otherwise there would not have been hundreds of fond, cute stories on Candidate Darth Vader, the chair of the Internet Party of Ukraine who ran for parliament. But I’ll get to that a bit later in the story.
First, a grain of salt. I am still on the fence about the authenticity of ALL leaked documents. As with almost all leaks (except email hacks), the “document properties” that tie a document to a date or person, can be faked. So to infer authenticity, you have to either (1) assess the credibility of source, or (2) make a probabilistic analysis of the content.
In this case we can’t assess the source, as it’s anonymous. (Unfortunately, it’s not the Anonymous, which would have made it easier. it’s just anonymous). But we can do content analysis and see if the content “checks out”.
There’s one rule of thumb. The bigger the stash of documents, the more reliable the probabilistic verdict. Simply because with each extra dozen of documents, it becomes exponentially difficult to maintain an internally consistent “story”. Mistakes are easy to made, so the cost of fabricating the extra 200-300 pages that hang together with the rest of the pages becomes too large. At a certain point, Occam’s Razor kicks in, and you must assume that 10,000 pages of non-contradicting documents are more likely to be authentic than fabricated.
Let me give you an example. This is an excerpt from a (draft) interview with Zhirinovsky, planned for the March 26th issue of the Russian weekly Argumenty & Fakty. The word-doc properties suggest it was created by a “Marina”, on March 23, 2014. The content is a self-aggrandizing “I told you so – Crimea shall return” shameless self-promotion by Zhirinovskiy. The by-line of the interview is from Marina Nabatnikova, an actual journo from A&F. But most importantly: this interview was never published. Why is this a good thing for authenticity?
If it wере a published interview, one could still argue that the hypothetical fabricator might have complied ready-made material from public sources. This interview is original. (well, you know what I mean…). Now imagine someone sitting down to create 67,000 pages (yep, that’s the approximate size of the stash) of original stuff that sounds and smells like Zhirinovski,. Plus remembering to fake document properties and author’s names to match each invention.
Then there’s the content that can’t be fabricated. There are several drafts of a private court claim by Zhirinovsky himself against the Ukrainian state (May 2014), in which he asks for the return of the factory of his grandfather, one Itzhak Aisik Zeev Eidelstein. His grandpa owned a wood-processing factory in Kostopol, then Poland, now Ukraine, that was nationalized. Now that Ukraine is an associated EU member, it must honor his grandpa’s property and his rights as heir. So it goes.
And then there are the not-so cute ones. Here, in a twist of surrealism, someone (his secretary would be my least perverse guess) saved a web-banner advertising toothpaste with Zhiri’s bad teeth.
The only possible conspiracy is that MOST of the documents are authentic, but just a few key ones are “planted evidence”. You make he call on that.
Darth Sidius and the Coruscant Secret Underground Tunnel
Pushilin, it seems, works closely with Zhirinovsky. So much so that he seems to use his office as his temporary desk in Moscow. There are drafts contracts between DNR and third parties, plus powers of attorney, granted by Pushilin on behalf of DNR, that have no logic to be on LDPR’s servers unless Zhiri was providing logistical support to the DNR kid.
But then there’s the more sinister stuff than simple logistics.
Enter this funding request (“top-secret”), from DNR’s “Energy Minister”, dated August 24. It describes a scheme, whereby DNR would purchase diesel on terms “already agreed with the Russian Federation as of August 20th.”. According to the scheme:
“..a group of people with cash on hand will come to Novoshaktiysk to pay for the diesel, which will then be shipped via the existing top-confidential tunnels passing under the RU-Ukrainian border.”
“..a second group will meet them on the Ukrainian side and will load the fuel into pre-waiting gas trucks in the village of Severny in LNR”
“…from there, convoyed by the military, the trucks will transport fuel to Donetsk, approx. 230 km””
“The first shipment is estimated at 210 cubic meters, which, along with the cost for underground transport, will come to about 7,140,000 RUR (or 34 RUR per liter).
“The fuel will thus cost us 12.6 hryvna, and will be sold on to traders at 13.8 hryvna. The difference will go into the coffers of DNR.”
The scheme looks all set to go, except there is one thing missing: the initial capital. Thus, this top-secret letter on official-looking DNR letter-head ends with a request – to whom it may concern:
“We ask that you provide us with the necessary funds for the purchase of the first shipment, and to appoint representatives from the Ministry of Defense to assist our group with crossing the border and accessing Novoshaktiynsk, as well as the return convoy to the border and further on to Donetsk“
I called the Ukrainian Security & Defense Council today, and asked them what they thought of the LDPR leaks, and in particular about the alleged mysterious underground tunnel between the Russian and Ukrainian side of he border near Lugansk.
Here is the relevant part of their response:
“We are familiar with the documents that you sent us. For understandable reasons, we cannot comment on their authenticity. DNR and LNR are, per Ukrainian law, terrorist organizations, and their activities are being investigated by the prosecution and the SBU.
In relation to the contraband of fuel: we are not familiar with existing underground tunnels and/or pipes.
What we are familiar with, though, is that DNR and LNR possess motorized weaponry, which has been handed over to them by the RF for carrying our military activity against the Ukranian anti-terrorist forces. Evidently, such amount of motorized units require not only a supply of missiles, but also fuel and motor oil.
If you pay attention to the date of the alleged document [20 august 2014], you may remember that at the end of August, the Ukrainian military were in heavy armed conflict with armed and desperate terrorists. During this period, a large part of the border near Donetsk region was controlled by Ukrainian armed forces, while a significant part of the border with Lugansk Region were controlled by the terrorists.
Today the situation is somewhat different, and the terrorists can obtain the necessary supplies from Russia unimpeded.
…We have also requested further comments from SBU which will be passed on to you.”
In other words…the content analysis, once again, checks out.
In next episode: Darth Vader and the Contraband Pinocchio.