Did the Kremlin create the Crimea referendum ballot?

One of the earliest leaks of hacked emails released by Anonymous International (the Russian hacker group that, self-admittedly, works for money but releases publicly the “unsaleable” overkill that meets their personal philosophy) was the mailbox of one of the Kremlin’s PR advisers who apparently worked closely on ensuring the Crimean referendum was a predetermined success. The official in question was Vera Kerova, an officer at the  Institute for Modern Development, a Kremlin-funded  advisory thinktank founded and chaired by Dmitry Medvedev. At the time of the “referendum” Kerova served also as regional  Head of Media/Analytical Department  in President Putin’s administration.

Kerova’s mail correspondence from March 2014 shows the crucial role that the Kremlin played in ensuring that the success of the so-called referendum be a foregone conclusion. In hundreds over hundreds of pages we read how the Kremlin conducted sociological research throughout Crimea, prepared the pro-Russian electoral campaign down to the very imagery, agitation brochures and even speeches by the local Crimean authorities. The correspondence includes also daily reports of the thousands of pro-Russian and anti-Ukraine stories and blog posts planted by the Kremlin in local social and traditional media.

The correspondence also contains two emails with an interesting attachment. The attached word document contains the actual electoral ballot that was used in the Crimean “referendum”.

The doc file is mailed between the personal and office email accounts of Vera Kerova on March 8th 2014, and then forwarded to a Alexander Leusenko, whom I have identified as a Ukrainian designer who, as we see from the emails, has provided the design services for nearly all of the Kremlin’s tasks for the pre-referendum campaign.

Who authored the doc file for the ballot?

An analysis of the properties of the doc file show that it was originally printed on March 7 2014. (it’s created date appears as a later date – March 8th – but Microsoft explains that this is a common occurrence when the doc has been opened and re-saved on a different computer)


As you can see above, the original author is “GrishinaMV“, and it was last modified by an anonymous “mac“.

Mac, most likely, is Vera Kerova herself; as many of her emails are sent from a computer account identified as “mac”:


But who is the actual author, GrishinaMV?

Meet Grishina M[aya] V[ladimirovna]. Ms. Grishina is a member of the Central Electoral Committee of the Russian Federation. Ms. Grishina is also bearer of medals “For services to the Motherland 1st and 2nd Degree, and a special Presidential diploma “For Services in Organization of Elections”. Maya Grishina has also one been one of the active Kremlin advisers to the Crimean regional authorities after the annexation.

A few remarks as to the authenticity of the mail hack. Vera Kerova’s mail archive extends a few years, from 2010 to 2014, and contains highly confidential internal documents (including copies of passports of Russian government officials and scans of unpublished criminal charges. “Fabricating” these thousands of pages while maintaining consistency and cross-referencability is not a statistically plausible task; certainly for a non-government entity. Thus I personally have zero doubt in the authenticity of the source documents (with the possible exception of selective deletion of certain parts, which I am almost sure Anonymous International have engaged in).

Do we have proof that GrishinaMV, author – or at least editor/approver of the Crimean “referendum” ballot is the member of the Russian Electoral Committee?  No, we don’t have hard proof. However, for anyone with a grasp of statistics and probability, the evidence would be sufficient to form a personal opinion. I have formed mine.


One thought on “Did the Kremlin create the Crimea referendum ballot?

  1. Fabricating all this material would be a staggering task, I agree. But slipping a few fabricated items into the mix would be easy.

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