Kremlin Propagandist Boasted of His Hacking Efforts, Strongly Implied Colluding With Trump Team in Facebook Posts

A former Duma deputy with close ties to Putin made the posts less than a week after Donald Trump won the election.

On November 12th 2016, just days after Donald Trump was elected President, a Russian man named Konstantin Rykov posted on Facebook detailing how, “Donald and I decided to free America and make it great again.” In a two part series that reads like a fantasy novel, Rykov illustrated in detail the four year effort to elect Trump.

Excerpts of the Facebook posts are below. Translations via Google Translate and Lorenz Cohen:

Part one

It’s time for wonderful stories. I’ll tell you about (now it’s possible) how Donald Trump and I decided to free America and make it great again. This took us as much as 4 years and 2 more days.
It all started at night from 6 to 7 November 2012.
[Trump] lifted his plane to the sky and flew between New York and DC, calling the whole world through his twitter — to start a march on Washington!
Without a moment’s thought, I wrote him a replay, which sounded like this in Russian: “I’m ready.” What should I do? “
Suddenly! There was a thin squeak of warning in the DM.
It was a message from Donald Trump. More precisely a picture. In the picture he was sitting in the armchair of his jet, smiling cheerfully and showing me the thumb of his right hand.

Part two

What was our idea with Donald Trump?
For four years and two days .. it was necessary to get to everyone in the brain and grab all possible means of mass perception of reality. Ensure the victory of Donald in the election of the US President. Then create a political alliance between the United States, France, Russia (and a number of other states) and establish a new world order.
Our idea was insane, but realizable.
In order to understand everything for the beginning, it was necessary to “digitize” all possible types of modern man.
Donald decided to invite for this task — the special scientific department of the “Cambridge University.”
British scientists from Cambridge Analytica suggested making 5,000 existing human psychotypes — the “ideal image” of a possible Trump supporter. Then .. put this image back on all psychotypes and thus pick up a universal key to anyone and everyone.
Then it was only necessary to upload this data to information flows and social networks. And we began to look for those who would have coped with this task better than others.
At the very beginning of the brave and romantic [story] was not very much. A pair of hacker groups, civil journalists from WikiLeaks and political strategist Mikhail Kovalev.
The next step was to develop a system for transferring tasks and information, so that no intelligence and NSA could burn it.

Though the posts don’t directly confirm collusion with the Trump campaign, Rykov’s use of “we” and “our” strongly suggests some level of coordination. Short of accessing his Direct Messages, the claim that Trump sent Rykov a private message on election night 2012 is unverifiable. The picture that Rykov included, however, was not an original picture. Analyzing the source code on the Instagram photo confirms that Rykov posted the picture of Trump approximately six hours after Melania Trump posted it on her Twitter:

Instagram source code

Though this was not an original image, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump sent DM’s of the picture to those who were praising him on Twitter. The mention of working with WikiLeaks is especially interesting, given the fact that President Trump’s CIA Director Mike Pompeo has said that WikiLeaks is a “hostile intelligence service” acting as an arm of the Kremlin. A year after the election, it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks and aided the organization in spreading the contents of the Russian hacking efforts.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, Rykov was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. He set up a website dedicated to aggregating and promoting positive news on Trump, and was featured in the conservative Washington Examiner in a piece titled “Putin Loves Donald Trump as the, “Kremlin mouthpiece.” Then candidate-Trump retweeted the article.

Establishing Rykov’s proximity to the Kremlin

Konstantin Rykov has a long and complicated history in Russian politics and popular culture. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rykov was somewhat of an online pioneer creating multiple websites focused on culture, news, and politics. In 2007, as a 28-year-old, Rykov was elected to the Duma as a deputy in Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. The tech-savvy Rykov quickly became one of Russia’s most influential politicians. He has remained an ardent supporter of Putin, creating numerous websites dedicated to the Russian President. In The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, renowned political/tech scientist Evgeny Morozov explained that, “Russian leaders follow [Rykov’s] lead.”

Rykov’s far-right vision is world-wide. He has supported the Scottish Independence effort in 2014, Brexit in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France and Donald Trump in the United States. The Kremlin propagandist’s influential position in the Kremlin was further established in 2015 when hacked text messages were released by Anonymous International that show continual discussion between Rykov and Putin adviser Timur Prokopenko — the head of the Russian domestic affairs department. The two men discuss a quid-pro-quo between French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the Kremlin. Le Pen was to recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea as legitimate in exchange for Russian money in the form of large loans. Le Pen denies knowing Rykov or Prokopenko and maintains her innocence, despite the fact that she did recognize Crimea and then subsequently receive over 40 million euros in loans from Moscow’s First Czech-Russian Bank. The cash-strapped National Front Party was previously denied loans from French banks.

Further eroding the credibility of Le Pen, an investigative report by the French newspaper Navalny revealed that Rykov owns a $2 million villa in the town of Mougins. He is listed as a tax resident of France, meaning that he must either permanently live in France, work there, or have his main economic interests in France. Rykov claims he lives in Moscow. He did not return requests for comment.

Rykov’s shared associates with Trump

Yulya Alferova and Artem Klyushin with Donald Trump in Moscow, 2013

Rykov is one degree of separation away from Trump in two different areas. First, recall that during Trump’s trip to Moscow in 2013 he was seen with Yulya Alferova nearly every step of the way. She even claimed that Trump was running for President in January of 2015, months before he would announce his run. Alferova’s husband is tech entrepreneur Artem Klyushin who regularly corresponds with Rykov on social media. He was with Alferova and Trump throughout Trump’s time in Moscow. In March of 2016, Klyushin posted pictures with Rykov in what he called a “secret meeting.” The exact topic of the meeting remains unknown.

Secondly, former Fox News producer Jack Hanick was a special guest at a Trump election night party in Moscow organized by Rykov.

Hanick co-founded a conservative Orthodox TV channel in Russia called Tsargrad TV with Putin’s close confidant Konstantin Malofeev. Tsargrad was the only major channel to cover Carter Page’s full speech in Moscow in 2015, and the pro-Trump parties on election night and the Inauguration. Hanick has regularly appeared on his channel, defending the alt-right and denouncing “globalists.” A former associate of Hanick’s, who demanded anonymity, told me that Hanick still occasionally keeps in contact with his Fox News friends.

A regular commentator on Tsargrad is former Russian intelligence officer Leonid Reshetnikov. He is also the former head of the think tank Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS). In April, Reuters reported that Reshetnikov’s RISS was the group responsible for drawing up the plan for the 2016 US election interference campaign.

The revelations about Konstantin Rykov, his confession of working with WikiLeaks and hacker groups, and his shared associations with the Kremlin and Donald Trump are troubling. He is yet another figure in an ever-expanding investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign the the Russian government.

Contact the Writer: @ScottMStedman

Contact the Editor: Nathaniel de Gala