RT journalists investigated the sources of funding for one of the main opposition Russian media outlets, the Project, which often publishes exposing materials about the Russian authorities. According to RT, “independent media” received $ 330,000 from abroad in the form of grants from European and American authorities, and foreign sponsors require the “Project” to fulfill a number of conditions to continue funding. And the editor-in-chief of the publication Roman Badanin not only receives money from abroad, but also asked for help with moving abroad.
Who gives money to Project?
The publication was founded in 2018 by the former deputy editor-in-chief of Gazeta.ru, former editor-in-chief of RBC and Dozhd, Roman Badanin. It is an online media outlet that specializes in political, economic and social issues in Russia and publishes investigations into the activities of the Russian authorities.
According to the documents that RT journalists got hold of, the publication is operated by Project Media, a US-registered legal entity. There is a legal entity of the same name in Lithuania. Both are led by Badanin.
At the start of the work, the total amount of funding for the “Project” amounted to $ 500 thousand. Now, RT journalists found out that Badanin received $ 330 thousand of them in the form of grants.
Generous donors were the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), which allocated $ 240,000, and the American National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which wrote a check for $ 40,000. The Bermuda Sreda Foundation, owned by Boris Zimin, the son of the co-founder of VimpelCom living abroad Dmitry Zimin…
EED and NED, funded by the US Congress, are recognized as undesirable organizations in Russia. Boris Zimin’s Sreda Foundation is included in the register of NGOs. Zimina’s father and son are known as one of the largest sponsors of the Anti-Corruption Fund (the organization is recognized in the Russian Federation as a foreign agent… – approx. AiF.ru) Alexey Navalny…
What do they pay for?
The agreement with the EED says that one of the key objectives of the “grant” is “to maintain freedom of speech in the media in Russia.” However, then the recipients of the “grant” are given detailed tasks that they must complete, more similar to the KPIs of some government order. So, in September 2019, by the end of the agreement, EED expected to receive at least 20 videos, podcasts and infographic materials, 35 “feature articles” in exchange for the transferred amount. And the number of views of each note should have been at least 150 thousand.
To achieve these goals, Badanin had to recruit “highly qualified journalists who lost their jobs due to censorship in Russia.”
The American NED has allocated money to the “Project” to “expand the access of the Russian-speaking audience to high-quality independent investigations.” Although the American sponsor provided the least amount of money, it was he who made the highest reporting requirements.
Badanin had to send four financial and four descriptive reports a year. He had to report on the rates of views and visits to the site. NED was interested in public reaction and mentions in foreign media. “Indicators of success may include increased public access to high-quality independent investigative journalism in Russian, political response to investigations or high-profile references to investigations, increased discussion and awareness of alternative viewpoints other than the disinformation and propaganda discourse promoted by the authorities. “, – stated in the appendix to the agreement with NED.
And only the Zimins, providing money, did not put forward any counter obligations to Badanin. However, this is not surprising, given that Badanin and Zimin Jr. are friends, and the latter has more than once written author’s columns for The Project. Moreover, Badanin even received the “Editorial Board” award established by the Zimin Sreda Foundation.
Recognition in the UK
But in Russia, the “Project” received recognition only from the investigating authorities. Roman Badanin is now acting as a defendant in the case for the protection of business reputation in connection with the material “Cart from the Kremlin”. It talks about a businessman’s connection Vladislava Klyushin with Telegram channels allegedly controlled by the presidential administration.
Klyushin filed a lawsuit. The district court denied him satisfaction, but the appeal recognized him right and awarded compensation for moral damage in the amount of 50 thousand rubles. Badanin then filed a cassation appeal. The case remains pending.
Another case under the article “Libel” against Badanin was opened in St. Petersburg in 2018 after the publication of the investigation “Petersburg. Father and Son ”on the Dozhd TV channel. It was about family Ilya Traber, who is allegedly “close” to the president and built a business thanks to his connections with the country’s top leadership. The case is still under investigation.
The head of the “Project” himself, against the background of these investigations, was looking for an opportunity to stay in the United States through NED and asked to find him a vacant position. How these searches ended, RT journalists do not know.
The investigation released on RT about foreign sources of funding for the Project is unlikely to be able to influence the audience of the opposition media – as they read it, they will continue to read it. In Russia, in general, various investigations do not lead to a radical change in the political preferences of citizens, says AiF.ru director of political analysis at the Institute of Social Marketing Victor Poturemsky: “In sociological practice, there are practically no such examples.”
“In Russia, the genre of investigations against the authorities is a sort of pulp fiction that has its own audience. A very small part really has to do with the truth. The bulk is such a compilation from open sources, partly based on rumors, partly on fantasy. And the point is for the readers of the same “Project” to understand where the legs grow from. Although I don’t think most of them will stop reading it. But there is nothing to be done about it – some people like tabloid detectives, others like such ‘investigations’, ”says the director of the Institute of Contemporary States Alexey Martynov“.