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The Daily Vertical: From Trolling To Espionage (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

(The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.)

This weekend, separatists from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Italy, California, Texas, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere will gather at a Kremlin-sponsored event in Moscow.

But while the so-called "Dialogue of Nations" conference is sure to grab headlines, at the end of the day it's just another example of Kremlin trolling.

A better signal of how serious Vladimir Putin's regime is about courting Western secessionists and extremists came with yesterday's little government reshuffle.

Sergei Naryshkin resigned as speaker of the State Duma, reportedly to make room for Vyacheslav Volodin, the Kremlin's chief political fixer and leg breaker, who is widely expected to be appointed in his place.

But where the rabidly anti-Western Naryshkin landed, as head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, is also very revealing.

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As author and political analyst Anton Shekhovtsov notes on Facebook, Naryshkin is one of the key point men in the Putin regime's courtship of the European far right.

France's Marine Le Pen, for example, has said she meets with Naryshkin "roughly once a year."

The two huddled for more than an hour in the Duma last year, after which Naryshkin called Le Pen's National Front "among the leading political forces in Europe."

He also has close ties with other European extremists, like Italy's Matteo Salvini.

And this man is now Russia's foreign intelligence chief.

The Kremlin's courtship of Europe's xenophobes, it appears, is about to escalate from mere trolling to outright espionage.

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NOTE TO VIEWERS: The Daily Vertical, and all other Power Vertical products, will not appear next week as I will be attending a conference in Tbilisi, Georgia. All Power Vertical products will return to their regular schedule on Monday, October 3.

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