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Published in Stream:
Russia This Week: September 1-7
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Cell Phone Messages of Moscow Municipal Candidate Leaked to State Media
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Max Katz, an opposition candidate who is running in elections to the Moscow municipal legislature this month, reports that his cell phone messages have been hacked and published in the Russian state media.

Katz, who previously landed a seat in the City Duma in 2012, was running on an independent platform; he had tried and failed to get the nomination from the opposition Yabloko Party.

Translation: My SMS correspondence for 2 years has wound up in the media.

Translation: But read's really f**ked there truly ("My SMS Correspondence for 2 Years Has Ended up in the Media") and distribute this.

In a LiveJournal blog post, Katz said that whoever hacked his account would have had to have access the cell phone company MTS or access this messages through SORM (the filtration system of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB's successor.). Writes Katz (translation by The Interpreter)

They could not have stolen this from my telephone or from iCloud: then there would be also be my messages in iMessage in the files, and I don't have SMS messages on my telephone for that period. I've changed telephones 3 times, and for a certain time I didn't have an iPhone.

I am not under investigation, and the law-enforcement agencies have not questioned me ever, and I have never conducted any activity on the territory of the RF (except for the City Projects Foundation). I have never met with foreign diplomats, I have not proposed going against the Kremlin, and I am not in any underground organizations. I'm an ordinary man, not particularly distinguished by anything (my City Projects in 2012 would hardly be a reason to place surveillance over me.)

Yet my personal correspondence ends up in the media.

You can say as much as you like, that I am now a candidate for the [Moscow municipal] deputies and I have to be prepared for such things, but damn. They were following me for two years, archiving my SMS messages somewhere through an operator. And it would be fine if truly, the FSB did this in order to understand whether I was a terrorist, and in order to stop a terrorist act in time. Many methods are acceptable in the struggle against terrorist acts and if I knew that some officer reads my correspondence only with that purpose, I would even perhaps not be particularly opposed. My police is protecting me, so to speak.

But damn, to leak such files to the media simply because it is convenient now to dump some sort of compromising materials about me? This just seems beyond comprehension; how could they track the personal SMS correspondence of their citizens and use this then in a situation which not only does not threaten the security of the country but which is not even connected with any crimes in any way?

I can't believe this. Let's come out of the state "yes, everything is lawless in our country" and think concretely about this situation once again: someone tracked my SMS correspondence for a minimum of two years and dumped it into the media. From an ordinary citizen, not someone under investigation, not a suspect, not a terrorist.

Katz then wrote to Nikolai Nikiforov, the minister of communications and mass media, who has a Twitter account:

Translation: According to procedure, you must write a statement to the prosecutor's office, since this is a violation of the privacy of communications, stipulated by federal law.

Translation: Always concerned by any facts of unlawful access to personal data of citizens! I have even spoke about this at the UN.

Translation: I will write. But if a minister would also express concern about this situation, I am confident the case would go much more actively : )

Translation: Not a single Russian Federation journalist has taken an interest in the story of the leak of the SMS messages. Although this is the first time this has happened, it hasn't happened before.

Translation: Friends, only two journalists for now have taken an interest in the leak of my personal correspondence and they are both foreign : (  What's that all about?

Correspondence has in fact been leaked before, likely with involvement of the FSB. The telephone conversations of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, former first deputy prime minister, were leaked to the press to create a scandal, outing his frank assessments of other opposition figures, and the email of opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Aleksei Navalny has also been leaked.

It is routine for state TV, notably NTV, to follow opposition leaders and record their meetings and conversations and also police searches of their home, and broadcast them in denunciation programs on the news.