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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: June 24, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Hacker 'Hell," Accused of Exposing Emails of Navalny and Other Russian Opposition, On Trial in Bonn
6 years
Ex-Troll Farm Employee Wins Her Case in St. Petersburg

Russian bloggers have published the first pictures of a man on trial today in Bonn who is alleged to be the infamous hacker "Hell" who hacked the email of opposition leader Alexey Navalny in 2012, reported.

Sergei Maksimov, 42, is accused of hacking Navalny's email as well as other opposition figures. Navalny is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, although he was unable to be present in court because Russian authorities will not allow him to leave Russia due to his two suspended court sentences.

Another man whose last name only has been given, Petrov, a Russian emigre who resides in Germany and claims to have been hacked in 2007 by Hell, is among the witnesses.

The blogger Semyon Zakruzhny is covering the trial for Open Russia.

Translation: Sergei Maksimov, who is supposed of being the hacker Hell. He denies it.

Translation: "Hacker Hell" in a Bonn court room.

Maksimov is a Russian emigre who lives in Germany.

Translation: He's alone. It appears to be him, we'll check.

A German Internet provider has provided testimony that the hacks of accounts were made from Maksimov's IP address, says Snob, and more information tying Maksimov to the hack has come out at trial.

Translation:  IMPORTANT A policewoman has testified that during the search of Maksimov's home, the cracked emali boxes were found, including the email of @navalny.

As Carl Schreck of the US-funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe reported:

For years, a mysterious self-identified "hacker" has boasted about wreaking havoc against prominent Kremlin critics, claiming responsibility for stealing troves of their personal e-mails leaked online and hijacking their social-media accounts.

To date, however, the true identity of the individual -- known by the online pseudonym Hell and arguably the Russian-language Internet’s most notorious alleged hacker -- has never been publicly confirmed.

But that may soon change for the pseudonymous blogger, who once bragged that "they can’t catch me."

A Bonn court on June 24 is set to hear a criminal case against the online activist that opposition leader Aleksei Navalny claims is based on materials he provided to German prosecutors.

"Anyone who wants to personally get to know the hacker can do so just one week from now," Navalny wrote in a June 18 post on his website.


Hell’s targets have included the famous novelist-turned-Kremlin-critic Boris Akunin; the fiery dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya, who died last year; and numerous journalists and political activists prominent in opposition circles.

The exposure of Navalny's emails was a sensation at the time but in fact didn't seem to harm his popularity as he went on to get 30% of the vote in the Moscow mayoral elections in 2013.

But as Navalny notes, most of the information that the Kremlin and docile prosecutors have used to trump up criminal cases against him have come from these emails. One item in particular is constantly used by trolls and hecklers at meetings, such as during his public appearance recently in Kostryoma, namely, that he had property in Montenegro that he did not report as an asset before the elections.

Navalny has repeatedly replied that while he formed a company to purchase real-estate, he never made any purchases, which is easily shown by records in Montenegro, so he had nothing to declare. The cases are believed to have been fabricated in retaliation for Navalny's work as head of the Anti-Corruption Fund, which has targeted top Kremlin officials and oligarchs for buying properties and luxury items clearly beyond their means.

As Schreck points out, Hell, while mysterious has not been so inaccessible -- he gave an interview to Izvestiya in 2012 in which he said he was motivated to hack Navalny because he was supposedly "a thief, a crook, an informer -- and lies all the time." This was an inversion of the slogan Navalny himself often used about getting rid of "a government of thieves and crooks."

Hell has a Twitter account with an avatar of a baby in a bunny suit from which he taunts his victims. On June 18, he claimed that Navalny, whom he calls "Navalner" to imply he is Jewish, has fingered the wrong person.

Translation: So the funny monkey Navalner has turned in a completely irrelevant idiot, and thinks this is "Hell," this guy told me this back in 2013 haha.

But he has also been caught in contradictions:

Translation: Here's what is really important: Hell wrote that he had met with Maksimov. But Maksimov told me before the hearing that he had never seen him. ???

As @torquemada_hell, claiming to be the hacker Hell, has been publishing a steady stream of tweets laced with profanities all through the trial, it seems whoever is running the account is not Maksimov, who was obviously unable to tweet from court.

Russian bloggers have continuously speculated whether Hell was in the pay of Russian intelligence, but he repeatedly claims that he hacks for free and that he is even unemployed.

This has prompted questions about how Maksimov has afforded his lawyer.

Translation: my friend in Bonn: "I'm in shock that an unemployed person can hire Hans-Karl Hassel, the most expensive and respectable lawyer here."

The trial is still under way.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick