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No volunteers in their own country: How foreigners in Russia raise money for the war with Ukraine and engage in pro-Kremlin propaganda

Following the onset of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, numerous people proclaimed themselves as volunteers and began soliciting funds for the apparent needs of the Russian army. The fundraising efforts, however, are not limited to Russians alone; foreigners are also actively involved. The self-proclaimed sponsors include John Robles, a Puerto Rican of Native American descent closely monitored by the FSB, the French citizen Adrien Bocquet, revealed as a liar on multiple occasions, and the Kornienko sisters from Donetsk, who are involved in the import of kamikaze drones from China.

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Content
  • A Communist Indian

  • The French fraud

  • The drone sisters

A Communist Indian

“Friends, we are raising funds for the 810th separate Guards Order of Zhukov and Ushakov Brigade of Marine Infantry, operating in the Zaporizhzhia direction of the front, to acquire SNOP-37 (Support Point Observation System), which will help them fulfill their missions. The night vision kit costs about 106,000 rubles,” says the Native American from the Taino tribe, John Anthony Robles II, soliciting funds via social media posts.

Robles was born in 1965 in Puerto Rico (a territory under U.S. jurisdiction). His father was a geneticist and, according to Robles, used him and his brother as experimental material, constantly subjecting them to abuse. Accumulating $900, the teenager escaped to California, where he ended up in a children's shelter. After school, Robles, according to his social media posts, underwent a course in Sovietology at the University of Pennsylvania. In this course, students studied communist ideology, the political structure of the USSR, and learned to resist Soviet propaganda.

However, the Sovietologist Robles, on the contrary, succumbed to propaganda: he joined the Communist Party of the USA and convinced his fellow students that the USSR was the best country in the world, and Lenin borrowed his communist ideas from the Indians of his tribe. His love for the Soviet Union was so great that, according to Robles, at a Soviet exhibition in Canada, he asked to be connected with the KGB, asserting he had always dreamed of living in the USSR. However, the Soviet diplomats suspected he was sent by the FBI and refused to cooperate.

Robles joined the Communist Party of the USA and convinced his fellow students that the USSR was the best country in the world, and Lenin borrowed his communist ideas from the Indians of his tribe

Russians remembered about the peculiar Sovietologist in 1994, a time when Yevgeny Primakov led Russia's foreign intelligence and his first deputy was the fervent anti-American and former KGB general Vyacheslav Trubnikov. Masquerading as a journalist, Trubnikov carried out espionage in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal for several years. Through his agency, he organized anti-American protests and disseminated fake information to local journalists about secret CIA laboratories supposedly responsible for creating AIDS.

Soon, Robles received a letter from a certain Galina from Moscow. The woman allegedly wrote that she wanted to connect her fate with him and set the only condition of moving to Russia. At that time, the American was divorced and, taking his young son and daughter with him, he headed to the country of his dreams. However, no Galina lived at the address specified in the letters, and Robles, as a U.S. citizen, was issued a refugee certificate.

A Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR) veteran, who requested not to be named, told The Insider: “They were going to use Robles in a loud propaganda campaign, but the Kremlin threatened: 'Do you want to create a rift between us and the U.S.? Who will give us loans then?' The FSB kept an eye on Robles, and then he was placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”

Nevertheless, the American was employed as a host at the Voice of Russia radio station. On air, the refugee told the English-speaking audience about the wonderful country he lived in, blaming the CIA and the global backstage elite for all mortal sins. In 2013, Voice of Russia was closed, and its employees were transferred to the Russia Today propaganda conglomerate created under the auspices of the Presidential Administration.

In the revamped organizational structure, the American found no role for himself. Upon his departure, he habitually accused CIA agents in Russia and asserted that there had been an attempt to poison him in Dmitry Kiselev's office, where he served as the chief propagandist.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities revoked the Sovietologist's citizenship. While he was uncovering Western intelligence agents in Russia, his son, John Robles III, was serving a five-year sentence in a Russian prison for drug trafficking. After completing his sentence, he was deported to the U.S. His daughter, Kayla, upon reaching adulthood, relocated to Germany and got married there.

Presently, the elder Robles demands the blocking of Google/Android, Yandex, and WhatsApp in Russia. He lends support to terrorists from Hamas and, in the recent takeover of the airport in Makhachkala by a frenzied crowd, accused the 72nd Center for Information-Psychological Operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of orchestrating the unrest (though no evidence was presented). Robles adorned his old SUV with Z-symbolism, he participates in the Russian Spring car rallies, and claims to be a member of the Officers of Russia organization. However, the organization told The Insider that they do not have an Indian from Puerto Rico on their staff.

Moreover, he identifies himself as a volunteer, soliciting funds for the needs of the Russian army. By the way, the 810th Marine Infantry Brigade, for which Robles is raising funds to purchase Support Point Observation System (SNOP), lost 85% of its personnel in battles near Kherson and is currently being replenished in Sevastopol. It's not entirely clear why an assault marine brigade would need observation gear primarily used by troops in trench warfare.

Robles solicits funds to purchase observation gear for the marines, normally used by troops in trench warfare

The Insider posed questions to Robles regarding his volunteer activities and his suspicions regarding the attempt to poison him in Kiselev's office, but he did not respond.

The French fraud

In contrast to Robles, who dedicated a decade to pursuing Russian citizenship, French native Adrien Bocquet swiftly obtained Russian citizenship, thanks in large part to the support of the current LDPR leader, Leonid Slutsky, who submitted a request to Putin on his behalf.

Proponents of the government in the media characterize Bocquet as a former operative in the French special forces, where he suffered a significant injury in combat before becoming an investigative journalist.

Bocquet himself recounts that following a lengthy stay in a military hospital, during which he was paralyzed for almost two years, he journeyed to Ukraine with a humanitarian aid shipment. Initially empathetic towards Ukrainians, he later uncovered what he claims to be a prevalence of Nazis within the Ukrainian armed forces, particularly in the Azov regiment defending Mariupol. According to him, “When I speak of murders and torture, I am referring to the killing and torture of Russian soldiers. Officers were targeted primarily. I heard Azov members inquire about the presence of officers. Upon receiving an answer, an immediate gunshot to the head would follow for that man.”

The Frenchman further claimed that he had been in Bucha and personally witnessed the falsification of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers:

“As we entered Bucha by car, I was in the passenger seat. When we drove through the city, I saw bodies of people on the sides of the streets. At the same time, I witnessed bodies being taken from trucks and placed next to those lying on the ground to create the illusion of a mass death.”

Additionally, the Frenchman asserted that the strike on the detention center in Olenivka, where Azov fighters were held, was carried out by an American HIMARS missile, resulting in the known deaths of over 50 people. Bocquet also recounted an attack on him by SBU agents in Istanbul, after which he miraculously survived. Interestingly, he chose not to involve local police but instead contacted the “DNR” intelligence services, who then called the Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs. By the way, the mysterious incident in Istanbul occurred just before Bocquet applied for political asylum in Russia.

Naturally, such a valuable asset did not go unnoticed by Russian propaganda, and soon the Frenchman and his fabrications appeared in pro-Kremlin media.

Meanwhile, French journalists traced all of Bocquet's locations in Ukraine, and according to their findings, he was not in Bucha, where he purports to have witnessed falsifications, as he was in an entirely different place at that time. They also discovered that their compatriot never served in special forces, and got injured during a training exercise on a military base. Moreover, interviews with Bocquet's former colleagues revealed that due to his constant lying, they had stopped communicating with him.

Adrien Bocquet after receiving political asylum in Russia
Adrien Bocquet after receiving political asylum in Russia
Vechernyaya Moskva

It seems that people in Moscow have finally grasped who they are dealing with, as Bocquet is now seldom invited for interviews. In his Telegram channel, the Frenchman solicits funds for the production of documentary films, where he plans to further elaborate on the “crimes of Ukrainian Nazis.”

Furthermore, he has rebranded himself as a volunteer, collecting funds for the treatment of wounded militants from the “DNR.” Recently, Bocquet visited the front lines near Bakhmut and produced a report on the Boomerang kamikaze drone used by Russian forces. The coverage resembles more of an advertisement, while the Russian Ministry of Defense refers to the Boomerang as the first drone developed domestically, invisible to anti-drone rifles of UAVs. However, Ukrainians easily shot down one of these drones and disassembled it. It turned out that the tech was developed by the Israeli company BlueBirdAeroSystems, with 75% of the internals made in China.

The drone sisters

Valentina and Ekaterina Kornienko, born in Makiivka, Donetsk region, effortlessly acquired Russian passports. Their registered address in Rostov-on-Don is listed as a Special Clothing store on Stabilnaya Street. The sisters initially gained attention for providing food and water to the Berkut special forces during the Maidan events, where the forces used batons against Kyiv protesters.

Later, they became associated with the “Defense Minister” of the “LNR,” Igor Girkin (Strelkov). Ekaterina held a position in “Novorossiya” as the Deputy Chairman for Social Work; she married Igor Puzik, known as battalion commander “Zloy” (the Russian word for “angry”). Their wedding was attended by the head of the so-called DNR, Alexander Zakharchenko, who was later killed by a bomb in Donetsk.

The Kornienko sisters
The Kornienko sisters

In 2015, information circulated online that the “MVD” of the “DNR” initiated a criminal case against the sisters for the misappropriation of humanitarian aid through their Dobrorussia foundation. Additionally, there were reports of Valentina, the younger sister, being abducted by individuals in military uniform and taken to an unknown location. Local bloggers raised awareness, leading to the release of the hostage, and information about the criminal case was dismissed as a Ukrainian misinformation attempt.

A criminal case was initiated case against the sisters in the “DNR”for the misappropriation of humanitarian aid through their Dobrorussia foundation

The Insider obtained flight data for the sisters over the last decade, revealing a consistent travel route between Rostov-on-Don, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and back. These flights resulted in the acquisition of thermal imagers, scopes, radios, rifle accessories, suppressors, quadcopters, diesel, boots, and other military equipment,as showcased in their social media accounts.

According to their own accounts, the funds for these purchases come from military blogger Boris Rozhin (known as ColonelCassad in the Russian-speaking web segment), the Telegram channel “Rybar,” war correspondent Alexander Kots of “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” and freelance journalist for the channel “Russia,” Andrey Rudenko.

Ekaterina and “Zloy”
Ekaterina and “Zloy”

In August 2023, the sisters flew to China and, as The Insider found out, met with the leadership of the Sanhang Industrial Technology Research Institute and visited the offices of FPV, Mavic, and Autel, companies manufacturing combat and reconnaissance drones.

Notably, Autel Robotics apparently promised them a significant discount on purchasing several drones, expressing a strong interest in testing their products in real combat conditions. Additionally, the sisters informed the Chinese companies of their willingness to bypass sanctions to acquire anti-aircraft defense systems.

It seems that the sisters' volunteer activities bring them a decent income. For instance, according to the address directory of Rostov-on-Don, Ekaterina purchased an apartment last year in Garnizonny Lane in the prestigious Western Gates residential complex.

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