Russian nationalists and social conservatives appear to be working together to use links with "pro-family" organizations in the U.S. and around the world to promote Russia's geopolitical agenda, according to emails sent between right-wing activists.
The emails are contained in a cache posted online by Shaltai Boltai, a secretive organization dedicated to leaking Kremlin documents.
It is not clear how Shaltai Boltai obtained the emails, but they appear to come from the account of Georgy Gavrish, a former official with the Russian Embassy to Greece and longtime member of the "Eurasianist" movement founded by the ultra-nationalist political philosopher Alexander Dugin.
The emails include frequent correspondence between senior Russian figures, such as Dugin, the financier Konstantin Malofeev — who has close ties to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and is a patron of causes dear to the Orthodox Church — and Alexey Komov, an official with the Orthodox patriarchy and the "Russian representative" of the World Congress of Families, a social conservative network based in Rockford, Illinois.
Gavrish did not respond to a request to discuss the emails. Many messages are part of bizarre exchanges speculating that some contacts may be agents of foreign governments or the Order of Masons who are out to get them. But the archive includes exchanges hinting that Gavrish is involved in handling Dugin's relationships with separatists in Ukraine and building links with far-right politicians throughout Europe.
The conversations also make clear that Malofeev relies on Gavrish as a gatekeeper with some European contacts. It also includes discussion of a global summit of social conservative leaders convened in Moscow in September organized by Komov, including two emails in which Komov sends a full list of people invited to the conference — along with their contact information and details of passports and visas — to Gavrish.
The conference caused an uproar in the United States because it was originally organized as a World Congress of Families summit, but the WCF was forced to drop its official sponsorship when some American partner organizations withdrew their participation in protest of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Komov, who had promoted the event as the "'Olympics' of the international Pro-Life movement supporting the Natural Family," moved ahead with the event under the auspices of foundations controlled by Malofeev and another oligarch in Vladimir Putin's inner circle, president of the state-owned railway company Vladimir Yakunin, and two members of the WCF's leadership served on the organizing committee.
It's not clear why the participant list may have been of interest to Gavrish. In an email dated Sept. 15 — four days after the conference closed — Komov said he was passing on a "detailed file with the foreigners' contacts just in case" and asked to meet the following day. Asked to comment on the list, Komov said in an email to BuzzFeed News, "All the information in the attachments does not properly reflect reality and [may be] misleading if published," but he did not respond to follow-up questions asking what was incorrect about the documents or why he had emailed them to Gavrish.
The spreadsheet shows confirmed attendance at the conference "gala" from government officials, religious leaders, and activists from around 50 countries. These include France's Aymeric Chauprade — a member of the European Parliament from the far-right Front National party — the Hungarian Minister of State for Family Affairs Katalin Veresné Novák, and Kyrgyzstan's First Lady, Raisa Atambaeva. The guest list notes that several members of parliament from European countries had been "recommended" for the event by Russian MP Yelena Mizulina, author of the so-called "gay propaganda" law. Nineteen are identified as coming from the United States — including the National Organization of Marriage's Brian Brown — most of whom were "recommended" by the World Congress of Families.
The spreadsheet appears to indicate who paid for the attendees' flights, and the biggest sponsor was the Foundation of St. Andrew the First Called, which is chaired by Yakunin. The foundation is named alongside 57 of the 166 participants under a column labeled "plain," an apparent misspelling of "plane." Most of the other attendees are described as "paying own way" in this field.
Russians invited include Igor Shchegolev – a senior aide to Putin – and Father Tikhon, an Orthodox monk said to be Putin's confessor, but the list including their names does not indicate whether they accepted the invitation.
The conference closed with a declaration calling on the world to stand against LGBT rights in order to "unite before the threat of total dehumanization of society, to set up a barrier on the road of ideology-lined, state-supported interference in the private lives of people, in an attempt to foist specific sexual lifestyles and preferences of the minority upon the majority."
In one email addressed to Komov, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage wrote that the "the Forum was amazing and all of this press will work to the greater benefit of the pro-family worldwide movement if we respond properly." It also contained an advance copy of an op-ed to run in the Washington Times under Brown's byline that highlights "the new form of cultural imperialism" represented by LGBT rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Komov forwarded Brown's note to Malofeev and Gavrish, with the introduction, "The empire strikes back :)"