The retirement pension plans of New York City and New York state invest in an affiliate of a Russian Web site used by neo-Nazis to organize and publicize kidnappings of gays, blacks and Jews in Russia.
New York lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group Queer Nation revealed the ties today following the results of a Freedom of Information Law request by the group to the city and state of New York.
Queer Nation found that the combined pension plans of New York City and New York state own $1,406,675 worth of GDRs, or “global depository receipts,” in Russian telecom giant MegaFon, an affiliate of embattled Russian social media site VKontakte, aka VK.com. MegaFon and VK.com are both controlled by Russian billionaire oligarch, and friend of Putin, Alisher Usmanov, as a result of a recent purchase of VK.com stock by MegaFon CEO Ivan Tavrin.
Specifically, Queer Nation says the New York City Employee and Retirement System owns 22, 399 GDRs in MegaFon worth $699,968. And the New York State Common Retirement Fund owns 22, 797 GDRs in MegaFon worth $706,707.
The LGBT rights group is calling on New York City comptroller Scott Stringer, and New York state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, to contact Usmanov and Tavrin, and demand that content depicting, promoting or extolling the abduction of gays, blacks, Jews and others be taken down from VK.com, and that all accounts associated with such materials be deleted.
“Russian neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists have used VK.com to execute and publicize the kidnappings, beatings, and torture of nearly 1,500 men and boys in Russia,” Queer Nation member John Weir told AMERICAblog.
“New York’s pension plans have used their economic power and shareholder resolutions to champion human rights in the past,” Weir said. “Scott Stringer and Tom DiNapoli must use that same power to demand that MegaFon CEO, Ivan Tavrin, and the company’s controlling shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, pull the anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT, and racist content from Russian social media giant VK.com, a site that is an organizing hub for criminal activity by neo-Nazis, vigilantes, and common thugs.”
VK.com is used by Russian neo-Nazis to organize, and propagandize, anti-gay abductions
VK.com, which bills itself as “the Russian Facebook,” has come under increasing international criticism for permitting a Russian neo-Nazi umbrella group called “Occupy Pedophilia,” and its 30-some affiliates and offshoots, to use VK.com to organize, and publicize, its abductions of gays, blacks and Jews, including teens. The group also targets immigrants, and what it claims are drug dealers.
Occupy Pedophilia is run by Russian ultra-nationalist Maxim Martsinkevich, aka “Tesak,” aka “Slasher.” The group’s modus operandi includes luring young gays to “dates,” where they are greeted by a large number of men who tie them up, beat them, and then force them to “confess” their sins on camera.
The videos of the abduction and torture are then posted online, typically on VK.com, but also to a lesser degree on YouTube. And while YouTube removes such videos when notified of their existence, VK.com has been less forthcoming. More on that in a moment.
The victims, sometimes nude, are mocked and humiliated, called “faggot” repeatedly, often beaten, and they are threatened with being outed to their families and their employers (which, after the session, they are).
Some victims have their heads shaved down the middle, and a rainbow flag, the international symbol of the gay civil rights movement, is painted on their scalp, while they are forced to pose on camera with sex toys. (The victims faces have been obscured in many of these photos by me – they are all posted as-is, no obscuring of victim’s faces, on VK.com.)
The victims also often have urine poured on their heads, or are forced to drink it, as a supposed “cure” for their homosexuality.
If the victim is Jewish, Stars of David are also painted on his nude torso.
While Occupy Pedophilia and its affiliates is not the only group that abducts gays in Russia, it is the most profligate and brazen.
Russian government refuses to prosecute Occupy Pedophilia, and even defended it
Occupy Pedophilia founder Martsinkevich was recently arrested under unrelated charges.
The Russian government ignored Martsinkevich’s serial kidnapping spree for nearly a year a half, even though Occupy Pedophilia repeatedly posted videos online, of its own abductions, with the kidnappers even being so bold as to regularly show their faces, seemingly aware that the Russian government had no interest in putting a stop to the the crimes. (Martsinkevich’s VK.com account includes dozens of videos and photos of him abducting gays.)
It is thought that the approaching Sochi Olympics, and a CNN broadcast about Occupy Pedophilia operating in Russia with impunity, finally coerced the Russians to act.
Still, the Russian government refuses to charge Martsinkevich for any of the nearly 1,500 abductions his group claims to have committed over the past year and a half. In fact, the Russian embassy in London recently issued a statement that appeared to defend Occupy Pedophilia, since the neo-Nazi vigilante group allegedly “only” targets pedophiles. In fact, Occupy Pedophilia and its affiliates target gays of all ages, including a sizable number of teenagers.
It should be noted that in addition to publishing photo and video evidence of their crimes on VK.com, Occupy Pedophilia also uses VK.com in order to help organize and carry out its abductions.
This “help wanted” notice, seeking an apartment in which to conduct its anti-gay kidnappings ,and seeking a young person to serve as “bait,” has been up on VK.com for the past seven and a half weeks, and remained live when this story was published. (Occupy Pedophilia calls its kidnappings “safaris” – since they “hunt” gays.)
VK.com has refused to take down evidence of hate crimes
Russian activists say that VK has a poor record of taking down the site’s large collection of gay abduction videos and photos, and that VK refuses to delete the accounts of Occupy Pedophilia leader Martsinkevich, or his lieutenants, who include the head of Occupy Pedophilia St. Petersburg, Ekaterina Zigunova (aka Katrina Logunova).
Logunova’s VK profile includes dozens of videos of herself, or Martsinkevich, abducting and abusing gays.
Not only do the various Occupy Pedophilia affiliates have accounts on VK.com (the organization claims to have 30-some affiliates, if not more), but St. Petersburg even has a VK.com page devoted exclusively to its local anti-gay “safaris.”
Documents obtained by AMERICAblog confirm the charges of Russian human rights advocates that VK.com has repeatedly refused to take down the Occupy-related videos and accounts, while providing a variety of ever-changing excuses that seem to contradict VK.com’s own Terms of Service (more on that below).
In one conversation from just 9 days ago, VK.com’s help desk wrote that neither the kidnapping videos, nor the groups publishing them, would be deleted because the videos “may be fake.” The help desk added that VK.com doesn’t remove videos posted by kidnappers of their victims, for the amusement of VK.com’s larger audience, unless the victim himself comes forward.
Here’s VK.com’s help desk (translated from the Russian by Spectrum Human Rights Alliance):
As far as those videos, they may be a fake. At this time we don’t have enough info. If we receive complaints from the people featured in the video then we’ll see what to do.
With love, VK.com help desk team
Putting the onus on victims to come forward is a rather difficult proposition for gays in a country that is rabidly homophobic, and in which announcing that you are gay could cost you your job, your family, and get you thrown in jail (in addition to the obvious, kidnapped).
VK.com says that “calls for violence” are not okay, but videos of actual violence are:
In order for us to block the group, such group must have calls for violence, abuse made by the group administrators. Certainly, it’s necessary to hear directly from the victims. The victims should contact us themselves.
Always happy to hear your questions!
And of course, what is Occupy Pedophilia St. Petersburg’s “safari want ad” if not a call for violence?
One more from VK.com’s help desk:
Our experience shows that it’d be wrong for us to presume [on behalf of other users] what is offensive and what is not – actually, it’s not worth doing at all [makes no sense to do it]. That’s why we ask to complain those who become victims. This way we can avoid mistakes and miscommunication. We need a complaint from the abused person.
It would be wrong for VK.com to presume what is offensive and what is not?
Putting aside for a moment that VK.com’s own Terms of Service promise to do just that, by prohibiting content that “insults” or “defiles [the] honor and dignity” of its users or third parties (more on that in a moment), why don’t you be the judge.
Here’s some content taken from Occupy Pedophilia’s, and its henchmen’s, VK.com accounts. See if you are experiencing the same difficulty that VK.com is having in determining whether this content in any way insults or defiles anyone’s honor or dignity:
VK.com appears to be violating its own TOS
Interestingly, VK.com’s Terms of Service say nothing about victims of abuse having to come forward before content can be taken down. Here is the relevant portion of VK.com’s TOS:
5.3. When using the Site the User is prohibited from:
5.3.4. loading, storing, publishing, disseminating, making available or otherwise using any information which:
- contains threats, discredits, insults, defiles honor, dignity or business reputation or violates the privacy of other Users or third parties;
- infringes on the rights of minors;
- is vulgar or obscene, contains pornographic images and texts or sexual scenes with the participation of minors;
- contains scenes of inhumane treatment of animals;
- describes means and methods of suicide, contains any instigation to commit suicide;
- propagandizes and/or contributes to racial, religious, ethnic hatred or hostility, propagandizes fascism or racial superiority;
- contains extremist materials;
- propagandizes criminal activity or contains advices, instructions or guides for criminal activities;
- contains restricted information including but not limited to government and trade secrets, information on the private life of third persons;
- advertises or describes the attractiveness of using drugs, including “digital drugs” (audio files affecting the human brain through binaural rhythms), contains information on drug trafficking, drug recipes and drug consumption recommendations;
- is of fraudulent nature;
- or infringes other rights and interests of individuals and legal entities or requirements of Russian legislation;
Of course, there is another problem with VK.com’s claim that victims must come forward: In the case of Occcupy Pedophilia St. Petersburg place a “help wanted” ad for accomplices, and a locale, for their next kidnapping, there is no victim yet. Is VK.com seriously claiming that it will permit neo-Nazi groups, or anyone else, to use VK.com to organize abductions of minorities?
Or how about VK.com’s TOS provision banning anything that “contains advices, instructions or guides for criminal activities.” One would think that Occupy Pedophilia affiliate Restrukt’s video starring Martsinkevich, teaching people how to “catch pedophiles” would fall under that TOS provision. Note the video is hosted by YouTube, but posted to the VK.com account of yet another Occupy Pedophilia related organization:
Also of interest is VK.com’s TOS provision banning anything that “propagandizes fascism.” Occupy Pedophilia is a neo-Nazi movement. And you will find references to Hitler, and the Nazis, throughout the VK.com accounts of their various groups and members. And they don’t get taken down. Here are two current examples from the profile of Occupy Pedophilia St. Petersburg’s Katrina Logunova (aka Ekaterina Zigunova).
The first is self-explanatory (Daniil Konovalov is another close associate of Logunova and Martsinkevich – his VK.com page includes a number of pro-Hitler pro-Nazi posts):
88 is neo-Nazi code for Heil Hitler (Restrukt is an organization affiliated with Martsinkevich and Occupy Pedophilia – it is also the organization responsible for the “how to catch a pedophile” video):
And here we have an anti-gay and anti-semitic two-for-one:
VK.com told the Guardian the offending content would come down. It hasn’t.
VK.com, when contacted by the Guardian newspaper last week, promised to delete the offending material. No such mass purge has occurred.
When contacted by the Guardian, George Lobushkin, VK’s press officer, pledged to delete the content. “We do our best to remove the content that violates our terms of service, as fast as possible. Videos of violence and abuse are forbidden,” he said.
“We also block and delete communities where users call to violence or illegal actions against gay people or any other people. Please note that we are the only Russian social network that lets its users select a same-sex person when specifying their relationship status.
“But it is very important for VKontakte to be an independent company, equidistant from any ideological position or belief. People can express themselves freely, as long as they don’t commit illegal acts or call others to those.”
“Videos of violence and abuse are forbidden.” That’s not what VK.com’s help desk is telling people. And regardless, photos of violence and abuse are widespread on VK.com, and it’s not readily apparent what if anything VK.com did to address the problem after speaking to the Guardian.
For example, the VK.com accounts of Martsinkevich, Logunova, Occupy Pedophilia and all of its affiliates and spin-off organizations (such as Occupy Gerontophilia and Occupy Narkophilia) are still live, as are dozens, if not more, gay abductions videos, some that have have been up on VK.com for over a year.
While “the Russian Facebook” dawdles, the real Facebook last week deleted accounts belonging to Martsinkevich and Logunova, and Instagram deleted accounts belonging to Logunova and Konovalov.
Stay tuned for more in our continuing series on VK.com, MegaFon, Tavrin and Usmanov.