- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Assange and Co. may be going after Moscow next:
"We have [compromising materials] about Russia, about your government and businessmen," Mr. Assange told the pro-government daily Izvestia. "But not as much as we’d like… We will publish these materials soon."
He then dropped a hint that’s likely to be nervously parsed in Russia’s corridors of power: "We are helped by the Americans, who pass on a lot of material about Russia," to WikiLeaks, he said….
Assange and another WikiLeaks spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson, who talked to the daily Kommersant Tuesday, refused to provide details. "Russians are going to find out a lot of interesting facts about their country," Ms. Hrafnsson told Kommersant, adding that WikiLeaks would soon be targeting "despotic regimes in China, Russia, and Central Asia" in a series of fresh document dumps.
"If they are going to disclose details of secret bank accounts and offshore businesses of the Russian elite, then the effect will be shocking," says Stanislav Belkovsky. president of the Kremlin-connected Institute of National Strategy. "Most Russians believe that political leaders and others have siphoned off billions of dollars into foreign accounts, but proof of something like that would be dynamite."
The question then becomes, what sort of impact this will have inside Russia. Eminent Russian intelligence reporter and past FP contributor Andrei Soldatov notes that past online leaks about the activities of the FSB never reached the public sphere because they weren’t reported in the largely pro-Kremlin Russian press.
WikiLeaks seems like it could be a different beast though. The Pentagon leaks have turned the site into something of a globla brand — as the fact that Assange is even being interviewed by Izvestia attests. If WikiLeaks has genuinely exposive material on senior Russian political figures, it will be a tough story to kill. A Russian WikiLeaks dump could be an interesting test for whether Russia’s growing Internet population can undermine a largely closed mass media environment.