Old «friends of Crimean occupation» during the war

Сергій Аксенов і Хендрік Вебер. 06.06.2022. Фото: glava.rk.gov.ru
Sergyi Aksyonov and Hendrik Weber. 06.06.2022. Photo: glava.rk.gov.ru

Activity of Russian propagandist «International Association of friends of Crimea» depends upon Kremlin financial and managerial resources as well as participation of foreign members. The Center for Journalist Investigations highlighted Kremlin resources in our previous material «Friends of Crimean occupation during Great War: Muradov & Co». Now we focus on foreign members of the Association. Our readers are familiar with some of them from our initial special project «Friends of Crimean occupation». This material will tell about their activity during last year.

In 2022, there were three large events of «International Association of friends of Crimea»: online conference on June 22; international conference «Crimea in the current international environment» on November 9 in Simferopol and Forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia» on November 15 in Moscow. Some «friends of Crimean occupation» attended other less important events whereas some «friends» limited their activity to their own countries.


Hendrik Weber, Norwegian «friend of Crimean occupation» and the head of Norwegian non-governmental organization «Folkediplomati Norge», continues to cooperate with Moscow authorities. Weber received an Order of Friendship from A.V.Grushko, the Deputy Minister  of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, on June 1, 2022. Putin’s decree about this award was signed earlier – on September 10, 2021.

Weber met with Sergiy Aksyonov, the occupation «Head of Crimea», on June 6, 2022 in Simferopol (it means that Weber violated temporarily procedure to enter temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, article 332-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). He complained to Russian «Head of Crimea» that he was persecuted for his pro-Russian position in Europe: «We are now in very difficult situation. First of all, there is Covid pandemics. Second, there is special military operation. It is very difficult to talk about situation in Crimea abroad. I was excluded from my own political party because I support Crimea. My wife lost her job».

That is to say, cooperation of Weber’s Trotskyist political party «Red» with Putin’s regime has been acceptable before 24.02.2022. After the Russian full scale invasion into Ukraine, such cooperation became «too toxic». Weber did not mention that the website of his organization «Folkediplomati Norge» does not work anymore.

In November 2022, Weber attended Forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia» and made a speech at Forum’s concluding press conference. He explained the name of the Forum in the following way: the world changed, and Russia faced aggressive attitude in Europe. That is why «people’s diplomacy» for Crimea should cover all the Russian Federation.


Aik Babukhanian, right conservative and media tycoon, conducted «Days of Crimea in Armenia» in Yerevan. Event was attended by Muradov. He met with activists of movement «Strong Armenia with Russia – for the new Union». Babukhanian is the member of executive committee of the movement. The meeting was also attended by Armen Martoyan (Samvel), former commander of the company of so-called «self-defence of Crimea» and current member of the «State Council of Crimea». In Ukraine, he is accused of abducting and torturing Ukrainian citizens during occupation of Crimea in 2014.

 Айк Бабуханян на конференції «Міжнародне співробітництво Республіки Крим у сфері культури», Керч, 11.06.2022 Фото: kerchmuseum.ru

Aik Babukhanian at the conference «International cooperation of the Republic of Crimea in the sphere of culture», Kerch, 11.06.2022 Photo: kerchmuseum.ru

Babukhanian attended conference «International cooperation of the Republic of Crimea in the sphere of culture» in Kerch on June 11, 2022 (it means that he violated procedure to enter the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, article 332-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

He participated in the conference «Crimea in the current international environment» in Simferopol on November 9, 2022. We know nothing about his participation In Moscow forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia». Perhaps, he sent his daughter Zaruia who works as a propagandist in his pro-Russian newspapers.


Bulgarian rusophile Vanya Dobreva participated online in the Kerch conference «International cooperation of the Republic of Crimea in sphere of culture» on June 11, 2022. Her surname is mentioned among participants of Moscow forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia» and Simferopol conference «Crimea in the current international environment». However, she is absent at the collective photo of participants of the Simferopol conference.

Dobreva complained about expansion of the USA and the Soros Foundation, about their attempts to strip other countries of their sovereignty and to de-industrialize them. She justified Russian aggression against Ukraine in her article in Bulgarian newspaper «Епицентер» on February 27, 2022.

К. Малофеев і Н. Малінов. Москва, 2.09.2022 Фото: rusofili.bg

К. Malofeev and N. Malinov. Moscow, 2.09.2022. Photo: rusofili.bg

Another Bulgarian Russophile Nikolai Malinov visited Moscow two times – in September 2022 and January 2023.  He met with Muradov and Yevgenii Primakov, the Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Compatriots Living Abroad. He also met with his old friend and employer Konstantin Malofeev, Russian oligarch, close to the Russian intelligence, who participated in the occupation of Ukrainian Donbas. Malinov was accused by Bulgarian prosecutors of spying for the Russian Federation and transferring sensitive information to organizations controlled by Malofeev.

The USA imposed sanctions on Malinov and Bulgarian National movement of Russophiles and political party «Russophiles for the Renaissance of Motherland» for «corruption actions, illegal personal enrichment, undermining democratic institutions of the country and deepening country’s dependency upon Russian energy sources».

Sanctions did not disturb Malinov and he participated in the «TV Bridge«Crimea and Russia – together forever!» on March 16, 2023.


In 2022, representatives of France have not been mentioned among participants of «Crimean events» under Muradov’s management. Jean-Pierre Thomas, co-initiator of «Association of friends of Crimea», former French corrupted politician and renowned lobbyist of Russian economic interests in France (nicknamed as «Monsieur Russe»), has kept silence in media.



Right wing member of the European Parliament Nicolas Bay, who travelled with Thomas to occupied Crimea, calls Putin «enemy of interests of France» but says that Putin defends interests of his country and France should do the same. His colleague Thierry Mariani, who also visited occupied Crimea, has continued to support Russia and accused the EU of igniting the war.


The Serbian Radical Party, headed by «friends of Crimean occupation» military criminal Vojislav Šešelj and his son Aleksandar, lost 2022 elections to the Serbian parliament. However, there are still many Russophiles among Serbian politicians: ruling coalition of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, conservatives from «Doors» movement, extreme right party «Zapovitnyky» which occupied the segment of Serbian radicals in the current Serbian parliament.

Воїслав і Александар Шешелі Фото: Marko Đoković / intervju.rs

Vojislav and Aleksandar Seselj .Photo: Marko Đoković / intervju.rs

«Association of friends of Crimea» reported that some Serbian representatives participated in online June conference of the Association. But Serbs have not been mentioned in reports about Simferopol conference «Crimea in the current international environment» and Moscow forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia» held in November 2022.

Aleksandar has kept servicing Kremlin in 2022. He said that Russian troops in Ukraine rescue people form genocide, plotted by «Ukrainian Nazi» along Croatian example (justification of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, article 436-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).


«Friend of Crimean occupation» and leader of extreme right political party «Issuikai» Mitsukhiro Kimura has been involved into Russian propagandist events in 2022. He participated in the round table on nuclear disarmament and arms control, conducted by the Russian Embassy in Japan in Hiroshima. Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin scared Japanese people with increasing nuclear risks.

Міцухіро Кімура Фото: sakisiru.jp

Mitsukhiro Kimura. Photo: sakisiru.jp

Representative of Japan participated in the June online conference of the Association of friends of Crimea, according to Muradov’s reports. We do not know whether Kimura participated in Moscow and Simferopol conferences in June 2022. We do not see him on collective photo of the participants of Simferopol conference. 


Representatives of Greece participated in June online conference of «Association of friends of Crimea» and Moscow forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia», in accordance with Russian reports. Their names are unknown. Previous «friend of Crimean occupation» and Greek leftist politician Kostas Isikos lost his influence on the Greek politics.

Кіріакос Велопулос Фото: andro.gr

Kyriakos Velopoulos. Photo: andro.gr

Last year clear pro-Russian role has been played by right political party «Greek solution». In April 2022, its representative Kyriakos Velopoulos heavily criticized Greek authorities for allowing video speech of President Zelensky in the Greek parliament. He was outraged by participation of two Mariupol Greeks from «Azov» regiment in «the video bridge». Their presentation contradicted Russian propagandist narratives about «pro-Russian Greek population of Ukraine suffering from Ukrainian Nazism».


In December 2022, head of pro-Russian union of Crimean Tatars of Turkey and «friend of Crimean occupation» Unver Sel attended Moscow conference «Cultural connections of Crimean Tatar organizations of the Republic of Crimea with compatriots abroad». Before the Russian full scale invasion, Russians conducted these conferences in Crimea. He often publicly speaks with messages that Ukrainians will not be able to liberate Crimea with military force and that Crimean peninsula should be recognized as Russian territory.

 Унвер Сель і Васфі Сель. Сімферополь, 30.06.2022 Фото: ria.ru

Univer Sel and Vasfi Sel. Simferopol, 30.06.2022 Photo: ria.ru

Unver Sel attended occupied Crimea on June 30, 2022 when he participated in «TV bridge» Moscow-Simferopol «Position of Turkey in the conflict of civilizations between Russia and the West» (it means that he violated the Ukrainian procedure to enter the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, article 332-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

There are other Moscow supporters in Turkey. Dogu Perinchek, leader of pro-Russian party «Vatan» and supporter of Eurasian ideology, continues to require from the Turkish authorities the recognition of «Russian Crimea».


«Friends of Crimean occupation» from Belgium Frank Kreyelman and Yan Penris were subjected to Ukrainian sanctions on October 10, 2022. However, they have not been active in 2022 and 2023. They are not mentioned in Muradov’s reports.


Chinese «friend of Crimean occupation» Ge Chihli has continued his road shows around Russian cities. He talked about «good Russia and special military operation» in Ulyanovsk whereas in Grozny he praised the genius of Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of Chechnya.

Ге Чжилі. Ульяновськ, квітень 2022 Скріншот: Youtube Ульяновск Медиа

Ge Chihli. Ulyanovsk, April 2022. Screenshot: Youtube Ульяновск Медиа

In accordance with Russian reports, Chinese representative participated in June online conference of «Association of friends of Crimea». It is very likely that it has been Ge Chihli.


Former Soviet dissident and ex-Prime Minister of Slovakia Ján Čarnogurský has played his usual role of «wedding general». Sitting near Muradov at pro-Russian events, he has pronounced traditional phrases: «Today our Association has its representatives in more than 40 countries. We are expanding, in accordance with possibilities in each country. We create clubs of Friends of Crimea in other countries».

Ян Чарногурський і Георгій Мурадов. Пресконференція учасників форуму «Друзі Криму - друзі Росії». Москва, 16.11.2022 Скріншот: pressria.ru

Ján Čarnogurský and Georgii Muradov. Press conference of participants of Forum «Friends of Crimea – friends of Russia», Moscow, 16.11.2022 Screenshot: pressria.ru

We do not know the names of «representatives» from Tunis and Israel who participated in the events of Association in 2022.

Earlier Tunis was «represented» by Messaudi Abdelaziz, member of Tunisian political party, and Israel – by Avigdor Eskin, extreme right politician and journalist.

Thus, there is a clear trend. Some foreign politicians, who have supported Russian annexation of Crimea during nine years, slow down their cooperation with Moscow. Others turn into obvious Russian propagandists.

However, there is a group of new participants of «Association of friends of Crimea». Our next publication will focus on them.