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Double Agent

Vice, Salon Writer Works for Russian Gov Propaganda Arm

Diana Bruk
Diana Bruk overlooking Red Square / Instagram
• August 13, 2014 10:54 am

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A writer whose pro-Putin columns were published recently by Vice, Salon, and other outlets was simultaneously employed by a Kremlin-funded propaganda operation, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

None of the columns disclosed that Diana Bruk is employed as the social media editor at Russia Beyond the Headlines, a Russian-government-paid advertising insert that runs as a supplement in prominent U.S. newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times.

After being contacted for comment by the Free Beacon on Tuesday, Vice updated Bruk’s column with a line at the end noting that she "serves as social media editor of Russia Beyond the Headlines, a government-sponsored outlet."

Salon did not respond to request for comment.

Bruk began working at RBTH in April and has since written several pieces favorable toward the Russian government for Vice and Salon.

In a piece for Vice last week headlined "Why Russians Still Kinda Like Vladimir Putin," Bruk wrote that Russians have many valid reasons to support Putin.

In Russia, "choice is viewed as a dangerous tool in the hands of human beings," wrote Bruk. "So for these societies it’s beneficial, if irritating, for a leader to eliminate the problematic paradox of choice."

Vice, a "gonzo" publication known for its guerrilla journalism and valued at $1.4 billion after an investment by the Rupert Murdoch-owned 21st Century Fox, has received praise for its on-the-ground coverage of Ukraine.

"When I received my American citizenship, at the age of 14, when I placed my hand on the Bible and made my wedding vows to the USA, the only part I was uncomfortable with was when they asked me to renounce all allegiances to former countries," she added. "You can either be Russian, or American, and anything in between makes you a double enemy."

Bruk did not respond to a request for comment.

Bruk has been writing for RBTH since March when she was working as a journalism fellow at BuzzFeed. She became its social media editor after leaving BuzzFeed in April, according to her LinkedIn profile.

During Bruk’s time at RBTH, she has written a defense of anti-feminist views in Russia and praised Russian folk music and culture.

As a social media editor, Bruk also "promote[s] the newspaper’s articles across various international media platforms, using social media marketing strategies to optimize audience engagement."

According to Bruk’s Twitter feed, she traveled to Russia for work in June. She posted a photo during her trip with the caption "RBTH cocktail party overlooking red square."

RBTH, a project of the Russian government’s official newspaper, is widely considered "pro-Russian propaganda" and part of the Kremlin’s overseas influence-buying effort alongside RT, the Kremlin’s English-language news channel that has recently been excoriated by critics and even its own anchors for biased coverage of the Russian war in Ukraine.

Recent RBTH stories of note include one on "Sochi myths" that assures readers that "foreign visitors to the Olympic Games have no need to fear terrorism, weather and the persecution of gays and lesbians" and one about how U.S. sanctions might actually be beneficial for Russian companies.

Vice did not indicate whether Bruk would continue writing for the site.

Update, August 14, 11:35 a.m.: 

Bruk defended her work in a comment to the Washington Free Beacon, adding that she has at times criticized Putin in writing.

"[I]f you think ‘unequivocally horrible when it comes to human rights and just general common decency’ is ‘pro-Putin,’ you need a real vocabulary check," she wrote. "I'll be lucky if I make it through border control next time I go over there on assignment [for the Russian government news outlet I work for] after this article."

"Also, I've written several articles openly mocking both Putin and the Russian government," Bruk added, citing her columns "Why Putin Should Be Your Next Boyfriend" and "The Best of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Clown Prince of Russian Politics."

Second Update, August 15, 12:10 p.m.:

In a followup email, Bruk denied that her most recent trip to Russia was as part of her job for her Kremlin-funded outlet and suggested the next time she went to Russia it would "likely" also not be for her Kremlin-funded outlet.

"Last time I was in Russia on assignment I was there for a completely independent US magazine that is based in Vermont, and next time I go there it will likely also be for one of the many many independent American magazines I write for," she said in an email. "I have proof of this, so please retract that egregiously incorrect parenthetical reference immediately."

Published under: Media, Russia