Investigation by the American publishing company McClatchy and Voice of America on the possible ties and connections of Russian-speaking immigrants and on the riot in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021.
The events of January 6 are still under investigation by the FBI and other US law enforcement agencies. Also, journalists of major American media conduct their own investigations of those riots because there has been too much information of various kinds that does not give answers to all the questions. Rumors about the presence of Russian-speakers in the crowd of insurrectionists circulated a lot, which, of course, caused a certain interest in the FBI, although initial estimates of the size of that contingent were apparently exaggerated.
McClatchy (one of the largest American publishing companies in America) journalist Kevin G. Hall conducted his own investigation on the participation of Russian-speaking immigrant video bloggers in the Trump rally turned to be the riot on January 6, 2021, and their connections with the Kremlin and the Russian intelligence services.
As Slavic Sacramento previously reported, well-known bloggers in Slavic community went to the march in support of Trump on January 6, 2021: Steve Doudnik and Elena Nikitskaya. If these persons need no introduction for the Slavic immigrants, especially religious ones, for the Americans those two are not that familiar. Therefore, the American journalist decided to dig deeper into what these bloggers, who stood at the walls of the Capitol when, in fact, there was a massive attack on the main building of the US executive branch, are.
Kevin G. Hall immediately notes that “in the case of Doudnik, there is no evidence that he was more than an observer, broadcasting pro-Donald Trump screeds in Russian”. However, Dоudnik claims that his bank account was closed in retaliation for his presence on the march for January 6, 2021. Journalist also notes that “Doudnik has a controversial past, a curious present and seems a contradiction”. And here’s what he managed to learn about the detective from Florida.
Dоudnik made headlines in 2018 when the Miami Herald reported that his firm, General Investigations Services in Broward County, installed illegal tracking devices on the cars of two Hallandale Beach city commissioners and one candidate for a commission seat. The installation was carried out by a one-time employee of Doudnik’s firm on his, Doudnik, instructions – so the employee told detectives of the Florida Department Law Enforcement. Doudnik refused to comment other than to say that the man did work for him in 2016 but that he never ordered the illegal tracking.
Then, Kevin G. Hall goes into details about where Doudnik came from and what he is doing now. “Public records show Doudnik, 45, came to the United States in 1995 at the age of 19 and has lived in South Florida since then, mostly in Broward County. He was an émigré from Tashkent, the capital of what today is Uzbekistan… He’s a member of an international group of detectives that includes Russians who openly boast of their work for the FSB, Russia’s feared spy agency.
In South Florida, he’s operated a number of companies, including those that do fingerprinting and conduct background checks. In a period of less than a year in 2013 and 2014, Doudnik divorced twice and legally changed his name to Steve Cohen, for reasons he has declined to discuss. But he broadcasts under his birth surname, going by Steve Doudnik on YouTube and Instagram. He uses Steve Cohen on his company website for his current company, General PI, in South Florida, and on the website of General PI Latam, his pairing in Costa Rica”.
According to McClatchy, the Costa Rican website said in the bio for Steve Cohen “A former law enforcement officer and FBI agent, Steve is a Florida Licensed Private Investigator and our partner in the USA”. But, as Kevin G.Hall got to know, “Records don’t show him having been employed by any police agency”.
Later, Doudnik commented on his alleged connection with the FBI: “Nah, that’s bulls—t… People make legends to maybe bring in the clients. I never worked for the FBI.” As a result, the Costa Rican website later removed the link with the FBI reference.
As Kevin G. Hall informs, Doudnik’s partner in Costa Rica – Arthur Mitiniani Tkebuchava, a native of Georgia, opened Triton Group A&A with a Ukrainian named Arthur Budovsky. The same year Budkovsky opened a crypto currency company Liberty Reserve, but two years later he was arrested for money laundering in the United States and in 2016 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“There’s no evidence Doudnik knew of Liberty Reserve or did business with the company. But his Costa Rican associate Mitiniani is intimately linked in corporate documents to Budovsky,” says Kevin G. Hall.
Another interesting moment that caught the attention of the American journalist in his investigation – Doudnik with Mitiniani in the photo with a plaque in the background from Alpha Group, “feared Russian elite strike force for counterterrorism and intelligence”, a special unit of the Special Forces Center of the FSB, Russia’s spy agency.
According to McClatchy, Doudnik and Mitiniani are members of the International Association of Private Detectives. On Doudnik’s page on the VKontakte social network (Russian social network like Facebook), his friends include colleagues-detectives whose websites advertise their connections to FSB. Doudnik himself was a Skype speaker at a conference of this association in St. Petersburg, Russia. The head of the Russian chapter of the detectives’ association is Andrey Nikolaevich Matushkin. And as Kevin G. Hall informs, “Both Mitiniani and Matushkin list Doudnik’s Hallandale Beach address as their U.S. office on their websites.”
However, Doudnik spoke to the American journalist and, as Kevin G. Hall writes, “Doudnik scoffs at any suggestion his actions benefit the Kremlin’s efforts to sow discord in the United States.” He commented on why he does not discuss Russia’s treatment of political opponents and high-profile poisonings in recent years as “not his business”.
Another person in the spotlight of the American journalist is Nikitskaya Elena, who left California for South Carolina last year. As Kevin writes, “A 33-year-old émigré from now-Russian occupied Crimea, the stay-at-home mother of twins and social-media manager seems to have evolved in the past year to prominent journalist on Russian television.” Referring to her interviews with Kremlin-controlled Russian media.
In her interviews with pro-government Russian media, Nikitskaya essentially stated that she believed that the rioters were fake Trump supporters and that Democrats were behind the riots to embarrass Trump.
The American journalist reports this curious fact: Nikitskaya was tried to contact by phone and email, but “repeated calls and emails to Nikitskaya and her husband went unanswered.” Her former employer in Sacramento, California, Russian American Media, also did not respond to written questions from McClatchy, but Nikitskaya’s photo and bio were removed from the company’s website.
In South Carolina, property records indicate that Nikitskaya and her husband, Edward, own properties in Inman, Lyman, and Belton. Corporate and property records show that she now uses the name Olena Nikitskaya – the Ukrainian spelling of the name Elena. Does this mean that Elena/Olena Nikitskaya will start a new blog, not so radically inclined towards the Democrats depending on political trends? Life will show.
In December 2020, Nikitskaya registered a company, called Dezaro Marketing in Belton. The company’s website is registered as a U.S. domain, but it’s hosted by the Moscow-based company Variti LLC.
Going through the connections with Moscow of these two Russian-speaking immigrant video bloggers, Kevin G. Hall concludes that “Doudnik and Nikitskaya’s pro-Trump broadcasts often echo the line carried on Kremlin-linked global media outlets.”