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Russian Court Backs Ex-Kremlin Internet 'Troll' in Lawsuit

  • VOA News

FILE - Lyudmila Savchuk speaks in an interview in her apartment in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 15, 2015.

FILE - Lyudmila Savchuk speaks in an interview in her apartment in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 15, 2015.

A Russian court has awarded symbolic damages to an online Russian writer who claimed her employer's main goal was churning out Internet propaganda favorable to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

In a ruling Monday, the court in St. Petersburg set the damages at one ruble - the penalty sought by plaintiff Lyudmila Savchuk. The writer went public earlier this year with claims that her company, Internet Research, flooded the Internet with pro-Putin and pro-Kremlin propaganda that routinely appeared on Russian and Western news websites.

Savchuk filed her lawsuit in May, and later described her work experiences to Western news agencies and a host of European news outlets.

In June, she told the German news magazine Der Spiegel that she infiltrated the secretive St. Petersburg company as part of a loose-knit network of activists called InfoPeace. She said her fellow propagandists, known in cyberspace as "trolls," bombarded Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and several Russian networks with Russian language posts.

She also cited English language and Ukrainian targets, but said she did not personally participate in those forums.

Response to assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

Savchuk told Britain's Telegraph newspaper that within hours of the February assassination of Russian opposition leader and human rights activist Boris Nemtsov, she and her fellow employees were online in force to discredit Nemtsov, who once served as a post-Soviet deputy prime minister.

She said part of those attacks were aimed at manufacturing claims that Nemtsov - a staunch Putin critic - was killed by his own friends, rather than by government hitmen, as many Russians suspect.

In her lawsuit, Savchuk sought moral damages from the company, along with compensation for unpaid wages and the closing of the company. However, the court ruling left the company still operating.

There has been no public response from Internet Research to Savchuk's claims or to the lawsuit.

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