Shortly before Sunday’s elections to the Moscow City Duma, a mass of Russian-language news sites and social media accounts began posting about what they called “Lanovoy’s list.” The outlets all claimed that Vasily Lanovoy, a popular award-winning actor, had compiled a list of the candidates he believed should be elected to the City Duma in every precinct. The idea of such a list was not new: After opposition candidates were blocked en masse from running for the Moscow City Duma, liberal activists led by Alexey Navalny began promoting a “Smart Vote” campaign, which recommended candidates in Moscow’s precincts who were allowed to run but who are not favored by the city’s current regime. Lanovoy’s list was clearly a pro-regime alternative to the Smart Vote strategy, but there was a catch: Vasily Lanovoy soon announced that he hadn’t created the list at all. Meduza discovered that the websites and social media pages that had posted the fake list were all controlled by companies with close ties to Moscow City Hall. Our investigative division followed those ties into a rabbit hole of online state propaganda that makes troll factories look like old news.



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