In the spring of 2010, a Kremlin youth group called Nashi was apparently behind the release of a greatest hits sex reel. In it, various prominent members of the already sidelined, utterly irrelevant Russian opposition were seen cavorting with a prostitute nicknamed Moomoo, who had lured each of them into the same apartment, which was bugged to the hilt. One of them, a prominent (married) journalist, did a few lines of coke with Moomoo before they retired to the bedroom; another, a Russian nationalist, twirls a fedora as he prepares to have his way with Moomoo. Still another, a Russian comedian named Viktor Shenderovich, who had been targeted by Putin in 2002 for his satirical show “Kukly” (“Dolls”) that skewered Putin and earned his ire, is seen timidly expressing his gratitude to Moomoo for finding an old man like him attractive. The video dropped two days before Shenderovich’s daughter’s wedding.
That tape, while somewhat embarrassing, was largely pointless, however. It seemed to have been the FSB just doing what it does, and helping Nashi flex its political muscle by kicking people who lacked it (but who might still, in the Kremlin’s view, start a fearsome “color revolution”). The opposition men took it as a badge of honor. “It’s a reason for impeachment in America,” opposition activist Ilya Yashin, also caught with Moomoo, told me at the time. “Here it’s ‘big props.’ Even when they see Shenderovich in this tape, they say, ‘Not bad! The guy’s already 70 and he’s so energetic!’” He added, “What would be political murder is if they published someone with boys,” he said (Russians, as evidenced by the 2013 laws banning “homosexual propaganda,” have somewhat retrograde views on homosexuality.) “And they didn’t find any gays among the opposition in two years [of trolling for dirt].”
In the fall of 2016, though, the FSB delivered a more direct hit. As the squabbling Russian opposition was trying to consolidate into a coalition that might give it a chance in the parliamentary election in September—the opposition had but a single seat in the Duma—another videotape dropped. This one was of Mikhail Kasyanov, former prime minister and a controversial member of the opposition, in bed with another activist, trash talking everyone else they worked with. It wasn’t long before the coalition descended into recriminations and gossip, and, predictably, bombed in the parliamentary election. Now they have zero seats.
The FSB also doesn’t hesitate to use kompromat against foreigners, both in Russia and abroad. Take, for example, the case of the American diplomat Kyle Hatcher. In August 2009, video purporting to be of Hatcher, who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, appeared online, allegedly of him arranging and having sex with a prostitute. After the release of the video, allegedly by the FSB, the State Department protested emphatically that the video was doctored and unproven—the U.S. ambassador in Moscow at the time said it juxtaposed footage of the diplomat with tape of someone else having sex. “I have full confidence in him and he is going to continue his work here at the embassy,” the ambassador told ABC News.*