Nearly two years later, Yashin saw a video posted online in which Mikhail Fishman, then the editor of Newsweek’s Russian-language edition, was captured snorting cocaine in the presence of a naked woman—the same woman whom Yashin had gone on the date with.
“I made a decision,” Yashin told me, “to publish a detailed account of everything that happened in that apartment” before those behind what he was certain was a smear campaign had a chance to discredit him. “The only way we can defend ourselves from dirty tricks is to go public,” he continued, “to beat the attackers.”
The strategy appears to have worked: No images or video from that night more than a decade ago have so far been published. Today, Yashin leads Solidarnost, a Russian liberal democratic movement. A frequent critic of corruption among political elites, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Kremlin’s repression of civil society, he successfully ran in local elections last year, and now heads a district council in Moscow.
Wait for the Storm to Pass
Not everyone feels comfortable publishing intimate personal stories, which can potentially destroy careers and relationships. Fishman chose not to comment on his own experience and the video that sought to discredit him, and still does not want to discuss the episode (including when I contacted him about it recently).
But the efforts to silence him failed, too. Years after the footage emerged, Fishman, who is now a television anchor on the independent channel TV Rain, is still popular and respected, and continues to give sharp, thoughtful, and well-reported analyses of the Kremlin’s policies.
He recently spoke out over the killing last year of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic. The group was making a documentary about the activities of a private security firm that allegedly has ties to the Russian government. Fishman, a guest on the radio show at Echo of Moscow, criticized a powerful ally of Putin’s who has been reportedly linked to the murders, and pledged not to leave them unsolved.
Read: What Mueller leaves behind
The playwright and satirist Victor Shenderovich—famed for his 1990s television show Puppets, in which the nation’s leaders were lampooned—had a similar experience. In 2014, after he had compared that year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi to Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Games in Berlin, a state-controlled outlet aired a compromising nude video of him. Shenderovich blames the authorities for the video’s broadcast, arguing in a recent interview with me that “the Kremlin gave an order to destroy me.” It was not even the first time he had been the object of such tactics: Several years prior, an edited video was published by several Russian-language websites, purporting to show Shenderovich in bed with the opposition activist Eduard Limonov and another woman.