Russian Security Services Hunt Culprits in Railroad CEO Hoax

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(RIA Novosti – MOSCOW, June 20, 2013) ­ The hunt is on to find those behind hoax claims that the CEO of Russia’s railroad monopoly had been dismissed, which caused a flurry of confusion in the Russian media.

On Wednesday evening, Russian news outlets received a press statement saying that Vladimir Yakunin had been dismissed as head of Russian Railways and replaced by his deputy.

The press release looked like official updates sent out by the Kremlin, and news agencies published stories based on it without verifying any of the information it contained.

Within about 30 minutes the government spokeswoman Natalya Timakova issued a denial. She later clarified that “the report about Yakunin’s resignation contained grammatical errors and was sent from an electronic address forged to mimic an official announcement from the government press service.”

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Guard Service (FSO) are working to identify who was behind the hoax. On Thursday, IT specialists confirmed that it had been sent from an IP address completely unconnected with the Russian government.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it “an act of cybercrime,” and the Kremlin press service urged journalists to be more careful in dealing with online information.

The news of his “resignation” reached Yakunin while he was meeting President Vladimir Putin and businessmen ahead of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which opened on Thursday, Russian media reported.

Yakunin, 64, who has headed Russian Railways since 2005 and is reportedly a close ally of President Putin, has been in the media spotlight recently in what some observers call an ongoing campaign against him.

Earlier this month Russian bloggers published pictures of a luxury three-story marble-clad mansion, claiming it was owned by Yakunin and his son. Yakunin has not commented on these claims.