Fact Check: Navalny NOT Caught On Tape Asking MI6 Agent For Millions of Dollars

Fact Check

  • de: Ioana Burtea
Fact Check: Navalny NOT Caught On Tape Asking MI6 Agent For Millions of Dollars Not Navalny

Was Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny caught on tape asking an MI6 agent for $10 million to $20 million to fund a revolution in Russia? No, that's not true: The man in the footage distributed on TikTok is not Navalny, but his aide Vladimir Ashurkov, and the conversation, in English, does not prove he was asking the other person for money.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) published on TikTok by user @iondragoshoreaba on February 17, 2024, with the caption (translated from Romanian to English by Lead Stories staff) "Navalny was asking the British money to start a revolution in Russia? Exactly like in '89 in Romania?" It began (as translated):

So here we have Navalny, alongside an MI6 agent - you can see it with your own eyes. And in the clip Navalny is asking between 10 and 20 million per year to start a sort of revolution in Russia.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-02-23 at 13.16.17.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Fri Feb 23 11:17:45 2024 UTC)

According to a Google Lens reverse image search (archived here), the man speaking in the video is not Navalny, but one of his aides and co-founder of a Russian anti-corruption nongovernmental organization, Vladimir Ashurkov (archived here). The video was taken in 2012 and released in 2021 by RT, which attributed the footage to Russia's Federal Security Service.

The video does not prove Ashurkov was asking the alleged MI6 agent for money, but telling him (archived here) about the amount of money he aims to collect in his fundraising efforts by talking to "people in the business community and so on." He is also not talking about funding a revolution, but a variety of activities like

mass protests, civil initiatives, propaganda, establishing contact with the elite and explaining to them that we are reasonable people and we're not going to demolish everything and take away their assets.

Ashurkov was in charge of fundraising for Navalny's 2013 campaign to become mayor of Moscow. In 2014, due to criminal prosecution by the Russian authorities (archived here), Ashurkov moved to London, receiving political asylum in 2015.

In addition, it is not clear who Ashurkov is talking to. While Russian media (archived here) claims he was an MI6 agent, other fact checkers (archived here) wrote that he could be James William Thomas Ford, an employee of the British embassy in Moscow.

  Ioana Burtea

Ioana Burtea has worked in journalism for over 15 years. She started her career at Mediafax news agency in Bucharest and has written for DoR magazine for over seven years. Her collaborations include publications like Europe & Me, New Eastern Europe, Balkan Insight and Washington Post. Ioana published pieces on the justice system in Romania, social affairs, politics and personal essays. In 2018, she became a fellow of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. In 2021, she received the first prize in the Portrait category at the national Superscrieri journalism awards. Her first non-fiction book, Fara instructiuni de folosire (transl. No operating instructions), was launched in 2023. 

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