German journalist Daniel Lange told Bild how, while working in the German branch of the Russia Today (RT) TV channel, at the request of his superiors, he “spied” on Alexei Navalny when he was in the Berlin clinic “Charite”. His story is retelled by MBH Media.
Daniel Lange has been collaborating with RT since 2016. During this time, he managed to shoot about 20 stories for the TV channel. In 2019, he got a permanent job in the German division of the TV channel. In August 2020, he was added to a secret telegram chat called "N Berlin", which was later renamed "Berlin Spezial". The chat consisted of employees of the TV channel Dinara Toktosunova and Ekaterina Mavrenkova, editor-in-chief of the site Ivan Klepov and colleague Lange, whose name Bild did not disclose.
Daniel was forbidden to talk about the chat, it was impossible to share the details of the work, even with other employees of the TV channel. At first, the journalist thought that he should make a documentary or write an article about Navalny. However, all his proposals for the film were rejected. It turned out that, together with his colleague M., he had to follow what was happening in the Charite clinic and find out everything possible about Navalny. The journalists went to the clinic and reported to the authorities about what was happening around it.
Then they received a new assignment - information came from Moscow that Navalny was in a federal hospital. Daniel and M. went there. Mavrenkova asked them to carefully remove the military who were guarding the territory. The journalist replied that it was forbidden to take pictures there, but Mavrenkova ignored this message. Later it turned out that Navalny was not in this hospital - the information turned out to be incorrect.
Then Mavrenkova invited Lange and M. to get into the Charité. To do this, the journalists had to pretend to be the patients of the clinic. “Maybe you should make an appointment with a doctor? And if you are caught while you are scouring the wrong floor - what do you say? ”Mavrenkova wrote in the chat. She suggested that journalists pretend to be Peace Corps volunteers or friends of Yulia Navalny, if they can get to Navalny's ward. To this Lange replied: "Katya, I'm not a spy!"
The next day, the journalists went to the Charité. It was not possible to get inside: all entrances to the building were blocked by guards and police. It was then that Daniel realized that his task was not to shoot exclusive shots and get ahead of competitors, but to find weaknesses in the protection of the clinic. Then he specially drew the attention of the police to check the documents of the reporters and find out about their place of work. “When I think about it now, a kind of spy film unfolds in my head. Of course, they could not send the Russians there and put them in front of the Charite door. The authorities would be very alarmed, ”Daniel told Bild.
After the journalists attracted the attention of the police, the management removed them from this assignment. But the work did not end there: in September, journalists were instructed to follow the head of the FBK investigation department, Maria Pevchikh, and the head of Navalny's network of headquarters, Leonid Volkov, who were then in Berlin. “We have to figure out how to find them,” Mavrenkova wrote in the chat. At the same time, she noted that during the search for Volkov, one should not tell anyone that Daniel and M. are working at RT. By the footage from the interview, the journalists tried to determine in which hotel Volkov was staying. A similar hotel was found on Booking.com. The reporters went to the hotel, took some shots from the street and sent them to the chat. However, Volkov and Singers were never found.
Lange believes that all his messages were transmitted to Moscow. “Dinara Toktosunova is very close to RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. They communicate directly. What I was reporting was definitely going up, ”he said. Daniel's account was confirmed by another RT employee named Manuel Mader. The journalist shared the details of his work with him. “Daniel had to just watch and report, not shoot a video, it's very strange. It was no longer journalism, but espionage, ”he told the newspaper.
Bild also spoke with Leonid Volkov. “I don’t know what annoys me more, the fact that RT tried to spy on me and my colleagues in Berlin, clearly working for the Russian special services, or the fact that they completely failed - and this is given their endless possibilities! Russian taxpayers pay the useless RT idiots more than 250 million euros a year. And they can’t even find public figures in Berlin who don’t hide at all! ”- he was indignant in a conversation with Bild. Volkov added that if Western journalists spied on Putin's chief of staff and tried to establish his whereabouts, they would have already served a sentence of at least 15 years in the harshest conditions.