Accidental passersby, with whom Russian President Vladimir Putin talked during his visit to St. Petersburg on February 19, turned out to be extras, picked from among government officials, employees of the "troll factory" and graduates of the "School of young politician", reported Radio Liberty.
The Russian service of the BBC investigated the footage of the meeting, during which a resident of St. Petersburg asked Putin how to live on a pension of 10,800 rubles ($137 USD) and found more than ten of its participants on social networks.
Among them, in the forefront was a member of United Russia and the head of the comments department of the Russian news agency FAN, owned by "Putin's chef" Yevgeny Prigozhin, Alexander Baidikova, head of the Vasileostrovskiy district administration, Eduard Ilyin and his deputy, "Cossack ataman" Vitaly Martynenko.
In the back were the first deputy head of the administration of Vasileostrovskiy Island, Galina Koroleva, and several of her colleagues, one of whom, Igor Dashko, was responsible for making sure that only “loyal citizens” were allowed to meet with the President. They were also invited in advance, which allowed them to leave work a few hours earlier.
Separately, the Russian service of the BBC notes that last year Eduard Ilyin drove hundreds of schoolchildren from the district he headed to an exhibition of military equipment organized by the patriotic organization "Zvezda" for Victory Day. And, in 2011, Galina Koroleva hosted meetings at which teachers were taught how to manipulate election results.
On February 19, in St. Petersburg, on the anniversary of the death of the city's first mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the Sobchak Monument, and then talked to supposedly random passersby. Local media reported that on that day the entire block on Vasilyevsky Island had been cordoned off in the early morning, and a bullet-proof glass fence had been erected around the monument.