A Wiki Whitewash in Ukraine

In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of the 1930s, people kept disappearing and reappearing. Most notably, Nikolai Yezhov, NKVD head, got very lost indeed when the purges were over, and Joseph Stalin wanted to forget he ever existed. Thus, the top thug became an unperson. It’s also the kind of thing George Orwell wrote about in Nineteen Eighty-Four. When the powers that be want you gone, you’re gone so far as to almost never have existed in the first place. Today, that brutish process is considered gauche.

Nowadays, we resort to much subtler methods, like Wikipedia. Wiki doesn’t just unperson you; it can also ignore certain unpleasant facts (“Aside from that, Mrs. Kennedy, how was Dallas?”) and edit others to amount to a whitewash. Given one of Yezhov’s most murderous acts was the manmade Ukrainian famine, it is ironic that a Wikipedia whitewash is underway today in Ukraine.

As the news attests to, Ukrainians have demonstrated that they are not only brave warriors but also committed patriots. Though, as humans, they may sometimes fail in the integrity department. They may sell out their business partners, and they may steal from their country’s treasury, but they won’t sell out Ukraine—at least not to the Russians.

However, some are tempted by easy money and the challenges of having to earn an honest living in a war-torn country. A lawyer and Wikipedia writer by the name of Yuri Perohanych seems to be helping a toxic, sanctioned Russian oligarch who recently escaped to Ukraine from Russia. This Russian is Pavel Fuks (a.k.a. Pavlo Fuks or Fuchs). We’ve covered Fuks before. As hundreds of billions of our tax dollars are going to Ukraine, he’s worth looking at again.

A product of the early 1990s post-Soviet Union, Fuks has not evolved much with the times and remains an awkward caricature of a Russian-style pulp fiction personality. He is notorious for brokering scams, threatening waiters and day laborers, and bullying anyone, sometimes to an extreme, who dares to defy him. He owes money and millions in judgments to others of his ilk and has a long trail of civil judgments from Kazakhstan and Ukraine to England and Russia.

Fuks is under sanctions in Ukraine, and has also been banned from the United States, kicked out of Mexico, and booted from Israel. He is currently living the high life in England, gallivanting through London’s Michelin-star restaurants and chic nightclubs. Fuks has been accused of launching a false flag campaign to create a pretext for the expansion of Russian aggression, and last week his stake in the biggest Ukrainian oil and gas company was seized by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice. The office also leveled a series of heavy criminal charges against him and his cohort, oligarch Vitaliy Khomutynnik. Apparently, Perohanych is now representing Fuks in his attempt to sanitize some of the dirt in his business dealings, proof of which has found its way into a Google search. That is making it a bit difficult for Fuks to mingle with wealthy Europeans and get the best tables in prominent nightclubs in London, Monte Carlo, and Dubai.

The same Fuks, after being sanctioned by Ukraine’s government, threw an obscenely ostentatious masquerade ball to celebrate his 50th birthday. It took place in a Kyiv golf club converted into a Venetian palace. This was while the Ukrainian people were grappling with the painful anticipation of life under the threat of Russian invasion in early 2022. The flood of American defense aid began shortly thereafter.

Perohanych was preceded in his role by Andriy Telezhenko, a self-proclaimed “diplomat” who became Fuks’ public relations advisor in the United States until he was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) for interfering in America’s elections. Telezhenko was able to get close to Donald Trump’s inner circle—namely Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2016. Was it at the behest of Fuks or his Russian friends in Moscow? Fuks had hired “America’s Mayor” for what he claimed was lobbying work but burned the relationship and sent in Telezhenko by way of proxy. It didn’t work.

In his Wiki bio, Perohanych claims: “I am the initiator of creation (sic) and founder of Wikimedia Ukraine. I am also (and it is my main job) the General Director of the Association of IT Enterprises of Ukraine.” He also explains that he is an attorney, an engineer, a programmer, and a “matematitian (sic).” He claims that he edited “almost 4000 (sic) articles and made 130 000+ (sic) edits in the Ukrainian Wikipedia.”

Perohanych is one of the main editors of Fuks’ Wikipedia page, which has been on lockdown because of allegations of vandalism. Perohanych has introduced an “awards” section to Fuks’ Wikipedia page and has posted a long list of impressive accolades that Fuks purportedly received. Likewise, Perohanych has added several tidbits to Fuks’ Wikipedia page’s philanthropy section, which, for the most part, relies on first-person announcements by Fuks himself—predominantly through Interfax press releases (rather than third-party written news stories). 

It is strange that Fuks, who is still rather wealthy despite numerous business setbacks, has not resorted to simply paying off reporters to publish stories from his press releases. Wiki would easily bite on that.

Older versions of Fuks’ Wikipedia page boast of his illustrious career as a major real estate developer in Moscow, listing awards from President Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. Borrowing a page from Stalin, these facts have been purged from the page. 

Perohanych is not alone in selling out Ukraine to help a sanctioned Russian with criminal ties clean up his online image. Others have relied on “public relations advisors” and friendly Wikipedia editors to flex their online muscle and boast about their business success and philanthropy. Curated social media and Wikipedia pages were common and were often more of an embarrassment than a calling card for the corrupt elites of pre-war Ukraine. Perhaps Perohanych will grow a conscience or will start charging Fuks going Western rates for advice and image consulting to offset the toxicity that will surely spill over onto Perohanych. 

Does any of this matter one whit to an American citizen? It should. When the smoke clears in Ukraine, they will be left with a hell of a mess to clean up. Aside from battlefield, the debris of endemic corruption will have to be dealt with as well. Many more American dollars will surely be involved. Let’s hope it’s not another morass we throw our treasure into just to have it kicked back in our face, like Kabul. To start that process of eventual credibility, it is a good idea we keep our eyes on players like Fuks and Perohanych.

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About David Kamioner

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army intelligence, serving with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked as a political consultant for over 15 years and ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia for over four years. He is a public relations consultant in Washington, D.C. and lives in Annapolis, MD.

Photo: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images