Alleged Russian assassination plot reveals ‘The Sims 3’

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On Monday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that an assassination attempt on Russian journalists had been averted. In a stabbing operation, the FSB, Russia’s domestic security service, had arrested the future neo-Nazi assassins, he said. Among the arsenal apparently seized by the FSB were Molotov cocktails, a grenade, several pistols and a sawn-off shotgun, as well as Nazi equipment, a green wig and copies of three expansion packs for the video game “The Sims 3”. Wait. What?

On Twitter, the truth of the stabbing operation came into question. “I really think it’s a stupid FSB officer being asked to get 3 SIM cards,” tweeted Eliot Higgins, founder of the research unit Bellingcat, which has covered Russia a lot.

SIM cards are small chips used in phones that would be useful for future assassins. Depicted in video footage of the raid, on the other hand, were packed copies of content packages for the life-simulating video game “The Sims 3”, including what appeared to be “The Sims 3: Outdoor Living Stuff”, “The Sims 3: Master”. Suit Stuff “and a third content package The Washington Post could not identify.

“The Sims 3 ″ is a game where players control and customize virtual avatars that go around in their days. Players can build houses for their Sims, dress them up and put them in all sorts of crazy situations.

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Video footage also showed FSB officers flipping through a book dedicated to the reader with the phrase “signature unreadable” written down in the bottom in Russian, raising further concerns about the sting’s credibility. However, a Russian journalist on Twitter pointed out that “signature illegible” was the authentic call sign for an online right-wing figure.

Still, he tweeted“Of course, that doesn’t make the whole story compelling.”

The attack, President Putin claimed, was orchestrated by Ukraine’s security services, the SBU, in alliance with Western partners. In a statement on the social media platform Telegram, the SBU refused to plan an assassination attempt, which they described as a fantasy fabricated by Russian special forces.

“Especially the FSB has a reputation for PR-catching busts with very flimsy causes and a murder [Solovyev] certainly fits that profile, ”said Aric Toler, director of education and research at Bellingcat, in a message to The Post. The details that raise questions, he said, often include items that appear to have been purchased quite recently.

“The Sims 3 thing is just the funniest version of this,” Toler wrote. “It’s completely meaningless, but it also makes perfect sense.”

According to the FSB, the target of the alleged assassination attempt was Vladimir Solovyev, a prominent Russian media figure who is currently the subject of sanctions from both the EU and the UK. Solovyev is best known as the host of a talk show on Russian state television. Until recently, he also posted on YouTube, though in March the company terminated the talking heads account and found it to be in violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service.

In 2019, Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny revealed that Solovyev, who often mocks Western decadence and hypocrisy, owns two Italian villas.

In recent weeks, Solovyev turned his attention to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where Solovyev ominously predicted that if anything were to happen to him, it would be on the orders of the Ukrainian president. The SBU’s statement compared Solovyev to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels and said he would stand trial for his crimes in an international court following Ukraine’s victory over Russia.

Russian news services reported that other Russian state propagandists, including Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, were also targets of the alleged assassins. The FSB did not identify the individuals it had detained, but said they were cooperating with investigators.

Opinion: Vladimir Kara-Murza from prison: Russia wants to be free. I’ve never been so sure.

Monday’s stabbing operation goes back to the arrest in 2019 of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov under suspicious circumstances. Golunov, who worked for the online media Meduza only, was arrested for possession and sale of drugs. His supporters claimed that the evidence the police collected from his apartment had been planted on the spot and the accusers fabricated it. Several days later, Golunov was released.

Since then, Russian restrictions on independent media – especially in the wake of the invasion – have forced many journalists, including Medusa’s employees, to flee the country. Last week, author, activist and Washington Post columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza was arrested in Russia and sentenced to 15 days in prison after criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an interview with CNN. He faces a more serious charge of 15 years.

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