WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attempted to secure a Russian visa in 2010: report

The AP has obtained a massive leak of WikiLeaks files, including a letter from Assange to a Russian consulate

Published September 17, 2018 12:49PM (EDT)

Julian Assange (AP/Frank Augstein)
Julian Assange (AP/Frank Augstein)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attempted to secure a Russia visa in 2010, according to the Associated Press.

"I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport in order to get a visa," a letter, written by Assange on Nov. 30, 2010, stated.

The letter was part of a larger trove of tens of thousand of files, including WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records and secretly recorded footage that was leaked the AP. "The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow," the outlet reported.

Assange and WikiLeaks' alleged ties with the Kremlin faced increased scrutiny before the 2016 presidential election. The FBI has said that Russia's military intelligence agency supplied WikiLeaks directly with stolen emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, as well as emails from other Democratic figures.

Representatives for Assange did not return requests for comment about his early bid for a Russian visa, the AP said. Kristinn Hrafnsson, who has acted as a spokesperson for Assange, called the story "rather uninteresting." The Russian Embassy in London also declined to comment, saying it does not discuss details about visa applicants.

Assange, who has been in refuge at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, has been barred from internet access.

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The AP estimates that, while WikiLeaks has been hit by several significant leaks, the files obtained by the news organization may represent one of the biggest. The publication confirmed the authenticity of many of the documents by enlisting five former WikiLeaks associates to verify them or by checking non-public details, like bank accounts, telephone numbers or airline tickets.

"One of the former associates, an ex-employee, identified two of the names that frequently appeared in the documents’ metadata, 'Jessica Longley' and 'Jim Evans Mowing,' as pseudonyms assigned to two WikiLeaks laptops," the AP reported.

The associates spoke on the condition of anonymity, as many did not want their former association with WikiLeaks to become public or because they feared legal retaliation or harassment.

The documents also detail Assange's campaign to try to avoid being arrested and extradited to Sweden over charges that he sexually molested one woman and raped another in August 2010, according to the AP. Assange has maintained his innocence in connection to the sex abuse allegations and cast it as a ploy for his eventual extradition to the U.S.

The Swedish arrest warrant came just 10 days before WikiLeaks published a massive leak of approximately 250,000 State Department cables that included revelations about drone strikes in Yemen, corruption and American spying at the United Nations.

The AP discovered that the letter to the Russian consulate was drafted one day after this first leak of State Department files. It is unclear if the message was ever delivered, although Assange's involvement with Shamir, "a fringe intellectual who once said it was the duty of every Christian and Muslim to deny the Holocaust, would draw indignation when it became public," the AP reported. "Shamir told the AP he was plagued by memory problems and couldn’t remember delivering Assange’s letter or say whether he eventually got the visa on Assange’s behalf."

"I can’t possibly exclude that it happened," Shamir told the outlet. "I have a very vague memory of those things."

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2016 Presidential Election Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Julian Assange Kremlin Russia Wikileaks