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Jan. 6 Participant Who ‘Fled to Russia’ Hasn’t Come Home

Pro-Kremlin propagandist Charles Bausman has reemerged as a media commentator in Russia since leaving behind nearly $1 million in property following the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in Washington, D.C., Hatewatch found.

Bausman, 59, is an American who has lived in Russia on and off for the past three decades. He founded the pro-Vladimir Putin website Russia Insider in September 2014 while living in Moscow. In 2018, Bausman relocated to the eastern Pennsylvanian town of Lancaster about an hour and a half outside Philadelphia. There, Bausman collaborated with members of the pro-Hitler podcast network The Right Stuff, as well as promoted and attended “Stop the Steal” events in the region, pushing the lie that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Bausman appeared among the rioters inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, before traveling to Russia and leaving behind nearly $1 million in property in the Lancaster area. Neighbors told Hatewatch he has not returned.

"Open Microphone" screenshot
A screenshot from a Telegram account run by Maxim Grigoriev announcing his new project, “Open Microphone,” with Charles Bausman. Source: Telegram

Hatewatch reviewed over a dozen Russian- and English-language radio and video broadcasts featuring Bausman between March 2022 and July 2023 in order to get a better grasp on the propagandist’s activities in Russia. These broadcasts include two episodes of a show called “Open Microphone” that Bausman hosts with Maxim Grigoriev, who was among four Russian nationals that U.S. officials identified in declassified intelligence as acting on behalf of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to manipulate American public opinion, according to two Aug. 25 reports from CNN and The New York Times.

In other interviews that Hatewatch reviewed, Bausman presents himself as a “political refugee” and implied that were he to return to the United States, he could face criminal charges as a result of his involvement in the insurrection.

“Of all the people that have been arrested after Jan. 6 ... I might have been one of them had I not fled to Russia!” Bausman said during a July 17, 2022, appearance on a Russian-language streaming radio show.

Hatewatch reached out to the Department of Justice over email regarding Bausman’s claim that he could be charged for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection. A spokesperson told Hatewatch, “We cannot confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”

As a commentator in Russian media, Bausman positions himself as an expert on U.S. politics. He depicts the United States as fragmented and on the brink of revolution, while flaunting his own alleged connections to Russian officials. Simultaneously, despite U.S.-Russian relations being badly eroded due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Bausman has sought to portray Russia as a viable haven for Western conservatives frustrated with a culture that he claims has specifically targeted “white men.”

“Russia is the last bulwark of humanity. If Russia leaves the world arena for any reason, without having stopped this appalling situation that we are facing in the West, there will be no hope,” Bausman said during an Oct. 31, 2022, event in Moscow.

Though not mentioning Bausman or other participants in the riot by name, the Russian government has portrayed the insurrectionists as oppressed political “dissidents.” In a May 19 press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcing a slew of travel bans against 500 American politicians, talk show hosts and think tank staffers, for instance, the agency singled out “those in government and law enforcement who are directly involved in the persecution of dissidents in the wake of the so-called ‘Storming of the Capitol.’”

Nevertheless, Bausman is a perplexing figure for pro-Kremlin media to promote in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the pretense of “denazification.” In 2018, RT, formerly Russia Today, publicly denounced Bausman and dropped him as a guest after he published a 6,000-word antisemitic screed that the network characterized as “hate speech.” Since then, Bausman has published an array of neo-Nazi and white nationalist propagandists on Russia Insider and other associated websites, as well as excerpts from World War II-era Nazi literature banned in Russia.

Hatewatch reached out to Bausman over email. He did not respond. Hatewatch reached out to Maxim Grigoriev, the man U.S. officials identified as collaborating with Russian intelligence services, over Telegram, an app popular in Russia, but did not receive a response. 

Hatewatch also contacted the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (ODNI) regarding Bausman’s collaboration with Grigoriev. A spokesperson with ODNI referred Hatewatch to U.S. Cyber Command for questions regarding the Aug. 25 report. However, a spokesperson with U.S. Cyber Command told Hatewatch in an email that “we have nothing to offer on this query.”

‘I could get thrown in jail’

Hatewatch reviewed clips of Bausman’s appearances in Russian media, various other online materials and property records. Bausman appears to have vacated his properties in the United States, and he has stated in media appearances that he and his family have no immediate plans to return to the United States.

Records from the City of Lancaster and Lancaster County indicate that Bausman has all but abandoned his two properties in the area. These include a home on West Chestnut Street in Lancaster proper and a farmstead on Millersville Pike that he owns through an LLC. A delinquent tax report from Lancaster County indicates that Bausman owed the county over $23,000 in delinquent property taxes until June, when someone paid one of the properties' overdue taxes in full. In total, both properties are worth close to $1 million.

Hatewatch also filed a right-to-know request with the City of Lancaster to determine if Bausman had fallen behind on utilities payments for his home on West Chestnut Street. In response, the City of Lancaster Open Records Office informed Hatewatch that while “There are no delinquent water bills,” Bausman owes another $679.24 for trash services. A bill shared with Hatewatch as a result of this request indicates that someone ceased paying for trash services following a Jan. 15, 2021, charge, posted nine days after the insurrection.

Nevertheless, Bausman continued to describe himself as “a resident of America” in multiple media appearances throughout 2022, including in an April 2022 interview with former State Department employee and white nationalist podcaster Matthew Q. Gebert, as well as the November 2022 conversation with a Russian nonprofit funded in part by the founder of the Wagner Group, a infamous paramilitary organization.

Bausman interview with Mira Terada
Charles Bausman and Mira Terada, the head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, during an interview in November 2022. Source: Rumble

“If I went back to America today, there is a chance – I don’t know how large it is. It might be 5%. It might be 50%. I have no idea. But there’s a good chance that I could get thrown in jail, would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lawyer or lawyers. They probably wouldn’t be able to get me out of there for a few years,” Bausman said in a November 2022 interview with the Foundation to Battle Injustice. The foundation, sometimes referred to by its acronym “FBI,” describes its mission on its website as aiding “those who have faced injustice on the part of any state representatives.”

The foundation received financial support from Yevgeny Prigozhin, who founded and managed the Internet Research Agency, which was responsible for a series of prominent pro-Russian online influences operations in the West throughout the late 2010s. Prigozhin also founded the paramilitary organization the Wagner Group, whose soldiers have been accused of carrying out war crimes in Ukraine, Africa and elsewhere. Once a close Putin ally, Prigozhin staged an armed uprising against Russian military leadership in June. On Aug. 23, Prigozhin and several other members of the Wagner Group died in a plane crash halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. U.S. officials have said the crash was possibly caused by a bomb onboard the plane.

Hatewatch reached out to the Foundation to Battle Injustice for comment via a contact form on their website but did not receive a response.

More recently, Bausman told Maxim Grigoriev, the pro-Putin activist that U.S. intelligence services identified as collaborating with the FSB, in a July 13 episode of Grigoriev’s online-only talk show “The Truth Is With Us!” that “It has just become unattractive to live in the West.”

The hourlong show, which aired on the popular Russian social media app Telegram, focused on the topic of “why people are ready to move from Western countries to Russia.”

A murky source of income and an apartment in Moscow

Hatewatch was unable to determine how Bausman is supporting himself while residing in Russia. While the Russian media personalities that interacted with Bausman throughout 2022 and 2023 repeatedly introduced him as the editor of Russia Insider, Russian corporate records indicate that the site’s corporate entity, Insider Media (IM) OOO (obshchestvo s ogranichennoi otvetstvennostyu, the Russian equivalent of a limited liability corporation), has been inactive since 2018.

Records from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities (EGRUL), which provides information on companies registered within the Russian Federation, indicate that someone first registered Insider Media with the Russian government on Sept. 21, 2015. Kristina Igorevna Bausman, Charles’ wife, is listed as the organization’s general director, and Charles Bausman is identified as the organization’s founder. Whoever filed the paperwork with EGRUL listed the organization’s location in Moscow as well. The organization’s primary business occupation is listed as publishing magazines and periodicals.

On June 4, 2018, a few months before Bausman purchased his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, someone submitted paperwork to exclude IM OOO from EGRUL, calling it an inactive legal entity.

Neither Bausman nor his wife appears to have registered IM OOO again since returning to Moscow in January 2021. Furthermore, the Russia Insider website appears to be largely dormant as well. Someone with access to the website’s backend has reposted old blogs with the tag “From the Archives” throughout 2022 and into 2023. The only original content that Hatewatch was able to identify since fall 2021 was an unbylined blog promoting Bausman’s “Open Microphone” show that he hosts with Maxim Grigoriev in March, as well as an 8,700-word article from Sept. 12, 2021, lambasting Moscow’s mandatory vaccination policy for public sector workers.

Russian-language interviews that Bausman conducted in August and November 2022 and information that Hatewatch obtained through Russian data brokers shed light on Bausman’s exact whereabouts in Russia.

In a clip from Aug. 12, 2022, that pro-Kremlin political commentator Vladimir Solovyov shared to his Telegram channel, Bausman said he split his time between Moscow and Vladimir Oblast, a region about three hours outside Moscow. Russians use the term “oblast” to refer to an administrative region within the Russian Federation.

“We have an apartment in Moscow, and I spend most of my time there. But I have noticed that when I start to get tired, I come here,” Bausman explained, referring to Vladimir Oblast. He continued: “In a week or two, I simply feel like a different person. I bathe in local reservoirs near the monastery. You know, things like that. Clean air, clean water.”

Bausman also said he had an apartment in Russia in the November 2022 interview with the Foundation to Battle Injustice.

“We have a nice life here. We have an apartment and friends, and Russia is home to us in a way. But we want to live in America,” Bausman said in that interview.

Bausman’s sister, Mary Watkins, told Hatewatch in September 2021 that she believed he had purchased property in Moscow at some point. To substantiate her and Bausman’s statements, Hatewatch reviewed information from Russian data brokers for Charles and Kristina Bausman. These data brokers pointed to several Moscow-based addresses associated with the two. Hatewatch then ran these addresses through Russia’s Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography, known as “Rosreestr,” which tracks ownership records for properties throughout Russia.

Rosreestr did not identify any properties owned under Charles or Kristina Bausman’s name. One of the addresses identified as associated with Charles Bausman – an apartment in the Gagarinsky District – appears to be owned by Olga Igorevna Bausman, according to Rosreestr records. An obituary for Charles Bausman’s mother, Evelyn, identifies Olga Bausman as her “daughter-in-law” alongside Bausman and his current wife, Kristina. Similarly, a 2019 marriage announcement on LancasterOnline lists “Charles Jacob and Olga Bausman” as the parents of one of the newly married women. Both documents appear to indicate that Charles and Olga Bausman were previously married, though the date of their divorce is left ambiguous.

The obituary lists Olga Bausman’s location as Moscow, though Hatewatch was unable to determine if she is currently in the country. Hatewatch reached out to a Russian mobile number associated with Olga Bausman over text message but did not receive a response.

Hyping America’s political crisis to a Russian audience

Hatewatch reviewed recordings from a dozen media and public speaking appearances that Bausman, who is fluent in Russian, conducted between March 2022 and July 2023. These conversations aired on a variety of platforms, including various state-owned media outlets, a radio show associated with one of Russia’s largest tabloids, television stations aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, and the media arm of Russia’s national legislature. Mainstream video sites like YouTube banned some of these channels, such as those associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, as part of a crackdown on pro-Kremlin disinformation following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Most the outlets that hosted Bausman promote a conservative Christian worldview that, while not wholly out of step with the Kremlin’s worldview, exist within a comparatively niche space within the Russian media ecosystem.

Charles Bausman and Maxim Grigoriev
Charles Bausman (right) and Maxim Grigoriev in conversation during a March 3 episode of "Open Microphone." The episode focused on President Vladimir Putin's address to the Russian Federal Assembly that February. Source: YouTube

Bausman joined most programs as a guest. However, in one March episode of an English-language online show titled “Open Microphone,” main host Maxim Grigoriev, the pro-war activist U.S. officials say has collaborated with Russian intelligence services per U.S. officials, refers to Bausman as a “cohost.” In a March 3 post on an English-language Telegram channel, Grigoriev characterized “Open Microphone” as a “new project” that he was launching “with American journalist Charles Bausman.” Later that month, the same channel posted a three-part interview, conducted by Bausman and Grigoriev, with a contributor to a Hong Kong-based publication. Episodes of the show also appeared on an unlisted YouTube channel that Bausman shared on Russia Insider on March 1. The channel includes links to multiple videos featuring Grigoriev, including excerpts from an online political talk show and a series promoting the arts in the Russia-occupied eastern Ukrainian territory of Donbass.

Grigoriev’s Foundation for Democratic Research filed an application for funding for a project “Open Microphone” with the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives, which Putin has used to support initiatives justifying Russia’s war in Ukraine, on March 20. A description of “Open Microphone” on the Presidential Fund’s website lists its purpose as conveying Russia’s position on breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine. According to the same site, the program’s goal is to build a base “among a pro-Western English-speaking audience” and lists its timeline for “implementation” between Aug. 8 and Dec. 31.

Grigoriev has associated himself with a handful of quasi-governmental and civil organizations in Russia, including his Foundation for Democratic Research. In the declassified intelligence that CNN and The New York Times reported on in August, U.S. officials characterized him and a handful of other Russian nationals as acting as “co-optees,” or seemingly independent actors who are doing the bidding of Russian security services.

Bausman repeatedly described himself as a journalist in the interviews that Hatewatch reviewed. In at least one conversation with the Foundation to Battle Injustice, the nonprofit partially funded by the recently deceased Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, Bausman referred to himself as “well known.” Interviewers have also regularly introduced him as the editor of Russia Insider well into 2023, despite the website’s apparent inactivity. In a Aug. 14, 2022, interview with “Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda,” tied to a Russian-language tabloid by the same name, a host describes Bausman as having worked at the “well-known television company NBC.”

Hatewatch reached out to NBC via email to verify whether Bausman ever worked for the network and did not hear back. However, a BuzzFeed News report published after Bausman launched Russia Insider in 2014 describes him as a former junior producer with the network in Moscow after college.

In another interview, conducted with Russian commentator and government official Yevgeny Primakov Jr. in March, Bausman describes himself as having spent “the past eight years” in the “information trenches.” Okop, the Russian term Bausman used for “trench,” is also used to specifically described a trench in the context of ground warfare.

In some of his appearances, Bausman positions himself as an expert on American politics, particularly its right-leaning wing. Sometimes he also appears to flaunt his connections to unnamed Russian government officials.

“I personally talked with Russian officials, and asked them, ‘Why aren’t you giving money? What’s the deal? If we had a budget, we’d be going gangbusters,’” Bausman said during a July 17, 2022, appearance on “The National Question,” a show that airs on the “Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda” network and is tied to a prominent Russian-language tabloid by the same name. In the segment, Bausman appears to be encouraging Russian listeners to support so-called “alternative media” projects in the West.

However, it is unclear to which possible funders Bausman is directing his comments. A pro-Kremlin oligarch, Konstantin Malofeev, from whom Bausman sought funding for his website Russia Insider in October 2014, has been sanctioned by the United States for nearly a decade due to his support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Restrictions against prominent Russian officials, both in business and government, have only grown since Putin expanded his military operations in Ukraine in February 2022.

In several discussions conducted both before and after the U.S. 2022 midterm elections, Bausman portrayed conservative Americans as beleaguered and disaffected with the direction in which a small cadre of political elites are steering the country. He characterized the United States as a country on the brink, referring to American politicians as “simply criminals” and the country’s political system as “highly unstable” during a July 2022 appearance on “Konservatniki,” a self-described “patriotic talk show.”

“People are so upset in America. People in power understand that if they let this go, it will be their end. So, they’re preparing to steal another election or do something,” Bausman said in an Aug. 14, 2022, appearance on “The National Question.”

The segment focused on an Aug. 8 federal search warrant targeting former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, where agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found over 13,000 government documents, including over 300 classified documents.

Following the Republican Party’s failure to deliver a “red wave” in the 2022 midterm elections, Bausman characterized American conservatives as “disappointed” in a Dec. 3, 2022, interview.

“America is in an even deeper political crisis. Especially this last election, which disappointed many American conservatives because they hoped for some changes. These changes didn’t happen,” Bausman said during a Dec. 3, 2022, appearance on “Spas,” a television channel associated with the Russian Orthodox Church.

‘They’re just ready to leave’

Bausman has appeared to channel this pessimistic and bleak portrayal of American society into a niche effort supported by some members of Russia’s legislative branch to nurture connections with Western conservatives sympathetic to Russia, particularly those interested in migrating to Russia for ideological reasons.

Bausman attended multiple events in February and March promoting legislation intended to encourage “migrants from NATO countries” to resettle in Russia, as Hatewatch previously reported. Fr. Joseph Gleason, who edits Russia Insider’s sister site, Russian Faith, spearheaded these efforts, collaborating with a member of a pro-Kremlin nationalist party to hold a conference at the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, on Feb. 14. Following the event, multiple state-owned Russian language news outlets reported that Gleason and other conference participants discussed forming a coordinating headquarters to support prospective immigrants to Russia from Western countries.

While Gleason, who promoted the Feb. 14 event on his blog, did not mention Bausman’s participation in the event, the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted Bausman in an article about the event, wherein he said without evidence that “no fewer than 1,000,000 people from the United States” were ready to move to Russia.

A screenshot from a recording of a March 16, 2023, panel on Western migrants to Russia hosted by Parlamentskaya Gazeta, the official publishing arm of the Russian Federal Assembly. The event’s participants included Charles Bausman (second from left) and Maxim Grigoriev, among others. Source: Parlamentskaya Gazeta

Bausman provided further support to Gleason’s lobbying efforts during a March 16 panel hosted by Parlamentskaya Gazeta, the official publishing arm of the Russian Federal Assembly. While promotional material for the event cites statements that Gleason supposedly made to Russian media regarding “thousands of Christians from the U.S. and EU” wanting to move to Russia, Bausman focused his comments almost entirely on the hurdles “white men” face in the United States.

In the roughly 50-minute panel, which was conducted entirely in Russian, Bausman referred repeatedly to “white men” as one of the main victims of “woke” culture that he said had “penetrated our society, our economy.” (Though he was speaking in Russia, the “our” in Bausman’s comments appears to refer to the United States.) In a back-and-forth with Maxim Grigoriev, who moderated the panel, Bausman portrayed “white men” as an oppressed class who could benefit from opportunities in Russia.

“If you offer [white men], ‘Move to Russia. It’s the normal side. There’s an opportunity to work. And most importantly, there will be an opportunity to own land,’” Bausman told Grigoriev. “They’re just ready to leave.”

This story is part 2 in a series. Read more about far-right propagandist Charles Bausman in part 1 and the upcoming part 3.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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