The Russians have their sights on our election

(This still image was gleaned from footage of the undercover police/CSIS operation that nabbed a would-be election hacker at Captain George's Fish and Chips.

Months away from October’s municipal election, the spooks are busy keeping democracy safe – and in Brockville they got their man.

Or, should I say, their chelovek.

The Brockville Police Service, working in conjunction with a special Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) election interference task force, has unearthed a Russian conspiracy to hack Brockville’s October 22 municipal election.

(I’m not supposed to tell you this, but civic duty compels me to let the word out, even if it’s in a blog post rather than a straight-up news article. And anyone who knows my social media profile will know I’ll be damned if I let the Kremlin pull off another Trump!)

A few sources inside city police, and at least one source within CSIS, all of whom requested anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to some guy with a blog, confirm a Russian national named Anatoli Durakov has been secretly communicating with as-yet-unnamed local political activists to coordinate an elaborate social media campaign and hacking operation to get a candidate of choice elected mayor of Brockville.

In a rare slip-up for Moscow’s usually efficient active measures operators, Durakov was arrested in Brockville last week and remains in detention at a federal facility.

It seems the Russians are acting well ahead of any clear picture emerging of this year’s mayoral contest. For instance, we won’t known until after the June 7 Ontario election whether Mayor David Henderson, currently the Liberal candidate for the new riding of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, will move on to provincial politics or stay behind to seek re-election as mayor.

Leaked files from Durakov’s interrogation so far reveal that Moscow’s candidate of choice for Brockville’s next mayor is "Oscar the Otter."

CSIS officials were still trying to determine whether the Kremlin actually thinks the Aquatarium mascot could become the city’s next mayor, winning through a combination of Rhinoceros-Party-style satirical protest campaigning and election-night vote machine rigging, or whether “Oscar” is a codename for an unnamed candidate, widely believed to be Lirpa Loof.

Other tidbits from the Durakov questioning are more concrete:

* While they might be keen on installing the Aquatarium otter as mayor, officials in the Kremlin want their Manchurian Candidate, if elected, to undermine and even destroy Brockville’s tourism industry; Durakov revealed Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally outraged to learn recently that Brockville’s Railway Tunnel has a higher TripAdvisor rating than Saint Petersburg;

* Brockville’s proximity to two international bridges and the Thousand Islands makes it a prime target for Russian oligarchs wanting to pull their vacation properties out of the United States in the event of a less Russia-friendly Congress being elected in the fall;

* Moscow has already laid the groundwork for a new website, BrockiLeaks, on which the Durakov operation would publish emails stolen from any rivals of Oscar/Loof.

The quick action of Canadian authorities has, it seems, stopped this active measure in its tracks. But dumb luck also had something to do with it.

It seems Durakov, while specifically instructed to operate strictly out of Moscow, could not resist visiting his target city to satisfy his curiosity about what he called “this unusual phenomenon of high density per capita of fish and chips restaurants.”

Durakov’s first stop on the fish and chips tour was none other than Captain George’s, a place regularly frequented by city police officers, some of whom took notice of his unusual laptop activities while chowing down and set up an undercover operation to arrest him with CSIS's help.

CSIS, however, is treating this arrest as potentially the first of many in Ontario, since Durakov let slip some vital information in the initial frustration of his arrest.

“Bah,” he grumbled. “There is always Cornwall. Cousin Vanya is working on that one!”