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Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an “independent Finnish journalist” named “Kosti Heiskanen” has frequently appeared on Russian propaganda broadcasts. However, The Insider has discovered that the purported Finnish expert is, in fact, Leningrad-born Konstantin Lebedev. Lebedev's career as a pro-Kremlin propagandist began back in 2004, when he started speaking out about the supposed difficulties Russians faced in Finland. Today, he is a key figure in pro-Kremlin propaganda, targeting both a small pro-Russian Finnish audience and, primarily, the Russian public itself. 

When addressing a Finnish audience, “Kosti” Heiskanen regularly praises the wealth and beauty of life in Russia, the land of his birth. As an “expert” on Kremlin-controlled television broadcasts, however, he tells the Russian audience a very different tale:

In Finland, the standard of living has plummeted, with schools and shops shutting down, and fascism and Russophobia spreading everywhere. Since 2022, the country has been infested with bedbugs and rats, and the medieval curse of scabies has returned. Finns are considering fleeing their collapsing nation. They were once bootlickers of Hitler. Only Vladimir Putin can halt the madness gripping Europe. Ukraine is weeping loudly, and Ukrainian refugees have created a criminal atmosphere in the Land of a Thousand Lakes.

Since the summer of 2022, “Heiskanen” has been commenting on the situation in Finland for pro-Russian channels and media, organizing protests in Saint Petersburg against border closures, and providing “expert opinions” on NATO membership. Officially, he is hailed as an “honorary member of the community of free journalists of Finland.”

In reality, Kosti Mikael Heiskanen turned out to be Konstantin Mikhailovich Lebedev, born in Leningrad in April 1978, The Insider has discovered. In the 1930s, his Stalinist ancestors moved from Finland to the USSR, and the “journalist” himself lived in Russia, holding a Russian passport and registration. In June 2000, he traveled from Saint Petersburg to Moscow using a Russian document — but in 2012, under the name Kosti Mikael Heiskanen, he relocated to Germany and founded a travel company, working first in Hamburg and later in Berlin.

The move to Germany came after his “journalistic” career began. In 2004, Heiskanen launched Focus Magazine, which published articles in Russian and Finnish about the hardships Russians supposedly faced in Finland. During this period, he managed to obtain his only press card — from the Union of Journalists of Weekly Magazines, an organization that no longer exists.

Until the summer of 2022, following the best Soviet traditions, the “journalist” attempted to establish so-called cultural exchange programs, which he claimed were meant to help Russian artists visit the EU and perform shows praising the “Russian world.” In reality, these programs were a means of importing Russian propagandists into Finland or Sweden under the guise of familiarization trips. Since 2022, Heiskanen himself has visited the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, reporting from Mariupol and several other cities.

Heiskanen at the site of the destroyed Azovstal plant in Mariupol
Heiskanen at the site of the destroyed Azovstal plant in Mariupol

Heiskanen claims to have been a longtime member of the Union of Journalists of Finland, but this claim refers to Toimittajaliitto, a union created by pro-Kremlin propagandist Johan Bäckman. Its site, managed from Russia, was designed to mimic the page of the actual union.

Heiskanen is not a member of any official freelance journalist associations. Although he claims to have worked for major Finnish media organizations, in reality, he has only collaborated with Finnish-language outlets that are closely connected to his pro-Kremlin allies — Janus Putkonen, Bäckman, and Ilja Janitskin. In many cases, the outlets in question have minimal connections to Finland. Putkonen’s project, Verkkomedia, was launched from Thailand, where its creator lived before relocating to the Russian-occupied Donbas. Related media projects include Fennomaa and Fennomatkat, registered in Moscow and Luhansk. These initially worked to facilitate travel to Donbas and later, with Heiskanen's involvement, shifted their focus to Saint Petersburg.

Kosti Heiskanen and Janus Putkonen
Kosti Heiskanen and Janus Putkonen

Since the summer of 2022, Heiskanen has been posing as a correspondent for the Finnish media outlet UMV-lehti (full name Uusi Mita Vittua-lehti, or What the f*ck? news), created in Spain in 2014 by the aforementioned Janitskin. Its chief editor is the same Putkonen who relocated from Thailand to Donbas. The publication is known for its racist and hate-inciting content. Furthermore, Putkonen is suspected of receiving direct funding from Moscow for his projects in the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” while personally managing the screening of foreign journalists.

During the summer of 2022, with the backing of the local government in Saint Petersburg, Heiskanen and Tatiana Demeneva launched a charitable initiative called “Pass on Kindness.” The organization collaborates with Russian military units and volunteers supporting the Russian army. Although touted as a “Finnish-Russian charitable organization,” the initiative notably lacked participation from Finnish citizens. Heiskanen occasionally channeled aid from Saint Petersburg under the guise of Finnish humanitarian assistance. During infrequent visits to Finland, he pressured politicians including Left Party MP Li Andersson and former Prime Minister Sanna Marin to consider trips to Donbas.

Additionally, Heiskanen was involved in projects run by the Patriot Media Group, which has been linked to the late Yevgeny Prigozhin.

He was also observed alongside neo-Nazis from the North Slavic Community and the Volunteer Special Training Center, colleagues of the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group Rusich.

He also engages in “provocations” that have been used by pro-Kremlin publications to promote Russian patriotism among Finns. A frequent guest on Johan Bäckman's Z-Studio, Heiskanen appears to represent the program’s Saint Petersburg branch, according to the description of one of the episodes.

He has also been recognized as a “respected Finnish expert” across various Kremlin-controlled propaganda platforms — from Tsargrad and Russian World to Maria Butina's show on Channel One, where he criticized Finland's new president, Alexander Stubb.

Maria Butina and Heiskanen
Maria Butina and Heiskanen
Kosti Heiskanen and Denis Pushilin, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic
Kosti Heiskanen and Denis Pushilin, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic

In collaboration with Anatoly Bublik, Heiskanen is involved in the Path Home project, which facilitates relocation to Russia. He has also partnered with Russian federal agency Rossotrudnichestvo and with the Russian World Foundation.

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