Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his WikiLeaks website, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.
Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.
“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,” said the letter , which was obtained exclusively by The Associated Press.
The Nov. 30, 2010, missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to 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 ex-hacker’s links to the Kremlin would become increasingly salient before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when the FBI says Russia’s military intelligence agency directly supplied WikiLeaks with stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and other Democratic figures.
In a statement posted to Twitter, WikiLeaks said Assange never applied for the visa or authored the letter, naming a former associate of his as the alleged source of the document. WikiLeaks did not return a follow-up email seeking clarification on whether Shamir applied on his behalf, or whether a lawyer or someone else at WikiLeaks might have drafted the letter. The Russian Embassy in London said it doesn’t discuss the personal details of visa applicants.