On April 18, the guests on “Studio One,” a political talk show on Russian state television’s Channel One, discussed North Korea’s failed test firing of a missile and the U.S. response. Among the experts taking part in the discussion was a person identified as an American journalist named Greg Vainer.
Opening the show – which on this day was headlined “Where will the confrontation lead?” – Studio One host Artem Sheinin asked: “Do you know what is the best way to determine if some political event really disturbs people? …When you get a phone call in the studio and the people on the other end tell you: ‘Hi, we are on vacation but we are very much concerned about Trump’s aggressive behavior with North Korea! Explain to us – will there be World War III or should we be planting our garden?’”
The discussion turned to the question of whether the U.S. is bluffing with North Korea, and whether North Korea takes the Americans seriously.
“The White House right now is considering a very different scenario, and I will tell you what it is if you promise to keep it a secret,” said one of the guests, identified as “Greg Vainer, journalist (U.S.).” Speaking Russian without the hint of an accent, Vainer continued: “There will be a trade quarantine introduced against North Korea.”
The host interrupted: “Wait, on what side does the U.S. border North Korea to be able to impose such a quarantine?”
As Vainer mumbled that China is also on board for the quarantine, all the other guests simultaneously started arguing with him. The host, meanwhile, started speaking about “historical” parallels – how the U.S. “pushed us, the Soviet Union, to self-destruction, and then pushed Iraq, so it’s taken over by ISIS, just like they are now pushing North Korea for no obvious reason.”
As the program proceeds, the “American journalist” is repeatedly the target of arguments that the Russian guests inevitably win.
Channel One is Russia’s most popular TV channel, and it also offers free round-the-clock satellite broadcasts to all the countries of the former Soviet Union and to Eastern Europe. Channel One also maintains a YouTube channel with hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
“Greg Vainer” appears frequently on other Russian TV channels, including NTV and St. Petersburg's Channel Five. He discusses various aspects of American foreign policy, including U.S. policy toward Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East, and well as U.S. domestic policy.
During an appearance on Channel Five back on January 12, he was described as a “prominent American journalist” and a member of the Republican National Committee.
However, Gennady Katsov, a Russian journalist based in New York, has identified “Greg Vainer” as a long-time acquaintance named Gregory Vinnikov. In a Facebook post, Katsov described Vinnikov as a former businessman and the owner of the Eastern Tours Agency in New York City – who, Katsov said, “stole millions of dollars from his clients and fled to Saint Petersburg, Russia.”
Katsov also posted a link to the Facebook profile of Gregory Vinnikov, whose profile photo shows someone identical to the man identified on Russian TV as Greg Vainer.
The Moscow Times, an independent English-language newspaper in the Russian capital, ran a front-page article about Vinnikov last week, which was headlined: “Russian TV Passes Off Corrupt Petersburg Entrepreneur as ‘American Journalist’.”
By his own account, Gregory Vinnikov immigrated to the U.S. in 1980. It is not clear whether he was granted or even ever applied for U.S. citizenship.
According to publicly available tax reports, Vinnikov owns a three-bedroom apartment in New Jersey in a high-end neighborhood across the Hudson River from Manhattan. According to New Jersey voter registration data, Vinnikov has never registered as voter in his state of residence or any other U.S. state.
The Republican Party’s press office also confirmed to Polygraph.info that Vinnikov is not a member of the Republican National Committee.
Between 2009 and 2015, Vinnikov was involved in at least five court cases in the states of New York and New Jersey related to his consumer credit. From publicly available court information, two of the New Jersey court cases resulted in monetary judgments for $14,000. Those cases remain open, meaning that Vinnikov has not repaid those debts.
In New York, two court cases were brought against Vinnikov by American Express Bank, FSB. One of these, involving failure to pay $9,087.59, was settled on August 30, 2012. The other New York case, according to court data, is still “active.”
During his years living in the United Sates, Vinnikov has been the CEO of at least nine businesses.
All nine are currently inactive. His most recent firm – Eastern Tours Consolidated, Inc. – was established in October 1993 and registered on Ten East 39th Street, New York, according to the New York State Department of State. The New York State tax authorities declared the company inactive and annulled its license in October 2011.
In a 2012 profile of Vinnikov by the New York-based Russian-language newspaper Rusrek.com, journalist Alexander Grant cited former clients of Vinnikov, referring to them as “victims.” According to Grant, Vinnikov stole thousands of dollars from clients after promising to expedite their acquisition of Russian passports and other documents, including visas, as well as airline tickets. Grant claims Vinnikov never provided these services, and instead “fled” back to Russia.
At the time of publication, the New York police had not responded to Polygraph.info’s inquiry as to whether criminal charges have ever been brought against Gregory Vinnikov.