In November 2013, three Russian political operatives flew from Moscow to New York. Over the next few days, the men toured Manhattan, took side trips to Washington and Detroit, drank vodka at a Brighton Beach restaurant, and had a guitar singalong with Russian emigres.
It was a whirlwind, but they had no time to waste. Their boss was Yevgeny Prigozhin. A lieutenant of President Vladimir Putin, he had ordered up a film depicting an impoverished and crime-ridden America. “We went to meet Russians who live in New York and find out what makes life painful there,” said Oleg Matveychev, a member of the group.