The Russians are coming! – to Capitol Hill, led by propagandists and PR experts. What on earth is going on here?

Today the 28th Annual World Russia Forum opened in Washington DC. Attending the forum will be numerous Russia experts, diplomats, lobbyists, businessmen, scholars and US politicians. The forum will analyze the state of US-Russian relations and potential avenues and strategies for their improvement.

However, judging by the majority of their panelists, the forum is aimed to advance a “Russia-first” foreign policy agenda. One of the most problematic speaker is Sergei Tsekov, a representative of the “Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The Crimea is a part of sovereign Ukraine, its “autonomous republic” status notwithstanding. Tsekov is a Russian proxy serving a quasi-separatist movement in Ukraine. His attendance turns the forum into a major propaganda boon for the Russian leadership’s irredentist agenda on Ukraine. Needless to say, the message this sends about Moscow’s view of Ukraine’s sovereignty is disturbing. Readers will remember Putin’s statements last April in Bucharest about Ukraine not being a real state.

Another glance at the lineup reveals Igor Panarin, according to the Wall Street Journal, a well-connected former KGB analyst and current dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, the author of the infamous anti-American theory that the United States is on an inexorable course to fracture into separate, feuding states. Other pro-Moscow mouthpieces include Yuri Mamchur, a US-baked Russia-firster and Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin’s political advisor.

Why Congress is hosting such an event remains a mystery, but we should treat Russian messages emanating from it with suspicion.