A woman whose address was used as part of a bid to put pro-Brexit letters in local newspapers has criticised the “immoral” practice.
‘She’ managed to get near-identical letters published in at least eight regional newspapers, from the Sunderland Echo to the West Sussex County Times, in recent months. Each time she presented as a resident of the local area.
The letters from ‘Veronika’ said Brexit had made her “inspired and creative”. Fake news expert Alice Stollmeyer told us they suggest a fake persona, pointing out shared themes with Russian attempts at disinformation.
In some of Veronika’s messages, she gave an address that was not real. Her supposed home in Bristol – 104A Eastgate Road – did not exist. The closest genuine addresses were in Eastgate Retail Park.
(Image: Dan Regan/BristolLive)
But after our report was published, our sister news website Gloucestershire Live informed us it had been contacted by Veronika in April – and she had given a real address.
Veronika had written to the publication claiming to have settled in Parton Road, Churchdown, soon after moving to the UK from Russia in 2014.
Our visit to Churchdown
Not an obvious hub for suspected Russian ‘influence operations’, Churchdown is a sleepy village of around 11,000 residents, nestled in the countryside between Gloucester and Cheltenham.
The address Veronika had given was a large, detached house on leafy Parton Road. Only the cleaner was in when we knocked on the door this morning.
But thanks to Gloucestershire Live putting a note through the letterbox the evening before, we soon received a call from the homeowner.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, said she had lived in the house with her husband for the last 12 years and had never heard of Veronika Oleksychenko.
The resident revealed she is originally from Cheltenham, not Russia, and is not a Brexiteer.
She said: “Does Brexit make me feel creative? No. Frustrated, yes.”
While Veronika says she is a creative writer, the Parton Road resident is an admin manager.
The homeowner said: “It’s a very weird thing to see the letter that was supposedly sent from our address.
“It’s just a bit concerning that someone would use another person’s address. I think it’s immoral.
“It feels like someone is taking your identity in a way. It’s a bit dispiriting to say the least.”
Veronika has been approached for a response to the resident’s comments.
To read our full report into the letters, click here.