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Struggle against fake information about events in Ukraine
Updated: 35 min 32 sec ago

Fake: Ukraine To Accept 20,000 Refugees Instead Of Germany

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:17

Citing a Bavarian newspaper, last week scores of pro-Kremlin media claimed that Ukraine would accept 20,000 refugees instead of Germany with headlines such as Why does Poroshenko need militants from Asia and Africa?

Citing a German publication called Kraichgau News, Russian media claim that by the end of 2018 Ukraine will accept no less than 20,000 refugees most likely those who are currently in Bavaria. This deal allegedly resulted from an agreement with Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and its German counterpart and Ukraine is actively preparing for the reception of such a large number of people.

Website screenshot RIA

This fake began to be widely republished in Russian media during the recent EU Eastern Partnership summit at the end of November. The Eastern Partnership is a European Union program launched in 2009 in the framework of European Neighborhood Policy and addressed to six countries in Eastern Europe: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Kraichgau News is neither Bavarian nor is it a newspaper. It is an internet portal where anyone can post their information based in the Baden-Württemberg area. A user calling themselves Kerstin Neumann who wrote the article that Russian media cite registered with the Kraichgau News portal one day before publishing her fake story on November 1.

Replying to StopFake’s inquiry about these claims, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry confirmed that German diplomat  Dorothea Metschkowski. who specializes in human rights, recently presented a human rights project in Kyiv aimed at fostering tolerance towards refugees in Ukraine. All other claims about refuges are patently false, the ministry said.

While Ukraine is actively cooperating with Germany on human rights issues, there is no agreement between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding refugees.

Categories: World News

At the Helsinki Summit, Putin Claims Military Coordination Avoids Danger — the Record Proves Otherwise

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:50

FINLAND — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) offers a ball of the 2018 football World Cup to US President Donald Trump during a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018

By Polygraph

Vladimir Putin

President, Russian Federation

“Let me remind you that both Russian and American military acquired useful experience of coordination of their actions, established the operational channels of communication, which permit it to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and in (on) the ground.”

Source: NPR, July 16, 2018

MISLEADING

There have been instances of the Russian military’s intentional collusions

Speaking at a press conference after the summit with President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed the military was one of the sectors in which the two countries cooperate the best.

“Let me remind you that both Russian and American military acquired useful experience of coordination of their actions, established the operational channels of communication, which permit it to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and in (on) the ground,” Putin said.

President Putin’s statement is accurate. There are, indeed, established channels of communications designed specifically to avoid dangerous collisions.

There have been multiple instances, however, in which Russia intentionally ignored protocol, initiating incidents that the U.S. military said where “provocative and dangerous.”

According to the European Leadership Network [ELN], a London-based policy group focusing on defense and security issues, in “Russia – West Dangerous Brinkmanship,” the organization details 66 incidents identifiable from public sources that took place between March 2014 and March 2015.

The “incidents” keep occurring regularly. On January 29, 2018 a Russian Su-27 fighter jet buzzed and shadowed a U.S. ЕР-3Е Aries II in international airspace over the Black Sea. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed there was “no incident” and called it a routine operation. According to the ministry, the Russian fighter jet approached at a “safe distance” and the flight “was performed in strict compliance with international rule[s] of airspace use.”

​“The Russian side was flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law, in this case the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA),” said Heather Nauert, the U.S. State Department spokesperson. “The United States notes with the highest level of concern the latest incident of unsafe Russian military practices.”

In February 2018, the Russian paramilitary group “Wagner” moved in on an oil refinery occupied by U.S. soldiers near Deir el-Zour in Syria, sustaining heavy losses in a counter-attack from the American forces. According to the audio recordings obtained by Polygraph.info, the Russians had full knowledge of the presence of the U.S. troops and attacked the base anyway.

U.S. military officials said the coalition was in contact with Russia before, during and after the February 7-8 attack and had alerted Russia to the presence of SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) personnel in that area.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Russians had told the U.S. military that they did not have any forces at the base.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Sputnik Repeats Russia’s False Tales About MH 17, Four Years Later

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 01:03

NETHERLANDS — White chairs and a placard are set up by relatives of crash victims of flight MH17 as a silent protest in front of the Russian embassy in The Hague, May 8, 2018

By Polygraph

Sputnik International

Russian State-owned media outlet

“MH17 Crash Four Years On: Probe Continues, While No Solid Proof Presented So Far”

Source: Sputnik

FALSE

Plenty of evidence points directly to Russia’s responsibility for the crash.

On the four-year anniversary of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), which led to the death of all 298 passengers on board, Russia’s state-owned news agency Sputnik claimed no “solid evidence” has been produced linking Russia with the incident. In fact, plenty of evidence showing Russia’s culpability has been found, yet the Russian government, its state-run media outlets and pro-government media outlets, during the four year internal, have produced contradictory alternative theories that have been repeatedly debunked.

UKRAINE – People lay flowers and light candles at Dutch embassy in Kyiv on July 17, 2018, to remember those killed on flight MH17 four years ago when the plane was shot down over war-torn Ukraine

The Sputnik article begins by stating that Russia was accused of shooting down the Boeing 777 “shortly after” the downing of the plane was reported. It does not mention, however, that there was a good reason for this, based on military capabilities.The Ukrainian military was fighting an enemy with no aviation assets, and so Ukraine would have no reason to shoot down a high-altitude aircraft flying from the west. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian forces had shot down several Ukrainian military aircraft in the days leading up to July 17.

The article claims that an investigation by Almaz-Antey, the company which manufactures the Buk surface-to-air missile system used to shoot down MH17, found that the missile was fired from the village of Zaroshchensk’e in eastern Ukraine – which the company claimed was under Ukrainian military control. Actually, the village was controlled by pro-Russian forces. This point is moot, however, considering that both the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigative Team determined that the actual launch site was near the village of Snizhne, which was also controlled by pro-Russian forces at the time.

The article then refers to the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims that a Ukrainian Buk radar signal was detected in the area. What the article fails to mention is that the Russian Defense Ministry also claimed it had detected a Ukrainian air force jet in the vicinity of MH17. The Sputnik article also does not mention that both the Defense Ministry and various state-media organizations often promoted claims that a Ukrainian Su-25, which is in fact a ground-attack aircraft, shot down MH17. Russia’s Investigative Committee even opened an investigation into this theory.

In any case, these claims have been thoroughly debunked, as the damage to the Boeing was consistent with that caused by a Buk SAM and not a much smaller air-to-air missile.

RUSSIA-Russian officers with BUK missile launcher from bellingcat investigation

Besides these claims, the Sputnik article repeatedly cites Russia’s Defense and Foreign ministries in labeling the evidence used by both the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigative Team as “unreliable” without substantiating these claims. The article does mention the claim that the missile used to shoot down the airliner was manufactured in 1986, and that it was not in use by the Russian Armed Forces, but this has been debunked based on photographs.

It is worth noting that years after the event, Russian media’s initial treatment of the story is still online. For example, the pro-government outlet LifeNews, below, claimed that pro-Russian forces had downed a Ukrainian An-26 military cargo plane, showing footage from what was actually the MH17 downing. The Russian state-owned news agency TASS also ran this report, which is still online today. These reports were based on a dispatch by pro-Russian militia leader and Russian citizen Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, who on that day published a post on social media bragging that his forces had shot down an An-26. His “An-26” shootdown was actually the airliner, which had taken off from Amsterdam, full of civilians, and was bound for Kuala Lampur. While Girkin quickly removed the post as the real story emerged, the stories which cited him remain up to this day.

Годовщина незабываемого выпуска Лайфньюс о сбитом АН-26, а по факту сбитом российским буком Боинг рейса MH17. pic.twitter.com/CwsMyLN8Kx

— Коронованный Вован (@stignic) July 17, 2018

A LifeNews anchorwoman reports the destruction of an “An-26” military cargo plane that was actually MH17.

What is more, there have been plenty of opportunities for the Russian side to debunk some of the investigations that point to Russia, but they have not taken them. For example, a joint investigation by Bellingcat, McClatchy DC, and the Russian independent media outlet The Insider identified a Russian GRU (military intelligence) officer whose intercepted phone conversations reveal that the so-called “separatists” had a Buk SAM system in their possession. To date, Russian media has not interviewed the man in question to get his side of the story and possibly clear his, and Russia’s name in this case.

Reminder that after @bellingcat/@the_ins_ru identified Oleg Ivannikov as the GRU officer responsible for organizing the transport of the #MH17 murder weapon, there has not been a single interview with him. Why won’t any Russian media outlets interview him to clear his good name? pic.twitter.com/7dsGMl7V3q

— Aric Toler (@AricToler) July 17, 2018


By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Does Russia Really Oppose Teaching Nationalism to Kids?

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 00:55

Russia – Russian military-patriotic movement “Yunarmiya” (Youth Army)

By Polygraph

Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations Twitter Account

Official social media account

“It’s unacceptable to impose on #children ideology of #nationalism, to teach them false history and values. They should not be discriminated on national origin or be denied the right to learn in native language. We’ll continue to draw intl [international] attention to such violations in some States”

Source: Twitter

MISLEADING

Russia violates almost every recommendation in this tweet.

On July 10, the official Twitter account of the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations issued a tweet that condemned imposing the “ideology of nationalism” on children. The tweet did not accuse any specific country, but there are examples close by. For example, Ukraine last year passed an education reform law affecting the teaching of minority languages in public schools. The law as adopted was criticized by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, which advises countries on constitutional issues with the aim of strengthening democratic institutions and protecting human rights.

It’s unacceptable to impose on #children ideology of #nationalism, to teach them false history and values.They should not be discriminated on national origin or be denied the right to learn in native language.We’ll continue to draw intl attention to such violations in some States pic.twitter.com/OWQNif7JQD

— Russian Mission UN (@RussiaUN) July 10, 2018

However, the Russian UN Mission’s tweet could just as easily apply to Russia.

Russia easily fits the description of a country that imposes “nationalism,” as well as false historical narratives, on children. For example, Russia’s government and Defense Ministry organize and sponsor “military patriotic” youth groups. One such group, known as the Youth Army, includes children as young as 8 years old, while another group involved children between the ages of 5 to 7. It should be noted that most of these youth groups are voluntary.

Last year, a member of Russia’s parliament published a video that showed young children singing about their readiness to die for Vladimir Putin.

In another video, of a Youth Army ceremony with Putin in attendance, a young girl tells the audience that she would master German because Putin speaks that language. (In doing so, she rephrased a poem by the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky).

The concern over language issues is also applicable to Russia, a country with many national minorities. The suppression of regional non-Russian languages was largely due to a 2008 reform that required high school graduation exams to be in Russian only. As a result, many state schools in regions like Tatarstan switched over from teaching the native language to Russian.

A more recent law in Tatarstan limits the teaching of the Tatar language in schools to no more than two hours a week. New draft legislation floated in June would make non-Russian languages non-obligatory even in non-Russian regions. It has been criticized by representatives of various minorities, who fear that such a law would lead to further Russification. However, there are reports that, due to the backlash against the original version, the bill will be amended to include non-Russian languages with official status as obligatory.

NOVOKUZNETSK, KEMEROVO REGION, RUSSIA: First-grade students and teacher are in school classroom at first lesson – vthe day of knowledge in Russia. September 2, 1014

But what about the teaching of false narratives in schools? In January 2018, Meduza reported that Russia’s Education Ministry had ordered a review of a high school history textbook because it referred to Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan as a “revolution” and not a “bloody coup.” Moreover, history textbooks often promote a whitewashed version of Russian history, particularly the period involving Josef Stalin and the Second World War.

Questioning such official history, even when based on well-established fact, can have consequences. A Russian man in Perm learned this the hard way when he was fined for posting an article about the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Polygraph.info e-mailed the press office for the Russian Mission to the UN, asking for more specifics on what countries, if any, it was criticizing. We also asked for information about the youth Russian military patriotic groups, whether Ukrainian language is taught in Russian schools and to clarify the Russian Federation’s position domestic education reform that has been criticized as suppressing regional, non-Russian languages. We received no reply.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Putin’s post-summit interview lies won’t save Trump

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 15:23

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Basking in the glow of the World Cup final and a humiliation of Donald Trump in Helsinki yesterday, Vladimir Putin sat down for an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Pro-Kremlin reporter Dmitri Smirnov tweeted: “Another present for Trump: In Helsinki Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the American channel Fox News, which belongs to the US president.” It doesn’t, but perhaps Smirnov was attempting humour. In fact, Fox had been unusually critical of Trump after the summit, and Wallace asked Putin about issues that Trump himself hadn’t raised, but nevertheless Putin was able to put forward an array of lies and conspiracy theories once again.

Putin repeated a point that he had made during the summit press conference, which doesn’t stand up to the most cursory scrutiny. He claimed that he wouldn’t have collected kompromat on Trump during Miss Universe in Moscow in 2013, referring to the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where this year there were 500 business leaders, many of greater calibre than Trump was before he became president, according to Putin. “Do you think our special services organised surveillance of each and every one of them? Unlike the US, we don’t do that. We don’t have the resources, the manpower, to spy on everyone,” he said.

Apology at Miss Universe

Putin deliberately ignored the fact that being the organiser of a Miss Universe in Moscow is radically different from being one of hundreds of visitors at an economic forum. At the press conference Putin also claimed that he didn’t even know Trump was in Moscow for Miss Universe. The authors of the book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” Michael Isikoff and David Corn, already reported that Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov called Trump to apologise that Putin couldn’t be there, sent Putin’s close aide Vladimir Kozhin, invited Trump to the Sochi Olympics and sent him a gift. When Isikoff tweeted about this yesterday, Trump associate Rob Goldstone responded, “I know this because I was there!”

Goldstone, a British publicist and music manager, subsequently tweeted on a bright red background: “President Putin just stated that he had no idea Donald Trump was in Moscow in 2013. I know for sure that he did and tell the full story in my soon to be released book… Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life.” It was Goldstone who emailed Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 on behalf of pop star and businessman Emin Agalarov to request a meeting between Trump Jr. and lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which would become the notorious Trump Tower meeting where the Trump team asked the Russians for dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Indictments ignored

On Russian election interference in 2016 Putin was also in full denial mode, asking Wallace, “Do you really believe that someone acting from Russian territory could have influenced the choice of millions of Americans?” When Wallace tried to get Putin to take a copy of Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian GRU officers who hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Putin refused. At the press conference in Helsinki he had pretended that he didn’t even know Mueller’s name, calling him “Miller”. By claiming that he hasn’t read the indictment or other Mueller indictments of people including former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort or guilty pleas by top Trump aides such as former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, Putin can feign innocence – which might impress some, especially Trump himself.

“I’m not the least bit interested,” Putin said of the indictment of the GRU officers. “These are internal US political games. Don’t hold the relationship between Russia and the US hostage to this internal political struggle… And it’s nothing to be proud of for American democracy, because using law enforcement agencies in a political rivalry is inadmissible.” Here Putin must have forgotten about Alexei Navalny being convicted in trials denounced by the European Court of Human Rights and banned from running in the March 2018 presidential election. On July 13 Navalny’s co-defendant Petr Ofitserov died at the age of 43, reportedly after hitting his head “during an epileptic fit or a stroke,” according to Russian media.

Putin claimed that he hadn’t received a single document about election interference. “Now we hear that another two people suffered from that so-called chemical substance they called Novichok. But I’ve never even heard their names, who are those people? What did they suffer from?” he continued. It seems unlikely that Putin would not have heard that the two British people poisoned by Novichok were Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, and that Sturgess died after they both touched the bottle that was used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March. “What bottle? Who picked it up? Where did they pick it up?” Putin demanded. “Maybe there were other reasons why those people suffered. Maybe they’re inside Great Britain. But no one wants to investigate. It’s just baseless accusations.”

Blaming the West again

When Wallace asked why Putin had changed so much after being elected as a reformer in 2000, Putin responded, “Nothing changed about me. I am the same as I ever was.” As always he blamed the West for changing its behaviour by expanding NATO (Eastern European countries asked to join NATO for protection against Russia), sanctioning Russian officials through the Magnitsky Act (in response to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in prison after torture), and supporting what he calls the “coup” in Ukraine in 2014 (a popular revolution against the corruption of Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovych).

“It wasn’t us who organised an armed coup and the government’s overthrow in violation of the Ukrainian constitution,” Putin said. “It wasn’t us giving out cookies to rebels on city squares. Nothing happened to me. What happened to the West, I’d like to know.” It was, however, Putin who gave asylum to Yanukovych and many of the Berkut riot police who beat and killed protesters during the revolution, and it was Putin who annexed Crimea and invaded Donbas, establishing terrorist-led fake states and killing over 10,000 Ukrainians. It was also Putin who sent a Buk missile system to Donbas which was used to shoot down flight MH17 four years ago today, killing all 298 people on board.

Putin laughed off the annexation of Crimea in the interview, saying, “If this was an annexation, then what is democracy?” At the press conference with Trump he had talked about organising a referendum in Crimea, but his sham referendum overseen by Russian troops without identifying marks was obviously in violation of Ukraine’s constitution, which he claims to care about. Since the annexation the human rights situation on the peninsula has deteriorated severely, with Crimean film director Oleg Sentsov being sent to a Russian prison for 20 years, Crimean Tatars rounded up and arrested regularly, Ukrainian citizens jailed for alleged “sabotage”, and farmer Volodymyr Balukh jailed for several years because he flew a Ukrainian flag on his home.

Whataboutism

Asked why so many of his political enemies end up dead, Putin turned to his trusted whataboutism, responding, “Haven’t presidents been killed in the United States? Was Kennedy killed in Russia or in the United States? What about clashed between police and several ethnic groups? All of us have our own set of domestic problems. Russia’s statehood is maturing and there are some side effects.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Popular democratic politician and Ukraine supporter Boris Nemtsov was shot dead in February 2015. Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in 2006. Today the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia hadn’t adequately investigated Politkovskaya’s murder and ordered it to pay 20,000 euros in compensation to her relatives. It also ruled that Pussy Riot should receive 50,000 euros for a violation of their right to free speech when they were jailed for performing their Punk Prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in 2012. Yesterday four more Pussy Riot members were jailed for 15 days each for running onto the pitch in police uniforms during the World Cup final.

Putin knows that he has an audience for his lies, and he will continue to repeat them. But the good news is that Trump’s universally-derided performance in Helsinki is likely to harden US opinion against Putin. Even Fox and Republicans are expressing serious concern that Trump is selling out the United States to Russia for his own personal reasons. After the press conference the US Department of Justice announced that it had arrested Maria Butina on a charge of espionage for activities that included trying to influence US politics via the National Rifle Association. The list of indicted Russians is getting longer, and more of Trump’s closest associates almost certainly won’t be far behind. No amount of lying from Putin will ultimately save his American protégé.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Categories: World News

StopFake #192 [ENG] with Marko Suprun

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 22:06

Fake: US sells Ukraine defective Javelin missiles. Ukraine prepares terror attacks in Crimea. How Ukraine “rooted” for Russia in the World Cup. Patriotism in America.

Categories: World News

Novichok returns and so does disinformation

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 11:49

By EU vs Disinfo

As the nerve agent Novichok – which was used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia earlier this year – reappeared in Amesbury, not far from the original finding place in Salisbury, it has tragically taken a life and now prompted a murder inquiry. A couple was exposed in a way still unknown to law enforcement and on Sunday one of the victims passed away. Although this new turn of events was unexpected and is so far not seen by British police as a targeted attack, the subsequent flow of disinformation was less of a surprise.

Both from Russian state owned channels and from official Kremlin-linked accounts, there was an immediate return to spreading already well known disinformation narratives which had been generated at the time of the first poisoning with Novichok earlier this year. And just as then, the narratives were used to confuse, undermine and spread false accusations.

We saw claims that it was all about anti-Russian hysteria, that it was a distraction from the meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin and that it was a provocation by the enemies of Russia. And much like the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign surrounding the original Skripal poisoning, some effort was put into raising suspicion about the UK’s role in the incident. Again, Porton Down (Britain’s military research base) was mentioned as the possible perpetrator of the nerve agent incidents.

And, with the World Cup still ongoing in Russia, the pro-Kremlin disinformation machinery didn’t miss the opportunity to once again state that this was merely an attempt to disturb the event, this time ‘due to the success of it, which displeased the UK’.

Alternative Academia?

Students at a summer school hosted by renowned Uppsala University in Sweden were in for a surprise earlier this summer. Lecturing at the international course ’War and Peace Journalism in an Age of Global Instability’ was Vanessa Beeley, a British blogger referred to by the Russian and Syrian Governments as a credible source and independent journalist, in reality a well-known pro-Assad and pro-Kremlin public figure. She has eg visited Regime-held areas of Syria, often under the supervision of the Syrian Army.

According to visiting Estonian students and professors, Ms Beeley didn’t miss a beat in following some of the main narratives in pro-Kremlin disinformation. She discredited NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, claiming it to be a zionist front organization run by George Soros. She stated that the USSR and later Russia always worked for peace in the world, and that Crimea legitimately decided to be Russian. And she called the White Helmets a terrorist organization and claimed the chemical attack in Douma never happened.

Swedish local media wrote about the incident which prompted an official apology from the University, stating that they had not been aware that Beeley had been invited by the course coordinator and that she had, in her lecture, expressed unscientific views.

We have previously written about the use of ”experts” in Russian state-owned media where Ms Beeley also appears regularly. As this incident highlights, there is also a need for academia to be watchful about the challenge of disinformation and to safeguard the integrity of academic institutions.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Why is the international media still repeating Kremlin propaganda about Ukraine?

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 10:16

At the World Cup Croatia’s Domagoj Vida celebrates their first goal scored by Andrej Kramaric on July 7 in Sochi, Russia. Croatia beat Russia in the quarter final. Vida made a video that included the phrase “Glory to Ukraine” to celebrate the victory that has resulted in an international dustup. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

By Peter Dickinson, for Atlantic Council

When two members of Croatia’s World Cup squad recorded a nine-second video dedicating their quarter final victory over Russia to Ukraine, they chose to accompany it with the patriotic slogan “Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”). As former Dynamo Kyiv players, they appear to have believed they were sending a somewhat cheeky but essentially harmless message to their Ukrainian friends. However, to millions of horrified viewers in Russia, there was nothing innocent about the video. To them, it was a dire insult to national honor straight out of the Nazi era.

This historically illiterate interpretation of the phrase “Glory to Ukraine” is perfectly in line with modern Russia’s preference for viewing all things Ukrainian through the narrow and distorting prism of Ukraine’s World War II-era independence movement. According to this warped logic, “Glory to Ukraine” is a fascist phrase because it enjoyed prominence among Ukraine’s World War II insurgent army, a force which briefly formed a strategic alliance with the invading Germans before fighting against both Nazis and Soviets for the remainder of the war.

These insurgents have long been the poster boys of a Kremlin campaign to justify the invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine by painting all Ukrainian patriots as the collective reincarnation of Hitler’s hordes. Indeed, since Soviet times, the preferred propaganda response to the Ukrainian independence movement has always been to brand Ukrainian patriots as fascists, with “Glory to Ukraine” as their version of “Heil Hitler.”

This depiction was never historically accurate, but the evolution of the phrase in recent years has rendered it absurd. Far from being a product of World War II, the origins of “Glory to Ukraine” are traceable to long before the 1940s. The phrase has its roots in Ukraine’s early twentieth century national liberation movement and was enthusiastically embraced by various different military formations during the failed statehood bid that saw a number of short-lived Ukrainian republics emerge in the chaotic aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. It has remained in common usage ever since, gaining in popularity during particularly intensive periods of Ukraine’s nation-building story such as the perestroika years and the 2013-14 Revolution of Dignity. Today, “Glory to Ukraine” is a wholly unremarkable patriotic refrain used by everyone from national politicians and celebrities to visiting dignities and diplomats. In this sense, it is comparable to “Vive la France” or “God Bless America.”

The only people still entitled to be shocked or offended by the phrase are those who regard Ukrainian independence as a form of dangerous extremism. This explains the virulence of the Russian reaction to the Croatian World Cup video, but it also raises serious questions over the way the international media chose to cover the issue.

Many press reports uncritically repeated misleading Kremlin characterizations of “Glory to Ukraine” as an anti-Russian nationalist slogan with roots in twentieth century fascism. This should be something of a wakeup call to all those who think Russian disinformation is losing its power to deceive. While international awareness of Kremlin hybrid war tactics has progressed by leaps and bounds since 2014, all roads still often lead to Moscow when it comes to media coverage of Ukraine.

The most striking example of this trend came courtesy of the UK’s Independent newspaper, which produced a report into the Croatian World Cup video scandal containing so many Kremlin clichés that it could conceivably have passed muster at RT. Perhaps the most memorable line was the description of “Glory to Ukraine” as “a phrase that continues to be deployed by anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists following the 2014 Maidan coup.” Fellow British daily The Sunexplained “Glory to Ukraine” as “the chant of the Ukrainian army and the nationalist cause that is opposed to Russian territorial claims on the country.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg carried an opinion piece that repeated false Russian assertions of the phrase’s World War II vintage, stating matter-of-factly that it is “a traditional greeting of Ukrainian nationalists, and was first adopted by the supporters of World War II-era separatist Stepan Bandera.” The fact that these casual characterizations all echo the official Russian narrative is an indication of the informal influence Moscow continues to exert over international perceptions of Ukraine.

This is nothing new, of course. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, international media reporting on Ukraine has suffered from a heavy degree of Russian bias due to the widespread habit of relying on Moscow correspondents to cover the country. With Russia and Ukraine currently engaged in an undeclared war, the shortcomings of relying on international journalists accredited by the Russian state should be obvious. Nevertheless, the practice persists and continues to produce predictably unsatisfactory results.

Ukraine’s low international profile and minimal academic footprint have also not helped matters. All too often, this has forced those interested in the country to seek information from Russocentric sources that are more likely reinforce old stereotypes than to offer any genuine insight into the specifics of Ukraine’s post-Soviet experience. Until Ukraine makes itself more accessible to English-language audiences, this will remain the case. After all, busy foreign journalists and overloaded international researchers are hardly to blame for lacking the requisite Ukrainian language skills and nuanced local knowledge necessary to make sense of the country’s confusing past and convoluted present.

While four years of Kremlin information warfare have clearly not convinced the international press to think twice before taking their lead on Ukraine from Russia, the experience has at least taught Ukrainians the importance of fighting back. The Ukrainian Embassy in London led the charge on this occasion, taking to social media to register its objections to misleading coverage of the “Glory to Ukraine” video in the UK press. The results were encouraging with a number of corrections to the Independent article appearing within a matter of hours. Similar fact-based complaints regarding things like incorrect maps showing Crimea as part of Russia have also brought success in recent months.

The onus now is on Ukraine to continue defending itself on the information battlefield. Ukrainian officials and activists must use the appearance of Russian propaganda tropes in the international media as an opportunity to inform and educate. Ukraine’s international ambiguity left it uniquely vulnerable in 2014 to Russian information warfare, but there is no longer any excuse for allowing Moscow to maintain its monopoly of the conversation.

By Peter Dickinson, for Atlantic Council

Peter Dickinson is a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and publisher of Business Ukraine and Lviv Today magazines. He tweets @Biz_Ukraine_Mag.

Categories: World News

WhatsApp launches cmpaign in India to spot fake messages

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 06:26

A man reads WhatsApp advertisements on how to spot misinformation, published in prominent newspapers in New Delhi, India, July 10, 2018

ByAnjana Pasricha, for  VoANews

NEW DELHI — After hoax messages on WhatsApp fueled deadly mob violence in India, the Facebook-owned messaging platform published full-page advertisements in prominent English and Hindi language newspapers advising users on how to spot misinformation.

The advertisements are the first measure taken by the social media company to raise awareness about fake messages, following a warning by the Indian government that it needs to take immediate action to curb the spread of false information.

While India is not the only country to be battling the phenomenon of fake messaging on social media, it has taken a menacing turn here — in the past two months more than a dozen people have died in lynchings sparked by false posts spread on WhatsApp that the victims were child kidnappers.

Ironically, the digital media giant took recourse to traditional print media to disseminate its message. The advertisements, which began with the line “Together we can fight false information” give 10 tips on how to sift truth from rumors and will also be placed in regional language newspapers.

They call on users to check photos in messages carefully because photos and videos can be edited to mislead; check out stories that seem hard to believe; to “think twice before sharing a post that makes you angry and upset”; check out other news websites or apps to see if the story is being reported elsewhere. It also warned that fake news often goes viral and asked people not to believe a message just because it is shared many times.

WhatsApp published full page advertisements in The Times of India newspaper giving 10 tips on how to fight false information

Internet experts called the media blitz a good first step, but stressed the need for a much larger initiative to curb the spread of fake messages that authorities are struggling to tackle.

“There has to be a repetitive pattern. People have to be told again and again and again,” says Pratik Sinha who runs a fact checking website called Alt News and hopes that the social media giant will run a sustained campaign. “That kind of fear mongering that has gone on on WhatsApp, that is not going to go away by just putting out an advertisement one day a year. This needs a continuous form of education.”

Some pointed out that although newspapers are popular in India, many of the users of the messaging platform, specially in rural areas, were unlikely to be newspaper readers.

Satish Bhaykre, 21, who was beaten by a mob due to a fake WhatsApp text, poses inside his house on the outskirts of Nagpur, India, June 23, 2018

The fake posts that have spread on WhatsApp have ranged from sensationalist warnings of natural calamities, fake stories with political messaging to bogus medical advise. The false messages that warned parents about child abductors were sometimes accompanied by gruesome videos of child abuse.

Experts said the that the need to curb fake news has also assumed urgency ahead of India’s general elections scheduled for next year — WhatsApp has become the favored medium for political parties to target voters. With about 200 million users, India is its largest market for the messaging service.

ByAnjana Pasricha, for  VoANews

Categories: World News

Figure of the Week: 70 million

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 00:24

By EU vs Disinfo

Since the US election in 2016, the social media giants have been stepping up their action against disinformation and fake accounts in their networks. Facebook has recognized the use of its platformfor information operations and the Mueller report showed the scale of Russia’s operation aimed at influencing public opinion on social media before the 2016 US Presidential elections.

Another study has shown that over 156,000 Russian-based Twitter accounts had massively tweeted about Brexit in the days leading up to the June 2016 referendum.

One response by the platforms has been to suspend suspicious accounts. According to an article by the Washington Post, Twitter suspended more than 70 million accounts in May and June, and the pace has continued in July. 

Del Harvey, the vice president for trust and safety at Twitter explains the shift in how the company defines its role in public debate. “One of the biggest shifts is in how we think about balancing free expression versus the potential for free expression to chill someone else’s speech,” Harvey said. “Free expression doesn’t really mean much if people don’t feel safe.”

 Read the whole article from the Washington Post here.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

NATO’s Summit disinfo targets Latvia

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 00:17

By Anna Ūdre, for CEPA

On 15 June, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti published a fake news story, “President of Latvia: the U.S. will not protect Europe from Russia,” intended to undermine popular support for NATO before the Alliance’s summit in Brussels in July.

The article was published in Russian two days after Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis gave opening remarks at a discussion at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs (LIIA) on the upcoming NATO summit. The article accurately recounts only some of Mr. Vejonis’s remarks – for example, he noted that “Europe has begun to realize that our protection can’t be relied solely on the United States, therefore we must do our utmost to guarantee our own security.” These remarks were correctly reported by the independent news agency LETA, other established media in Latvia, and the Chancery of the President of Latvia.

The version published by RIA Novosti was distorted, employing a frequently used technique: using some correct or mostly correct facts or statements, but a misleading title. The LIIA panel that Mr. Vejonis spoke at was titled “NATO in 2018: Constraints and Opportunities in Response to Existing and Emerging Challenges.” In the discussion, the Latvian president addressed the challenges the alliance is facing today – for example, “instability in the South, Syria, and North Africa, as well as in the East, where Russia is ‘flexing its military muscles.’” According to LETA, Vejonis also mentioned China’s increasing economic and military influence in the Far East, expressed his hopes for “a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear deal,” and addressed such challenges as terrorism and migration. Said Vejonis, “Western unity is at stake,” making it necessary to strengthen both “hard” and “soft” security. “There are forces trying to split us, therefore it is important to stick to our common values. It is time to wake up, be more proactive and remain united.”

TVnet, one of the leading online news media in Latvia, which also publishes in Russian, accurately reported on the discussion. RIA Novosti cited what Tvnet had written, but distorted facts. This is a frequently used misinformation technique: the use of facts and statements that are reported from other sources, but that differ from the original or do not account for the latest editorial changes. There are three differences between RIA Novosti and Tvnet’s article: the title, one paragraph, and graphics. Tvnet’s article was titled, “Vejonis: Europe has begun to understand that its defense can not rely solely on the U.S.” But RIA Novosti reported the address under the title “President of Latvia: U.S. will not protect Europe from Russia.” Moreover, RIA Novosti added a paragraph citing American expert Ted Galen Carpenter from the Cato Institute, arguing that “Washington and NATO continue to turn Moscow against themselves.” Carpenter noted that “Norway recently asked to double the amount of American troops on their territory in order to place armed forces closer to the border with Russia.”

As found in a report published by the Centre For East European Policy Studies in Latvia, many pro-Russia media operate in Latvia and promote Kremlin-friendly messages that resonate with local Russian-speaking populations. Among such media is the newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, news agencies RIA Novosti (including Russia Today, or RT), and ITAR TASS. TV channels available in the country include Russia Today, TVc, MIR TV, RTR, Pervy Kanal, and Golos Rossiji. These media outlets use narratives that stir pre-existing sentiments within the Russian population, such as the “Second World War victory cult” (Kremlin-cultivated propaganda that the Second World War ended with victory over fascism), and anti-Western sentiment. Research suggests that local media cannot effectively compete with financially stronger Russian TV channels.

The timing of the RIA Novosti article on the NATO conference indicates that the Kremlin is seeking to undermine the head of Latvia and the state’s allies before the NATO summit in Brussels. Russia’s state news agency is known for relying on a different set of experts than other media do, discrediting Latvian institutions and its transatlantic alliances, and pushing a pro-Kremlin narrative. It is likely that similar, distorted articles will follow as the summit unfolds.

By Anna Ūdre, for CEPA

Categories: World News

Russian UK Embassy flubs, misstates U.S. military posture in Ukraine

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 00:13

UKRAINE — During tactical exercises on the Yavoriv landfill in the Lviv region

By Polygraph

Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom

“Americans always said they had no troops in Ukraine.”

Source: @RussianEmbassy, July 8, 2018

FALSE

The U.S. is transparent about military deployments in Ukraine

In a July 8 tweet, the Russian Embassy in London accused the United States of lying about its military presence in Ukraine.

The tweet read: “Americans always said they had no troops in Ukraine. And now this.” Underneath the comments was a photo of the lead paragraph of an article published in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, with the phrase “pull US troops out of Ukraine” underlined.

Americans always said they had no troops in Ukraine. And now this. pic.twitter.com/Ru7wwX31h6

— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) July 8, 2018

The Telegraph article, written by the paper’s Whitehall editor, Edward Malnick, and headlined “Nato fears Donald Trump may pull troops out of Europe if countries do not increase defence spending,” was published on July 7 ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s arrival in Brussels for this week’s NATO summit. The article’s lead paragraph reads: “Donald Trump could threaten to pull U.S. troops out of Ukraine and refuse to take part in joint Nato exercises if Britain and other European countries fail to commit to increased spending on defence.”

A version of the article was also posted on the Telegraph’s website.

“American (and Canadian, Polish, and Lithuanian) military personnel have been in Ukraine for years supporting training efforts with the Ukrainian armed forces. No U.S. combat troops are – or ever have been – stationed in Ukraine,” U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker told Polygraph.info.

The United States announced in March 2015 that American military personnel would be deployed in Ukraine by the end of April of that year.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told Polygraph.info that the U.S. Defense Department will use its authorities under the Global Security Contingency Fund as part of a joint DoD-State Department initiative to strengthen Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities.

​ “We plan on sending about 290 U.S. service members, specifically paratroopers from the [Army’s] mighty 173rd ‘Sky Soldiers’ Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy,” Warren said. He noted that the U.S. personnel would train six Ukraine National Guard companies with a focus on internal security and territorial defense.

The U.S. military personnel in Ukraine are part of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U) based at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center. The JMTG-U has a public website and maintains a social media presence. According to its latest update, the training center is currently manned by the New York National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Fly with us, fight with us. Soldiers of the 2-80th Air Assault Brigade conducted transportation and air support operations in conjunction with a company-level field training exercise.

For the actual 360 experience, click on this link : https://t.co/Px3yfj4XoP pic.twitter.com/yGCu9EipaD

— JMTG-U (@JMTG_Ukraine) June 12, 2018

​Independent sources confirm the numbers provided by the Pentagon. According to Bloomberg, last August there were approximately 250 U.S. military instructors of Oklahoma National Guard in Ukraine.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Russia’s UN Mission tags friends on Twitter to spread message

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 16:18

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Some of the individuals tagged in tweets recently by Russian Mission UN (@RussiaUN), which has 31.1K followers, provide insight into who the Kremlin relies on to spread its propaganda message. They include well-known RT contributors and “independent bloggers”, as well as anonymous accounts or accounts with the name of a person whose identity can’t be verified. On a day when Twitter plans to remove millions of locked accounts from people’s follower counts, it’s worth noting that Russia still has a wide range of options for exploiting social media.

Two tweets from July 10 included most of the tagged accounts. One presumably referred to Ukraine and Latvia and said, “It is unacceptable to impose on #children ideology of #nationalism, to teach them false history and values. They should not be discriminated on national origin or be denied the right to learn in native language. We’ll continue to draw intl attention to such violations in some States.”

The other said, “#Polyanskiy: #Jihadists dare to involve #children in their vicious plans aimed at plotting provocations, including alleged #CW attacks.

Their goal is to discredit legitimate authorities in #Syria and call for the punishment by the international community.”

The tagged individuals also often contribute to and retweet stories from a number of supposedly independent websites on the left and the right, including Grayzone Project, The Canary, NewsBud, Sqwawkbox, 21st Century Wire and Antiwar.com. The outlets’ slant on everything is almost identical to RT’s, despite their asserted independence. A person who thinks the US government is imperialist and militaristic is also likely to deny Assad’s use of chemical weapons and believe that the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal was staged, and that Ukraine is governed by neo-Nazis. Russia is never accused of imperialism or militarism.

The following is a rundown of the most notable people tagged by Russian Mission UN, in order of their Twitter follower numbers. Hopefully Russia’s official Twitter accounts will continue tagging friends and supporters so that we can learn more about who is doing their dirty work.

Max Blumenthal @MaxBlumenthal

Followers: 113K

Well-known pro-Russia American journalist. Senior editor of the Grayzone Project, which tweets frequently about Ukrainians being neo-Nazis. On July 2 the Grayzone Project announced a partnership with the UK’s far-left outlet The Canary, which also promotes Russian propaganda. A typical comment by Blumenthal to Russia’s RT in December 2017 was expressed in their headline: “’Russia collusion allegations unproven; what we are looking at is Israel-gate’ – Max Blumenthal.”

Partisangirl @Partisangirl

Followers: 96.7K

Maram Susli, popular Syrian-Australian YouTuber who denies the use of chemical weapons by Assad. Tweeted on July 10: “#BorisJohnson once said that Assad should be decapitated, which showed us that Boris is exactly like the ISIS terrorists his government supports. I’m not sure that the #Assadcurse is done with him.” Her tweet included a picture of Johnson with a headline saying “Assad must go,” and a picture of Assad saying “Who must go?” after Johnson’s resignation as UK foreign secretary. On July 6 she tweeted, “Not content with gassing just #Syrians and #Russian [sic] in false flag chemical attacks, the UK government is now gassing its own citizens to score political points. #AmesburyNovichok.”

Sibel Edmonds @sibeledmonds

Followers: 45.9K

Editor-in-chief of website NewsBud and FBI whistleblower. A typical NewsBud YouTube video that she presented in April was called “They Lied About Iraq, They Lied About Libya, They’re Lying About Syria!” Also in April, an article by Kurt Nimmo on NewsBud repeated a Russian propaganda lie that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by the substance BZ, not Novichok. Nimmo presented the claim of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a distortion of a report by a Swiss lab, as fact.

Graham Phillips @GrahamWP_UK

Followers: 43.4K

Notorious British “independent blogger” who supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been seen tormenting Ukrainian POWs. As he says in a pinned tweet, “Guys, I rarely ask, but all my work is completely crowdfunded, and I’m always struggling to just about cover costs! If you can be a part of making it all possible, click here!” On July 10, in response to Croatia’s Domagoj Vida saying “Glory to Ukraine!”, Phillips tweeted: “Where there’s Croatia, there’s fascist banners…” He also retweeted the account English Russia (@EnglishRussia1) saying “Because of the football story people learned that there is an active Ustash (Nazi, Fascist according to Wikipedia) movement active in Croatia.” The English Russia account has 64.2K followers. On July 12 Phillips tweeted that he planned to return from Russia to live in England.

Eva Bartlett @EvaKBartlett

Followers: 41.7K

Canadian freelance journalist and Assad supporter. Works hard to attempt to refute allegations that Assad committed chemical weapons attacks. Retweets British left-wing writers and outlets such as John Pilger and Sqwawkbox. Writes regularly for RT, for example on June 28 an article with the headline “Bellingcat & Atlantic Council join to award exploited Syrian child & American mass murderer.” The “mass murderer” she was referring to was former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. On June 1 she wrote an article for RT with the  headline “Syrian civilians from ground zero expose chemical hoax.”

Vanessa Beeley @VanessaBeeley

Followers: 39K

British blogger based in France who writes in support of Assad. According to Wikipedia, she believes that the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France in January 2015 was a false flag operation and that “Zionists rule France”. She devotes an enormous amount of effort to trying to prove that Assad’s chemical weapons attacks are also “false flags”. For example, on July 2 she wrote an article for her regular outlet 21st Century Wire with the headline “False Flag Fail: How Syrian Civilians Derailed White Helmet ‘Chemical Stunt’ in Eastern Ghouta.”

Justin Raimondo @JustinRaimondo

Followers: 23.6K

American conservative, editor of Antiwar.com. On July 9 he tweeted: “The sanctions on Russia should never have been imposed in the first place, but the support for Old-fashioned diplomacy – talking! – is encouraging. After all, Trump voters voted for peace with Russia.” On the same day he tweeted: “US out of NATO – let the Eurovision-weenies pay for their own defense. Ditch Article 5 – cut the tripwires of war. #AmericaFirst.”

Maurice Schleepen (@MauriceSchleepe)

Followers: 7,995

Profile description says: “News from the East, #Novorossia, #Russia and the Middle East. Stop #NATO.” Retweets Russian propaganda and writes own tweets about attacks by the “Ukrainian regime” and Syrian government successes.

Missilito @Missilito

Followers: 7,613

Tweets (mainly retweets) about the Russian military. Identity not known.

Caleb T. Maupin

@calebmaupin

Followers: 6,874

Left-wing American journalist whose biography on RT’s website says: “Caleb Maupin is a radical journalist and political analyst who lives in New York City… He is a youth organizer for the International Action Center and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement from its planning stages in August 2011. He has worked against police brutality, mass incarceration, and imperialist war. He works to promote revolutionary ideology, and to support all who fight against the global system of monopoly capitalist imperialism.” On July 11 he tweeted: “Gotta love anti #DPRK #Propaganda. One minute they claim #KimJongUn is ‘starving his own people.’ Then… They attack and mock him for inspecting a new agricultural project. @AJplus never fails to disgust me.”

NO WAR IN SYRIA OUTRAGED

@SenseOf_Outrage

Followers: 3,592

Anonymous account purporting to be a supporter of left-wing US Senator Bernie Sanders. Account consists almost exclusively of retweets about US and international politics.

Peter William Moss @PeterWilliamMos

Followers: 1,460

Profile description says: “Anti war, anti NATO, anti EU, pro UK, pro Russia, pro humour, pro cat, pro mini dachshund. Believe that good will win! Optimist! Ardent Brexiteer, bot :).” Location displayed as London. Timeline is exclusively retweets.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Categories: World News

Scores of Russian media featured

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 08:53

Scores of Russian media featured stories this week claiming that a man displaced by the war in Donbas currently living in the small northern Ukrainian town of Buymer in Sumy province was attacked for speaking Russian. As a result of the attack, the man allegedly suffered a torn mouth. Russia’s Defense Ministry’s organ Zvezda, Komsomolskaya Pravda ad Life all featured this glaring fake.

Website screenshot Life News

Website screenshot Komsomolskaya pravda

The source of this story was a report on the local Sumy ATV television station. The station’s director Serhiy Klochno posted a video report of this alleged incident on his Facebook page. Klochno tells the story of Vyacheslav Rozhkov, a retired miner from Donbas who moved to Buymer because of the war in eastern Ukraine.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = 'https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.0'; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Порвали рота через російську мову. В такий спосіб, в селі Буймер, на Тростянеччині, місцеві вирішили привчити до рідної, української мови, інваліда, переселенцем із Донецька. Нажахані цим випадком жінки-переселенки тепер не виходять на вулицю поодинці. А через резонанс, який виник, побоюються самосуду від селян.

Posted by Sergey Klochko on Thursday, July 5, 2018

 

Allegedly on June 2 a fight ensued outside the local grocery store resulting in Rozhkov requiring stitches to the corner of his mouth. There is no mention of the Russian language being the cause of the alleged fracas until Lidia Rozhkova, the victim’s wife appears in the video report. She claims Buymer residents objected to Rozhkov speaking Russian, beat him and even rode a vehicle over him several times.

This is how Buymer residents want to teach Ukrainian to an immigrant from Donetsk, by tearing a man’s mouth. Now women are too afraid to go out alone, fearing retribution, Klochno editorializes in his video report.

Meanwhile, witnesses. the local police and Rozhkov himself tell a somewhat different story. Vitaliy Razbeyko, the deputy police chief investigating the incident says it was nothing more than an alcohol-fuelled fight. The stories being told by Rozhkov’s wife are simply not true, Rozhkov has no complaints and doesn’t want to be bothered, Razbeyko said.

Buymer mayor Viacheslav Komyshansky  confirms the police version  of events and says this was an altercation between two drunk men, one hit the other, afterwards they made up.

Rozhkov meanwhile says there was no fight at all.

StopFake called the alleged victim and asked him if he was attacked for speaking Russian.

“There was no fight. I simple fell in the cellar” he said.

While there is no definitive account of something that was probably just a drunken brawl, neither the injured manor the authorities say language issues were involved. As the Sumy region is heavily Russian-speaking, it is difficult to imagine locals objecting  to someone using the language.

Categories: World News

In France, RT is getting no love

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 01:12

By EU vs Disinfo

It’s been just over six months since RT, the controversial Russian channel funded by the Kremlin, aired its first French broadcast from a sleek green-and-white studio in the outskirts of Paris.

Despite what RT boss Margarita Simonyan claims is a “strong demand for an alternative perspective” among French-speaking audiences, RT’s launch on French airwaves has been anything but smooth.

Now, a formal warning from France’s broadcasting authority and a new law cracking down on disinformation have poured cold water on the channel’s French ambitions.

‘Lack of Honesty’

French lawmakers adopted the draft law in the night of 4 July after deliberating for eight hours. Several weeks earlier, a first heated debate in parliament had ended at 1am with the vote being postponed amid concern about potential infringements on freedom of expression.

The bill will allow judges to remove or block content deemed to be “false” during a period of up to five weeks before elections.

It will also force platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of funding for sponsored content, in an effort to fight what the text describes as “any attempt at destabilization” by foreign-funded organisations.

The proposal was announced in January by President Emmanuel Macron, who famously accused RT and Sputnik of spreading “lying propaganda” during a press conference with Vladimir Putin last year. Macron’s government still routinely denies the two Russian outlets accreditation for covering official events.

The bill could still be challenged by France’s Constitutional Council.

Its approval in parliament comes just days after the French broadcasting regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), issued a warning to RT over a falsified report contesting the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

The April report wrongly dubbed the voices of Syrian civilians, making them say things they didn’t say — a well-honed tactic on Russian state television.

The report also included a number of factual distortions.

In a statement on 28 June, the CSA accused RT of displaying a “lack of honesty, rigour, and diversity of points of view.” The regulator imposed no sanctions on RT over the incident, although it has the authority to fine a broadcaster or suspend its license.

RT France denied any wrongdoing, claiming the mistranslation was due to a technical error.

One day after the CSA’s warning, Russia’s own communications regulator, the state Roskomnadzor, accused French broadcaster France 24 of violating Russian law on foreign media ownership and threatened to revoke its Russian license.

Pushback against RT 

The anti-disinformation bill and the CSA’s warning against RT illustrate the broader dilemma faced by Western governments in handling Russian state-owned media that promote the Kremlin’s agenda while pouring scorn on the institutions and values of the Western world, often through distorted and false information.

France is indeed not the only country grappling with the question of whether, and how to tackle pro-Kremlin disinformation.

As RT and Sputnik seek to build their presence in Europe and the United States, a number of countries are divided between their wish to fight disinformation and their commitment to safeguarding freedom of speech.

In Germany, a new law intended to curb fake news, hate speech, and online threats on social networks — where Russians bots and trolls are accusing of seeking to influence several Western elections — came into force last year despite criticism that it could lead to censorship.

RT is in hot waters in Britain, whose media regulator is probing the channel over breaches of impartiality rules since the March poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil. The regulator has launched a total of 11 investigations into RT but has so far stopped short of forcing the channel off British airwaves.

And in the United States, RT was forced to register as an agent of the Russian government after being accused by U.S. intelligence agencies of spreading anti-American propaganda. Its accreditation to cover Congress was subsequently revoked.

A Chilly Welcome

Before its first French broadcast in December 2017, RT already had a foothold in France through a French-language website run from Moscow

The Russian state network, however, is viewed with scepticism in France, a country that prides itself on having a strong tradition of independent journalism.

Another reason for this scepticism is the French president’s open war on pro-Kremlin disinformation.

Before denouncing RT and Sputnik as liars and “agents of propaganda,” Macron had banned them from his headquarters during his 2017 presidential campaign. The two outlets were accused of spreading lies about him, including allegations of an extra-marital gay relationship.

Understandably, RT’s début on French airwaves received a rather chilly welcome.

Despite its comfortable 20-million-euro budget and its announced plans to hire 150 people, including 50 journalists, French media reported that RT was having difficulty recruiting any prominent journalists in France.

In the months that preceded the launch of RT France, a string of French journalists and public figures had expressed concern about the channel’s arrival in their country.

Some of the strongest criticism came from Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, who denounced RT and Sputnik as “enemies of journalism.”

Deloire’s comments drew a particularly spiteful response from RT chief Margarita Simonyan, who published an open letter urging Reporters Without Borders to “quietly dissolve itself.”

Meanwhile, a group of French experts of Russia published its own open letter calling on the CSA to deny RT a license to broadcast in France on the grounds that the network’s objective was to “sow chaos and undermine democracies.”

Sharp Scrutiny

In line with French law, RT France was also asked to put together a five-person “ethics committee” to monitor its content and report any violations of journalistic principles to the CSA.

The committee is composed of former diplomat Anne Gazeau-Secret, journalists Jacques-Marie Bourget and Majed Nehmé, Radio France’s ex-president Jean-Luc Hees, and Thierry Marianni, a former senator and fervent admirer of Vladimir Putin who paid a controversial visit to Crimea in 2015 following its illegal annexation by Russia.

CSA head Olivier Schrameck also said his agency would keep a close eye on RT and would “react promptly to any anomaly.”

Probably mindful of the sharp public scrutiny, RT France had so far steered clear of the cruder disinformation it is known for peddling elsewhere. The network also broadcasts in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and it has announced plans to open a German-language channel.

Its French programming mostly stuck to RT’s usual cocktail of slanted news about the Syrian war, sensationalist reports on crises in the EU, and Russian news extolling the virtues of Vladimir Putin.

Despite the CSA’s watchful eye, it took just four months for RT France to commit its first major slip-up and receive a warning.

The Russian network is no stranger to controversy; to a certain extent, it thrives on it.

In France, like in other countries where it is implanted, RT has consistently played the victim and brushed off any criticism as part of a repression campaign it claims is being waged against the channel.

But with the new anti-disinformation bill gaining ground and the CSA ruthlessly picking through its programmes, France is giving RT more trouble than it bargained for.

RT France director Xenia Fedorova certainly seems to be bracing for the worst.

“I’m responsible for the staff I hired, I want to protect them,” Fedorova lamented in a recent interview.

As for the channel’s ambitious plans to extend broadcasts to 24 hours daily by the end of 2018, Fedorova says RT France first needs to make sure the channel “won’t be shut down before then.”

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Russia’s denials poison atmosphere after British woman dies from Novichok

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 17:26

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Last night British police announced that 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess had died in Salisbury as a result of Novichok poisoning. She and her partner Charlie Rowley were hospitalised in critical condition on June 30. Rowley remains in critical condition. The couple are believed to have touched a contaminated item left over from the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March, but the item has not been found and police say they can’t guarantee local residents’ safety. Russia maintains its denials about any involvement, but is struggling to come up with a convincing alternative theory.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, commented cynically: “We offer our condolences in connection with the death of British citizen Dawn Sturgess, who died on July 8 after poisoning by a paralytic nerve agent in the British town of Amesbury, and as before we are deeply concerned about the continuing appearances of poisonous substances on the territory of Great Britain. This poses a danger not only for British people, but also for all other Europeans. The Kremlin doesn’t know that ‘Russia is somehow associated’ with the incident in Amesbury, such accusations would be absurd.”

Russia the real victim?

Russia’s permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Alexander Shulgin, gave an interview to Izvestiya in which he suggested that the poisoning of Sturgess and Rowley was timed to coincide with the World Cup semi-finals and Putin’s forthcoming summit with Trump. “Recently these kinds of stories have been happening on the eve of important events,” he said. “Now we’re approaching the final stage of the World Cup and the Russia-US summit in Helsinki. It’s difficult to rid oneself of the thought that all this was planned and deliberately put out there to exacerbate the international situation and do damage to Russia’s authority and its relations with other countries.”

However, Theresa May’s cabinet is mired in crisis for another reason: the deal on what Britain wants from Brexit that she supposedly thrashed out at a weekend meeting at Chequers has fallen through, with the minister for Brexit, David Davis, handing in his resignation, closely followed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. May could face a leadership contest or even a general election, with the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party defeating her divided Conservatives.

Russia’s leading TV news programme Vesti captioned its report on the death of Sturgess “Provocation in Amesbury” and led with Shulgin’s comments. The reporter said that “many experts” doubt that Sturgess and Rowley could have been poisoned by the Novichok four months after the Skripals, and concluded that British police don’t seem to be considering the theory that the Porton Down defence laboratory could be the source of the poison (probably because it’s ludicrous).

Novichok branding

Treating the whole incident as a joke is another Kremlin tactic, and Russian companies have risen to the challenge by naming products “Novichok”. In April an Ulyanovsk Oblast farmer launched a Novichok cooking oil. Now there are also Novichok T-shirts and Novichok beer.

As the Belarusian radio station Euroradio reported, a Russian microbrewery called Alaska manufactures the beer and it is now available on the shelves in Minsk. The advertisement for it says, “The mesmerising taste draws your receptors and consciousness into a paralytic nerve nirvana… Strictly secret. Trump won’t be able to prove anything.”

Russian media also plays up the claim that Sturgess and Rowley may have been recovering drug addicts, implying that they could have been poisoned by drugs, and that anyway their lives weren’t worth much. As Sputnik author Jon Gaunt wrote on July 6, before Sturgess died, in an article titled “UK needs US and Russia, NOT EU”: “Pantomime season has clearly arrived early in the sleepy city of Salisbury. Can you believe the latest twist in the Skripal saga? Now two druggies have fallen ill after picking up a contaminated syringe or vial with the deadly (or not so deadly as it turns out) Novichok.” In fact no one knows what kind of contaminated item Sturgess and Rowley touched.

Attacks on critics

RT’s response to the death of Sturgess was to attack leading commentators who believe that Putin was behind the Novichok poisonings. In an article titled “British MP, establishment journalists rush for Putin’s blood after Amesbury chemical death,” RT criticised Labour MP Mike Gapes, who has frequently spoken out about Russian aggression, unlike Jeremy Corbyn. Gapes tweeted, “Sad news that Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess has died. This was a murder of a British citizen as a result of use of a chemical nerve agent produced by the Russian state.” RT commented that Gapes “recently got some limelight by urging British parliamentarians against providing any commentary to RT,” and added, “Gapes’ vitriol was joined by Kremlin watchers from UK establishment media, Russia correspondent for The Telegraph Alec Luhn, and The Guardian’s Luke Harding.”

Luhn tweeted, simply stating facts: “Vladimir Putin previously argued that the Russian state couldn’t have used a military nerve agent in the UK because the victims would have died. Now one of them has.” Harding tweeted: “Dawn Sturgess dies after exposure to #novichok. The circumstances unclear. An utter indifference to collateral damage one of the hallmarks of the #Putin regime and its extra-territorial operations.”

Gapes continued to fend off Russian trolls today, asking one called Paddy (@TattyStrat), “A bot with 3 followers. What’s the weather like in Russia?” in response to Paddy’s comment, “No motive, no evidence, no way Russia involved. Obviously Dawn Sturgess, a heroin addict, was expendable in the hope this pathetic, murderous charade would get more Brits on Govenrments [sic] side. It hasn’t worked. So who’s next?”

World Cup boycott collapses

Yesterday, just before the announcement of Sturgess’s death, RT published a poll asking if British royals and officials should “witness World Cup history” and watch the England-Croatia semi-final instead of boycotting the event because of the attack on the Skripals. Britain is one of the only countries maintaining the promised diplomatic boycott, since the Croatian president has been to Russia and France’s Emmanuel Macron plans to go for the France-Belgium semi-final. Out of 5,031 votes at the time of writing, 45 percent were for the royals attending because “Russia’s involvement in the Skripal case is not proven,” with only 12 percent of RT readers saying the royals shouldn’t go.

Russian authorities insist that they want to help with the investigation into the poisonings and are not being allowed to do so by Britain. If they really want to help, they can tell police what the contaminated item is and where it was dumped. Since they have no intention of admitting their involvement in the case, the massive police effort will have to continue in the hope that at some point Salisbury residents can feel safe again. For now, the terrorist attack isn’t over.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Categories: World News

StopFake #191 [ENG] with Marko Suprun

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 14:41

Fake: Displaced man from Donbas attacked for speaking Russian. Future Maidan Museum copies Hitler’s architecture projects. EU financial aid in exchange for migrant centers in Ukraine.

Categories: World News

A checklist of Kremlin narratives in mainstream Western media

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 11:07

By Ariana Gic, for StopFake

In the fifth year of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Kremlin propaganda and disinformation continue to pollute the pages of popular and influential western media. Kremlin lies and manipulations are often presented as fact, or given equal weight in coverage of Russia’s undeclared and unlawful war on Ukraine, and of Ukraine in general.

According to most western media, from Reuters and AFP to the New York Times, “the Ukraine conflict” in the “east of Ukraine” is fought by “Russia-backed, pro-Kremlin, Ukrainian separatists” who “want independence” against the “corrupt” “nationalist” and “oligarchic” “Kyiv government”.

Ukrainian legislation which deems Russia as the occupier and aggressor of the country is constantly ignored. What we see in much western media is that Kremlin messaging and narratives about Ukraine are often treated as far more credible and trustworthy than what Ukrainians themselves have to say, and what observable facts tell us.

If we patch together all the Kremlin narratives about Ukraine that find their way into mainstream western press, a horrendously distorted picture emerges. This can only be regarded as a victory for Moscow, and should shine light on the problem of the extent and reach of the long arm of Kremlin information warfare in its larger, multi-vectored war on Ukraine.

Thanks to western media echoing Kremlin talking points, most ordinary people around the world who know little or nothing about Ukraine and Russia have likely formed a perverted impression of what has happened in Ukraine since the early days of the Maidan revolution. That impression and resulting opinion likely looks something like this:

“Ukraine had an “illegal” revolution which caused “tensions” between Ukraine and Russia and triggered a “crisis in Ukraine”. Moscow was concerned by the revolution because it ousted a good president who was replaced by a dangerous, “nationalist” “Nazi junta”.

Russian speaking Ukrainians in Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine were “opposed” to the “nationalist revolution”. Fearing “persecution” at the hands of the “Russophobe government” in Kyiv, and desiring “independence” from the “Kiev regime”, the “disenfranchised” Russian speakers took up arms they “found in old Soviet mines”. Ukraine tried to put the “separatist” “rebellion” down, so these “pro-Kremlin Ukrainian separatists” had no choice by to turn to Moscow for “help”.

As the “Kiev regime” tried to “ban the use of Russian” and “banned all Russian books”, Russian speakers faced brutal “discrimination” in the country. In fact, Ukraine’s “racist” policies of cultural revival and “Ukrainianization” which were based on “ethno-nationalism”, gave rise to “dangerous” “ultra-nationalist” movements, and “alienated” Russian speakers.

At the same time, the existence of a separate and distinct Ukrainian culture and language is “questionable”. The two countries are “brotherly nations”, and as President Putin likes to say, they are really “one people”. In reality, Ukrainian is an artificial language – a “lesser” version of Russian for peasants, the uneducated and uncultured. In fact, Russian is an “inherent and important part of Ukraine’s identity” which should have the status as Ukraine’s second official language.

Yes, Russia “took over” Crimea, but only after Crimeans had a “referendum” to “secede” from Ukraine and “reunify” with Russia. Regardless, Crimea was “always part of Russia” and ended up as part of Ukraine’s territory purely “by chance” as a “political gift” by Khrushchev.

Crimea and Donbas are entirely separate and unrelated matters even though Russia is involved in both Crimea and Donbas. Russia’s involvement in “the Ukraine crisis” in “the east of Ukraine” is limited to “backing” the “pro-Russian separatists” who shot down commercial passenger jet, flight MH17, killing all on board. The “breakaway regions” of Donbas and Luhansk organized “self-proclaimed” “People’s Republics” with whom the Ukraine government refuses to hold direct talks to “negotiate peace”.

“Both sides” are always violating the Minsk peace accords. The Ukrainian government is “provoking Russia” with its “creeping offensive” into the grey zone, trying to take back territory from the “militants”. Ukraine does not really want peace because of political expediency and upcoming elections. Moreover, Kyiv won’t stop the “civil war” effort because the “corrupt politicians” that Ukraine is overrun with make money off the war.

The Ukrainian government has “abandoned the people of Donbas”, and “does not take care of their basic needs”. Kyiv “has no strategy” to “win the hearts and minds” of the people in eastern Ukraine. Everyone in Kyiv “wants to get rid of Donbas” but they cannot say so publicly. As a result, President Poroshenko does nothing to try to reintegrate those in “separatist-controlled” Ukraine. The hatred for people who fled the “conflict” in Donbas is palpable – Kyiv “does nothing” for the nearly 2 million internally displaced people, leaving them to “fend for themselves” in the “hostile” and “unwelcoming” west of the country where they “face discrimination”.

The Ukrainian government “cannot provide safety and security for its citizens”. The police “cannot prevent crimes” like political assassinations from happening, and instead, they “protect ultra-radical groups”.

The “regime in Kiev” unjustifiably restricts civil liberties, making the country one which is quite “unfree”. “Freedom of expression is stifled” in the country because of the ban on Russian social networks, and because Russian “journalists” from Kremlin “media” like RussiaToday are banned from entering the country. Criticism of the government is censored which is evidenced by pro-Moscow editors working for Kremlin media being charged with treason, and by the murders of critical journalists.

Kyiv is “backsliding on reforms” it promised to implement. The “counter-revolutionary” “obstruction to reforms” by old elites “has made things even worse than before the Maidan revolution”. Anti-corruption NGO’s are “prosecuted” for threatening the old ways, and face harassment. Because of the “backsliding reforms, the country cannot attract foreign investors”, and the government “uses Russia’s war as an excuse”.

The European Union has every right to worry about Ukraine because the country is also an “unreliable gas transit country” – when Russia cuts off gas supplies, it is Ukraine’s fault that gas is not flowing to the EU. Nord Stream 2 “will ensure EU energy security” by dealing directly with Russia. It will not be the EU’s fault that Ukraine will lose billions in gas transit fees as a result, but “greedy” Ukraine officials who “set fees too high”.

Moscow has legitimate interests in Ukraine. NATO and EU “expansion” should “take into account” Russia’s “security concerns” of “being encircled”. The West should not “provoke” Russia by engaging Ukraine in closer political and economic relations.”

This distorted picture defies facts and reality. But when every bit of Kremlin disinformation about Ukraine in major western media like AFP, Reuters, New York Times, the Guardian, etc., is pieced together, this is indeed the picture one gets. Russia has successfully drawn world media into its alternative reality on Ukraine.

Disappointingly, many “experts” who are supposed to have knowledge and expertise to challenge this “unreality” are instead lending credibility to Kremlin lies with their dishonest analysis about Ukraine and Russia’s unlawful war.

Sadly, pointing out the many manipulations, distortions, and outright lies that find their way onto the pages of respected western media, often gets defenders of truth tarred and feathered as having a “Ukraine bias”, being “Russophobic”, “nationalist”, or “supportive of corruption” in Ukraine.

It is said that Russian propaganda is not truly effective, but what dominates the pages of most media proves otherwise. Lies become truth, and the truth becomes a lie. If we do not start to turn our focus on the very real dangers of Kremlin narratives woven through major western media, the fight against Moscow’s information war will never be won.

By Ariana Gic, for StopFake

Ariana Gic is independent legal and political analyst focusing on Ukraine.

Categories: World News

Fake: Kyiv Preparing PR Attack on Crimea to Disrupt Tourist Season

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 22:53

The Ukrainian government is preparing an information attack aimed at occupied Crimea with the goal of disrupting the peninsula’s tourist season, Russian and Crimean media declared last week. As proof of this nefarious plot, publications such as Politnavigator, RIA Novosti Krym, Eadaily, Antifascist, KrimInform, Krimpress and others point to an official letter from a Ukrainian ministry that was published by a former MP from the disgraced pro-Russian Regions Party Alexei Zhuravko on his Facebook page.

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Дорогие друзья!Мне попал очень интересный документ из Киева. Недавно, в четверг, 28-го июня, я публиковал пост о том,…

Posted by Игорь Крупиков on Sunday, July 1, 2018

Website screenshot Antifascist

Website screenshot RIA

Zhuravko published what purports to be a letter from the Ukrainian Minister for the Temporarily Occupied Territories Vadym Chernysh to Information Policy minister Yuriy Stets. Chernysh writes that Ukrainian media are reporting about the growing number of Ukrainians going to Crimea for holidays and proposes to Stets to use media and certain bloggers to ruin the tourist season on the peninsula.

After the publication of these fakes on various Russian and Crimean sites, the Ukrainian Ministry of Information Policy issued a statement saying the story was a fake.

Ukrainian Ministry of Information Policy

The fake letter is dated June 28, an official holiday in Ukraine. The correspondence number on the fake letter is written by hand, official Ukrainian governmental correspondence is done through an automated system which automatically issues numbers for all letters and memos.

This crude fake is intended to disorient the inhabitants of occupied Crimea, the statement says, and points out that Regions Party MP Alexei Zhuravko, who published the fake letter, left Ukraine in 2014.

Categories: World News

How Kremlin uses the “European field” to win the propaganda game

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 13:11

By Viktor Denisenko, in cooperation with Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, for StopFake

On February 23, 2018, the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania blocked the transmission of RTR Planeta – a Russian-state television channel – for 12 months. RTR Planeta was already temporarily banned in Lithuania twice before for one- and three- month periods respectively. Similarly, other Russian-state channels have also faced similar fate before.

Even today, 27 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian television channels are still operating in Lithuania. They have a stable audience, mainly comprising local Russian-speaking and Polish-speaking minorities. Russian TV channels attract the audience by quality entertainment and cultural production. The latter practice could be seen as acceptable if these channels stopped “selling” their viewers not only entertainment or culture but also propaganda.

In Europe and the United States, almost everyone knows that information channels such as RT or Sputnik are just another tool of the Kremlin aggressive and revisionist foreign policy. But these channels do not challenge the Lithuanian information space – they are simply not that popular there. The real danger for Lithuania are the Russian state TV channels adapted specifically for the Baltic market. In this case, adaptation largely means replacing Russian advertisement with local commercials. Aside from that, the programs of these channels repeat the programs of their original Russian counterparts.

It is also no secret that the national state TV channels in Russia are directly or indirectly controlled by the Kremlin. The latter is the leading provider of state-sanctioned narratives, including all kinds of propaganda stories Moscow uses for internal and external political purposes. Famous TV presenters such as Dmitry Kiselyov or Vladimir Solovyov cannot be called journalists in any meaningful sense – they are mouthpieces of state propaganda. For example, Vladimir Solovyov’s show regularly spreads disinformation and misleading narratives about the Baltic States and the West. Such TV talk-shows in general (not only Solovyov’s program) are widely seen as “a part of a general trend of media mobbing in Russia, which mirrors the treatment of opposition voices in the country”.

For his part, Dmitry Kiselev is described in the EU sanctions list as a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine”. Kiselyov in his program regularly spreads outrageous lies about events in Ukraine, often spinning false narratives about “fascist coup” in Kyiv, and claimed that Russia is the only country in the world which could turn United States into “radioactive ash”. In short, Russian-state TV channels have become the primary source of anti-EU, anti-NATO and anti-American fake news. We may also remember the much-commented false story about the alleged “crucifixion of a little boy in Slovyansk”, which was spread by Pervyj Kanal in 2014 with the aim to discredit the Ukrainian army.

Through adapted TV channels the above-mentioned and similar malign anti-Western narratives are directly transmitted to Lithuanian information space. People who watch only these channels are receiving the Kremlin-constructed image of world. This image is sustained by a constant flow of lies and fake news. Russian TV watchers are becoming, as articulated by Peter Pomerantsev, inhabitants of Kremlin’s hall of mirrors.

Ban of retransmission

Temporary bans on the transmission of several Russian state TV channels were pursued by the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania (a similar practice was implemented in Latvia too). Such a decision is made if the content of a channel breaks the Lithuanian law. In fact, this issue is directly related to the issue of propaganda. The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania notes that the freedom to express opinions and to spread information is incompatible with criminal actions such as “incitement of national, racial, religious, or social hatred, incitement of violence or discrimination, as well as defamation and disinformation”. Russian state TV channels sometimes violate these rules. Decisions to temporarily stop the broadcasting are made after an investigation. Such a decision can only be made by the court following an appeal of the Commission.

A temporary ban was first issued in Lithuania in 2013. It ensued after Pervyj Baltijskij Kanal (PBK) broadcast a television show “Man and the law” which repeated the Soviet authorities’ lie that during the tragic events of January 13, 1991 in Vilnius, the responsibility for 14 civilian fatalities fell not on the Soviet army but on the “unknown Sajūdis’ (Lithuanian national independence movement) snipers”. In fact, during the night of January 13, 1991 Soviet regular troops and special forces stormed the building of Radio and Television Committee and the TV tower. As a result of the action, 14 civilians were killed, hundreds injured.

According to the court’s decision, for three months the PBK channel could not broadcast on Lithuanian territory any media production that was not made in the EU and/or not in the European Convention on Transfrontier Television signatory countries. Russian Federation has not yet signed the Convention. But PBK found a way to circumvent the decision. During the three-month ban, the channel broadcast movies and TV series made by Russian producers in Ukraine – a country which had signed the Convention.

Subsequent court decisions were more resolute, aimed at stopping the broadcasting entirely for a certain period of time. It became a usual practice since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent intensification of the Kremlin propaganda activities. In 2014, RTR Planeta and NTV Mir Lietuva were banned for three months. RTR Planeta was also repeatedly suspended for three-month periods in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, another channel TVCI was blocked twice, first time for one month, second time for six months. Finally, in 2018, RTR Planeta broadcasting was blocked again, this time for one year.

In February 2017, Lithuania received support from the European Commission. In a statement, the Commission noted that the decision to suspend the channel RTR Planeta due to incitement of hatred was compatible with the EU law. The European Commission provided similar support in 2018 as well.

No frontiers for television

The idea of television without frontiers is not new: it correlates with the fundamental single-market principle of European Union. The European Convention on Transfrontier Television was adopted in 1989. It also become a ground for Directive “Television without Frontiers” of the European Economic Community (European Union) adopted the same year. In the regulation of the European Union, this Directive was replaced in 2007 by the new Audio-Visual Media Services Directive, which was changed once more in 2010. The Directive, as well as Convention, is meant to protect the free flow of information.

Notably, the Convention was intended for all member states of the Council of Europe. For example, the Ukrainian parliament ratified the Convention in 2008.  It was “the first international treaty creating a legal framework for the free circulation of transfrontier television programmes in Europe”.

The main idea of both Directive and Convention was a free circulation of information. The preamble of Convention affirmed “the importance of broadcasting for the development of culture and the free formation of opinions in conditions safeguarding pluralism and equality of opportunity among all democratic groups and political parties.”

The idea of free exchange of information is one of the cornerstones of liberal democracy, but it may become a weakness in the face of malign propaganda and disinformation interference. The success of Moscow’s hostile actions is a case in point. On the one hand, the Russian Federation has not ratified the Convention, which allows Moscow to keep its information sphere closed to other broadcasters. On the other hand, Kremlin uses these legal loopholes to pursue its nefarious activities in Europe’s information sphere.

As mentioned before, many Russian state TV channels operate in Lithuania. The problem is that formally these are not “Russian channels”. For example, the infamous RTR Planeta is registered in Sweden. Similarly, PBK is a “Latvian channel”. In this way such channels become resident players in the European single market.

Importantly, the transmission of PBK in the Baltic States is in the hands of the Latvian-registered Baltijas Mediju Alianse Ltd. Another company bears a very similar name – yet in this case, it is registered in the UK: Baltic Media Alliance Ltd (BMA Ltd). This company provided UK Ofcom licenses to several Russian channels (e.g. NTV Mir Baltic, NTV Mir Lietuva, REN TV Estonia, REN TV Lietuva etc.). The Latvian BMA used these licenses for broadcasting in the Baltic States. All the aforementioned channels could be found on the list of Ofcom-licensed channels in the category of “Cable and Satellite Channels”.

In other words, the Kremlin-backed propaganda in Lithuania (and the other Baltic States) is currently spread via European channels. As a result, we have a very complicated situation. Being a member of the European Union, Lithuania cannot close its information sphere to European channels without breaking the international law. Hence a temporary ban of transmission is the most Lithuania is legally allowed to do in these circumstances.

Another interesting fact: Baltic Media Alliance Ltd is a registered lobbyist in the EU. In the register, the company is described as “Broadcaster of non-EU-language and EU-language TV channels on the territories of Latvia and Lithuania representing second largest TV media holding in the Baltics”. Data shows that from 2014 BMA Ltd spent more than 15 000 euros every year on lobbying activities. In other words, BMA not only takes care of providing UK licenses for Russian state televisions but also seeks opportunities to influence European policymaking and legislation processes.

Conclusions

TV channels specialising in pro-Kremlin propaganda feel comfortable in the European Union. Moscow knows how to use various loopholes and opportunities provided by the free market and liberal democracy (for instance, the principles of freedom of speech and access to information) for its own anti-democratic purposes. In short, the Kremlin is playing “on the European field” and winning the game with the West’s own tools.

Lithuania and Latvia are trying to draw attention to this problem. Some experts and politicians have proposed to revise the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. It was agreed that this document should be updated to include “stronger rules against hate speech and public provocation to commit terrorist offences”. It is one of the ways the West could respond to the challenge of (not only Russian) propaganda. On the other hand, this measure alone will not be sufficient.

Of course, every country could try to find an individual solution. For example, Latvians are pondering the idea that in the basic package of TV channels offered to cable network users, no less than 90% of content should be produced using the official languages of EU. The proponents of this decision hope that it will “reduce the level of Kremlin propaganda in Latvia”.

In any case, the crucial question in these circumstances is how to stop the Kremlin propaganda without compromising the fundamental principles of Western liberal democracy. Finding an answer to this question should be the primary task not only for Lithuania and other Baltic States but also for the West as a whole. In order to meet this urgent challenge, the West needs to find effective ways to control pro-Kremlin propaganda and disinformation flows in the European information sphere while preserving the democratic values it espouses.

By Viktor Denisenko, in cooperation with Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, for StopFake

Viktor Denisenko is a lecturer of Faculty of Communication of Vilnius University. The article was produced in cooperation with Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, a Lithuanian think tank.

This article is part of the project aimed at strengthening democracy and civil society as well as fostering closer ties with the EU Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) by spreading independent information with the help of contemporary solutions. The project is implemented by Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis. It is financed as part of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme.

Categories: World News