Accusations of concealment and whitewashing are one of the core techniques of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign. What makes it a convenient method is the possibility to influence the public debate and channel criticism toward the opponent – but not have the responsibility to show the evidence to back up the claims.
This week, we saw two disinformation tools combined: hacking and accusations that Western authorities are hiding problems. Hackers from Fancy Bears published documents of the Swedish Sports Confederation (RF) and claimed the Swedish sports functionaries had been hiding positive doping tests.
The Swedish Sports Confederation stated that, in fact, nothing suggests that the athletes had been involved in doping, reported the hack to the police and appealed to the media and the public not to help spread the sensitive personal details of the athletes.
The activities of Fancy Bears feed into Russia’s year-long campaign to discredit international anti-doping organisations after systemic manipulation of anti-doping rules in Russia during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was revealed.
In the incident when they attacked the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA, the documents hackers published included fake data. Western governments and security experts link Fancy Bear, also known as APT28, to a Russian intelligence agency for the attack on the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections.
Dutch-led investigation on MH17 targeted again
Disguised as “criticism” and “alternative views”, familiar tactics were repeatedly used in various other disinforming messages during the past week. One targeted – again – the Dutch-led international investigation into the MH17 tragedy and announced that its conclusions are “against the laws of physics”, and introduced one more distorted version of shooting down the passenger plane in July 2014: that it must have been an explosion inside the plane. In fact international consensus is that it was a BUK missile, transported from Russia, that killed the 298 civilians on board.
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And the Canadian foreign minister was again falsely accused of lying about the Nazi past of her grandfather.
The major disinformation campaign around the Salibury attack also continued. This time, the British government was not just accused of covering up the truth, but of “kidnapping” poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. In fact Yulia Skripal has said that she did not wish to take up the offer of assistance from the Russian embassy in London. According to the UK, the poisoning was either a direct action by the Russian state against the UK, or the Russian government lost control of its nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.