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Disinformation in 2019: Ten Embarrassing Moments

January 04, 2020

Disinformation is a serious global threat to democracy.

However, disinformation is not always the result of a powerful actor’s well-coordinated plan. In some cases, mistakes are made – and then the manipulations expose themselves as impotent and rather desperate.

We collected ten examples from 2019 when pro-Kremlin sources were caught in the act of producing particularly embarrassing disinformation.

Don’t Mention Crimea! References to the invasion of Crimea were removed from the Russian edition of Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, independent journalists reported.

How to get a 146% Election Result: A whistleblower told about the daily work of the Kremlin-controlled media – and offered new knowledge about one particular Kremlin propaganda classic.


Hyped Russian Robot Turns Out to be Korean: “Russian military robots perform workout exercises in front of Putin,” a Russian state news agency reported. But that wasn’t quite right.

Russia is the World Champion in Free Speech”: Russian students laughed when EU-sanctioned propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov praised their country as a global leader in freedom of expression.

We’re not on TV now, we can Tell the Truth”: A Russian state TV anchor made an unexpected comment while discussing the elections in Ukraine.

Moral Migration to Crimea: “Europeans are seeking refuge in Russia from aggressive sexual education, homosexual dictatorship and juvenile justice,” readers of a Russian outlet were told.

This is not the Wagner Group: “We have nothing to do with the Wagner Group,” a Russian military instructor in the Central African Republic said on TV. But journalists spotted a mistake.

Fact or Fiction? Gazprom-Media-owned NTV presented an interview with a paid actor as authentic.

Busted by Bellingcat: The Kremlin can’t even manage to separate the passport numbers of its operatives in Ukraine.

Lost in Translation: Russian TV caught manipulating translations of interviews with international commentators.

If you haven’t seen enough with these embarrassing moments from 2019, take a look back at what went wrong for pro-Kremlin disinformation in 2018.