“British authorities are trying to ridicule Russia for spreading 30 versions of what happened [in the Skripal poisoning case]. Yes, there are many explanations for lack of facts and evidence, but in Russia everyone just wants to understand this murky story”.
This was the message delivered earlier this week by Russia’s representative at the United Nations Security Council. “Kafka is spinning in his grave“, Konstantin Eggert, a news host and commentator from the independent Russian TV Rain (Dozhd’), commented on his Twitter account.
While it must take a good deal of creativity to be able to produce dozens of different disinformation narratives about the Salisbury incident, it would seem almost impossible to provide some justification for the tactics of spreading multiple disinformation narratives with the aim to confuse and distract; but now we know the Kremlin’s line to take: It is in fact a sign of Russian truth-seeking.
At a second glance, this rhetorical exercise is not that surprising. Indeed, it follows classical lines in the Kremlin propaganda textbook: 1) Use one of your opponent’s key values (in this case the importance of free public debates); 2) Twist reality to make the situation plausible also in Western terms (in this case by way of ignoring the fact that the disinformation narratives are deliberately pushed by the authorities’ own media machinery); and 3) use the outcome to disprove your own guilt and accuse your opponent of hypocrisy. In this way, it is also a roundabout form of “whataboutism”; another classic in pro-Kremlin disinformation. However, at the end of the day, it is also simply a confession that yes, Russia’s authorities endorse the disinformation campaign; a campaign to which these authorities are themselves very active contributors.