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Kremlin Tactics to Discredit the JIT

The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, RISS, a Kremlin-funded think tank, published recently an essay with the title “Securing Information for Foreign Policy Purposes in the Context of Digital Reality”. The paper is quoting Russian military theorist Aleksander Bartosh who describes “disinformation and propaganda in media and social networks are the main characteristics of so-called hybrid warfare”. The authors of the paper notes:

A preventively shaped narrative, answering to the national interests of the state, can significantly diminish the impact of foreign forces’ activities in the information sphere, as they, as a rule, attempt to occupy “voids” [in the information flow].

This method, preventively shaped narratives, is highly visible as we approach the MH17-trial, where three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian are charged as responsible for shooting down a civilian passenger jet in July 2014. In February, Russian state-controlled media referred to a documents, allegedly leaked from the Joint Investigation Team, “proving” that no BUK missile system was within shooting range when the MH17 Boeing was downed and 298 passengers were killed. The documents do not prove anything, but it looks cool: scanned, blurry documents, leaked by whistle-blowers, risking their careers, if not lives…

The MH17 case is highly present in our disinformation database; over 200 cases to date. The cases group along five major themes, with our explanations below:

 

“The investigation is biased!”

    • “Russia was and is not allowed to participate in the investigation!”
      • There are principles for how crash investigations are performed. Usually, the country where the plane crashed, the country of origin, the country of production of the aircraft and the country of registration of the aircraft set up the investigation. In this case – Ukraine, the Netherlands, the United States and Malaysia. The investigation can accept or request participation of other stakeholders if necessary.
    • “Russian evidence is ignored!
      • Russia has provided the investigation with data that have been thoroughly studied.
    • “JIT has tempered with evidence!”
      • The trial is public and evidence will be available for all the parties to study. Any doctored evidence would immediately be noticed.
    • “JIT is basing the charges on amateurs’ collecting data from social media!
      • The JIT have been independently collecting and analysing available data. The investigative team of Bellingcat has corroborated data, collected by the JIT.
    • “The case is founded on Russophobia and not on hard evidence!”
      • The point of the trial is to publicly assess the evidence, collected by the investigators. The totality of evidence will be scrutinised by the court.

“Ukraine is the culprit!”

    • “Ukraine air defence shot down the MH17!”
      • The Joint Investigation Team has concluded that flight MH17 was shot down on the 17th of July 2014 by a missile of the 9M38 series, launched by a BUK-TELAR missile launcher, from farmland in the vicinity of Pervomaiskiy.  At that time, the area was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. The BUK-TELAR was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and subsequently, after having shot down flight MH17, was taken back to the Russian Federation.
    • “Ukrainian fighter jets shot down the MH17!”
      • There were no Ukrainian fighter jets in the area.
    • “Ukraine did not close its airspace!”
      • The claim that Ukrainian airspace had been open prior to the crash is false — all traffic over the conflict zone had been prohibited to craft flying below 32,000ft; MH17 passed the area at 33,000ft. At the time, there was nothing to suggest that the presumably ill-equipped pro-Russian separatists would have access to sophisticated weapons capable of shooting down an airplane at that height.

“The West is the culprit!”

    • “MH17 was a British-Ukrainian false flag operation!”
      • An unfounded conspiracy theory
    • “The passengers of the MH17 were dead several days before the crash!
      • A storyline from the BBC crime drama series Sherlock, the episode “A Scandal in Belgravia

“Russia is morally incapable of such atrocities!”

    • Russia is not on trial. The JIT is charging four individuals, three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian. Official Russia has, unfortunately, failed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

No one will ever find out the truth!”

    • Preliminary publications from the JIT have demonstrated solid evidence, tying the downing to four individuals, charged with murder of 298 persons. The public trial will test the evidence and the individuals will have the right to defence.

These five themes make it easy to produce and fine-tune disinformation to domestic and foreign audiences, illustrate them and amplify them on social media platforms and State-financed media. The approach is there, any kind of facts or evidence can easily be disregarded through these carefully cultivated narratives. The model, outlined by Russian military specialists works perfectly: preventively shaped narratives. Lying beforehand to occupy the information space.

Government of the Netherlands: Official information on the MH17 investigation