As the North American Aerospace Defense Command prepares for its traditional tracking of Santa’s journey around the globe on December 24, it’s also a suitable time to see how well the pro-Kremlin media covers the planet.
Based on our research, we were able to come up with close to 30 countries where Sputnik has created a web page. Those countries range from Vietnam to Armenia and include languages like Arabic, Dari and Persian.
While some Sputniks have up to three different languages per country, the total number of different URLs is 49. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that 31 of those URLs are in our database, meaning that they have been spreading disinformation. The societies affected range from Uzbekistan to Belarus, and from Germany to Spain.
In other words: while Santa flies around the world once a year, pro-Kremlin disinformation does the same, but on a daily basis.
WADA, Browder and the Baltics
Last week, pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets were fighting back against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to ban Russia from the Olympics. As a response, accusations of doping were described as a theater of the absurd, a weapon against Russia, and revenge for Russian athletes’ victories. In reality, Russia could have made a serious attempt to stop its state-sponsored doping system, but evidently decided not to.
This refusal to accept responsibility can also be applied to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured, denied medical care, and ultimately left to die in a Russian prison. Instead, the pro-Kremlin media describes the chief proponent of the Magnitsky sanctions, Bill Browder, a tax-cheating Jewish oligarch who keeps lying about his dead auditor to make everyone hate Russia.
And while we are on the point of Russia’s image in the West, according to pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets, the Baltic states are the main culprits in spreading Russophopbia. The Baltics are also said to be under Washington’s political control and increasing militarisation. In broad terms, one could argue that the signals of Sputnik are just like they were in 1957, when the satellite was first launched: self-defence is seen as aggression and criticism of Russia by the West as groundless – even absurd.
But in addition to disinformation, an old trick was applied in Finland, where the establishment of a new “Union of Journalists“ was announced. For the record, the real Union of Journalists in Finland (www.journalistiliitto.fi) has nearly 15,000 professional members who work in the media. The copycat Union imitates the same domain name (.com instead of .fi), but in fact its vice-chair is a Finn who resided for years in occupied Donetsk and ran a propaganda media operation there. Luckily, Twitter has already reacted and suspended the account of the copycat organisation. There is nothing new in creating fake NGOs with fake websites and social media accounts, fake embassies and even fake fact-checkers by pro-Kremlin disinformers. Earlier, a very similar operation targeted the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki.
So, if pro-Kremlin media does not change its tune, we too have to continue tackling the globetrotting of disinformation. And that’s a nice promise for the new year.