Disinfo: Buzzfeed hires Russophobic journalists, spreads false information and incites hatred

Summary

Buzzfeed, which sees “Russian threats” everywhere, hires Russophobic journalists to conduct anti-Russian investigations, spreads false information and incites hatred. Bulgarian journalist Christo Grozev, who also works with Bellingcat, is often involved in Buzzfeed’s dubious “investigations”, for example on the Skripal case. Grozev has spread a great deal of false information, such as the claim that Donetsk “separatists” received instructions to falsify the results of the referendum. Grozev graduated from the American University of Bulgaria, which is sponsored by the Soros Open Society Foundation and the US Agency for International Development. Anton Shekhovstov, who like Grozev also built his career on the use of defamation, has publicised his books through Buzzfeed.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative aimed at discrediting serious journalists and scholars that engage in research on pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda, by claiming they are Russophobic and spread false information. The article, which seeks to discredit serious researchers such as Christo Grozev, Anton Shekhovtsov, and Andreas Umland, also implies that “Russophobic” researchers are linked to the Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist George Soros. This claim is consistent with pro-Kremlin conspiracy theories about Soros. The partnership between the American University in Bulgaria and the Open Society Institute dates back to 1992. The aims of the Open Society Scholarship Programmes are to promote critical thinking, free and open intellectual inquiry, and cross-cultural tolerance and respect, NOT to spread anti-Russian disinformation. No evidence is provided that Grozev has spread false information. On the contrary, Grozev is a qualified investigative journalist and has done serious research on the Skripal case, the downing of flight MH17, and the planned coup in Montenegro in 2016. The information that Donetsk separatists received instructions to falsify the referendum, which the article claims is false, is actually true. For Grozev’s investigation on this issue see here. Similar cases can be read here claiming that Buzzfeed and Bellingcat deliberately spread anti-Russian disinformation. The geopolitica.ru website had previously posted an article that attempts to discredit Grozev, Shekhovtsov, and Umland and to link them to Soros.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 174
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 22/11/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Italian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Montenegro, Ukraine, Russia
  • Keywords: Sergei Skripal, West, Anti-Russian, Conspiracy theory, NATO, Donbas, MH17

Belarus

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Disinfo: The US is behind the resignation of Evo Morales

We know perfectly well who is behind all the events in Bolivia, who has sought the resignation of Morales – the United States. They have long sought his resignation because naturally, Americans don’t like the left in Latin America.

Disproof

Conspiracy theory; no evidence given. This narrative falls within the broader pro-Kremlin disinformation efforts attempting to deny the existence of genuine grass-roots protests, portraying them as foreign-led efforts and fake colour revolutions. This is also part of a disinformation narrative about US-led regime change operations against left-wing governments in Latin America. You can see other examples of this narrative in the EUvsdisinfo database, such as the alleged presence of a US marine in the Venezuelan barricades and the promotion of a Ukraine-style 'colour revolution', the training of Venezuelan exiles in Guyana for military operations inside the country, preparations for a military intervention after forcing Brazil to join NATO, deliberate blackouts in South America caused by the US, or the existence of plans for the secession of oil-rich regions in both Venezuela and Mexico. Although the United States "applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom", there is no evidence to suggest that the US was directly involved in Evo Morales' resignation. Morales’ resignation came during mass protests in the country after the Organisation of American States (OAS) reported “extensive irregularities” in the election for his fourth term. Morales had invited the OAS to observe the vote, and the group called for the election to be annulled. Read the full debunk by Polygraph. Read the statement from the EU's High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini on the situation in Bolivia here. For further cases on the situation in Bolivia, see here.

Disinfo: NATO has created "spy affair" to disrupt Russia-Serbia relations

NATO has created a “spy affair” to disrupt Russia-Serbia relations. The affair was put into circulation through a Bulgarian journalist, a contributor to Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria, which is the NATO Institute for spreading anti-Russian propaganda and spins around the world.

Disproof

Conspiracy theory, there is no evidence that NATO created a "spy affair" to disrupt Russia-Serbia relations. The controversy centres around a video showing a purported Russian spy handing a bag of cash to another man uploaded to YouTube by an anonymous user on 17 November 2019. The video shows the Russian diplomat giving the Serbian agent (whose face is blurred) a bag during a meeting in Belgrade. Serbia’s state television reported that Serbia’s intelligence agency has confirmed the authenticity of the video. This was even mentioned by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in an official statement: "The video showing a Russian intelligence officer handing over money to one allegedly highly positioned official of Serbia was not made by our agency." He added that the video recording was made on 24 December 2018 and that it shows the meeting between the Russian Lt. Col. Georgy Kleban with the retired Lt. Col of the Serbian Armed Forces whose initials are Z.K. This is part of a recurrent Russian effort to discredit the highly respected investigative site Bellingcat, which uncovered many elements in cases such as the downing of the MH17 flight or the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergey Skripal that contradict and expose Russian disinformation narratives. In our database, you can find other examples of false accusations against Bellingcat, such as it being anti-Russian, its instrumentalisation by governments to contradict proof of Russia's innocence or its alleged fabrication of evidence against Moscow.

Disinfo: The US organised a coup in Bolivia to control lithium deposits

A desperate attempt to seize power by a pro-American minority is driven by cynical rational, experts say. Bolivia possesses the largest lithium deposits in the world. A growing production of batteries and electric cars instigates an increased demand for lithium on the world market. In early November, the Bolivian authorities refused to cooperate with the Germans on lithium extraction. Instead, the Chinese and Russians could be involved in cooperation with Bolivia in this sphere. This is just a business: the US-educated Bolivian military is shooting civilians who protest against the preservation of power by the pro-US government. It is unlikely, however, that the interim government and their US patrons will swallow Bolivia so easily. The county is on the edge of civil war and chaos.

Disproof

This is a conspiracy and no evidence is provided to support the claim. It is an example of a recurrent disinformation narrative about US-led regime change operations against left-wing governments in Latin America. Other examples of this narrative include the alleged presence of a US marine in the Venezuelan barricades and the promotion of a Ukraine-style 'colour revolution', the training of Venezuelan exiles in Guyana for military operations inside the country, preparations for a military intervention after forcing Brazil to join NATO, deliberate blackouts in South America caused by the US and the existence of plans for the secession of oil-rich regions in both Venezuela and Mexico. This narrative also falls within the broader pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative attempting to deny the existence of genuine grass-roots protests, portraying them as foreign-led efforts and fake colour revolutions. Read an earlier disinformation case claiming that Bolivia became a US target because of its lithium reserves, that the US overthrew the Bolivian president by a military junta when Maidan techniques did not help, that the US Intelligence co-opted Bolivian security services and that the US waged hybrid wars against Venezuela and Bolivia.

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