DISINFO: Groundless accusation of ties to Russia became a classic trap aimed to discredit conservative candidates for EU elections
The big scandal involving the Austrian Vice-Chancellor over his “Russian connections” starts to have repercussions in Austria as well as in the rest of Europe. As the European elections approach, the chances of success for the Vice Chancellor’s party diminish. But it is already proven that the “niece of a Russian oligarch” in origin of the scandal was Latvian. What competent organization has set up this classic trap? No one seriously associates Russia with the rise of the European nationalists and traditional conservatives from their marginal ghetto, nor their new popularity. This is the good old method of pointing to “Russian trace” by discrediting the “populists” by sending them so-called “Russians”. The search for the “Russian trace” is a tradition of European public policy even older than cathedrals.
Austrian political crisis called also "Strachegate" occurred because of the video showing vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache meeting a person pretending to be the niece of a Russian oligarch. Media outlets admit that the woman claims to also have Latvian citizenship. No other similar traps occurred so far, hence it is not "classic". The video as a whole exposed the far right Freedom Party’s eagerness to do business with allies of Mr. Putin, to bring Austrian media outlets under their control and find compromising material on their competitors in Austria. Despite reports on certain ideological support, financial proposals and a conspiracy meeting of European far right parties representatives with a Russian influencers, hacker attacks and suspicious social media accounts activity investigated under suspicion of being orchestrated by GRU and Russian "trolls factory", the recurring pro-Kremlin narrative purports that all the allegations of Russian interference in electoral processes in the EU and in the West are groundless and spread by European elites themselves. Their aim would be only to divert attention from the real problems of EU countries. At that, disinformation produced and/or spread by Russian sources has been reported in the context of several elections and referenda in the EU and elsewhere (see here for an overview), as noted in the EU's action plan against disinformation.
Ahead of the elections, Microsoft faced cyberattacks targeting think tanks and non-profit organizations working on topics related to democracy, electoral integrity, and public policy and that are often in contact with government officials. Microsoft continues to investigate the sources of these attacks, but is confident that many of them originated from a group called Strontium, also known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear – which is believed to be associated with Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU. Read more here.