Groundless accusation of ties to Russia became a classic trap aimed to discredit conservative candidates for EU elections

Summary

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.

Disproof

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.

Numerous investigations have provided convincing evidence of  Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and in elections across Europe and in the US - see more information here, here and here.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 152
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 20/05/2019
  • Language/target audience: French
  • Country: Austria, Europe, EU, France
  • Keywords: Heinz-Christian Strache, EU elections 2019, election meddling, Austria
  • Outlet: Sputnik Fr
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The report highlighting Russian interference in Ukrainian election is preparation for further aggravation of relations with Moscow

Russian experts suggest that the joint report of the US Atlantic Council and Ukrainian NGOs on alleged Russian interference in the Presidential election in Ukraine could be part of preparation for a new aggravation of relations between Moscow and Kyiv.

Disproof

No evidence given.

The Atlantic Council, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, and the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity established the Ukrainian Election Task Force. Working with other Ukrainian institutions—StopFake and the Razumkov Centre—the three partners created a rapid-response team with the ability to monitor, evaluate, and disclose the full range of foreign subversive activities in Ukraine, and to propose suitable responses. There is no goal to aggravate relations with Moscow with this report.

There is no evidence of Russian intervention in Ukrainian elections

A panel of experts from the American Atlantic Council and Ukrainian NGOs has prepared a report stating that Russia allegedly intervened in the presidential election in Ukraine. However, specific examples or evidence of this theory are not given, and the document itself contains only general information about the anti-Russian character and the statements of Kyiv officials.

Disproof

This is another attempt to deny Russia's attempts at interference in elections and referenda.

The Atlantic Council, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, and the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity established the Ukrainian Election Task Force. Working with other Ukrainian institutions — StopFake and the Razumkov Centre — the three partners created a rapid-response team with the ability to monitor, evaluate, and disclose the full range of foreign subversive activities in Ukraine, and to propose suitable responses.

Ukrainian local police have approached people wearing the ribbon of St. George, just like in Nazi Germany the police used to attack Jews

The local police in Ukraine have approached people wearing ribbons of St. George, just like in Nazi Germany when the police used to attack Jews. Now Ukraine treats Russians the way Nazi Germany treated Jews.

Disproof

Russian State TV compares Ukrainian local police approaching people wearing St.George ribbons, on the occasion of May 9, with “police attacking Jews” in Nazi Germany. Nazi Ukraine is an often-encountered pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative.

The St. George ribbon was banned in Ukraine in 2017 as part of continuing efforts to de-Communise Ukraine.  The law introduced fines and potential jail time for people who appear in public wearing a black-and-orange ribbon, after it became widely viewed as a symbol of Russian aggression. The exception is for ‎World War II veterans.  On 9 May, Ukrainian police registered 45 incidents in Ukraine about the use of prohibited symbols (“St. George ribbon,” red flags, sickle and hammer symbols), according to the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In fact, this has nothing to do with the way Jews were persecuted in Nazi Germany.