Disinfo: Russian secret services have never been involved in cyber-attacks

Summary

Russian secret services have never been involved in cyber-attacks. These claims are just another example of Russophobia.

Disproof

Recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative denying any involvement of the Russian government in hacker attacks and cyber-crime. This narrative considers accusations of Russian cyber-operations against Western targets baseless, absurd, motivated by Russophobia, or meant to distract the attention of Western public opinion from real problems.

On October 19 2020 the US Justice Department indicted six GRU officers working for Unit 74455. According to the Justice Department, the Unit, dubbed in the media as “Sandworm”, is responsible for at least one billion dollars in damages. The indictment further concedes that the group “deployed destructive malware and took other disruptive actions, for the strategic benefit of Russia” against the governments of Ukraine and Georgia, the Novichok poisoning investigations, the 2017 French elections and 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Russian state actors have been proven to be actively involved in cyber-warfare, including malicious cyberattacks, hacking of foreign states and entities, as well as running disinformation campaigns.

The targets have included: Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Ukraine, UK, U.S., Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Romania, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Davos World Economic Forum, among others.

The first-ever sanctions against Russian cyber-attacks were imposed by the EU on the 30th of July 2020. The Council decided to impose restrictive measures against six individuals and three entities, including the Russian military intelligence’s (GRU or GU) Center for Special Technologies, which the EU said is responsible for cyberattacks. These individuals and entities are held responsible for, or involved in, various cyber-attacks, including the attempted cyber-attack against the OPCW and cyber-attacks publicly known as 'WannaCry', 'NotPetya', and 'Operation Cloud Hopper'.

On the 22nd of October 2020, the Council of the European Union imposed restrictive measures on two Russian military intelligence (GRU) officers and on one GRU centre  (The 85th Main Centre for Special Service) that were responsible for, or took part in, the cyber-attack on the German Federal Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) in April and May 2015.

Read similar cases claiming that accusations about Russian-sponsored hacker attacks aim to discredit Russia’s anti-COVID vaccine and that the Dutch government’s accusations against Russia for the 2018 cyber-attacks on the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW) are groundless.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 217
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 20/10/2020
  • Language/target audience: Italian
  • Country: EU, UK, Russia
  • Keywords: GRU, Cyber, Russophobia, Sanctions

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Following US orders, Germany disguised Navalny’s low blood sugar as action of a “nerve agent”

In cahoots with France, Germany disguised the low blood sugar levels of Alexei Navalny as the action of a “nerve agent”, dragging the whole EU in their crusade. The sanctions against Russia are masterminded by the US, which can only lead to conclude that Brussels closely follows every order from Washington. In this way, Germany has some kind of Stockholm syndrome towards the US, because every blow that Washington launches against the Nord Stream 2 is a direct hit to the economy and energy security of Germany.

Disproof

This is part of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The claim that Navalny suffered “low blood sugar levels” is false, since the use of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group against the Russian dissident has been established beyond any doubt by a specialist Bundeswehr laboratory. This is merged with a recurrent disinformation narrative portraying the EU as a puppet of the US.

The campaign is following the same playbook as the one deployed after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018, a case where there is strong evidence of the involvement of Russian intelligence operatives and high-level Russian officials. By claiming that it is the US, and not Russia who benefits from this incident, pro-Kremlin media are trying to deflect any Russian responsibility for it, a frequent Kremlin tactic. Also, the use of multiple and simultaneous versions of an event involving questionable actions by the Russian government or its allies, in order to confound citizens about the actual truth, is a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation strategy, already seen in the cases of the MH17 downing, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the murder attempt against the Skripals or chemical attacks in Syria.

The Guardian exposes how US Democrats exploited irregularities in mail-in voting

Millions of mail-in ballots didn’t reach US citizens, which gave the Democrats some space for their machinations, according to statistics by The Guardian. Mail-in voting, started by the Democratic Party, is already plagued with problems, since around 60 percent of citizens in 9 competitive states didn’t receive their ballots. The problem is not unexpected. The community of experts warned repeatedly that the US electoral system is not ready for such a drastic transition to mail-in voting. In this context, even the OSCE challenges the legitimacy of the election.

Disproof

This is a complete distortion of an article published in The Guardian in cooperation with ProPublica, tracking mail-in ballots in US swing states. Though the original article gives some data about the difficulties experienced by some citizens, such as figures of vote rejection, it never states that “mail-in voting is already plagued with problems”. The figure that 60 percent of citizens in 9 states didn’t receive their ballots is completely fabricated. Also, the claims that mail-in voting was started by the Democratic Party is false: a rudimentary version of the system was already in place as early as the American Civil War. There is no evidence backing the affirmation that this system gave the Democrats some space for machination. The claim that the OSCE challenges the legitimacy of the US 2020 election is blatantly false.

Pro-Kremlin media frequently resort to this manipulative technique of quoting sentences from serious publications and then introducing a distorted message as if it was part of the original article, in this case to promote a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation against the US Democratic Party and its presidential candidate Joe Biden, part of what US authorities, including FBI director Christopher Wray and the Department of Homeland Security, consider a wider campaign of interference in the 2020 election.

The US aims to take Russia out of the post-Soviet space following a RAND corporation plan

Those who believe that the latest events in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Nagorno-Karabakh and possibly upcoming tensions in Moldova are the mere result of popular discontent and infighting among clans and elites or among regions are wrong. It is all due to a ruthless geopolitical, geoeconomic, ideological and informative struggle carefully planned since long ago by US strategists and set in motion to liberate the post-Soviet space from Russia’s influence. For Washington and its unconditional satellite Brussels, creating around Russia as much instability focus, tension and local conflicts as possible, would lead its government to despair in its impossible attempt to fill all the holes, and to the weakening of Vladimir Putin’s government, which wouldn’t have time to support Syria, Venezuela, Iran and Libya.

More than one year ago, the think tank Rand Corporation published a report where it analyses Russia’s anxieties and vulnerabilities and advises on how to exploit them. According to Rand’s analysts “the US main task is to weaken, outbalance, overextend and take Russia out of the post-Soviet space”. Some of the points of the report have been implemented, such as destabilisation in Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kyrgyzstan and others. It is significant that two of its proposals, related to sanctions against Russian energy projects and the deployment of a “western information campaign” on the anti-corruption fight, are implemented in the media campaign related to the “poisoning” of Alexei Navalny. Another revealing chapter is devoted to “geopolitical measures” against Russian influence: given the recent events in the post-Soviet space, the same list of measures looks like a scenario that is implemented in front of our eyes.

Disproof

This is a deliberate misrepresentation of the content of the original report of the Rand Corporation, in order to support recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Russia as the ultimate target of international events, the West as an aggressive evil power aiming to encircle Russia, popular protests as Western-led colour revolutions and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny as a set up framing Russia.

Though the report is openly oriented to “define areas where the United States can compete [with Russia] to its own advantage” in the framework of “great-power competition with Russia”, there is no evidence that it is related at all to events in Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kyrgyzstan or the Navalny case.