Disinfo: Western media distort election results to paint false pictures of “loser Putin” and “hero Navalny”

Summary

British news agency Reuters’ report on regional elections in Russia has ignored the overall result of United Russia, homing in on the party’s loss of a third of its seats in the Moscow city assembly. Reuters then contemplated a possible “beginning of the end” for Vladimir Putin, speculated on Putin’s downfall in the 2024 presidential elections and made an unwarranted comparison to Erdoğan’s election losses in Ankara and Istanbul. Other influential Western media have furthered these false conclusions and presented Alexei Navalny as a hero of the elections, although he is a marginal figure in Russia and his only goal is to delegitimise the elections. Navalny actually avoided running both in the 2019 regional and 2018 Moscow mayoral elections (but this exposure in the West will certainly bring him new grants on account of working towards Putin’s alleged downfall).

Disproof

These false claims were spread across two complementary reports of Sputnik Serbia, published on September 14th (“How Putin “lost” the elections in Moscow”) and September 15th (“The West is rejoicing Putin’s decline, but what really happened”). Reuters’ report on the results of regional elections in Russia, published on September 9th, does not mention Putin’s “downfall”, nor did Reuters compare Putin to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in this, or any other report on the results of the regional elections held on September 8th in Russia. Reuters also didn’t focus only on United Russia’s loss of seats in Moscow. The report states that the party “retained its majority in the Moscow assembly following Sunday’s nationwide local elections, and its candidates for regional governor appeared to have won in St Petersburg and in 15 other parts of the vast country.” The same point is reiterated in the video clip embedded in the article. The video report provides a statement of Alexei Navalny, but also that of Andrey Turchak, the chairman of United Russia, who said that the party’s overall result was “more than positive” and “has exceeded our most optimistic forecasts”. The claim that Alexei Navalny is “unwilling to run” in the elections is blatantly false. The Russian Central Electoral Commission has barred Navalny from running in the 2018 presidential elections, based on a conviction in a politically motivated trial (see EEAS statement on the case here). Navalny’s party was prevented from registering for the elections 9 times. This includes the 2019 regional elections, when an old trick was reused to deem their registration invalid - another party’s name was changed into “Russia of the Future”, the name of Navalny’s party, providing an excuse to bar them from the ballot. About 30 opposition candidates also had their registrations refused in the elections for Moscow city council, sparking mass protests and arrests, including that of opposition candidates and Navalny himself. The claim that Navalny receives “grants” for his political engagement is another instance of a Kremlin disinformation narrative about Russian opposition parties, politicians and/or protestors being “puppets of the West” (see similar cases here and here).

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 171
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 14/09/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Serbian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Serbia, Russia
  • Keywords: West, Alexei Navalny, Media, Elections, Vladimir Putin
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Crimea reunited with Russia after a democratic referendum

The reunification of the Crimea with Russia took place after a referendum in March 2014. 96.77% of the citizens of the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% of the inhabitants of Sevastopol voted in favour of joining the Russian Federation.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative on the annexation of Crimea claiming that Crimean citizens chose to join Russia through a legal referendum. Crimea is a part of Ukraine and was illegally annexed by Russia. In 2014, Russian troops obliged the parliament of Crimea to organise a referendum, which was illegitimate under international law, and then formally annexed the peninsula and brought it under Russian territorial control. The annexation has been condemned by the UNGA (see the resolution A/RES/68/262 on the territorial integrity of Ukraine). Following the covert invasion by “little green men”, the referendum in Crimea was conducted hastily and at gunpoint, barring impartial observers from entering the peninsula. Therefore, no international body recognises the so-called referendum, announced on the 27th of February 2014, and held on 16th of March 2014. The oft-cited figure of 97% has been contested by the Kremlin’s own Human Rights Council, which estimated that only between 30% and 50% of Crimeans took part in the referendum. A year after the illegal annexation, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that the plan to annex Crimea was ordered weeks before the so-called referendum. The European Union does not recognise Crimea's annexation and continues to condemn it as a violation of international law. For the EU statement on the fifth anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea see here. For more cases on Crimea, see here and here. Also, read further debunking by StopFake.

Crimea became part of Russia after the referendum, which took place after a coup

Crimea became part of Russia in March 2014 after a referendum, held after the coup in Kiev. 96.77 percent of the voters of the Crimea and 95.6 percent of the residents of Sevastopol voted in favour of unification with Russia.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative claiming that Euromaidan was a coup d’état and that Crimean citizens chose to re-join Russia through a legal referendum. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution stating that the referendum in Crimea was not valid and could not serve as a basis for any change in the status of the peninsula. See more cases about this narrative here, here, here and here. In order to justify the illegal annexation of Crimea and the reunification with Russia, Moscow regularly claims that Euromaidan was a coup d’état. See the full debunk of this disinformation claim here.

Crimea became part of Russia by the will of its inhabitants

The citizens of Ukraine knew long ago that there is no possibility of Crimea returning to Ukraine. Crimea became part of Russia by the will of its inhabitants, according to the results of the referendum. That is why there is no chance for Crimea to return to Ukraine.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the Euromaidan, the illegal annexation of Crimea, and the war in Ukraine. There was no coup d'état in Ukraine. The spontaneous onset of the Euromaidan protests was an organic reaction by numerous parts of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013. See the full debunk of this disinformation claim here. No international body has recognised the so-called Crimea referendum, announced on 27 February 2014, and held on 16 March 2014. Thirteen members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of a resolution declaring the referendum invalid. On the 27th of March 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which stated that the referendum in Crimea was not valid and could not serve as a basis for any change in the status of the peninsula. On December 17, 2018, the UN General Assembly confirmed its non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea . On the fifth anniversary of Crimea's annexation, the EU reiterated its position of non-recognition of the landgrab and continues to stand in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The international community, including the European Union recognizes and condemns clear violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces since February 2014.