What, are you serious? Do you really trust your country’s democratic elections? This is the question pro-Kremlin manipulators want people to ask themselves over and over again with the aim of sowing mistrust in European democratic institutions.
This week, pro-Kremlin disinformation tactics accelerated attempts to react to the ongoing investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 US elections. After ridiculing the debate about the role of Russian interference in the US and German elections and laughing at the discussion on Russian media’s distorted view on the Catalan referendum, the focus moved to distracting the audience from the topic with some classic “whataboutism”.
Hence this week, the broken mirror came up saying that the accuser has committed the same offence that they are now blaming on Russia.
“Fairy tales” of Russian hackers
We learned this week that the US is now trying to set up a “colour revolutions matrix” ahead of Russia’s 2018 Presidential elections, that US secret services have latched onto the “fairy tales” of Russian hackers and trolls to divert attention from the eavesdropping on former President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, and that the “US ruins countries, provokes civil wars, drives whole nations into poverty and misery, sets up sanctions to those who in Europe want to buy cheap Russian gas, organises coups and colour revolutions, continues to occupy Germany and Japan, conducts wars without UN sanction under false pretences and fake coalitions” – nothing goes unmentioned. Germans and Japanese must be surprised to hear the breaking news of US occupation.
Meanwhile English versions of disinformation outlets claimed that, as the US had spied top German officials, we should assume that the US swayed the German elections in its own favour. This type of disinformation takes a past scandal and links it through a non sequitur to elections in general and the last German elections in particular; the German Parliamentary Committee investigated it.
Western values ≠ incest parades
The amount of attributes the disinformation campaign is able to attach to “Western values” is striking. We heard that Armenia will celebrate incest parades because of the new law on domestic violence. In fact, the bill will introduce criminal and administrative liability for specific cases defined as domestic violence. After Armenia it was Italy’s turn, where a sex cruise is tailored as “support for Western values” and democracy.
Any representative of the West visiting Crimea is another hit story, as efforts to legitimise the status of Crimea illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 continue. This week it was the “Norwegian diplomats” who will convince the West that Crimea is part of Russia, not Ukraine. But there were no diplomats within the group of Norwegians that visited Crimea recently.
The Western ghosts of history were also invited to work for the disinformation messaging. Allegedly in 1941 it was Finnish spies who first threatened to kill Vladimir Putin’s great aunt, and then “a fascist bullet hit her back”. The only lapse in this story is that there were no Finns even close to the region in question in 1941. Oh, and the great aunt in question actually seems to have been President Putin’s grandmother.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week:
Recurring disinformation. There is no civil war in Donbas: Russia is supporting separatists in the eastern Ukraine. Read more here.
The governments of the states who lost most citizens in the catastrophe set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which concluded that the plane was shot down by a BUK missile located in an area controlled by the Russia-supported rebels. Independent open source journalistic investigation traced the missile launcher and the people who operated it from Russia into Ukraine and back again into Russia, and the Joint Investigation Team has agreed with these conclusions. Read more: Flight MH17 three years on: getting the truth out of Eastern Ukraine
On October 7, Polish Catholics marched along the country's borderline and prayed for the deliverance of Poland and the world. This large-scale event started with the morning mass and lasted for about 2 hours. Members of the clergy were also present at the site, conducting liturgy and popular prayer. The event was interpreted in various fashions; part of the society saw the march as a protest against Islam and migrants. However, the organizers declare that the intent of the gathering was to pray for pray for peace in Poland and across the globe and not against any particular group of people. The choice of the Polish border as the venue for meeting was to symbolically express the desire of Polish Catholics to encompass the world with prayer.
Conspiracy theory, supporting repeated disinformation regarding European disintegration. There is no evidence that the EU's "ruling elite" would manufacture fragmentation. The European Union is an economic and political union between 28 European countries, it's based on the rule of law and governed by the principle of representative democracy, with citizens directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament and Member States represented in the European Council and the Council of the EU. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/eu-in-brief_en
Belgium is a sovereign state and has been independent since 1830. https://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/country/history/belgium_from_1830
No evidence provided that the participants would represent the Ukrainian diaspora. The recognised organisations of Ukrainians abroad have not declared their participation in the event. Bona fide Ukrainian diaspora organizations called the congress "a Russian serving disinformation exercise". Further debunking by Stopfake.org.
No evidence given. According to the poll by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC Georgia, support for the European Union (EU) was 80 percent in April 2017. Reasons for supporting Georgia’s membership are largely related to economic and employment concerns, although supporters also believe membership would strengthen security and democracy. 68 percent of Georgians would approve NATO membership. https://www.ndi.org/sites/default/files/NDI%20poll%20press%20release_April%202017_Foreign%20Affairs_ENG.pdf
The European economy has entered its fifth year of recovery, which is now reaching all EU Member States. This is expected to continue at a largely steady pace this year and next.https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-performance-and-forecasts/economic-forecasts/spring-2017-economic-forecast_en
Sexual interaction in public zones, exchange of partners, homosexuality etc. everything is permitted there, but without violence. This mess fully respects the principle of democracy.
Regularly repeated disinformation about European immorality. Democracy is a belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves. It has nothing to do with the sex cruise. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/democracy
Misleading information. With the resolution, the Council of Europe calls for a Summit to "reaffirm European unity and to defend and promote democratic security in Europe". The last summit was organised 12 years ago in 2005. The Council of Europe has two branches – a Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. The assembly comprises delegations from the parliaments of member countries. Because of its aggression against Ukraine, Russia has been suspended from taking part in the assembly since 2014. This is the only sanction referred to in the resolution as one which would potentially be lifted. The Committee of Ministers consists of the Foreign Ministers, or senior diplomats, from the member states. The Council of Europe’s sanctions against Russia did not extend to this committee.
Further debunking by Stopfake here.
There were no diplomats in the group of people that visited Crimea this Fall. The Foreign Ministry of Norway critisised the visit as it may lead to attempts to legitimise Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.
Further debunking: The Insider
The programme Voyennaya Taina used invented Western experts: One was a well known meme character "Hide the Pain Harold". The second expert statement presented was falsely put into Frank Gorenc's mouth. The "commander of the United States Air Force in Europe", was quoted saying that the Russian weapon used against the United States Navy destroyer, the Donald Cook, could paralyze American electronic equipment on missiles, aircraft and ships. The Pentagon has said that the general has never issued such a statement. The false quote was published on TV Channel Rossiya 1 first time in April 2017. Photos of the other "experts" that are shown during the programme are taken from image stock websites. Further debunking by the Insider.
Recurring disinformation that the US is protecting or working together with ISIS/Daesh https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=Daesh&disinfo_issue=&date=. The US is fighting against Daesh together with the Global Coalition against Daesh http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/home/. The US MoD outlines the latest progress on their website https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1322158/strikes-continue-in-effort-to-defeat-isis-in-syria-iraq/.
No evidence or explanation given for the statement. Disinformation about this law has been common in the country, read more here https://sut.am/en/archives/1834 and here https://sut.am/en/archives/1810. The bill will introduce criminal and administrative liability for specific cases defined as domestic violence. It would also obligate the state to protect victims by providing them with special shelters or banning their violent spouses from approaching them and their children. https://armenianweekly.com/2017/10/13/armenia-finally-pass-law-domestic-violence/
Invention. Speaking about possible visa liberalization with Armenia last month, Head of EU Delegation to Armenia Pyotr Svitalski urged Armenian authorities not to lose time and do the “homework” to prepare for visa liberalization with the union. Svitalski recalled the examples of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. He did not mention drugs.
No evidence given. On September 27 the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations of the National Assembly gave a negative conclusion to a draft law, which envisaged setting up a temporary commission to study the benefits and disadvantages of Armenia’s membership in the EAEU. There was no discussion of terminating the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty by Armenia even at the session of the NA Standing Committee on Foreign Relations. Read more here https://sut.am/en/archives/1763.
The Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia labels the information about the Government of Georgia receiving 100 000 migrants as absurd. Further debunking at Myth detector http://mythdetector.ge/en/myth/disinformation-geworld-100-thousand-northern-africans-will-be-resettled-georgia.
Requiring a foreign media outlet to register as an agent of a foreign nation does not give the U.S. government the right to censor its output or control its working environment. FARA simply requires transparency and public disclosure on the part of those registered. Further debunking at Polygraph.info https://www.polygraph.info/a/rt-us-fara-simonyan-fact-check-false/28787100.html.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded to efforts to draw attention to the disastrous consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and attempts to ban such weapons through agreements. In this case, the Nobel Committee encouraged not the result of the work of the organization, but its aspirations and activities.
Not a single army has ever received a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting a war.
No evidence given. Recurring disinformation that the US is somehow cooperating with the so called Islamic State. The US is fighting against ISIS/Daesh. http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/home/. Further debunking by Polygraph.info https://www.polygraph.info/a/us-uses-is-to-destablize-central-asia/28782918.html.
The United States deployed a Brigade Combat Team, not a division. The difference is significant. A brigade typically consists of 1,500 to 3,500 soldiers, whereas a division ranges between 10,000 to 15,000. While the difference may be obscure to civilians, Konashenkov is a major general in the Russian army and is unlikely to have made such a mistake by accident. Read more at DFRLab.
In spite of the warning Yelizaveta went again to help [the Red Army men]. A fascist bullet hit her back.
No evidence given. There were no Finns in Pominovo or close to it in 1941. According to Vladimir Putin's publicly available biography, Yelizaveta Shelomova was Putin's grandmother, not great aunt. Further debunking by Ilta-Sanomat.
There is in fact a clear record of strong cooperation between the EU and Russia, dating back to 1994, when the two sides negotiated a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Russia was identified as a strategic partner for the EU, and was the only country with which the EU held summits not once, but twice a year.
In 2010 the EU and Russia launched a Partnership for Modernisation. As stated in the Joint Declaration: "The European Union and Russia, as long-standing strategic partners in a changing multipolar world, are committed to working together to address common challenges with a balanced and result-oriented approach, based on democracy and the rule of law, both at the national and international level" http://bit.ly/1p648gA.
Despite current difficulties in the relationship with Russia, the EU and its Member States have maintained a clear policy of reaching out to Russian society and youth, mainly through the Erasmus+ student exchange programme and other people to people contacts.
NATO has also consistently worked hard to build a cooperative relationship with Russia since the early 1990s: no other NATO partner has been offered a comparable relationship, nor a similarly comprehensive institutional framework: http://bit.ly/2e0TZnG.
Russia is considered "not free" by Freedom House https://freedomhouse.org/country/russia and has steadily degraded in terms of democracy during the last 10 years https://infographics.economist.com/2017/DemocracyIndex/.
Any comparison between NATO enlargement after the end of the Cold War and the creation of the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet bloc at the end of World War II is an utter distortion of history.
The incorporation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact after the Second World War was carried out under conditions of military occupation, one-party dictatorship and the violent suppression of dissent.
When the countries of Central and Eastern Europe applied for NATO membership after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, it was of their own free choice, through their own national democratic processes, and after conducting the required reforms.
This was done through debate, in peacetime conditions, and in a transparent way.
Read more at NATO, Set the record straight http://www.nato.int/cps/ua/natohq/topics_111767.htm?#cl107.
No evidence given. The NATO operation for Kosovo followed over a year of intense efforts by the UN and the Contact Group, of which Russia was a member, to bring about a peaceful solution. The UN Security Council on several occasions branded the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the mounting number of refugees driven from their homes as a threat to international peace and security. NATO's Operation Allied Force was launched to prevent the large-scale and sustained violations of human rights and the killing of civilians.
Following the air campaign, the subsequent NATO-led peacekeeping operation, KFOR, which initially included Russia, has been under UN mandate (UNSCR 1244), with the aim of providing a safe and secure environment in Kosovo.
Recurring disinformation based on a number of falsehoods. For example the latest US sanctions against Russia are introduced on entities doing business with Russian military or intelligence agencies, companies involved in Russian off-shore oil projects, and those participating in Russian oil or gas pipeline construction within Russia - not to "those who in the Europe want to buy cheap Russian gas". https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-sanctions-factbox/factbox-what-do-the-new-u-s-sanctions-on-russia-target-idUSKBN1AL0K1
No evidence given. In Kosovo, there was a civil war, with thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees, and which Western countries stopped. This was followed by a decade of international administration and status negotiations. In 2008 the EU Council stressed that in view of the conflict of the 1990s and the extended period of international administration under Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo constituted a sui generis case. The International Court of Justice has stated that the declaration of independence of Kosovo did not violate international law.
There is numerous evidence of the work conducted by the internet trolls in Russia e.g. from the court cases when the previous employees of the "troll factory" have sued their employer. Facebook announced in September 2017, that it had found more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the US between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency.
In the US, both the Congress and the FBI are investigating the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Special counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the election. Background: Reuters, Office of the Director of the National Intelligence assessment
Ukraine has never banned Russian language.
Prior to the May 2014 Presidential elections, acting President Turchynov refused to sign legislation repealing the language law of 2012, which allows the use of the Russian language for official purposes at regional level.
Human rights missions that travelled to Ukraine in 2014 did not find evidence that the Russian minority would have been in danger:
1. The Advisory Committee’s Ad hoc Report on the situation of national minorities in Ukraine, adopted on 1 April 2014, Council of Europe;
2. Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 15 June 2014;
3. Statement by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on her Recent Visit to Ukraine, 4 April 2014
The word genocide is frequently used in pro-Kremlin disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=genocide&disinfo_issue=&disinfo_language%5B%5D=rus&date=, but it seldom corresponds to the actual definition of a genocide http://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html
More on background of the new Ukrainian law on education and the controversies it has raised http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/73272.
Ukraine will forward the respective parts of the Law to the Council of Europe for opinion.
Take Greenpeace for example. They work everywhere else but not in the US.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given.
Greenpeace is actively campaigning in the US and has recently published on its websites articles with headlines like "A Letter From Florida to the Nation: Climate Denial Is Killing Us" and "Donald Trump’s ‘War on Regulations’ Is Really a War on Working Class People".
No evidence given. The reports of US surveillance of top German officials do not suggest that the purpose of the US was to meddle in the German elections. Germany and the US are close allies, and the transatlantic partnership is a basic axiom in German foreign policy. http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/06__Foreign__Policy__State/01__Ger__US/00/__Bilateral.html
Germany ranks 16th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index in 2017.
No evidence given of break-away. Recurring disinformation regarding the Transcaprathia" break-away and Ukrainian disintegration.