In the pro-Kremlin disinformation news cycle, timing is everything. Every occasion can be used to amplify and strengthen the false message.
This week’s opportunity occurred when the separatist officials of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic handed over “human remains and debris” from the MH17 to the Dutch investigators. One may say with good reason it took some time: Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down over Eastern Ukraine three years ago, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
As we have noticed, Russian media and state officials have spread at least eight different versions of the catastrophe, all pointing away from the Russian liability which has been clearly stated by the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team.
Now we see a ninth falsehood. It was published by the Russian Ministry of Defense TV channel Zvezda, claiming “a former major of the Ukrainian army”, Yuri Baturin, witnessed the plane shot down by a Ukrainian Buk. Later Zvezda removed the report but it’s easily available cached. The job was done – the story was spread by dozens of news websites both in Russian and in English.
Fictitious organ trade
Just like the false theories on MH17, some of the most absurd lies on Ukraine have a multi-year track-record in the pro-Kremlin disinformation operation.
So we heard that Ukraine’s Health Ministry allows dead Ukrainians to be sold for organs; that the country is to be turned into an international black market transplant centre for wealthy foreigners; and, once again, that there is no evidence of Russian tanks in Ukraine.
Last but not least we heard that tens of thousands of Ukrainian weapons are smuggled into Poland with the purpose of building an underground Ukrainian army.
False fight for the right values
Circumstances in Georgia give a solid example of how pro-Kremlin messaging can be customized to local audiences across Europe. Here, the disinformation machine focuses on the conspiracies of the “rotten” Western values. This week we heard that homosexuality is dispersed throughout Georgia, that it is comparable to cannibalism, and that a range of different techniques are used to bestialise Georgian citizens. For debunk see here.
Also in Georgia appeared a new version of an old narrative. The story goes that when Carl Bildt was Foreign Minister of Sweden, he said that Orthodoxy was the main enemy of the West “as it tries to regulate family relations and does not recognise gays and transgenders”. Just like with the case of disinformation on Ukraine, this fabrication was first debunked already three years ago.
Finally, Russian TV’s conspiracy campaign claiming that the US is not fighting Daesh but supporting it show no signs of stopping. We learned that Daesh is a project of the United States; that Daesh fighters are the mercenaries of the US; and that the all-mighty West and the US have created the Islamist ideology and Islamist networks.
While the Russian speaking TV audience is kept occupied with accusations against the US, the Russian Ministry of Defense has not made too much noise with its announcement that there have been no Russian air strikes targeting Syrian Democratic Forces or civilians. Reports from human rights monitors in any case suggest the opposite.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week:
Twitter has suspended about 200 Russian-linked accounts as it probes online efforts to meddle with the 2016 U.S. election. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-twitter/twitter-suspends-russia-linked-accounts-but-u-s-senator-says-response-inadequate-idUSKCN1C331G
According to Twitter, "of the roughly 450 accounts that Facebook recently shared as a part of their review, we concluded that 22 had corresponding accounts on Twitter. All of those identified accounts had already been or immediately were suspended from Twitter for breaking our rules, most for violating our prohibitions against spam. In addition, from those accounts we found an additional 179 related or linked accounts, and took action on the ones we found in violation of our rules. Neither the original accounts shared by Facebook, nor the additional related accounts we identified, were registered as advertisers on Twitter. However, we continue to investigate these issues, and will take action on anything that violates our Terms of Service." https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/topics/company/2017/Update-Russian-Interference-in-2016--Election-Bots-and-Misinformation.html
An old conspiracy debunked many times. No evidence given.
No evidence given, conspiracy theory. It is a recurring trait in pro-Kremlin disinformation to use tragic events as terrorist attacks or mass shootings for the spreading of disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/how-pro-kremlin-outlets-abuse-the-tragedy-of-terror/.
The US just requires RT to: submit periodic disclosures outlining its agreements with the foreign principal, disclose income from and expenditures on behalf the principal, and have business records of its activities available for inspection by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). In addition, a foreign agent must ensure that all informational materials it distributes are conspicuously labelled and filed with the DOJ. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/agent-of-influence-should-russia-s-rt-register-as-a-foreign-agent During the Cold War, representatives of Soviet news outlets (TASS, ‘Pravda’, ‘Izvestia’ and others) were also registered agents http://www.newsweek.com/time-shine-light-putins-american-propaganda-arm-542642 Thus, there is no violation of the Amendment I. https://www.congress.gov/content/conan/pdf/GPO-CONAN-2017-10-2.pdf
The UN Security Council had no task of pointing to the aggressor in Donbas, so the resolution 2202 (2015) on Peaceful Settlement in Eastern Ukraine just called on all parties to fully implement the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”. It does not exclude the fact that Russia is an aggressor there. Most of the measures depend heavliy on Russia and its proxies, including the need for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry, full monitoring access for the OSCE, and the full restoration of control of the state border to the Ukrainian government. Russia's actions in Ukraine are a clear violation of international law. Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter declares without ambiguity that "all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations" http://bit.ly/1rbGaE3. UNGA Resolution 68/262 also affirmed the General Assembly's commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and underscored the invalidity of the 2014 Crimean referendum http://bit.ly/1RZGnjo.
No evidence given. The US just requires RT to: submit periodic disclosures outlining its agreements with
the foreign principal, disclose income from and expenditures on behalf the principal, and have business
records of its activities available for inspection by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). In addition, a
foreign agent must ensure that all informational materials it distributes are conspicuously labelled and
filed with the DOJ. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/agent-of-influence-should-russia-srt-register-as-a-foreign-agent
During the Cold War, representatives of Soviet news outlets (TASS,
‘Pravda’, ‘Izvestia’ and others) were also registered agents http://www.newsweek.com/time-shine-lightputins-american-propaganda-arm-542642
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given.
The EU does not position itself as an enemy of Russia. According to Federica Mogherini, Europe pushes for closer Russia cooperation despite the sanctions existing till today and backs, for instance, “selective engagement” with Moscow to solve conflicts http://www.politico.eu/article/eu-pushes-for-closer-russia-cooperation-federica-mogherini-vladimir-putin-war-syria/
The EU is Russia's main trading and investment partner, while Russia as the EU's fourth is also its largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter.
No evidence given. This summer, Ukraine recorded several raider attacks on farmers - the phenomenon that is widespread in all the former Soviet republics. There is however no evidence or record of those kind of raids being carried out by "participants of the Anti-Terror Operation" in Donbas.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe considers that the actions of the Russian Federation leading up to the annexation of
Crimea, and in particular the military occupation of the Ukrainian territory and the threat of the use of military
force, the recognition of the results of the illegal so-called referendum and subsequent annexation of Crimea
into the Russian Federation constitute, beyond any doubt, a grave violation of international law, including of the
United Nations Charter and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Helsinki Final
The European Union stated in July 2014 that "arms and fighters continue flowing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation". http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/144158.pdf
At the NATO Summit in Wales in September 2014, NATO leaders condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and demanded that Russia stop and withdraw its forces from Ukraine and along the country’s border. NATO leaders also demanded that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; end its illegitimate occupation of Crimea; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; halt the flow of weapons, equipment, people and money across the border to the separatists; and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_50090.htm#
According to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Russian special forces and troops operated to mobilize, lead, equip, and support separatist militias in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine from spring 2014 to the present, although their presence was denied by Moscow. http://www.dia.mil/Portals/27/Documents/News/Military%20Power%20Publications/Russia%20Military%20Power%20Report%202017.pdf?ver=2017-06-28-144235-937
In August 2014, the Ukrainian Army seized 10 Russian armed paratroopers of the 331st regiment of the 98th division ‘Svir’ (military unit No 71211) near the Ukrainian village Zerkalny, the Donetsk region; in July 2017, Victor Ageyev, corporal of the Russian GRU (military secret service) unit was captured in the East of Ukraine. As for the tanks, according to Kyiv Russia has 20 times more of them in Ukraine now after 3 years war. For more information see http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-t-72b3-the-lethal-russian-tank-ukraine-fears-most-16500 or http://www.newsweek.com/russia-has-20-times-more-tanks-ukraine-after-three-years-war-says-kiev-654490 The exhibitions of Russian weapons captured by the Ukrainian Army in Donbas, including Russian tanks, are regularly held in the centre of Kyiv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted Russia's military presence in Ukraine in 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/17/vladimir-putin-admits-russian-military-presence-ukraine
No evidence given. The US is not trying to disintegrate the EU.
As major world powers, the EU and the U.S. share global responsibilities and work together to promote common values.
The United States is the EU’s foremost strategic partner in promoting peace and stability around the world. Also, the EU is a unique and essential partner for NATO. The two organisations share a majority of members and have common values. http://www.nato.int/cps/ua/natohq/topics_49217.htm
The EU-U.S. economic partnership is the single most important driver of global economic growth, trade, and prosperity. The EU and U.S. account for almost 30 percent of global merchandise trade, close to 40 percent of world trade in services, and about half of global GDP. The EU and the U.S. are each other’s main trading partners in goods and services and account for the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. The transatlantic economic relationship creates and sustains close to 15 million jobs in the EU and the US. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/27291/united-states-and-eu_en
According to another pro-Kremlin political analyst, it is Russia (not the US), who is eager to disintegrate the EU and destabilize its members one by one. For instance, two days before, Oleg Barabanov, Program director of the “Valdai” International Discussion Club Foundation, while commenting the referendum in Catalonia, stated that “the more crises, the more conflicts and the more Evil will be in Europe, the better Russia will be” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCHvZF4E2GI (time-code 1:02:49 ). The “Valdai” Club was created by Kremlin to promote Russian interests among well-known Western politicians and experts, who are taking part in the Club’s meetings under the invitation of the Russian government.
As for Russophobia, 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.
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.
Recurring conspiracy theory, no evidence given. This conspiracy theory concerning the introduction of cannibalism, homosexuality and paedophilia in societies is copied directly from a Russian site called “Interesting Facts”, which is not indicated by the author of Geworld.ge’s publication. Further debunking: http://mythdetector.ge/en/myth/conspiracies-theories-spread-geworldge-based-russian-sources-concerning-overton-window
The United States has been clear from the start about the goals of its campaign against Islamic State.
On September 10, 2014, then U.S. President Barack Obama announced the formation of a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Daesh, declaring: “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” http://www.centcom.mil/OPERATIONS-AND-EXERCISES/OPERATION-INHERENT-RESOLVE/
The military campaign against Islamic State, called Operation Inherent Resolve, issues daily reports on the number of strikes carried out, identifying their targets and precise locations, and detailing the results of each strike. These reports are available to the public online.http://www.inherentresolve.mil/News/Strike-Releases/
The U.S.-led coalition also issues monthly reports on civilian casualties, including those caused by coalition attacks targeting IS, and provides details from the investigations into such incidents.http://www.inherentresolve.mil/News/News-Releases/Article/1329201/cjtf-oir-monthly-civilian-casualty-report/
The progress of the U.S. and its allies in the fight against Islamic State is well documented in the coalition’s publicly accessible online database.http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/maps-stats/?lang=en. Further debunking here https://www.polygraph.info/a/russian-military-syria-disinformation/28778203.html.
According to Reuters, Russia intensified its air strikes in Syria’s Idlib and Hama provinces in mid-September, hitting heavily populated civilian areas.http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN1BZ0O5.
The U.S. and their allies, as well as independent observers, have accused Russia of causing multiple casualties among the Syrian Democratic Forces by striking their positions – which, the Pentagon said in a September 16 statement, were “known to the Russians.” http://www.centcom.mil/MEDIA/PRESS-RELEASES/Press-Release-View/Article/1313824/russian-strike-wounds-syrian-democratic-forces-troops/.
The independent watchdog Airwars reported that the Russian strikes caused a “sharp rise of civilian deaths” during the battle for Deir Ezzor. https://airwars.org/news/deir-ezzor/.
While Russia's Defense Ministry provides regular briefings and reports on the success of its operation in Syria, it has never admitted its forces there caused civilian casualties or given any indication that it investigated reports of such casualties.
The Russian airstrikes continued during the last week of September and early October, including a September 24 attack, which, according to multiple sources, killed at least 45 Syrian rebels.http://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKCN1C0118, http://m.france24.com/en/20170924-russian-strikes-kill-45-syrian-rebels-monitor. Further debunking here https://www.polygraph.info/a/russian-military-syria-disinformation/28778203.html.
The fake quote was debunked already three years ago, when it was first cited http://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2014&mm=05&dd=14&nav_id=90316 and subsequently refuted by Carl Bildt as a complete fake https://twitter.com/carlbildt/status/466563814251847680.
Reccuring MH17-related disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/flight-mh-17-three-years-on-getting-the-truth-out-of-eastern-ukraine/. False information was first published by TV Zvezda that later removed the content https://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/201710061815-jpeh.htm, cached here https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:xTxOkT4PbdkJ:https://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/201710061826-z433.htm+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=lv and here https://meduza.io/news/2017/10/07/telekanal-zvezda-udalil-tri-zametki-pro-sbityy-boing-ukrainskiy-mayor-perebezhchik-rasskazyval-v-nih-ob-ukrainskom-buke.
Joint Investigative Team (JIT) has concluded that flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 by a missile of the 9M38 series, launched by a BUK-TELAR, from farmland in the vicinity of Pervomaiskiy (or: Pervomaiskyi). At that time, the area was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. The BUK-TELAR was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and subsequently, after having shot down flight MH-17, was taken back to the Russian Federation. https://www.om.nl/onderwerpen/mh17-crash/@96068/jit-flight-mh17-shot/
Further debunk: http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1507577040
Recurring disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/flight-mh-17-three-years-on-getting-the-truth-out-of-eastern-ukraine/. The Joint Investigative Team (JIT) has concluded that flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 by a missile of the 9M38 series, launched by a BUK-TELAR, from farmland in the vicinity of Pervomaiskiy (or: Pervomaiskyi). At that time, the area was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. The BUK-TELAR was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and subsequently, after having shot down flight MH-17, was taken back to the Russian Federation. https://www.om.nl/onderwerpen/mh17-crash/@96068/jit-flight-mh17-shot/
Further debunk: http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1507577040
Conspiracy theory and recurring disinformation, no evidence given. Read more on EU's migration policy https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/migration_en and about the roots of migration to Europe http://carnegieeurope.eu/2015/10/01/roots-of-europe-s-refugee-crisis-pub-61465
In 2014 Polish authorities confiscated 14 weapons on the Ukraine-Poland border, 26 items in 2015 and 30 in 2016. In 2017 Polish authorities confiscated 49 smuggled weapons. On its website Poland’s Border Service provides information on all arms confiscated on its borders. https://www.strazgraniczna.pl/pl/granica/statystyki-sg/2206,Statystyki-SG.html. No evidence suggesting that an underground army is being created.
Further debunking: https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-ukrainian-arms-flood-into-poland/
No evidence given, recurring disinformation since at least 2014. https://www.stopfake.org/en/russia-s-top-lies-about-ukraine-part-3/
Ukraine’s Health Ministry plans to introduce a pilot kidney donor transplant program in 2018. According to proposed Ukrainian legislation, individuals can donate their organs after death. That information will be registered in a central donor data base. If there is no record of a deceased individual’s agreement in that data base and if his or her immediate relatives have not given their consent, it is illegal to remove organs for transplant from such a person. Further debunking: https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-ukraine-s-health-ministry-allows-ukrainians-to-be-sold-for-organs/
According to the Venice Commision: "The Constitution of Ukraine, like other constitutions of Council of Europe member states, provides for the indivisibility of the country and does not allow the holding of any local referendum on secession from Ukraine. This results in particular from Articles 1, 2, 73 and 157 of the Constitution. These provisions in conjunction with Chapter X of the Constitution show that this prohibition also applies to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Constitution of Crimea does not allow the Supreme Soviet of Crimea to call such a referendum. Only a consultative referendum on increased autonomy could be permissible under the Ukrainian Constitution.
28. Moreover, circumstances in Crimea did not allow the holding of a referendum in line with European democratic standards. Any referendum on the status of a territory should have been preceded by serious negotiations among all stakeholders. Such negotiations did not take place."
Sergiy Zayets, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Tetyana Pechonchyk, Dariya Svyrydova, Olga Skrypnyk. (2015). The Fear Peninsula: Chronicle of Occupation and Violation of Human Rights in Crimea. Crimea is Ukraine, 2015. 77 pages.
There is numerous evidence that the referendum was held under duress of Russian military intervention. The Venice Commission also stated that "the massive public presence of (para)military forces is not conducive to democratic decision making" and that "the circumstances did not allow the holding of a referendum in line with European democratic standards". http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2014)002-e
UNGA Resolution 68/262 recalled that "the territory of
a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the
threat or use of force".
On 1 March 2014 Russia's upper house of parliament approved President Putin's request for Russian forces to be used in Ukraine. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26400035
According to the opinion poll by the the EU neighbours east, 68% of Moldovans believe the relations with the European Union are good. http://www.euneighbours.eu/en/east/stay-informed/publications/opinion-survey-2017-republic-moldova
According to the World Bank, Moldova has experienced rapid economic growth in the past decade, which has been accompanied by reductions in poverty and good performance in shared prosperity. Nonetheless, Moldova remains one of the poorest countries in Europe and faces challenges in sustaining the progress. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/168451467995808859/Poverty-reduction-and-shared-prosperity-in-Moldova-progress-and-prospects
The EU has not turned its back to Moldova, but instead it is by far the largest donor in Moldova, supporting political and economic reform, and providing humanitarian aid. https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/moldova/1538/republic-moldova-and-eu_en