New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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  • Analysis: "National traitors on national TV"
  • Follow us: Latest research on disinformation on Twitter
  • Analysis: 460 pages about non-existent fascists
  • Response: EU Member States using our products
  • Friday fun: There is no Panama

"National traitors on national TV"

In the course of the last month, Russian state-controlled national television channels have broadcast a series of so-called "documentaries", all of which throw negative light on Russian opposition leaders, mainly through exposing their involvement in what are presented as Western-led, sometimes clandestine operations.

One such documentary titled "The Information War against Russia" was broadcast on 30 March by the state-owned TV national channel Rossiya. The programme was embedded into the popular talk show "Special Correspondent", which is broadcast every week by "Rossiya", and presented a compilation of different stories which all built up to the claim that Russia is the target of an EU and US led "information war". For example, the programme showed how Russian opposition politicians had appeared at recent hearings about Russia and media propaganda in the European Parliament and in the OSCE in Vienna, where they expressed critical views of the Russian government. Many of the recordings, even those from public hearings, were deliberately blurred and the sound quality poor; an attempt to make the events appear dubious and covert. Among many different aspects of what the programme labelled "the information war" it found time to mention the East Stratcom’s Disinformation Review, which [watch from 29.05] was presented as "the EU’s instruction manual" providing "correct" political views to Russia’s opposition.
The latest example in this genre is a production which was broadcast this Wednesday (13 April), also on Rossiya and, again, embedded into Evgeny Popov’s "Special Correspondent" talk show. This time the focus was moved from media to alleged covert cooperation between the prominent opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the British security service, MI6. However, already before the full programme was broadcast, Russian critical media, among them The Insider, scrutinized material from the production that had already been made available, and showed that documents and letters, which the documentary claimed had been written by native speakers of British and American English, had mistakes that were typical of native Russian speakers. For an analysis of some examples, see also this BBC’s article.

With the September Duma elections appearing in the horizon, these documentaries send a clear message to Russian voters: opposition to the Government and its policies is the result of interference of foreign states and therefore a fundamental threat to national security. The message often repeatedly refers to the fundamental narrative about an alleged American led conspiracy, which undermines the strategic aim of political continuity. Also, the narrative is in line with Putin’s identification of what he labelled called "national traitors" in his often-quoted speech on the occasion of the annexation of Crimea from March 2014.
Follow us on Twitter @EUvsDisinfo so you don't miss out on the latest research and top publications on disinformation.

460 pages about non-existent fascists

Many people would immediately associate Russian disinformation with pro-Kremlin trolling on social media; the manipulation of information by Kremlin-financed news outlets (e.g. Sputnik or RT) or the dissemination of the Russian leadership's narrative via political talk shows on state-owned TV channels. While the disinformation directed to mass audiences is undoubtedly a key element in Moscow's propaganda campaign against the EU, NATO or Ukraine, it is rapidly proliferating in the academic sphere as well.
The East Stratcom Task Force’s Disinformation Review regularly reports about disinformation spread by analysts from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a think-tank established by the President of the Russian Federation. Last week's edition featured Artur Atayev (Head of the Section for Caucasus, RISS), who believes that the UK's approach to the so-called Litvinenko case confirms that London merely considers Russia an enemy, not as a strategic partner and Alexei Samoylov (Expert Group on Ukraine, RISS), who claims that "Ukraine is an artificial nation" and "Ukrainians are Russian by origin".

This week, Oleksandr Nykonorov, journalist for, drew attention to a recently released propaganda book written by Maxim Grigorev, political scientist and director of the Fund for the Research of Problems of Democracy. The 460 pages long analytical piece, titled "Ordinary Fascism", builds on the frequently repeated pro-Kremlin myth that "Ukraine is a fascist state" and the "Ukrainian government is waging war against its own people". The alleged atrocities of the Ukrainian "siloviki" are discussed through five chapters, each dedicated to a specific war crime. They include the "mass killing of innocent civilians" (Chapter III), the "purposeful destruction of orphanages, schools and hospitals" (Chapter IV) as well as the "torture of the Donbass region residents" (Chapter V).
Our colleagues in the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have produced an Estonian version of our infographic that marked the second anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea. We are very happy to share our infographics, videos and press material for you to use them in your language.

Friday fun: There is no Panama

Not surprisingly, the scandal around the ”Panama Papers” caused lively reactions in Russian social media. Putin's explanation that his friend Sergei Roldugin, who allegedly controls assets worth 2 billion dollars, was simply buying musical instruments and donating them to public institutions, resulted in this tweet:
"Why did he transfer money to Panama? He just wanted to help the kids and buy them some balalaikas".
Roldugin's statement that he has often had to beg on the streets for money did not seem very persuasive to the Sputnik parody account Sputnik_Not:
Finally, Russian cartoonist Sergei Elkin summarized the reaction of Russian state TV in this caricature:
"As you can see, there is no Panama"
The Disinformation Review collects examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation all around Europe and beyond. Every week, it exposes the breadth of this campaign, showing the countries and languages targeted. We're always looking for new partners to cooperate with us for that.
The Disinformation Digest analyses how pro-Kremlin media see the world and what independent Russian voices say. It follows key trends on Russian social media, so you can put pro-Kremlin narratives into their wider context. And finally… some Friday Fun before the weekend!
DISCLAIMER: The Weekly Digest is based on the analysis of the EU East StratCom Task Force; opinions and judgements expressed do not represent official EU positions.
Copyright © 08/04/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

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