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New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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  • Analysis: #NoTwitterGulagForDarthPutinKGB
  • Social media: Warning: Russian state TV can contain disinformation!
  • Analysis: Visits by Russian politicians
  • Response: Armenia joins EU research programme
  • Friday fun: Денег нет 

#NoTwitterGulagForDarthPutinKGB


This week saw some of the most popular Twitter accounts satirizing the official pro-Kremlin narrative suspended: @SovietSergey, which targets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; @AmbYakovenkoNot, which lampoons Aleksandr Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, @RusEmbassyNot, a parody of Yakovenko's embassy, and @Russia__Not account, which spoofs the Russian government.

Consternation was created by the suspension of @DarthPutinKGB, a popular account mocking the President of the Russian Federation with tweets like "Soviet Russian counterterrorism operation kills 146% of the suspects". This step resulted in dozens of angry tweets, including from Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (below). The issue was covered by media including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Politico, Buzzfeed and yesterday, the Financial Times, which commented: "For Europe’s increasingly anxious defence and security establishment the episode is another salvo in a grinding information campaign of finger-pointing and mud-stirring that Moscow is waging in Europe."
Twitter did not publicly state the reasoning behind the suspension and only quoted its rules for parody accounts – which most of the suspended accounts complied with. Given that other parody accounts like @Queen_Europe, tweaking Angela Merkel, remained untouched, there is a speculation that the suspension was linked to the outrage Mr Lavrov's spokeswoman shared when Euronews quoted Sergey Lavrov's parody account in a news story, taking it for a genuine expression by the Russian Foreign Minister. Such errors do happen: This week, StopFake pointed out that Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted a fake account for Nadiya Savchenko.
Finally, a campaign with the hashtag #NoTwitterGulagForDarthPutinKGB was created in response to the suspension and late on Wednesday, the accounts were enabled again.

Warning: Russian TV can contain disinformation!


Readers of a local newspaper in Siberia found a small disclaimer when they opened the newspaper's TV pages last Friday, saying: "Be careful! News programmes on TV will often present distorted and falsified information. Most frequently this is seen on NTV and TV Rossiya."

Mainly known for its sparse population, diamond mining and world-record low temperatures, the province of Yakutia in eastern Siberia isn't usually the talk of the town: However, this story spread quickly on social media and was picked up on Facebook, among others, by popular blogger Ilya Varlamov - the post received 2.400 likes and 268 shares. Interviewed by radio station Govorit Moskva, the newspaper's CEO said that his newspaper had entered a conflict with national TV station NTV after they claimed in a documentary that the Yakutsk newspaper was partially financed by the US State Department. "I hope that we will now be adding this kind of disclaimer in every issue [of the newspaper]," the CEO added.

Does this mean that frustration with the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is beginning to grow in Russia? On Tuesday, an editorial in Gazeta.ru expressed concern over the deteriorating reputation of Russian journalists and media, mentioning that the disclaimer had been placed in the Yakutsk newspaper by journalists who wanted to distance themselves from colleagues "who have obviously changed their profession, forgetting to report it".

Moreover, exposing disinformation is becoming popular among bloggers, the best example being exiled Alexei Kovalev whose blog, called "Noodle remover", systematically reports about disinformation in Russian in a lively and entertaining way (the blog's name refers to the Russian idiom "to hang noodle on someone's ears" = "to mislead, to tell someone lies").

Visits to Europe


President Putin's recent visit to Greece and Sergey Lavrov's end-of-May trip to Hungary have provided excellent material for the pro-Kremlin media to bolster its well-known narratives.

Pro-Kremlin outlets emphasised the thawing relations between Russia and European nations while tass.ru underlined the "creative atmosphere" of President Putin's visit to Greece (http://bit.ly/25y5xP3). The story entitled Putin thanks old friend purports that President Putin was genuinely moved by the cordial welcome.

Sputnik paid special attention to Putin's visit to Mount Athos, which was seen as a way of underlining the religious ties between the two Orthodox countries, Greece and Russia. Sputnik made reference to leading EU media when making the point that Putin was welcomed like a superstar, and when referring to the Mount Athos visit as a piece of religious diplomacy.

Similarly, concerning Lavrov's visit to Hungary, 5-tv.ru wrote about exemplary tight bilateral relations between Moscow and Budapest (http://bit.ly/1r2DnfI), while rg.ru stressed that Lavrov was welcomed as a "dear friend" (http://bit.ly/22xGkCJ).

The narrative that the "support for the extension of anti-Russian sanctions is waning in the EU" has gained traction in pro-Kremlin outlets (http://bit.ly/247cNik). In an analysis quoting the French analyst Guillaume Lagane, Sputnik sees Russia's strategy in building alliances in Europe and stresses that several European countries are ready to cooperate with Russia. That creates cracks in European unity against Russia.
In the future, researchers and innovators from Armenia will have full access to Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding programme. To celebrate the signature of the agreement associating Armenia to Horizon 2020, the East StratCom Task Force created this pictoquote, which was shared on the Facebook page of the EU Delegation to Armenia, where it reached 14.000 people.

There is no money. Hang on in there!


This week, Russian social media users took great interest in a quote from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a visit to Crimea. He replied to a group of pensioners who were complaining about the lack of indexation of their pensions: "There is no money. Hang on in there!" (Gazeta.ru shows the original video with the awkward moment in their online article).
The quote played into the popular image of Medvedev as the Russian President's sidekick who often finds himself taking care of situations where there is no popularity to gain. Russian social media reacted with a competition of Dmitry Medvedev satire. Our favourite image shows Mr Medvedev's words on a tax declaration (above). For more, see the Moscow Times's article in English.
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 © 02/06/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: stratcom-east@eeas.europa.eu

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