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New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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  • Analysis: Well done, lads, keep it up!
  • Response: Showing the red card to corruption
  • Analysis: Two warnings and you're out
  • Social media: Did you know?
  • Analysis: Great expectations
  • Friday fun: Dangerous destination

Well done, lads, keep it up!


The Russia vs England football match on 11 June will be remembered for something other than just the fighting spirit of the Russian team. The spotlight was on violence and "scenes of mayhem" as dozens of Russian hooligans charged into a section full of English supporters after the final whistle, "throwing missiles, tearing down flags and fighting with anyone who remained in their way" (http://ab.co/1sG51QW).

While Marseille authorities confirmed that a group of "well-trained" Russian hooligans with the deliberate aim of creating disorder were "prepared for ultra-rapid, ultra-violent action" (http://bit.ly/1UpQcfP), Russian officials gave a different account of the events. Maxim Motin, a deputy of the Moscow city Duma, for instance blamed the incidents on the unpreparedness of the French authorities and unsatisfactory organisation in the stadium: "Believe me, if that was a Spartak-CSKA game everything would have been much scarier with such a low level of security as there is in France" (http://bit.ly/1sGcEH3, http://bit.ly/25XsA9I).
Top Russian football official Igor Lebedev not only played down the violence but praised the fans for their actions: "I do not see anything wrong with the fans fighting. Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up" – he tweeted (http://bit.ly/1XRKAy1). In an interview given to life.ru, Lebedev further explained the behaviour of Russia fans: "The lads defended the honour of their country and did not let English fans desecrate our motherland. We should forgive and understand our fans" (http://bit.ly/1S5lFy0).

Vladimir Markin, a top official from Russia's Investigative Committee dismissed the accusation that Russia fans were hardened fighters: "They [Europeans] are surprised when they see a real man looking like a man should. They are only used to seeing 'men' at gay parades" (http://bit.ly/1sGcEH3).

Nonetheless, radical comments by Russian football officials are not a new phenomenon. Alexander Shprygin, founder of the Russian Supporters Union and member of the official Russian FA delegation at Euro 2016 recently demanded that he wanted to "see only Slavic faces in the Russian national team" and claimed that there was "something wrong" with a photo of the French team because it contained "very many" black faces. (http://bit.ly/1VWZnFC). Mr Shprygin has now been expelled from France.
Meduza reports that prominent Russian sports commentator Vladimir Stognienko was shouted down live on Rossiya 1 TV after correcting the host of the talk show, who had claimed that British fans had initiated the brawl and staged provocations. Stognienko said it was actually the opposite. The wife of Russian footballer Pavel Pogrebnyak told Stognienko: "Are you even rooting for Russia? This is not how you should be supporting the national team," which drew a round of applause. Stognienko answered that he supported the Russian team "more than anyone else, but if there's a problem, we should talk about this problem."

In an op-ed published in the Russian version of Forbes Magazine, journalist Sergey Medvedev interprets these events and the language that surrounds them in Russian media through the lens of Russia’s behaviour on the international scene. According to the author, “[Russian] fans in Marseille adequately represent [Russia’s] official policies and the mass consciousness in Russia after Crimea”.
The author sees a difference between the language surrounding the Russian and the ill-reputed English football hooligans: “If in England after such scandals fans are unanimously condemned by society and politicians, in today’s Russia, football hooligans appear almost as national heroes.” He concludes that Russian football hooligans are engaged in “the kind of hybrid war which is currently so popular in [Russian] propaganda”, comparing the events in France to “Ukraine [where Russia does not] wage open war, but delegates this to a well-trained group of fighters […] and in Europe, [where Russia] puts its stakes on populism, separatism and on splitting the EU.” (Images: Radio Free Europe, ABC.Com)
As EURO2016 has kicked off, the European Union has started to campaign against corruption in the Republic of Moldova. If you click on the image above, you will meet Moldovan football referee Alexandru Tean who explains that referees must be independent. The European Union thinks that this applies to judges, too, and invites followers to show the red card to corruption. Join the campaign and share the video from the Facebook page of the EU Delegation in Moldova!

Two warnings and you're out


This is not a warning to the Russian football team, but to a regional Russian newspaper. This week, Pskovskaya Guberniya received a formal warning from the media watchdog organisation Roskomnadzor for crossing a red line. According to Meduza, a case was raised against the outlet for mentioning the Ukrainian nationalist grouping Right Sector without adding the phrase "which is forbidden in Russia as an extremist organisation". Adding such an explanatory note is mandatory if a Russian or foreign organisation has been acknowledged in Russia as "extremist". After two such warnings and a court ruling, Russian media can lose their license to publish and broadcast.

In September 2014, the newspaper was the first to report about Russian soldiers from the Pskov-based 76th Guards Air Assault Division of the Russian airborne troops having been killed in action in Donbas. A founder of the newspaper, Lev Shlosberg, is one of the leaders of the Russian opposition party Yabloko and was brutally beaten up after this report. The newspaper has also written critically about the Pskov region's governor.

We see media in provincial Russian cities increasingly demonstrate independence. This tendency was confirmed in the movement against disinformation on national TV, initiated by the local newspaper in far-eastern Siberian Yakutsk, which the Disinformation Digest reported recently. Over the last week, the project's initiator, Valery Bezpyatykh, has reported on his Facebok page about an increasing number of provincial Russian media joining the protest.
Radio Free Europe informed last week about a poll by the respected Russian Levada centre which shows that Russians are only very rarely confronted with an outside narrative. A full 87% of the polled citizens never access foreign media at all.

Great expectations


The narrative that EU sanctions against Russia will be eased and EU-Russia relations will improve continues in the context of Sputnik's coverage of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. Sputnik's coverage is slanted to raise expectations and illustrating a split among EU Member States over the sanctions. 
At the very eve of the Forum, Sputnik outlines "what to expect from the Forum". Ahead of an EU decision on the extension of sanctions against Russia, Sputnik refers to analysts noting that the visit of the Commission President "could be viewed as the first sign of a thaw in relations between the West and Moscow." Additional articles, such as the one entitled Petersburg Forum 'Might Melt the Ice' in EU-Russia Relations, repeat this narrative, highlighting that the Forum is an important signal of a potential reconciliation between Russia and Europe. Calls by the German Foreign Minister for constructive dialogue with Moscow are also noted. The partial lifting of sanctions is referred to as a means to encourage progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

Don't travel to Europe - it's all gays, GMOs and drugs!


Russian travel agency Aviasales.ru has launched a patriotic campaign to persuade Russians to spend their holiday in Russia. Various dangers that threaten Russian tourists on Europe's streets feature: "In Europe, you will be signed into LGBT – but in Sochi, you will meet only straight people," the advert above says. Another one tells Russians they will definitely be mugged by refugees in Europe – whereas in Russia there will be only Russians; or that Europeans will drug them by force with marijuana, whereas in Crimea they can enjoy some proper tobacco. The campaign also warns against the dangers of GMO-modified tomatoes prevalent in Europe and announces that natural potatoes can be eaten "only" in Russia. To see this remarkable advertising, visit http://patriot.aviasales.ru/ and play the well-known game of mines.
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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