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New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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  • Analysis: "Vous êtes malhonnête, Monsieur!"
  • Response: Meeting with Eastern Partnership ministers
  • Analysis: Narrow election results
  • Social media: Ice hockey (I)
  • Analysis: Debate on Nadiya Savchenko's liberation
  • Friday fun: Ice hockey (II)

"Vous êtes malhonnête, Monsieur!"


Dmitry Kiselyov's news show "Vesti Nedeli" on Russian news channel Rossiya 24 caused a stir with its broadcast on 15 May, which sought to portray protests against French labour laws as anti-EU demonstrations, heavily manipulating the quoted statements. In response, the French news show Le Petit Journal tracked down a number of interviewees featured in the report and confronted them with Rossiya-24's story (http://bit.ly/1U8nL1v).

In order to create the narrative that the European Union and French democracy are crumbling under the weight of immigration, Rossiya-24 starts its report about Euroscepticism by showing violent protests against draft labour laws, unrelated to the European Union.

Vesti Nedeli goes on to attribute invented quotes to several interviewees: Ms Savannah Anselme, interviewed during protests against labour laws, allegedly declared that "there is no democracy in France" and "President Hollande betrayed the French and is seeking to shut them up". In Le Petit Journal, Ms Anselme confirms that she did not make such statements and her recording of the conversation with the journalist goes to prove that.
Message to Rossiya-24 reporters from interviewee Ms Raphaelle Tourne whose statements were manipulated: "You have completely betrayed and insulted me, I'm not happy at all!"
Another false claim is that a high school in Paris' 19th arondissement had to be closed because of an invasion of more than 1.000 migrants. Le Petit Journal has checked with the mayor in charge who confirms that the school had been closed since 2011 and was subsequently used to house refugees.

Rossiya-24 also claimed that another interviewee, Ms Raphaelle Tourne is "really afraid of migrants". Having seen the report, Ms Tourne reacted by saying: "It’s not even a false translation – their text is invented."

Vesti Nedeli goes on to show that a pensioner who says was replaced by three migrants from Algeria and Turkey when she retired - a claim that the pensioner vividly denies in the conversation with Le Petit Journal.

To close the narrative on Europe's migration issues, Vesti Nedeli's item interviews former French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, who suggests closer cooperation with Russia as a solution. His words were taken out of context, Le Maire tells Le Petit Journal, and turned into "something quite different from what I wanted to say".
Message to the journalists from Rossiya-24 from the pensioner whose words were twisted: "Vous êtes malhonnête, Monsieur!" - "You are dishonest, Sir!"
Le Petit Journal's video gained quite some traction on social media, with more than 1.7 million views on YouTube so far. It's no surprise therefore that Rossiya posted a response, though readers can judge for themselves how convincing it is (http://bit.ly/27Sa158): Rossiya exposes Le Petit Journal's "terrible lies" (sic). The most prominently exposed "lie" was that the French journalists have called one of the interviewees, Elena Timoshnika, "university graduate" instead of an "economist", in light of the fact that she had already started to work in her profession. Rossiya's editors forgot to address Le Petit Journal's main point, namely that Ms. Timoshnika did not in fact discuss Euroscepticism, as claimed in Vesti Nedeli's report, but rather the proposed labour laws. Vesti Nedeli also chose not to respond to the manipulations revealed, in particular the invented quotes attributed to interviewees.
Monday 23 May saw the annual meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Eastern Partnership with their counterparts from the European Union in Brussels. The East StratCom Task Force highlighted the EU's commitment to the region's security, stability and prosperity in a video that was posted on the Facebook pages of the EU's delegations in the region.

Narrow election results


Kommersant's radio features an analysis of this week's Austrian presidential elections where foreign news editor Maksim Yusin notes that "Moscow believes that the results of the elections were rigged". He finds the comments of pro-Kremlin media on the election outcome a sign of disturbing trends towards conspiracy theories, "the disbelief that democratic processes can be just" and that "an election can proceed without falsification". An unnamed political analyst close to the Kremlin is quoted: "I think the election was rigged through the postal vote."

The report goes on to explain that voters were split along the lines of an urban/rural divide and that postal voting is more prevalent among urban residents. The author dismisses the speculations about vote-rigging as "nonsense" since the losing candidate Norbert Hofer accepted his defeat and didn't doubt the election results. "How naive these Austrian nationalists are," he concludes, "they rarely come to Moscow and it's a shame. There they could find out what is happening in their country and how voting ballots are really counted."
Ice hockey (I): This week, Russia took third place in the hockey world championship, but not only the team had bronze medals hung around their neck. Two oligarchs, Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko, were allowed to join the players on the ice at the ceremony and received medals. Although the two formally rank high as officials in the Russian hockey federation, the fact was widely ridiculed and criticized on Russian social media. Opposition leader and corruption hunter Alexey Navalny wrote in his blog: "I look at these pictures and realise that what we see is a new stage of privatization: Putin's oligarchs have privatized not just the country as such (this happened a long time ago), but also its most important symbols and cultural codes."

Russia debates Savchenko's liberation


This week's exchange of the Ukrainian prisoner Nadezhda Savchenko with two Russian military persons led to debates among opinion formers in Russia: In a column in Kommersant, the newspaper's foreign news editor Maxim Yusin saw "considerably more pluses than minuses" for the Russian side. Although the Savchenko case "lasted unacceptably long," and "severely damaged Moscow's reputation in the international arena", the paper stressed that "Ukrainian society and the West have lost one of the major irritants, one of the most important reasons for criticizing Russia". Kommersant predicts that the Ukrainian government will find it difficult to "find a place in the country's political system for such a popular, but at the same time so radical player".

Russian opposition blogger Oleg Kashin, on the contrary, sees the main problems at Russia's end. In an analysis, he underlines how the voices in Russia that have stressed Savchenko's allegedly terrible crimes will have to remain awkwardly silent after the presidential pardon for her. Kashin underscores the problematic attention the exchange has given both to the Russian military presence in Ukraine and the secrecy around it which makes it impossible for the Kremlin to treat the returning soldiers as heroes. Kashin ends his analysis on a pessimistic note: "The exchange is not […] about recognizing mistakes and crimes […]. It is simply the exchange of one media person for other two media persons, and, importantly, the Russian captives were turned into media by the Ukrainian side; if it hadn't been for that, the Russians would simply not have known anything about the Russian prisoners".
Ice hockey (II): Following President Putin's recent participation (and victory) in an ice hockey match against an amateur team, the Facebook group "I am Eastern European" posted a video entitled "Reactions to Putin's goal", watched more than 110.000 times: To the sound of hard rock music, the clip shows not only Mr Putin celebrating his success with his team, but reactions from Western political leaders: a disappointed Angela Merkel, a fainting General in the Pentagon and an angry Barack Obama kicking in a door. A subtle message.

The Facebook group has 225.000 followers and entertains its audience with a mix of action clips, half-clad ladies and funny episodes from the region, in Russian and English. The Digest's research about the origins of this page was of no success, given that the URL linked to the account www.IamEE.eu leads to a technical test page. This is surprising given the research and resources required for the daily posting of funny content. The page shows a mix of entertainment and political messaging that is characteristic of entertainment shows on pro-Kremlin TV channels.
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 © 27/05/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

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