Russian Journalists Fight Back Against Disinformation

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 17:42

By EU vs Disinfo

Factory of Lies is the name of a new television documentary introducing a number of journalists who have uncovered the hidden processes of the disinformation campaigns coming from Russia.

Some of these journalists are themselves Russians who have not been afraid of doing this kind of investigative work in the difficult conditions of their country’s highly controlled media environment.

Click to watch the Factory of Lies trailer where we meet Andrey Soshnikov and Roman Dobrokhotov – two Russian journalists who specialise in investigating disinformation and trolling. 

Andrey Soshnikov

In Factory of Lies, we follow Andrey Soshnikov – a Russian journalist working in Russia for BBC’s Russian service – in his investigation of a fake video, which was spread by the famous St. Petersburg troll factory and purported to show an American soldier shooting at a copy of the Quran with his automatic rifle.

Soshnikov also tells the story about how he worked for almost a year to identify the exact location of a building that was used for recording another famous fake video, which claimed to show ISIS members fighting on the Ukrainian side in Donbas.

“My name is Andrey Soshnikov. I am an investigative journalist. I am 27 years old and I am keen on debunking fake news that is being spread through the media”.“I don’t want journalism to be a lie, to be fake. If you produce fake stories, nobody trusts journalists anymore”.

“When you have only one owner of most of the media, which is the state, they have a specific agenda they promote. That is why it is very important not only for the audiences, but for the whole community of journalists to debunk the lies of their ‘colleagues’”.

Andrey Soshnikov in Factory of Lies.

Roman Dobrokhotov

The chief editor of the Russian online magazine The Insider, Roman Dobrokhotov, is also portrayed in Factory of Lies. We hear how The Insider made a Russian national living in Germany admit in a telephone conversation that she had received money from two leading Russian state media, Zvezda and Pervy Kanal, for appearing as an actor in staged productions with disinformation stories about violence and chaos in Germany due to the arrival of immigrants.

Dobrokhotov also describes his team’s work with using voice recognition and open sources to reveal the identity of a Russian Colonel General who, according to The Insider’s and Bellingcat’s joint investigation, was in command of the BUK missile launcher which downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 innocent passengers.

“My name is Roman Dobrokhotov. I am editor-in-chief the Insider, an online magazine that is dedicated to journalistic investigations. One of our focuses is the “anti-fake” project; these are investigations of Russian governmental propaganda and how this state propaganda makes fake news and fake stories”.

“Russian TV is actually like ‘Russian Hollywood’. It is all fake from the very start to the very end. It is very difficult to find real facts on Russian TV because Russian TV is not about facts; it’s about a picture they want to implant in the minds of the Russian population”.

“It’s very important to show the situation in the European Union as very bad, that Europe is in crisis. It’s important to persuade Russian voters that Russia is not an exception, that every country has their own problems, and maybe Europe is a little bit richer, but actually there are some problems that are more tough than in Russia itself”

Roman Dobrokhotov in Factory of Lies.

An international co-production

Factory of Lies premiered on 5 June and is a co-production between Danish and Swedish public service television (DR and STV), Israel’s Channel 8 and the Danish Film Institute.

Producer and director Jakob Gottschau was also behind Facebookistan – a documentary from 2015 which took a critical look at Facebook as a form of a state with its own citizens and set of laws.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

The strategy and tactics of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 17:32

By EU vs Disinfo

Introduction

East Stratcom was established in 2015 to “address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns”, through (i) more effective communication and promotion of policies towards the Eastern Neighbourhood, (ii) a strengthened media environment in the region, and (iii) an improved capacity to forecast, address and respond to disinformation. Since then the EU itself has faced many of the same communications challenges as its Eastern Neighbourhood: Member States can also be surprised and caught off guard by the disinformation methods used, and increasingly contact East Stratcom for advice and best practice.

This article seeks to set out a detailed assessment of the nature of the challenge It is based on two and half years of daily observation of various parts of Russia’s disinformation and on the recommendations of a wide range of experts in this field.

The nature of the challenge

The pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign has one underlying strategy. Despite the diversity of messages, channels, tools, levels, ambitions and tactical aims, and notwithstanding its rapidly adapting nature, the strategic objective is one and the same – to weaken the West and strengthen the Kremlin in a classic zero-sum game approach. While it is important to be aware of this overarching strategic objective, we also need to understand how this objective is translated at the tactical level.

Disinformation has different messages for different audiences. There are different messages for Russians and for non-Russians; and for non-Russians in different parts of the world. The disinformation message that the EU turns people into homosexuals or paedophiles would be considered ridiculous in Western Europe, but can persuade some audiences in the Eastern Partnership countries. On the other hand, these audiences would probably find implausible the message that Ukraine is led by politicians with fascist beliefs – something which, on the contrary, could succeed with some audiences in some Western European countries. There will be different messages not only for different regions, but also for different socioeconomic groups, based on their age, education, income, status and occupation. The messaging that is used to influence a diplomat would not succeed with a student or a pensioner, and vice versa. And the disinformation that is used to have a short-term effect on  people involved in our decision-making processes will be different from the messaging that tries to influence more general public opinion over the longer term.

The disinformation campaign uses different channels for different audiences. In Central and Eastern Europe, disinformation is mostly spread through dozens of dedicated outlets in local languages. But this tool proved to be ineffective in Nordic countries; where Sputnik had to shut down; the campaign there shifted towards social media, discussion forums in established outlets, cyber-attacks and online personal intimidation. Targeting the Russian-speaking minority might be the most effective tool in countries where there are many Russian speakers. Where social media is key for some audiences, especially in Western Europe, it is less relevant in Eastern Europe, where eg Twitter is not widespread. In Central Europe the older generation is often targeted by chain emails forwarded to thousands of addresses; but this technique is not really effective among the younger generation.

The disinformation campaign has an unknown number of channels and speakers, some of which are operating in a non-public environment, like closed events, direct messaging platforms and through people-to-people contacts. The scale encompasses the highest public authorities, diplomatic networks and security services; NGOs, GONGOs; official, “white” Russian media, unofficial, “grey” pro-Kremlin outlets and disinformation-oriented projects financed by pro-Kremlin oligarchs; local extremists and conspiracy theorists; social media trolls and bots; and individuals who simply get persuaded or attracted into the disinformation ecosystem. It adds up, every day, to a plethora of channels spreading a plethora of multilingual disinformation messages, and seeking to win new hearts and minds to continue the job. The sheer volume of disinformation and the constant repetition is key to the campaign’s success in creating a plethora of seemingly independent sources repeating the same message.

The campaign has different tactical aims and objectives for different audiences. It can present conspiracy theories to the audience that is ready to consume such conspiracies. It will play on pro-Russian and anti-Western feelings in one society, and exploit local national minority issues or anti-German/pan-Slavic emotions in another. It will fuel hysteria and polarisation through aggressively anti-refugee messaging or pro-refugee messaging (ditto anti-LGBT and pro-LGBT, or other divisive questions), to persuade both sides that those on the other side are an existential threat. It will try to find those issues in our societies that garner most emotions around them, and it will try to fuel and amplify these emotions as far as possible – because an audience shaken by strong emotions will behave more irrationally and will be easier to manipulate. Fear is by far the most abused emotion, as it is fear that manages to polarize societies the most. On an individual level, the actors of the disinformation campaign will try to intimidate individuals more prone to personal attacks. It also seeks to confuse mainstream media who try to balance between conflicting versions of events, turning this virtue of our media against us. It will overload those who try to find more sources of information, and denigrate those who call out these tricks.

The disinformation campaign has different perspectives. It can try to exploit existing divisions, or create new, artificial ones: on the more strategic level, like between the EU and NATO or the EU and the US; or at a national level, like between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, or two countries with historical issues. It will try to exploit, amplify or invent divisions within one society, between various socioeconomic groups, between various political parties, within one government or within one region. Again, any tool that weakens the West (be it on an international or an intra-national level) works.

Disinformation messages will often be built around an “element of truth” that will make them more believable and more difficult to call out. A typical current example is to take the real problems Europe faces with refugees, but then add false and/or twisted facts about their alleged crimes.

The disinformation campaign has different levels of ambition. The objective in 2014 was to help Russia achieve its military goals in Crimea. European elections and referenda were targeted in 2016 and 2017 in order to weaken consensus within Europe on the policy towards Russia. But it is not only about targeting elections or referenda. Operations with a lower level of ambition are also being conducted. These disinformation operations aim to undermine liberal democracy, and to sow and amplify mistrust in credible sources of information (be it governments or mainstream media), in the geopolitical direction of a country and in the work of intergovernmental organisations. They will also try to exploit and amplify divisions between different socioeconomic groups based on their nation, race, income, age, education and occupation. This type of disinformation campaign is often under the threshold of attention and is often overlooked as marginal. But it can achieve significant results over the long term. And these operations can facilitate more visible, short-term operations with a higher level of ambition that target particular electoral processes.

Given the amount of different messages, channels, tools, methods, targets and aims – and the significantly higher levels of experience in conducting a disinformation campaign and working with European audiences – it is safe to say that when it comes to audience reactions, the disinformers have a highly developed knowledge about our audiences. Most progress in the disinformation campaign seems to be based on trial and error, as evidenced by the example of Sputnik in Scandinavia and by shifts from one target group to another, eg in the political spectrum of a given country.

When it comes to our knowledge and that of the organisers of the disinformation campaign, the gap is wide and growing. The current disinformation campaign has been intensively exported out of Russia’s information space at least since the beginning of 2014, and many circumstances point to the fact that there was a long preparatory period before that. The organisers have managed to find out which messages and tools work for which particular audience, to plant the key narratives, to build familiarity with their messages (and this familiarity then leads to easier acceptance of the message), to identify local amplifiers and multipliers (both co-opted and inadvertent), and to plant and propagate some narratives so that their origin is already significantly obscured. Even an unsuccessful operation gives new knowledge, which is why even an operation that was on the face of it unsuccessful might still be valuable in the long term.

The disinformation campaign is not linear or easily predictable. Strategic narratives are implemented from the top, and some of the messages are top-down controlled (which is why there are regular weekly meetings of the Kremlin hierarchy with the most important Russian journalists from state-controlled media to issue instructions). But there are elements of a bottom-up approach too, with lower levels offering messages and communication projects to the top, anticipating what messaging and projects could find favour. To an untrained eye, this ecosystem might appear rather chaotic. But we should not expect easily measurable, causal relations where action A always necessarily results in situation B –academics studying the theory of media do not have them, and neither do advertising agents.

Thus, rather than an exact science where we can abstract variables and watch them interact in clean, isolated conditions, this can be described as a live ecosystem with an unknown amount of organisms and uncertain surrounding conditions, where no matter how much you know about this ecosystem, certain conditions and reactions will be unpredictable – where you can try to influence things, but cannot fully control them. This ecosystem is constantly evolving: fake quotes, letters and images will be soon joined by fake videos: a whole new level of sophistication making it increasingly hard, if not impossible, to identify real and mimicked human behaviour and posing new risks to mainstream media and public audiences.

It is not one message, media outlet, social media troll, conference or extremist that makes the difference. It is the sum that matters, the echoing that creates an environment of seemingly independent sources repeating the same message, which can lead an untrained observer to accept a story backed by so many “different” sources. It is the volume, the repetition leading to familiarity and the long-term effect of the disinformation campaign that form the core and basis of its success. Experienced experts compare this to a drop of water falling on a stone – it does not make the hole in the stone because of its force, but because of its persistence. Besides, the disinformation campaign is often accompanied by other, more “kinetic” measures with the same underlying strategy – cyber-attacks, hacking, disrupting communication channels or media outlets, plus economic, diplomatic, political and military measures. These additional measures can strengthen its effect significantly further.

The disinformation campaign should be taken with the highest level of seriousness. It is part of Russian military doctrine and accepted by the top hierarchy of the most important Russian state-owned media. This is what differentiates it from other, less aggressive and not explicitly EU-targeted foreign influence operations. Journalists who actively participate in it receive presidential and military awards. The state demands, finances and rewards disinformation activity, as a cost-effective method of achieving its objectives. From public statements and budgetary planning decisions, it is clear that this is a strategy for the long term – meaning the gap in knowledge can grow ever wider. Among certain audiences, it has already achieved significant results that will not be quickly fixed, and it aims at broadening these affected audiences. The campaign is directly aimed at harming liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights, and at silencing those institutions, intergovernmental organisations, politicians and individuals who defend them.

In counter-acting the disinformation campaign, we need to prepare for the long run, and for a lot of repetition. Weeding out disinformation that was planted and cultivated for years will take time. There are people who accept facts at the moment they are shown them; but there are others who will need more time to correct their initially false belief. In any case, the defence of facts will require a lot of work.

Find a PDF-version of the text here.

This commentary was originally written for the Diplomaatia magazine: https://icds.ee/beware-of-russian-fake-news/

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

StopFake #190 [ENG] with Marko Suprun

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 16:01

Fake: Ukrainian rock star calls for destruction of current rule in Ukraine; Economi disaster awaiting Ukraine. Video manipulation makes sure you truly can’t believe your eyes. Fake country, fake football league.

Categories: World News

Russian Ambassador’s claim to Albania: no “aggressive plans” – belied by actions

StopFake.org - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 08:12

Montenegro – Cossacks and bikers in leather jackets in front of the church of St. Nicholas in Kotor from Russia, pro-Russian part of Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro, where they devoutly listened to the liturgy of Kotor Serbian Orthodox Church

By Polygraph

Alexander Karpushin

Russian Ambassador to Albania

“[T]he main objectives of Russia here are the building of economic cooperation with mutual benefits and the maintenance of sustainable cultural and humanitarian ties with the Balkan peoples. All this certainly applies to Albania. Any other speculation about Russia’s ‘aggressive plans’ or ‘expansionist appetites’ is nothing more than part of a major Western strategy to portray Russia as an imaginary enemy of NATO and the EU.”

Source: Ora News.tv,June 19, 2018

MOSTLY FALSE

Russia’s actions contradict Ambassador’s words

Ambassador Karpushin’s statement is false, mixed with half-truths. Russian politicians and state-owned media effectively debunk his claims.

  • “[M]aintenance of sustainable cultural and humanitarian ties with the Balkan peoples. All this certainly applies to Albania.”

Analyses of official rhetoric and the Russian media’s narrative reveal there have been no notable signs that Russia has tried to improve relations with Albania.

By way of example, Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency reported in January 2017 that the first train to travel from Serbia to Kosovo in 17 years was made in Russia and had “Kosovo is Serbia” written on it in 21 languages, including Albanian.

Russia owns segments of Albania’s online information space, and a dozen multilingual websites, including Albania-news.ru, promote the Russian political and cultural agenda. Some of these identify themselves as local sources, hiding any connection with Russia.

One such website, Senica.ru portrays itself as the “information portal of the Russian diaspora in Serbia.” It reported on January 15, 2017, that Albania had not allowed the passage of the above-mentioned train, because the “Albanian special services under orders from Pristina attempted to lay a bomb under the railway.” The report was fake, but the language was not atypical.

Russian media and political figures’ portrayal of Albania and Albanians as “radicals,” and the term “Islamist militants” features frequently in the Kremlin’s narrative.

Screen grab of the RIA-Novosti webpage with search results for “Albanian militants”

“Direct military support and encouragement from the United States, NATO and European Union for the extremely aggressive plans of the Albanians only increases tensions in the Balkans and is fraught with unleashing a new conflict,” Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the foreign relations committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, was quoted as saying last month.

Zheleznyak’s comments were published in a diatribe posted on the website of United Russia, the country’s ruling party, under the headline: “Zheleznyak: Indulging the plans of ‘Greater Albania’, the United States is kindling a new conflict in the Balkans.”

The “Greater Albania” narrative is also a key part of the Russian news cycle and political rhetoric.

Typical Russian propaganda leaflet profiling “Greater Albania”

Russia is revisiting its history of involvement in the Balkan conflicts with distinct pride.

On June 26, Russia’s leading movie production company announced a new film telling the story of how Russian special forces seized Slatina airport in Kosovo in 1999.

One of Russia’s top movie stars will play General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, now the governor of the Republic of Ingushetia, who led the 200 Russian troops sent to seize the airport in Pristina and thereby help the Kremlin ensure that Russia had a role in the peace-keeping process.

The Russian move was condemned internationally but is seen in Russia as a triumph in a power play with the West.

  • “[S]peculation about Russia’s “aggressive plans” or “expansionist appetites”

Ambassador Karpushin’s claim that Russia has no aggressive plans towards other sovereign nations, including Balkan states, is belied by Russian actions.

Russia has annexed Crimea in 2014 and created an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“Ukraine is the largest displacement crisis in Europe since the Balkan wars. Now in its fifth year, with thousands dead and 1.5 million displaced, it is scandalous that this conflict remains largely forgotten,” said Argentina Szabados, regional director of the International Organization for Migration, on June 11.

Russia reportedly was behind a failed coup attempt in Montenegro in late in 2016. Montenegro’s special prosecutor said Russian secret service operatives were behind an attempted Election Day coup in the Balkan nation in October 2016 that targeted the former prime minister.

A team of Russian operatives, including ideologists, financial sponsors, policy and lawmakers, trainers, who were involved in the annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine, have been actively present in Macedonia, igniting social and political divisions and propagating anti-EU, anti-NATO sentiment.

  • “…nothing more than part of a major Western strategy to portray Russia as an imaginary enemy of NATO”

The claim that Russia does not see the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an enemy, and that this is nothing more than a Western anti-Russian propaganda, is false.

The Russian media regularly portray NATO as evil, and frequently present NATO troops as the “bad guys.”

When it comes to NATO, the Russian media and the nation’s leader have no disagreement.

“I will literally create the image with my fingers: here is a ring, and our country is inside that ring. I personally feel suffocated by somebody. I feel like that somebody is NATO, because the NATO bloc is growing like a cancerous tumor.” That comment was addressed to President Vladimir Putin by Dmitry Kiselev, director of the state-owned media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya, during a 2014 press conference.

Putin responded: “We are not afraid of NATO, but what you have so colorfully described – is the reality.” He then added: “Our decision on Crimea [its annexation from Ukraine] was also motivated by the thought that if we don’t do something… they will drag Ukraine into NATO.”

Putin reaffirmed his perception that NATO is a threat to Russia’s national interests in his speech at the St. Petersburg Economic Summit last month.

Last week, internationally-renowned Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov drew a parallel between NATO and Nazi Germany on his TV talk show.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Americans may appreciate knowing when a news story is suspect, but more than a third will share that story anyway

StopFake.org - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 06:19

Illustration from l.M. Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review

Plus: Facebook fights fake news in Mexico ahead of the election, and a large majority of Republicans believe that social media platforms are censoring some political views.

By  Laura Hazard Owen, for NiemanLab

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

Do “news source ratings” work? Depends on what you mean by “work.”Research from the Knight Foundation and Gallup out this week suggests that, yes, “the use of an online tool to indicate news organization reliability increases healthy skepticism when individuals consume news online.” The tool in question is NewsGuard, the initiative launched in March by Steve Brill, and Gallup tested 2,010 adults with it in April. Here’s an example of the kinds of things three groups were shown:

Three key findings:

1. The news source rating tool worked as intended. Perceived accuracy increased for news headlines with a green source cue and decreased for headlines with a red source cue. Participants also indicated they were less likely to read, like or share news headlines with a red source cue. The source rating tool was particularly effective for participants who correctly recalled that experienced journalists devised the ratings, compared with those who did not recall that information.

2. The source rating tool was effective across the political spectrum. The perceived accuracy of news articles with a red source cue decreased similarly among Republicans and Democrats, with the sharpest decline occurring when the headlines had a clear political orientation that matched the users’ political beliefs.

3. The source rating tool did not produce known, unintended consequences associated with previous efforts to combat online misinformation. Our experiment did not produce evidence of an “implied truth effect,” an increase in perceived accuracy for false stories without a source rating when other false stories have a source rating, or a “backfire effect,” a strengthening of one’s false beliefs following a factual correction.

A “red source cue,” however, was not reason enough for survey respondents not to share the article:

Slightly less than half of the participants (44 percent) in the control group said they would share at least one of the false stories. This proportion is significantly higher than in previous survey results, which showed that 23 percent of U.S. adults said that they have shared a made-up news story (either knowingly or not). Our results may suggest that the behavior of sharing misinformation is more widespread than previously reported….

The proportion of respondents who indicated they would share misinformation dropped by 10 percentage points when comparing the control group with those who received a red source cue — but a substantial minority (34 percent) still said they would share at least one false story with a red source cue.

Here are the reasons they gave for sharing the false stories:

I find the “wanted to ask the person’s opinion about the story” sort of troublesome since it seems to suggest that these people are still really only thinking of the “red source cue” as, well, another opinion — like truth is on a spectrum here, and the outside rating is one viewpoint, but whatever person you share it with on Facebook might have a different, equally valid viewpoint. Which would seem to go against the usefulness of a system like this entirely…

“Each new election is a test.” The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin took a peek at Facebook’s fact-checking efforts ahead of the Mexican election. (Another big problem in Mexico around the election: Fake news on WhatsApp.) In this case, the most problematic posts are not coming from outside the country but from within it. “The hardest part is where to draw the line between a legitimate political campaign and domestic information operations,” Facebook security executive Guy Rosen said. “It’s a balance we need to figure out how to strike.”

In a talk for security experts in May, Facebook security chief Alex Stamos called such domestic disinformation operations the “biggest growth category” for election-related threats that the company is confronting. These groups, he said, are copying Russian operatives’ tactics to “manipulate their own political sphere, often for the benefit of the ruling party.”

This area is also the trickiest: While most democracies bar foreign governments from meddling in elections, Facebook sees internal operators as much harder to crack down on because of the free-speech issues involved.

Also:

Unlike in the United States, where Facebook’s AI systems automatically route most stories to fact-checking organizations, Facebook relies on ordinary people in Mexico to spot questionable posts. Many people flag stories as false simply because they disagree with them, executives said.

A large majority of Republicans believe that social media platforms are censoring some political views. Pew research out Thursday finds that:

[fully] 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think it likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints, with 54 percent saying this is very likely. And a majority of Republicans (64 percent) think major technology companies as a whole support the views of liberals over conservatives.

(Pew notes: “In interpreting these findings, it is important to note that the public does not find it inherently objectionable for online platforms to regulate certain types of speech.”)

Facebook and Twitter have held dinners and meetings with conservative leaders who criticize the platforms for being biased, The Washington Post’s Tony Romm reported this week. At Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s June 19 dinner with conservative politicians and leaders, for instance,

the Twitter executive heard an earful from conservatives gathered at the table, who scoffed at the fact that Dorsey runs a platform that’s supposed to be neutral even though he’s tweeted about issues like immigration, gay rights and national politics. They also told Dorsey that the tech industry’s efforts to improve diversity — after years of criticism for maintaining a largely white, male workforce — should focus on hiring engineers with more diverse political viewpoints as well, according to those who dined with him in D.C.

Also:

Some of the conservative media commentators and political pundits specifically urged Dorsey during their meetings to take a closer look at Moments, a feature that tracks trending national stories and issues. At both the New York and D.C. dinners, conservative participants said they felt that Twitter Moments often paints right-leaning people and issues in a negative light, or excludes them entirely, according to four individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Dorsey said he would look into the issue, the people said, but did not announce specific changes.

What I find fascinating about the several meet-ups social media has had w/ conservatives, is the feeling that there’s an inherent need for these platforms to be unbiased and run by unbiased folks … as though they’re a public utility https://t.co/vuDbiGJJWT

— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) June 27, 2018


By  Laura Hazard Owen, for NiemanLab

Categories: World News

Russian Defense Ministry’s Latest #MH17 Denial — ‘a Lie, Pure and Simple’

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/30/2018 - 19:09

Netherlands — The names of the victims are seen on a national monument to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine in 2014, in Vijfhuizen, July 17, 2017

By Polygraph

Russian Defense Ministry

“Not a single anti-aircraft missile system of the armed forces has ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

Source: TASS, June 27, 2018

FALSE

Russian ownership of the missile that shot down MH17 is proven

The European Council said on June 26 that it will “adopt conclusions on the downing of flight MH17“ and call on the Russia “to accept responsibility and fully cooperate with all efforts to establish the truth, justice and accountability” during a meeting being held June 28-29 in Brussels.

Last month, the Joint Investigative Team concluded that MH17 was shot down by a BUK-M1 missile launcher belonging to the Russian Armed Forces, specifically the 53rd Air Defense Brigade, based in Kursk, echoing findings published in 2016 by the Bellingcat investigative group.

The Netherlands and Australia told Moscow they will hold Russia legally responsible for the downing of MH17.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington supported the decisions by the Netherlands and Australia “to hold Russia to account.”

“It is time for Russia to acknowledge its role in the shooting down of MH17 and to cease its callous disinformation campaign,” she said.

In 2015, Russia vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for downing MH17.

Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of MH17, producing over time more than 60 counter-theories, all of them debunked.

“The ministry’s latest statement is simply false,” Atlantic Council disinformation expert Ben Nimmo told Polygraph.info. “[It] is a lie, pure and simple, and it shows how systematic the complicity in this disaster now is,” he said.

Apart from this particular deployment, which Russia denies, there have been other instances of Russian air defense missile systems crossing into Ukraine.

Over the last two years, Moscow deployed two divisions of its new S-400 air defense missile systems to annexed Crimea — once in spring 2017, near the Black Sea port of Feodosia; then again in January 2018, near the city of Sevastopol.

Both of these deployments are, according to international law, instances of exactly what the Russian defense ministry claims it has never done – crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Russia falsely denies hunger striker, Oleh Sentsov, a prison visit by Ukraine

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/30/2018 - 18:59

UKRAINE – A banner for support of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov on the facade of the Potocky Palace, Lviv, June 8, 2018

By Polygraph

Tatiana Moskalkova

Russian Commissioner for Human Rights

“I received an official response from the leadership of the FSIN (Russia’s correctional service) that since she (Denisova) is a citizen of another state, and he (Sentsov) is a citizen of Russia, she cannot yet be allowed in.”

Source: Interfax

FALSE

Oleh Sentsov is a citizen of Ukraine, and entitled to visits from his government

On June 28, the Voice of America’s Russian service reported that Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudswoman Ludmila Denisova was not allowed to see Ukrainian prisoner and filmmaker Oleh Sentsov at the prison in Russia where he is being held. Sentsov has been on a hunger strike for 46 days and, according to his lawyer, has been experiencing heart and kidney problems, with prison doctors warning that a health crisis was “imminent.”

Oleh Sentsov

Also on June 28, Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatiana Moskalkova visited the prison and claimed Sentsov was healthy, claiming he had even gained weight. As to why Denisova was not allowed to see Sentsov, Moskalkova told Interfax that the FSIN (Russian correctional service) authorities could not allow her access because she is a foreign citizen, while Sentsov is a citizen of Russia.

Sentsov was born in Crimea, which was invaded by Russian soldiers in 2014 and annexed by Russia following a vote the United Nations called invalid.

Sentsov remains a citizen of Ukraine. Russian authorities are well aware of this and have repeatedly admitted this. For example, the indictment document for Sentsov from 2015 lists him as a citizen of Ukraine, with information from his Ukrainian passport and no references to a Russian passport.

More importantly, the administration of the prison where Sentsov is currently held identified him as a Ukrainian citizen in an official notice sent to Ukraine’s consulate in Russia. A photograph of that notice can be found below:

A notification sent by prison authorities to Ukraine’s consulate in Russia. The highlighted text clearly identifies Oleh Sentsov as a citizen of Ukraine

A Ukrainian government official confirmed for Polygraph.info that that the Ukrainian consulates received notice from Russian prison authorities stating that they were holding a citizen of Ukraine at their facility.

Oleh Sentsov, along with several other Ukrainian citizens, was tried and convicted of terrorism in Russia after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. The evidence in the case was extremely weak, leading most observers to label the conviction politically motivated. He has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

#PackOfLies: Lies about Ukraine in Putin’s speech

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/30/2018 - 17:30

During the annual live broadcast “Direct Line“ which airs on all the biggest Russian TV channels, Russian president Vladimir Putin was asked what advice he would give to his grandchildren. Not to lie, he said. He did not, however, apply this to himself. Here we present the parts of his speech concerning the lies and disinformation about Ukraine.

  • Sanctions. Putin criticized the Western sanctions on Russia which are allegedly enforced in order to bring Moscow down but are not able to do so. As it could have been expected, the president of Russia kept the actual reasons behind the sanctions regime to himself. Accordingly, they were not asked about, as it is appropriate for a carefully constructed spectacle. Putin explained that the sanctions are only intended to force the Russian economic growth, regarded by the West as unacceptable, to come to a standstill. He emphasised that there are more and more people in the West who understand the harm of the sanctions to both sides and want to normalise the bilateral relations. In this case Putin’s strategy is simple: to accuse the West of irrationality and hysterics while deliberately disguising the actual reasons behind the conflict. Western leaders are depicted as acting irrationally, as if, fearing Russia, they aim to control it. The brutal war in Ukraine, the occupation of a part of Ukraine’s territory and the annexation of Crimea remain unmentioned.
  • Donbas. Another strategy is to create and amplify conspiracy theories. These work well when trying to show that everyone around is to blame, whereas Kremlin is the only side concerned about justice, peace, and law. During the live broadcast (in an interview) the commander of Donetsk People’s Republic’s armed forces Zahar Prilepin began spreading manifest disinformation. In his telling, during the World Football Championship Ukraine will initiate military actions against separatists in Russia. Putin did not miss a chance to warn that in that case Ukraine’s very statehood would be at stake and expressed Kremlin’s support for these criminal pseudorepublics which undermine the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Putin also spread lies about Ukraine bombing civilians. Statements like these were exposed time and again by organizations such as “StopFake”. By creating a conspiracy theory about Kyiv’s aggressive ambitions Putin seeks to reverse the image of the war in Ukraine by implying that it is Kyiv to blame for everything and not Moscow which committed acts of aggression and occupied the territory of a sovereign country.
  • Crimea. During the live broadcast V. Putin paid a lot of attention to the building of the Kerch bridge to the peninsula. He mentioned the growing numbers of tourists (which were exposed more than once) because of the bridge that was built in Crimea. He claims that the complaints about the increased prices will stop when trucks start running down the bridge to Crimea and the prices seemingly decrease. Here the president of Russia is trying to justify the annexation of Crimea with an argument of an economic nature: as long as the situation in the peninsula is improving, Russia is morally and politically right. International law and its violations are to be forgotten, following the most obvious, poorly disguised “whataboutism”. Here it is useful to remember that no amount of economic investments can turn illegal action into legal. Moreover, it is important to stress that the real economic situation in Crimea is not as pleasing. As the charity fund Maidan of Foreign Affairs reports, the number of tourists has decreased three times in the last four years. And according to the Crimean Agency of Statistics, the inflation after 2014 annexation has reached 75%. Also, the NPR correspondent in Moscow Lucian Kim stresses that the majority of Crimean locals complain about the employment deficit and significant increase of prices. Because of this, even the bribes have doubled.
  • Babchenko. Of course, the case of Arkady Babchenko was also referred to during the Putin show. The president of Russia called this operation provocative and explained that the safety of all journalists and their work conditions have to be taken care of in order to allow the citizens the access to the free information. Having in mind that, according to the investigators, the order to murder A. Babchenko came from Moscow, and knowing what happened to such Russian journalists as Anna Politovskaya, Natalya Estemirova, Anastasia Baburova, it is hard to take these Putin’s words seriously. (On this issue, read more here)
  • Brotherhood. During the broadcast Putin claimed that Russia and Ukraine are brotherly countries, that is, the Russian and Ukrainian nations are one and the same. Statements like these are placed in a dangerous light having in mind that in this case Moscow takes up the role of an older brother who can take care and educate his younger brother in any way it deems necessary (brutally as well). Statements about brotherhood actually disguise the imperialism, revisionism, and colonial aspirations. On the other hand, statements like these are useful for Putin because they make the reality more “poetic” and help forget the actual problems, generalizing everything with abstract insights and empty words. Finally, we can remember yet another disinformation trope which is frequently used: apparently, Ukrainians are a fascist and nationalistic nation. But then, if Russians and Ukrainians are one nation, are Russians fascists and Nazis too?

The text is part of a project which is aimed at strengthening democracy and civil society as well as fostering closer ties with the EU Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) by spreading independent information with the help of contemporary solutions. The project is implemented by Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, and is financed as part of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs‘ Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme.

Categories: World News

Make Russia look successful – at any cost

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/30/2018 - 13:58

By EU vs Disinfo

The Americans finally acknowledged that Russian fighter jets are superior to American fighter jets!

And why complain about the Russian government hiking the pension age? People in China don’t even get a pension!

Both these messages recently appeared in Russian media. And thanks to the journalists from the independent Russian outlet The Insider, which specialises in scrutinising disinformation, both claims were quickly challenged.

Su-57 vs. F-35

The first statement – that the Russian Su-57 fighter jet is superior to the American F-35, and that this is now acknowledged in the US – was the centre of a news story published by a number of leading Russian media, including REN TV and Lenta.ru.

However, as The Insider’s investigation shows, while this sort of claim about the Su-57 fighter was actually made in one American journal, the journal in question, Military Watch, is hardly ever quoted anywhere but in Russia.

The Insider was unable to find substantial background information about who owns and runs Military Watch. The journal’s editor seems to have an author’s profile, which is now empty, on the strongly Kremlin-loyal (and recently also blatantly anti-Semitic) English language outlet Russia Insider (not to be confused with the Kremlin-critical Russian language outlet The Insider).

Russian pensions vs. Chinese pensions

The claim that retired people in China do not get a pension and rely solely on the support of their relatives, was articulated as a fact by the host of the Vesti v subbotu newsnight show on the state-owned TV channel Rossiya 1 on 16 June.

The Insider sets the record straight by underlining that Rossiya 1’s information is almost 70 years outdated; senior citizens in China do receive a pension from the state.

The Rossiya 1 host used the disinformation about China as a defence for the Russian government hiking the pension age in Russia; a decision which was announced on the day of the festive opening of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Dehumanizing disinformation as a weapon of the information war

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/30/2018 - 11:57

By EU vs Disinfo

Dehumanization is a quite common trait in conflict situations, where the opponents usually intend to build support for their own actions as well as lessen the support for their adversary through harsh rhetoric and disinformation about the other side.

Within the pro-Kremlin disinformation machinery, dehumanization is often used as a tool to denigrate in particular the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). This despite the fact that the official line from the Kremlin (contrary to the evidence) is that Russia is not involved in the war in Eastern Ukraine.

In the light of new claims about the UAF this week, we found it fitting to look back at some past disinformation about the Ukrainian Army. No evidence has been provided to support any of these claims.

First, this week’s story, which conveyed a dual message of both the cruelty of the UAF and the low level of morality in the West (another favourite topic in the pro-Kremlin disinformation sphere);

Rich people from Western countries can buy the right to kill civilians in Donbas, this “safari” is provided by the Ukrainian Army.”

This gruesome and unsubstantiated claim originates from one of the official parties to the conflict, a spokesperson for the self proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic.

Second, an absurd claim that has nevertheless been repeated several times, namely;

Zombies are fighting within the Ukrainian forces in Donbas. They continue to fight even after being shot in the head.”

That is indeed some scary stuff. But what could be even scarier? Ask TV Zvezda, the official TV channel of the Russian Ministry of Defence, and they will come up with the answer – Nazi zombies!

”There are Nazi zombies fighting in the Ukrainian army.”

A further past unsubstantiated story reported something fishy going on in Ukrainian military hospitals:

”French customs officers at Paris Orly airport confiscated a shipment of human organs from Ukraine.The intercepted organs were “200 nasal septums and sphincters” and were sent from Dnipro Military Hospital.”

Also, according to disinformation narratives, the UAF has no respect for the church and religion, as claimed in the next story:

Ukraine’s military conducted a night raid on a Ukrainian Catholic monastery looking for conscripts. The monastery was surrounded and searched, the military were trying to find young men evading service in the army.”

This claim was quickly debunked by the monastery in question, which denied any raids on its premises.

There are also stories that aim to belittle the UAF rather than incite fear of them, for example one claiming that the plague has broken out among the UAF or that there are not enough willing conscripts so the UAF has to enlist criminals.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, it does serve to illustrate how dehumanization and alienation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is being used within the pro-Kremlin disinformation universe in order to lessen support for and sympathy with Ukraine.

The provocation game 2.0

On June 11, a targeted disinformation campaign was launched around an EU delegation’s visit to Ukraine. This week, we decided to dive deeper into this specific information operation.

The disinformation claimed that Ukrainian security forces were preparing a provocation in Donbas; they allegedly planned to shoot down the EU delegation’s helicopter in order to blame the pro-Russian separatists for the attack. As we have highlighted earlier, this is a typical way of pro-Kremlin disinformation: to warn of “provocations” to sow distrust and disruption among partners.

The disinformation again came from a party to the conflict: it was first published on the website of the so called Ministry of State Security of the self proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic. The story was aggressively pushed during the first day after publication when the volume of its spread peaked, whereas the next day it quickly slowed down and almost stopped after three days.

The same story was published at least in Russian, English, Spanish, German and French, on over 70 different websites; it was posted on Twitter, Russian social media Vkontakte, blogs, forums, YouTube and even on Bloomberg’s commentary section below a news article.

According to Brandwatch analytics tool, the disinformation gained over 600 000 impressions on Twitter. It succeeded in getting extensive media coverage in Russia, but it did not get into the mainstream media in the EU – at least not in the analysed languages. Sputnik took care of the spread in the EU languages.

The pattern of dissemination was different in English and in Russian. As of 7 AM on June 11, dozens of Russian-language disinformation outlets published the story in short intervals. In English, the story first only appeared in South Front. Then, it was heavily pushed on Twitter by accounts whose activity is similar to the behaviour of bots. The first Twitter account that mentioned the story has an average of 250 daily Tweets. On the first day, the story reached more than 200.000 people in English on Twitter.

Luckily, the disinformation campaign did not succeed in disrupting the visit, but it proved to be able to get wide media coverage in Russia, limited coverage within the EU and a relatively good reach on social media. All this for a disinformation where no evidence of the supposed threat of “provocation” was ever provided.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-the-central-communication-port-is-being-created-to-allow-quick-transfer-of-us-military-forces/

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 16:58

In 2017 StopFake and its partners from the Central and Eastern Europe presented the result of local media monitoring in search for Kremlin propaganda and disinformation. The research proved that the propaganda centres in each country use the same technics, changing accents according to characteristics of the country, manipulating facts and emotions, hitting weak spots, artificially amplifying problems and trying to stir up internal conflicts.

In widespread image, propaganda content serving Moscow has to be consistent with official Kremlin narration and it is the best when it is spread by official Russian media or websites. Then, the situation is clear – the communique comes from official propaganda channels, is picked up on by pro-Russia circles and spread in the country. An average citizen observing the political stage and following information web portals is deluded by the image having probably its roots in the Polish People’s Republic period, that the right wing is more sensitive to Russian influences and more Western-oriented while the left wing if pro-Russian because it is associated with the communist period. Thus, when a right-wing website gives a piece of information, by the nature it should not be a pro-Kremlin propaganda. Even more, when it is authenticated by a catholic priest (in the stereotypical understanding, an orthodox priest can be suspicious because he is associated with the East), the content cannot be contaminated. Nothing more wrong. Unfortunately, on the informational war, stereotypes are our disadvantage. What matters, are facts.

What counts for Russian services, is a conflict

Professor Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski evoked lately in the interview for StopFake the example of Moldova. Russian special services created there in the pretty much the same time to organisations – LGBT and orthodox fundamentalists. As one can assume, the two, having opposing value vectors, started to fight each other. Both were headed by Russian agents. That way, the whole Moldovan political scene were occupied and the message coming from Moldova to its citizens and outside, was being controlled. For the internal use, the traditional electorate was shown how scary is the European Union supporting gays and lesbians. On the other hand – the European union was shown how primitive, old-fashioned and intolerant is Moldova – because such people are being attacked there. As professor Żurawski vel Grajewski noticed, that way the political interest was “served” on both directions in complete detachment from the ideologic point of the conflict. For Russian services it does not matter under what banner someone appears – what matters is the existence of a conflict that would destabilise the political scene and push it further from the West.

Marcin Rey, the creator of the profile Rosyjska V kolumna w Polsce (Russian V Column in Poland) had similar observations. He noticed that Russians will stimulate all the sentiments, even those theoretically anti-Russian ones. The fact that something looks anti-Russian, is no alibi. In Rey’s opinion, the classical example is a nationalist who is averse to all foreign countries, including Russia. As long as he slanders Ukraine, he will be welcomed.

However, someone is needed to feed with content both clueless nationalist from the example or a member of pro-Russian organisation. Not always is it a leading officer, presenting himself openly: “Good morning, I’m an agitator and agent and from now on you’re supposed to listen to me”. It would be too naïve. The recent publication of wPolityce.pl sheds light on where the conscious and involuntary agitators come from.

“Why no one points out America starting wars all the time?”

A group of Polish journalists visited Moscow at the beginning of May. The stay in Russian capital was the culmination point of their trip financed by the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund (established in 2010 by the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, the fund has in its statute goals, among others, promoting Russian social programs outside of the country and supporting of Russian-speaking media) – the portal informed. In Petersburg, the journalists were accompanied by Leonid Sviridov who had to leave Poland in the late 2015. He was accused in media of spy activity for Russia.

Screenshot  wPolityce.pl

Leonid Drachevsky (former Russian Federation ambassador in Warsaw and deputy minister of foreign affairs of Russia) also expressed his joy from the meeting with Polish journalists. They met on the 10th of May to (as the fund’s website states) discuss the matter of direct contacts between Polish and Russian civil societies.

Screenshot gorchakovfund.ru

What is worth noticing, Russians did not segregate the invited journalists according to their political views. In the excursion participated both journalists from leftist „Nie”, as well as from right-wing journals, for example Agnieszka Piwar (“Myśl Polska”, konserwatyzm.pl, “Opcja na prawo”, former secretary of the Catholic Journalists Association – Katolickie Stowarzyszenie Dziennikarzy).

What is the fruit of such trips? Let speak the right-wing journalist. Agnieszka Piwowar, asked by wPolityce, if she was not bothered by the fact that the world public opinion points out Russian occupation of Crimea, the war in Ukraine and the intervention in Caucasus, responds:

And why no one points out Israel murdering Palestinians? Why no one points out America starting wars all the time? Making a scary enemy and an aggressor out of Russia is incomparable to what Israel and USA do. Why journalists don’t ask Polish politicians about their close relations with Americans and Israelis? Why all the time only those who make gestures of conciliation with Russia are criticised? Such circles as mine are all the time attacked only because we dare to reach out to Russia for peaceful purposes, because we don’t want to live in conflict with this country. Russia is being demonized. We hear only: Crimea, Crimea, Crimea. What about Israel? Why no one says what is happening in Gaza Strip? No one has courage to speak about it, but only to attack Russia.

Zrzut ekranu  wPolityce.pl

Reading this statement without knowing the name of the author, one could assume those are words of, for example, a pro-Russian party Zmiana (Change) activist, not of a former secretary of the Catholic Journalists Association, therefore related with conservatively sounding titles. Although, as Marcin Rey notices, contradictions are natural and even desirable for Russia’s point of view, because they give more authenticity. Most of the readers will never get to the information about journalists’ travel to Moscow, many of them will forget it the next day, but the views of the journalists fascinated in Putin’s Russia will shape many unconscious readers’ minds for the long time.

WP

Categories: World News

Figure of the Week: 6.4%

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 00:57

By EU vs Disinfo

This week, Russian state media more than tripled the defence budget of Latvia, a NATO member and neighbour of Russia.

The bogus figure appeared on regnum.ru, a state-controlled Russian news website, which claimed that the Baltic country spends a whopping 6.4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on defence.

The real figure for 2018 is 2 percent, up from 1.7 percent in 2017.

The incorrect figure was cited in a lengthy interview with a Latvian businessman who is a longtime critic of the Latvian government, the European Union, and NATO.

In a tactic characteristic of pro-Kremlin media, Regnum republished the interviewee’s claims without bothering to correct the figure for its readers.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: Nord Stream II is a strategic mistake

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 00:33

Topics of the Week

In a public appeal published by the European Values Think-Tank, 50 security experts from 18 European countries outline the reasons why Nord Stream II is Germany’s biggest strategic mistake in a generation.

The recent cyber-attack on Germany’s energy networks shows signs of Russian methods, according to the Chief of the BfV.

According to a new investigation, 10 properties associated with the Trump Organization have been sold to buyers directly connected to Russia or former Soviet republics.

Letter from Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov: We should treat Russia with admiration and respect!

Good Old Soviet Joke

Q: What is very large, makes a lot of smoke and noise, takes 20 litres of gas per hour, and cuts an apple into three pieces?

A: The Soviet machine built to cut apples into four pieces.

Policy & Research News Nord Stream II: Germany’s biggest strategic mistake in a generation

European Values Think-Tank has published a public appeal, signed by 50 security experts from 18 European countries, outlining the reasons why Nord Stream II will be Germany’s strategic mistake for decades to come:

  • Increase of German political dependence on Russian energy
  • Bypassing Germany’s Central and Eastern European allies
  • De facto financing Russia’s war machine
  • Exacerbating strategic corruption in Europe
  • Contradicting EU Energy Union principles
  • Substantial environmental damage

You can read the full appeal here: http://www.europeanvalues.net/nordstream/

Jakub Janda, Head of the European Values Think-Tank, also discussed these reasons with Judy Dempsey from Carnegie Europe. You can read the whole article here.

Brian Whitmore also takes a look at the Nord Stream II project in one of his recent Power Vertical Podcasts at CEPA. He says, “It is one of the greatest threats to European security and transatlantic solidarity. It flouts EU laws and regulations – and gets away with it. It is a guided weapon masquerading as a commercial project.” Listen to his whole discussion with CEPA head Peter Doran and the US State Department’s European Energy Security Advisor, Benjamin Schmitt.

Developments in the attribution of cyber-attacks on Germany

On June 13th, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) announced that German energy networks had been hit by at least a year-long cyber-attack that also compromised computer networks of German electricity and natural gas providers. The BSI refused to disclose further details but assured the public that the situation was under control and that the attacks were mostly unsuccessful. Last Wednesday, however, the director of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said that the culprit is likely the Russian Federation. He based these claims on alleged “numerous clues pointing to Russia”, including the method of the attack.

How Central European governments (don’t) help fight disinformation

In a new article on Visegrad Info, representatives of Political Capital and EURACTIV summarize how the governments of the Visegrad countries (don’t) help fight disinformation and the Kremlin’s influence. Veronika Víchová, analyst and Coordinator of the Kremlin Watch Program, contributed to the article with new developments about disinformation websites in the Czech Republic.  She also comments on Czech governmental efforts to fight disinformation and on the inadequate funding of the EEAS East StratCom Task Force.

Rapid response teams to counter cyber-attacks in the EU

Nine EU Member States agreed to create a rapid response team of experts to counter cyber-attacks within the new EU defence pact. The project is led by Lithuania, which announced the news last Thursday. The agreement was signed by Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Romania. They are going to be followed by Finland, France, Poland, and Spain later this year.

How to select Russian oligarchs for sanctions?

Ilya Zaslavskiy and Scott Stedman have published a new report providing recommendations for the US government on how to extend criteria for choosing Russian oligarchs to be subjected to sanctions. They propose the following criteria:

  • Participation in Putin’s inner circle and involvement with the regime in Russia
    • History of business relations with the officials and informal leaders propagating wars against Georgia and Ukraine
    • History of business relations with organized criminal groups in Eurasia
    • Participation in corruption projects
    • Cover-up of corrupt activity
    • Facilitation of the Kremlin’s infringement on democratic processes
  • Subversive activity in the West
    • Involvement in illegal trade operations
    • Cooperation with Russian officials to advance elite co-optation and subversion
    • Documented contracts or co-optation of Western public figures
    • Deliberate subversive activity against Western law enforcement, security services, tax authorities and more
    • Possession of offshore companies and accounts with evidence of criminality
US Developments Buyers tied to Russia still scooping up Trump properties

A recent investigation by McClatchyDC reveals that 10 properties associated with the Trump Organization – totaling a whopping $109 million – have been sold to buyers directly connected to Russia or former Soviet republics. Many of the purchases were made using offshore shell companies to obscure the buyers’ identities, were paid fully in cash above market value, and included individuals who worked for foreign companies subjected to US sanctions. Additionally, many of the buyers had questionable backgrounds, having been involved in Russian-American organized crime and previously charged with money laundering or drug trafficking.

According to Adam Schiff – the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee – these disturbing revelations, apart from signaling money laundering activity, pose a deeper national threat and constitute further evidence that Donald Trump has been involved in illicit financial transactions with Russian elements, some of which have now been sanctioned by the US government. The disclosures are likely to be examined by the ongoing Special Counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian actors (as well as possible influence Russian elements might have upon the president). As of today, two bills have been introduced in the Senate to prevent individuals from using shell companies to engage in money laundering activities, but so far none has been passed.

Russia’s efforts to hack the 2018 and 2020 elections

The US should be ready for Russian electoral interference in 2018 and 2020. According to Andrew Weiss, vice-president of Russia research at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Having the U.S. at war with itself is giving Russia credit internationally,” which provides a strong incentive for the country to continue to exacerbate tensions within the US electorate in 2018 and 2020. In coming months, one can expect fake Facebook and Twitter groups and profiles to appear, on both the right and the left, including cleverly designed bots, all working to blur the line between truth and malicious fiction. In addition, as evinced by the 2016 election and the French presidential elections, among others, personal email, text, and social media data of candidates is expected to be targeted for hacking and leaking. According to experts, even the mildest Russian actions can yield significant repercussions as news stories surrounding a potential scandal are spread and misrepresented across the Internet. In addition to the meddling tactics used in the past, experts also expect that new strategies will be employed, such as hijacking voting booths in more contentious districts, hacking ride-sharing programs, or even cyberattacks similar to Russia’s 2015 cyberattack on Kyiv’s power grid that caused a city-wide blackout. For the 2018 and 2020 elections, officials in the United States are not ruling out anything.

US and Russian energy officials set to meet

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry will host Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak in Washington this week, putting representatives from the world’s top oil-producing countries in the same room. Perry and Novak are expected to discuss better energy cooperation as the energy aspects of strained Russia-US relations have begun to align. Both Russia and the US want to pump more oil, increasing supply and curbing the recent rise in gasoline prices. In light of current geopolitical relations and the competition between the two countries in the energy sector, some in OPEC are puzzled about why Russia has aligned its views with the Trump administration. Meanwhile, national security adviser John Bolton is travelling to Moscow, where he is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Hillary Clinton warns about rising illiberalism, fueled by the Putin regime

In a recent series of public lectures, Hillary Clinton issued a warning about the alarming rise of illiberalism around the world, fueled by the Putin regime. According to Clinton, Vladimir Putin has strategically positioned himself as the leader of an “authoritarian, white-supremacist, and xenophobic movement that wants to break up the EU, weaken America’s traditional alliances, and undermine democracy.” In this way, the Kremlin bolsters and ideologically empowers sympathizers, right-wing nationalists, separatists, racists, and even neo-Nazis, fostering civic tensions and discord that hinders the cultivation of fundamental rights and civic virtue that are so essential to the health of democracy. The former presidential candidate also criticized the Trump administration for waging war on the rule of law, delegitimizing elections, undermining truth and reason, perpetrating corruption, and presenting a “clear and present danger to western democracy”.

The Kremlin’s Current Narrative Kadyrov and history

It came as something of a surprise that propaganda cheerleader Vzglyad devoted very little attention to the anniversary of the beginning of the German-Soviet War, better known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. Luckily for us, RT didn’t disappoint and quoted a letter by Ramzan Kadyrov, originally shared on his blog, calling it a warning.

“Hitler planned to have Russia on its knees within months and have a military parade on Red Square, but he was wrong when he thought that his main task was to reach Moscow, Kadyrov wrote.

“It is true that in times of the war the German divisions directly approached Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad. But Hitler didn’t speak Russian and he did not know the Russian history. Otherwise he would have given a second thought to taking the road that had been previously chosen by the French, the Swedes, the Poles and others and ending his life in the same disgraceful way as all these aggressors,” he stated.

“Hitler knew nothing about our history but modern politicians who like to voice threats against our country should study the chronicles of the past ages so that they don’t repeat the mistakes of their own ancestors. Otherwise their name will be forever on the list of those who raised their swords against Russia and died by the sword,” Kadyrov wrote, using the slightly reworded proverbial saying attributed to the 13th century Russian prince Alexander Nevsky”.

An authoritarian leader who continuously tortures the Chechen people and threatens to kill those he doesn’t like is not lecturing us not on history but rather on how we should treat Russia. With admiration, deference, and respect. Exactly what Putin’s Russia deserves!

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion Russian Election Interference:

Europe’s Counter to Fake News and Cyber Attacks

A recent study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reviews Russian interference in European elections throughout 2017. It focuses on the Netherlands, France, the UK, and Germany, providing an overview of countermeasures these countries have implemented in order to mitigate Russian influence and build resilience. It also includes countermeasures Sweden has taken in the lead-up to its September 2018 elections. Furthermore, it finds that the reasons the recent UK election saw little Russian influence can be attributed to two factors: firstly, it was a snap election and therefore there was not enough time to plan an interference strategy, and secondly, there is little use for the Kremlin to further interfere in the political environment in the UK as it is already sufficiently chaotic. In the case of Germany, the low level of Russian interference was attributed to high-level government deterrence signals warning that the interference would damage the German-Russian relationship.

Based on these case studies, a series of recommendations for countermeasures is provided. The most significant is ensuring that the election systems are part of the critical infrastructure, by not relying on election systems heavily dependent on technology as it provides additional vulnerabilities. The security of elections can be further improved by running regular stress tests and vulnerability analyses. Building resilience in the form of strengthening cyber defence and thereby making election interference difficult and costly is another cornerstone in an effective defence. Governments should work closely with political parties in order to ensure the cybersecurity of political campaigns. Issuing public warnings about possible election interference functions both as a way to educate the population about the threat and as a deterrent against Russian interference. Governments must engage in countering Russian interference on a regional and local level as well, especially in countries where the election process is decentralised. Increasing government-media cooperation and dialogue also protects against dis- and misinformation. This should include ways of involving social media companies in better countering fakes, frauds, and disinformation online. Lastly, political parties and governments should develop contingency plans for when a potential interference occurs, as a way to mitigate the effects of a potential cyberattack or leak.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Think-Tank, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against liberal-democratic system.

Categories: World News

CONIFA alternative World Cup boosts Russia-backed separatism

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 00:17

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

In the World Football Cup that you probably haven’t heard of, which took place in London earlier this month, Karpatalya beat Northern Cyprus in the final. The event was organised by CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, which calls itself the international governing body for non-FIFA associations, and sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power. It sounds harmless enough, but CONIFA gives a remarkable amount of prominence to separatist regions, and particularly those backed by Russia. “Karpatalya” just happens to be a region of Ukraine with a large population of ethnic Hungarians.

In response to Karpatalya’s win, Ukraine’s sports minister, Igor Zhdanov, wrote on Facebook: “I call on the Security Service of Ukraine to respond appropriately to such a frank act of sporting separatism. It is necessary to interrogate the players of the team, as well as to analyse in detail the activities of the deputy organiser of Karpatalya for the purpose of encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and ties with terrorist and separatist groups.” The “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” are also CONIFA members, with the latter being described by the organisation as an “independent state”. Russian-controlled Transnistria in Moldova is a member too.

Ukraine’s football federation also said that it would disqualify players who represented Karpatalya at the event, although most or all were apparently not from Ukraine. CONIFA responded: “CONIFA wishes to stress that it is a politically-neutral, volunteer-run charity registered in Sweden. CONIFA takes no position on the political status of its member associations. CONIFA wishes to state that, to the best of its knowledge, the players, administrators and officials of the Karpatalya football team have never expressed any separatist sentiments or ambitions.” CONIFA General Secretary Sascha Düerkop said the organisation was “alarmed” by the call to interrogate players and considered the proposal to disqualify players “draconian”.

Abkhazia activities

CONIFA’s claims to be neutral and non-political are hard to believe. Either the organisation is completely oblivious of world events, or it is actively providing a soft power cover for Russia’s efforts to encourage separatism. The Egypt team’s decision to base themselves in Chechnya for the FIFA World Cup has been harshly criticised, but CONIFA’s love affair with Abkhazia, a Russian-controlled region of Georgia, hasn’t received as much scrutiny as it deserves.

Most Western countries advise citizens not to travel to Abkhazia, and it is against Georgian law to travel there via Russia. CONIFA held its World Football Cup there two years ago (and Abkhazia won it). One of CONIFA’s vice-presidents, Dimitri Pagava, is from Abkhazia and participated in a press conference there hosted by Russian propaganda agency Sputnik ahead of the event. CONIFA’s media head, Kieran Pender, writes regularly for various major media outlets about Abkhazia. In October 2017 he wrote an article for Al Jazeera about Syrians building new lives in Abkhazia.

In May this year the UK government issued a statement on the Assad regime’s recognition of the “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in which Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said, “It is utterly unacceptable that the Asad regime has recognised the so-called ‘independence’ of the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian military intervention in Georgia in 2008 and its subsequent recognition of the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as so-called ‘independent states’ was an unacceptable violation of the sovereign rights of Georgia. Russia’s actions continue to undermine Georgia’s rightful territorial integrity.”

During the World Football Cup itself in June 2016 Pender wrote about the event for the Guardian, describing Abkhazia as a breakaway state “near south-west Russia”. “With issues of statehood, nationalism, and geopolitics at play, this is no ordinary football tournament,” he wrote, despite the fact that CONIFA insists that its tournaments are indeed extremely ordinary sporting events. “While Abkhazia and its secessionist companions may see the World Football Cup as an instrument in the ongoing fight for recognition, on and off the pitch, other participants have less politically-charged motivations,” Pender continued.

In December 2016 Russia’s Sputnik published an article titled “Crimea presents national football team, may host CONIFA World Cup.” CONIFA Vice-President Kristof Wenczel, a lawyer from Hungary, was quoted as saying that the organisation wanted to hold the next World Football Cup on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. “Crimea is quietly going out of isolation. If we have the Crimean national team, then believe me it will soon participate at least in all-Russian but also in international tournaments,” the Russian-installed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, said, according to Sputnik.

Pender, who describes himself as a legal advisor at the International Bar Association in London as well as a freelance journalist on his LinkedIn profile, isn’t listed as a board member on CONIFA’s website. But in an interview he gave to a Melbourne radio station on June 5, the presenters described CONIFA as Pender’s “brainchild”. “I wouldn’t want to take credit for it… but I am a member of the organisation,” Pender responded modestly.

Offshore accounting

In response to questions from StopFake CONIFA referred us not to Pender, but to General Secretary Sascha Düerkop from Germany, who in 2016 posted a picture of his Russian visa on Facebook to announce that he was travelling to Abkhazia via Sochi. “I can confirm that we never had any contacts to the Kremlin and never received any funding of any government, including the Russian government,” Düerkop wrote. “In fact, we never received any funds from any Russia-based organization, company or private donor until today.”

CONIFA publishes financial reports on its website, but there is no information about the activities of its financial arm, CONIFA Properties, which is registered on the Isle of Man, a tax haven. In its budget for 2017 CONIFA planned to receive 15,000 euros in membership fees and a grant of 261,500 euros from CONFIA Properties. In its 2018 budget CONIFA planned to receive 15,000 euros in membership fees, 2,000 euros in sponsorships and 2,500 euros from “PayPal”, totalling just 19,500 euros, with expenses of exactly the same amount, despite the fact that 276,500 euros was to be spent the previous year.

Asked if CONIFA could be accused of promoting separatism, Düerkop replied, “CONIFA is not linked to, associated to or having members that are ‘seperatist [sic] regions’. Thus, I find your question confusing.” On entering Abkhazia without permission from Georgia, he said, “As the Georgian government never rejected or approved our travel plans (but just did not react) we were left with no option, but asking all teams to travel via Sochi, as there was a real risk that Georgia would have stopped a team participating in the tournament.”

Enthusiasm for Russia

Britain’s Justin Walley is another CONIFA official who has been coaching teams in Riga, Latvia, and since January 2017 has been CONIFA’s Africa president. He is also head coach and manager of the Matabeleland CONIFA team from a western region of Zimbabwe that participated in this year’s World Football Cup. During the FIFA World Cup Walley has been giving interviews to Russian media, but as an ordinary fan, not a CONIFA official. Somehow he was chosen out of all the thousands of England fans who are currently in Russia.

On June 22 Sputnik published an article titled “English fan invited to stay at Tatarstan following his online posts about Kazan.” The article began: “The State Tourism Committee of Russia’s Tatarstan Republic invited English fan Justin Walley, who was so impressed by the republic’s capital Kazan that he said he wanted to stay there, to meet with the committee head, Sergei Ivanov, the committee said Friday. ‘Is there any chance I can stay in Kazan after the World Cup and get a job in the city’s tourism department? Please,’ Walley posted on Twitter.”

Walley’s desire to live in Russia was also reported by TASS and other Russian-language outlets. Walley retweeted the articles. From Kazan (not a venue for England matches), Walley tweeted that he was heading to Tolyatti (not a World Cup host city). “I’m just here on holiday,” Walley told StopFake in response to questions about his trip. “I am in Kazan because I had a ticket to Spain v Iran. And because it is an amazing city.”

In response to a question about whether Paddy Power had any concerns about the possible promotion of separatism or a Kremlin agenda through its sponsorship of the World Football Cup, the company’s head of PR, Lee Price, told Stop Fake: “Our involvement was purely on a football level, and didn’t relate to support of any individual CONIFA member’s separatist movement (if one existed). Personally, having met the two volunteers who run CONIFA, I have witnessed zero evidence of Kremlin involvement or support.”

If CONIFA genuinely wants to be non-political then it needs to make some major changes. It must not hold events illegally in Russian-occupied regions, and it must stop deliberately or inadvertently promoting separatism in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova by allowing these regions to be members. CONIFA seems confused as to whether it provides an opportunity for ethnic groups to form teams or unrecognised “independent states”. There is no space here to look at the potential political conflicts that could be provoked by CONIFA’s other members outside the former Soviet region, but that should also be a concern, considering the Kremlin’s active support for separatism from Scotland to Catalonia to California. At the moment CONIFA is simply denying that it has any responsibility, and that position is morally untenable.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Categories: World News

Propaganda war against Ukraine’s aspirations to gain Tomos on autocephaly

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 15:02

By Oleksandr Sagan , theologist, for Lb.ua

Among the external factors opposing the receipt by the Orthodox Ukrainians of Tomos from the Patriarch of Constantinople, it’s the Russian factor that dominates above others. It consists of religious and secular components (the division into which, however, is conditional in present-day Russia).In the international arena, Moscow continues to oppose the recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly, actively involving not only the clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church, but also its diplomatic corps. This is especially noticeable in countries with their own Orthodox autocephalous churches. It is about the attempts to convince the local religious and secular (primarily – political) establishment in the inexpediency and future threats of such developments. Various ways are used to find incentives for officials, including authoritative church hierarchies and to influence the process in order to prevent the recognition of Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly, LB.ua reports.

Lb.ua explains the narratives the Russian propaganda uses in countering Ukraine’s efforts and goes on to debunk them all.

Photo: Oleksandr Rudomanov

Thesis 1: “Autocephaly in Ukraine will cause a split in the global Orthodoxy, which can only be compared with the division between East and West in 1054. If this happens, Orthodox unity will be buried.” 

Why this is not the case:

– The disagreement of the Moscow Patriarchate with the granting of the autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church by the Constantinople Patriarchate will not lead to a split in the global Orthodoxy, since such actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch are canonical and generally accepted. By the same principle, all local churches worldwide have already received autocephaly (except for the four Eastern patriarchates), including the Moscow Patriarchate itself. Therefore, Moscow’s possible move to end official relations (Eucharistic communion) with the Patriarchate of Constantinople will objectively see a negative or neutral assessment from virtually all Local Orthodox Churches.

– The Moscow Patriarchate self-proclaimed its autocephaly in 1448 and sought its recognition for 141 years (until 1589). Therefore, attempts by Moscow clerics and diplomats to accuse Ukrainian Orthodox believers of self-proclaimed autocephaly and an attempt to gain recognition are a manifestation of the policy of double standards that Moscow widely uses in its biased judgments and official statements.

– The Moscow Patriarchate throughout its existence has repeatedly resorted to actions that led to the violation of church canons and generally accepted norms in Orthodoxy. In particular:

a) Non-canonical usurpation (violation of conditions defined in the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch) by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Kyiv Orthodox Metropolia in 1686; b) the self-granting by the Moscow Patriarchate of autocephaly to the “Orthodox Church in America” in 1970 (recognized by some churches from the countries of the so-called “socialist camp” – Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia). The Patriarchate of Constantinople and most of the local Orthodox Churches did not recognize that autocephaly; c) Moscow’s repeated threats to break off relations with Constantinople in the 1990s due to the granting of autonomy within the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox churches of Finland, the UOC in the USA and the UOC in Canada. Ultimately, these threats were not realized and led to reputational losses for the Moscow Patriarchate. Only during the “Estonian Orthodox crisis” in February 1996 was the Eucharistic communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Constantinople terminated. However, in May of the same year, it was restored thanks to the agreement of the parties to create two Orthodox jurisdictions on the territory of this country.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (left) and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksiy II during a prayer in Kyiv, 27 July 2008, Photo: EPA/UPG

Thesis 2. “Providing a Tomos will lead to further division of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, because the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church are considered ‘non-canonical'”

Why this is not the case:

– Providing a Tomos on the opposite is aimed at eliminating the split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy by establishing an autocephalous local Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which will voluntarily include Orthodox hierarchs, as well as clergy and laity of all Orthodox jurisdictions that exist in Ukraine.

– After receiving Tomos, Ukraine will have no “non-canonical” believers. Therefore, the present “separation” of Orthodox believers will naturally disappear. The fears of the Moscow Patriarchate are connected with another thing – the possible withdrawal of a significant part of the Ukrainian believers from their Church. –

– Forecasting the deepening of the “split” (from the theological point of view regarding the situation in Ukraine it is more correct to talk about disengagement, since neither the UOC-KP nor the UAOC violated the canons and created no new doctrine), blocking and undermining the dialogue in Ukrainian Orthodoxy between the UOC-MP with “non-canonical UOC-KP and UAOC” – these fears are far-fetched. It is rather an attempt to manipulate this “dialogue.”

This is clearly evidenced by the events of 2017 when the appeal of the UOC-KP to the Moscow Patriarchate with the relevant proposals for restoring unity became an occasion for yet another propaganda campaign of the Kremlin.

And this is only one of the pieces of evidence that the Kremlin uses its Orthodox Church as an instrument of the state’s foreign policy for promoting the concept of the “Russian world” with the help of “political Orthodoxy.” The ultimate goal of such actions is to ensure Russian influence and even domination in the post-Soviet states.

Photo: LB.ua

Thesis 3. “The submission to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople of appeals from church and political institutions of Ukraine with a request to grant autocephaly is an interference of the Ukrainian state in the affairs of the Church since these appeals were not coordinated with the Moscow Patriarchate. This was not reported neither to Patriarch Kirill, nor Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufriy.”

Why this is not the case:

– The appeal of the President of Ukraine to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the adoption of the relevant decision by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is not an interference in the affairs of the Church, since it concerns the fulfillment by the head of state and people’s deputies of their constitutional duties and provisions of Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.”

– Ukrainian political, ecclesiastical and public figures are not obliged to ask any permits from any representatives of other countries, institutions or public organizations. The expediency of sending appeals and forming relations with foreign political and religious centres, public organizations, financial and business circles is determined independently. According to Art. 5 of Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” in Ukraine, “the implementation of state policy regarding religion and the church belongs exclusively to the jurisdiction of Ukraine.”

– The Verkhovna Rada and President of Ukraine exercise the appropriate authority (in accordance with the Constitution and current legislation) to speak on behalf of the state and Ukrainian people and ensure respect for the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens. According to Article 30 of this Law, the Ukrainian State must ensure “participation of religious organizations in international religious movements, forums, business contacts with international religious centres and foreign religious organizations.” All registered religious organizations are absolutely equal, and therefore they must be provided with the appropriate conditions for the free exercise of religious beliefs, including the mentioned interaction with foreign centres and religious organizations.

– The authorities cannot restrict the rights and freedoms of some citizens of Ukraine by creating privileges for individual political or religious institutions. Therefore, the very fact of the referral to the Ecumenical Patriarch for the provision of the Tomos on autocephaly testifies to an attempt to ensure a balance of interests of all interested Orthodox jurisdictions and to prevent the creation of prerequisites for the formation of privileges for any of them.

– The President of Ukraine held a personal meeting with the head of the UOC-MP Metropolitan Onufriy on April 18, 2018, during which the head of the UOC-MP was informed about the results of negotiations with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and members of the Synod of Constantinople.

Photo: president.gov.ua

Thesis 4. “The question of proclaiming new autocephaly was considered in preparation for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. All Local Orthodox Churches came to an agreement on the procedure and establishment of the order, according to which the process shall be valid only with the involvement of: the “mother church,” the ROC, as the initiator of granting autocephaly to its part; the Patriarch of Constantinople as coordinator in the search for a consensus between the Local Churches; all autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Without the coordinated will of these three parties to provide autocephaly, it is impossible for the Russian OC to agree on all aspects, except technical issues, namely protocol issues, such as the procedure for passing signatures. In the rest of issues, everything was agreed.”

Why this is not the case:

– Except for the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian OC has never been recognized by anyone else as the Mother Church for the Kyiv Orthodox Metropolia (now – Orthodox jurisdictions on the territory of Ukraine).

– The Ecumenical Patriarchate has always proceeded and proceeds from the fact that the only one for Ukraine from the times of the Baptism of Kievan Rus in 988 remains the Church of Constantinople.- The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Patriarchal and Synodal “Tomos on the recognition of the autocephaly of the Holy Orthodox Church in Poland” of November 13, 1924, confirmed Moscow’s violation of church canons. Namely: “… the estrangement from our Throne of the Metropolitan of Kyiv and the Orthodox Churches of Lithuania and Poland, dependent on it, as well as their attachment to the Holy Church of Moscow, from the very beginning, were not at all in accordance with the legal canonical prescriptions. Also, what was announced jointly on the complete ecclesiastical self-sufficiency of the Metropolitan of Kyiv, who bears the title of exarch of the Ecumenical Throne, was not observed…”

– The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the “Tomos on the recognition of the autocephaly of the Holy Orthodox Church in Poland” clearly defined the position regarding the right of sovereign states to the autocephalous church: “The organization of church affairs must follow political and social prototypes” (Canon of the 17th Ecumenical Council, Canon 38 of the VI Ecumenical Council)… Church rights, especially with regard to borders, shall be changed in accordance with political and administrative territorial sovereignty.” 

– The question “about the method of proclaiming autocephaly” was withdrawn from consideration of the All-Orthodox Council (held in June 2016 on the island of Crete) as a conflict issue, on which no consensus was reached precisely because of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate, which, together with the Bulgarian, Antiochian and Georgian Orthodox Churches, virtually boycotted the Council. When discussing the issue at the Pre-Council meetings, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate denied the right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to provide on their own autocephaly to the Orthodox Church and offered to envisage procedures for forming an appeal from the Church that is willing to receive autocephaly and obtaining appropriate consent. The Ecumenical Patriarch has compulsorily agreed to these and some other “proposals” (for example, the right to sign, but not approve (!) the Tomos by all Primate of the Local Orthodox Churches, etc.) However, further consideration and presentation of the issue to the All-Orthodox Council in 2016 was blocked and became impossible solely because of Moscow’s position.

– The Patriarchate of Constantinople proceeds from the premise that, due to lack of consensus and non-consideration at the All-Orthodox Council, the right and way of granting autocephaly remains unchanged. Therefore, all agreed compromises are considered to be those that have not been achieved because of a lack of final agreement. – Because of the lack of a constructive position (ignoring the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church) and insisting on non-technical technical issues, which led to a halt in the process of reconciliation by the Churches, the Moscow Patriarchate actually lost the opportunity to block the granting by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the autocephaly to any Church, including the provision of the Tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church .

– After all the statements about not recognizing the developments and decisions of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, Moscow’s current attempts to interpret the results of the Pre-Council meetings in its favour are cynical and insignificant.

Photo: Max Trebukhov

Thesis 5. “The process of proclaiming Ukrainian autocephaly is initiated not only without the consent of the Russian OC, but even bypassing the ‘canonical’ UOC-MP. Instead, the fate of Orthodoxy in Ukraine is resolved by “schismatics”, state authorities and members of the Ukrainian parliament, many of whom are Uniates or representatives of other religions and denominations. And in general, getting a Tomos can become the beginning of the transition of Orthodox Ukrainians to a Union.” 

Why this is not the case:

– The UOC-MP never doubted that autocephaly should be received/recognized. In November 1991, the Local Council of the UOC-MP took place in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. In the “Definition of the UOC Council on the issue of complete independence of the UOC” it was said that the proclamation of the independence of the Ukrainian state requires a new status from the Church. And such status should be full independence, that is autocephaly. The gift of autocephaly will contribute to strengthening the unity of Orthodoxy in Ukraine, will serve toward uniting citizens of all nationalities living in Ukraine, and thereby make a contribution to strengthening the unity of the entire Ukrainian people. – Even the participants in the scandalous (convoked with violation of the current Charter of the UOC-MP) Bishops’ Council, which was held in Kharkiv on May 27, 1992, in their letter to the then President of Ukraine L. Kravchuk, wrote that they unanimously “approve and support the aspirations of the Ukrainian Orthodox flock to full independence” and will take all measures to solve “this vital question of our Church.”

– The head of the “canonical” UOC MP Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Onufriy, at a meeting with the President of Ukraine on April 18, 2018, was fully informed about the possibility of and conditions for granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

– The UOC MP and its hierarchs have the unconditional right to freely choose – to participate in the creation of the Ukrainian Local OC along with representatives of other Orthodox jurisdictions or to maintain administrative unity and be part of the Moscow Patriarchate. – The President of Ukraine and the Parliament act in strict accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine and Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” in particular Article 5 of the Law, according to which “… in Ukraine the implementation of state policy on religion and the church belongs exclusively to the jurisdiction of Ukraine … ”

Photo: Max Trebukhov

– The claims of the Russian OC and its branch in Ukraine, the UOC-MP, about the need for the state bodies to coordinate their actions with them is an attempt to create a privileged position for themselves. And this is a violation of the provisions of Art. 5 of Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” according to which “all religions, faiths and religious organizations are equal before the law.” 

– Support by the Ukrainian Greek Catholics of the aspirations of the Orthodox Church toward the recognition of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is evidence of a Christian attitude toward representatives of another confession. And it is also a manifestation of the state position of the citizens of Ukraine who care about the national security of their country (experts say that the issue of a local church in Ukraine is not only a religious issue, but also an important aspect of national security).

– The reproach on the domination of the “Uniates” in the Ukrainian parliament is purely a propaganda cliche and is designed for pro-Moscow radical-oriented political and religious circles. By analogy, one can object to the right of the Polish government in 1924 (which in fact was 100% Roman Catholic) to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch about the autocephaly of the Polish Orthodox Church and, as a consequence, the Tomos’s effect on its autocephaly. – To bind the Tomos’s receipt on autocephaly with the transition to a Union is to completely ignore the whole history and philosophy of the development of the Universal Orthodoxy. According to this logic, all Local Orthodox Churches, which are now part of the Orthodox diptych (the list of Churches), are Uniate. But among these churches is also the Moscow Patriarchate.

By Oleksandr Sagan , theologist, for Lb.ua

The translation of this article is courtesy of the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.

Categories: World News

Militarised Disinformation: When Highway Renovation becomes a Western Attack “to the East”

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 14:44

By EU vs Disinfo

This week, the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign zoomed into Europe. Its magnifying glass focused on highway D1 in the Czech Republic, connecting Prague and Brno, the two biggest Czech cities.

Through the lens of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign, the renovation of the highway appeared to be suspicious business and part of preparation for a war, a Czech outlet alerted.

The outlet was also convinced that highways can have hidden agendas. To sow distrust among its audience it announced that the motorway is being renovated to prepare it for an attack “to the East”. (See here how in fact the EU and NATO have been building cooperation with Russia).

Conspiracies were well represented in this week’s disinformation trends. As we have earlier reported, conspiracy theories have gained more and more room in the Russian media, where references to the most popular conspiracy theories are six to nine times more frequent now than they were in 2011.

In a long monologue, a TV host on Russian state Channel 1 argued why the Bilderberg Club really might be the “secret world government”, ruling the world policies behind our backs.

A Hungarian outlet took the message further and stated that the Bilderberg Group that held its annual meeting in Turin, Italy, is making preparations for a new war against Russia. The same outlet also claimed that the Bilderberg Group was responsible for the Two World wars as well as the Cold War.

We took a careful look at the Turin meeting agenda, but did not manage to find war preparations among the discussed topics.

Germany targeted by disinformation

The pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign has held a special place for Germany for a long time.

This week was no exception. We learned that Angela Merkel does not represent German interestsbut is the puppet of the Rothschild family. See all the disinforming messages with the keyword “puppet” reported in our Disinformation Review since 2016.

Furthermore, Russia Today (RT) claimed the German Ministry of Defence is unaware of the presence of some tanks of the Ukrainian army in a tank competition and “doesn’t want to know about it”. Bild quickly debunked the claim.

And a Russian radio show recalled the Lisa case. To remind you, the “Lisa case” was a major disinformation campaign, where a Russian speaking girl was first reported to have been kidnapped and raped by migrants, but soon the reports appeared to be false.

However, protests were organised against the German government and the police’s ability to protect the Russian minority in Germany was put into question.

The radio show doubted that the Russian language media had ever published false information about the case. Well, the evidence is still online.

We also heard false alarms about Western provocations – from Syria to Russia. The West, we learned from another conspiracy, does not only prepare its highways as part of the war preparation, but its secret services plot a terror attack in Russia just to spoil the World Cup.

See earlier examples of how pro-Kremlin disinformation has sought to talk about other major sport events in militaristic terms.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: How sanctioned Russians are benefitting from the World Cup

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 14:15

Topics of the Week

The Brexit campaign had close links to Russia and its ambassador to the UK

According to Donald Trump, Crimea is a part of Russia because “everyone there speaks Russian”. (So, by that logic, should the British take back America?!)

The US has imposed sanctions on Russian companies accused of assisting the Kremlin in spying on American and European targets

The World Cup is a major PR victory for Putin, and we have handed it to him on a silver platter

Good Old Soviet Joke

A Soviet man is waiting in line to purchase vodka from a liquor store, but due to restrictions imposed by Gorbachev, the line is very long. The man loses his composure and screams, “I can’t take this waiting in line anymore, I HATE Gorbachev, I am going to the Kremlin right now, and I am going to kill him!”

After some time the man returns and elbows his way back to his place in line. Someone asks him if he succeeded in killing Gorbachev.

“No,” he responds. “That line was even longer.”

Policy & Research News News from Europe:

New evidence uncovered by the British media reveals that the Brexit campaign had close links to Russiaand its ambassador to the United Kingdom, the Observer writes. According to the report, Arron Banks, the millionaire businessman who sponsored the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, held multiple meetings with Russian embassy officials in London in the lead-up to the Brexit referendum. The Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, was their main liaison, reportedly helping Banks facilitate his connections with Russian businesses.

A Helsinki court will deliberate on “a critically important case about the limitations on free speech in Finland,” according to the story in Up North Magazine. The Magazine reports that the trial pertains to an “aggressive trolling campaign” against Jessikka Aro, a well-known Finnish journalist whose work exposed the St Petersburg troll factory (aka Internet Research Agency) in 2014. Aro has been targeted by Finnish and Russian trolls since her report four years ago, including through repeated tracking of her movements and activities.

Reports to check out:

A new analysis by the Henry Jackson SocietyA Definition of Contemporary Russian Conflict, warns that the West faces a new kind of conflict waged by the Kremlin: one in which military and non-military tools are combined in a dynamic, efficient, and integrated way to achieve its political aims. Until now, there has been no common agreement on what exactly we are fighting, saysBritish MP Bob Seely, author of the report. The Conservative lawmaker and Russia researcher argues that the Kremlin uses at least 50 instruments of state power in waging this current conflict.

The Russian Federation has a range of instruments at its disposal – from military to economic, political, diplomatic, and informational – that it uses to undermine deeper EU integration by Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, according to a recent report by the Stockholm-based Swedish Institute of International Affairs. The report says that Russia’s influence operations in these countries come in different forms, including direct support for parties, politicians or influence groups; financial influence through businesspeople in politics; strengthening separatist movements; etc.

Russian fairytales in Moscow-Kyiv gas cooperation

The DiXi Group, a Kyiv-based policy think tank, says Russia has been using natural gasas an instrument to achieve its political objectives in Ukraine. The report details Russian-Ukrainian gas relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union, including on how natural gas disputes were used to bribe and blackmail Ukrainian officials and to influence decision-making in Kyiv. The authors argue that the Kremlin has employed the “Russian fairytale” technique: “reassuring partners and lulling them into a false sense of security with verbal promises, while leaving them in impossibly hopeless positions at the very last moment.”

Security strategy for society: Building a safe Finland together

Finland has decided to update its Security Strategy for Society, seven years after its major review in 2010. The 100-page document, passed in the form of a government resolution last November, harmonizes the set of national principles regarding preparedness in Finnish society and guides the preparedness actions taken by the administrative branches on a range of possible threats. The role of psychological resilience, one of the vital functions, has been underlined as a fundamental factor underpinning the security of society.

US Developments How sanctioned Russians are benefitting from the World Cup

Despite the stringent sanctions imposed by the US against Putin’s inner circle, it has come to light that a number of targeted Russian companies and oligarchs were among those securing the best contracts linked to the 2018 World Cup. For example, most of the World Cup’s stadiums were constructed with funding from oligarchs including Gennady Timchenko and Oleg Deripaska, while multinational companies such as Visa celebrated the event by launching a Visa World Cup together with the sanctioned Sberbank. Ilia Shumanov, deputy director for Transparency International in Russia, explains that such links are unlikely to be regulated due to the oligarchs’ adroitness at evading sanctions and meaningful legal scrutiny.

The World Cup celebrations only continue to turn more sinister as they provide lucrative public relations opportunities for despots such as Ramzan Kadyrov, warlord and head of the Chechen Republic, and of course Vladimir Putin himself. Recent photographs of soccer legends celebrating together with Russia’s elite epitomize how the World Cup is being politicized to whitewash and legitimize the Putin regime.

The US issues further sanctions

In a novel move, the US has imposed sanctions on a number of Russian companies accused of assisting the Kremlin in spying on targets in North America and Western Europe. The targeted firms were allegedly involved in increasing the offensive cyber-capabilities of the Russian intelligence services. Most prominently targeted is the Russian firm Divetechnoservices, which manufactures equipment designed to tap underwater communications networks. According to US officials, the firm was paid $15 million by the FSB in 2011 to design equipment for such purposes.

Three individuals related to Divetechnoservices were also added to the US sanctions list for their involvement with the company and its activities. They have also been targeted for their involvement in the devastating NotPetya cyberattack that hit Ukraine and Europe last year, and for their involvement in a global cyber campaign to target network infrastructure devices. The individuals will be barred from conducting business with American companies or citizens.

Mueller warns about Russian meddling ahead of midterms

Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed in a court filing that “uncharged individuals and entities” are still engaging in election meddling operations. The claim came as part of an effort to block foreign individuals from reviewing the evidence against them because, according to prosecutors, “information within this case’s discovery identifies sources, methods, and techniques used to identify the foreign actors behind these interference operations, and disclosure of such information will allow foreign actors to learn these techniques and adjust their conduct.” This would undermine future and ongoing investigative efforts of interference practices that the special counsel says are continuing to this day.

Particular emphasis was placed on preventing Russian intelligence services from having access to the information. In addition, the information that Mueller is requesting not to be disclosed contains “thousands of communications and documents involving uncharged U.S. persons who were … unwittingly recruited by certain defendants and co-conspirators to engage in political activity inside the United States.” There are still legal means by which the defense attorneys could gain access to the information and make it public, despite the protective order. All of the defendants in the case, including 13 Russian nationals, are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Other charges include identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

Norway invites US troop deployment amid Russian belligerence

Norway has invited US troops to remain on its territory through 2019 and possibly longer – a request that comes after 300 US troops were invited to the country last year, for the first time since World War II. This time, more than double that number have been invited and are expected to stay for much longer. The troops will be stationed throughout Norway, some in regions bordering Russia. Norway, along with other countries bordering Russia, has expressed concern over the Kremlin’s aggressive behavior. The move is seen as a response to Russia’s increasingly revanchist tendencies, as well as President Trump’s hints that the US may not honor Article 5.

Predictably, Russia has vowed consequences for Norway’s invitation. The Russian Embassy posted on Facebook that the move “could cause growing tensions, triggering an arms race and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe.”

Meanwhile, on the eve of the World Cup, US-led military exercises were launched in countries bordering Russia. The drills, known as Sabre Strike, involve 19 countries and have been held for eight years. According to the American army, the exercises are “a demonstration of the commitment and solidarity of NATO forces at a time of heightened tensions with Moscow.” They serve as an attack simulation, with the US Army stressing that they are “not a provocation.”

The Kremlin’s Current Narrative Putin’s Cup

Like with the Sochi Olympic Games, it’s no secret that Russia wanted to host the World Cup for the accompanying international recognition and PR benefits. Sadly, the world has willingly given Putin this boost, choosing to ignore the inconvenient truth that Russia today is at its most repressive since the Soviet era.

Vzglyad writes: “The World Cup is not only a sports celebration but also a political event. It not only shows Russia’s real face to the world but is also a good occasion for high level meetings and negotiations”.

However, the author is quick to explain away the rather modest showing of global leaders at the opening ceremony: Apparently, “Kings, presidents, and prime ministers come to football matches when their countries make it to the finals or semi-finals”. This is followed by the hope that France and Germany will play well and that Macron and Merkel will come to Russia to support their national teams. And, of course, talk to Putin.

Vzglyad also couldn’t help but emphasise how great the Italian election is for Russia: “Austria will be represented by deputy chancellor Strache, Germany by minister of the interior Seehofer. Both are known as cheerleaders of normalizing relations with Russia, therefore their presence should be seen as a clear political gesture. It’s a pity Italy didn’t make it to the World Cup, otherwise Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini would be perfect company for Seehofer and Strache.

For many international leaders, the World Cup is a good occasion to see Vladimir Putin, and discuss all possible subjects from military cooperation to the Korean issue, from the Syrian war to oil prices. Regardless of who wins on the football field, Russia has already won on the geopolitical one.

It is a sobering question: how much of this victory have we, our countries, and our leaders willingly handed to Putin on a silver platter?

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion Winning the Normative War with Russia: An EU-Russia Power Audit

A recent study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) argues that Russia is engaging in a normative war against the West with the frontline constituting Europe’s domestic political sphere. The root of this attack is a normative disagreement over the rules and taboos of the international order, leading to a clash between liberal universalism and authoritarian statism. The aim of this normative war is to erode and undermine trust in EU politics and institutions. The direct effects of the Kremlin’s influence operations in Europe have been questioned but it has generated an indirect side effect where awareness of the Russian threat has crossed over into unhelpful paranoia, according to the authors.

Most important in the normative struggle with Russia is internal EU unity, which already exists to a partial degree. This is illustrated by the EU’s five principles on future relations with Russia that received the full support of 21 EU countries. Even though some member states such as Hungary, Greece, Austria, and Bulgaria have taken a more conciliatory approach towards Russia, they still remain committed to the principle of solidarity amongst EU member states.

The study also proposes that the EU builds resilience as a way to mitigate the potential effects of Russian influence rather than simply focusing on specifics such as exposing trolls and fake news and banning Russian TV channels. Specific resilience-building measures include: ensuring effective domestic and foreign intelligence sharing; reviewing legislation on political party financing; ensuring robust anti-money laundering legislation on both the national and EU levels; developing a robust cyber security framework; and countering both the supply and demand side of fake news.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Think-Tank, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against liberal-democratic system.

Categories: World News

There’s a big difference between the number of people who worry about fake news and who say they’ve actually seen it

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 06:52

Illustration from l.M. Glackens’ The yellow press (1910) via The Public Domain Review

Plus: Facebook looks to hire “news credibility specialists,” and Reuters tries to figure out if highly partisan sites are gaining traction in and outside the U.S. (it looks as if they’re not).

By Laura Hazard Owen @laurahazardowen, for NiemanLab

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“The biggest single gap between perception and what people actually see.” The Reuters Digital News Report for 2018 — which we wrote up here — includes big sections on fake news and misinformation. A few takeaways:

— People worry about fake news, but have trouble thinking of times they’ve actually seen it.

In focus groups (UK, US, Brazil, Germany this year) we find that ordinary people spontaneously raise the issue of ‘fake news’ in a way they didn’t a year ago. This is not surprising given extensive use by some politicians to describe media they don’t like — and widespread coverage by the media. But we find audience perceptions of these issues are very different from those of politicians and media insiders.

Yes, people worry about fabricated or ‘made up’ news (58 percent), but they struggle to find examples of when they’ve actually seen this (26 percent). Of all our categories this is the biggest single gap between perception and what people actually see.

— Reuters wanted to figure out if highly partisan sites are gaining traction both inside and outside the United States. “We worked with local European partners in ten countries to identify a number of sites that matched our criteria; namely websites or blogs which have a political or ideological agenda, mainly distributed through social media.” In the U.S., UK, and Germany, they found “a large gap between awareness of these sites and actual usage. This suggests either that their impact has been amplified by mainstream media coverage or that people have used them in the past, but that they are less relevant today.”

Reuters measured how partisan the sites were: “We asked all respondents to self-identify their political views and then we combined these data with the online sources they use to create the audience maps seen below.” Here’s the one for the U.S.:

“The users of the right-wing websites Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and InfoWars have an audience profile that is much further to the right than other websites (with the exception of Fox News). Occupy Democrats’ audience is at the left side of the political spectrum, close to other outlets with predominantly left-wing audiences like NPR and Huffington Post.”

As for age and gender: “Looking at the demographic profile of different sites in the U.S., we see that they are used by both young and old, though Breitbart in the US is more popular among those over 35 (8 percent reach vs 3 percent reach among those below 35). It is also predominantly used by men (68 percent of its audience).”

The full report is here.

“Audience members intrinsically linked fake news to social platforms.” Columbia’s Tow Center released its giant Platforms and Publishers report this week; my colleague Shan Wang covered that report here. One bit: Tow, with NORC, surveyed 1,127 journalists from 1,025 newsrooms across the United States and Canada. (Some of the results of that survey were released by NORC separately; we wrote them up here.) Of those surveyed:

Seventy-six percent of respondents said that Facebook wasn’t doing enough to “combat the problem of fake news and misinformation” on its platform, while 71 percent said the same about Twitter, and 65 percent about Google. Facebook consistently drew the strongest criticism from publishers in all areas of our research.

Facebook is hiring “news credibility specialists.” Business Insider found a job posting that has since been changed to be more generic and is referred to as “News Publisher Specialist,” while “News Credibility Specialist” is still in the permalink. Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, told Axios that the people in the jobs would “help us begin to build out a process for verifying different news organizations.”

By Laura Hazard Owen @laurahazardowen, for NiemanLab

Categories: World News

Perceived accuracy and bias in the news media

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/23/2018 - 20:49

By Knight Foundation

Download the PDF

Gallup and Knight Foundation’s 2017 Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy found that Americans believe the news media have a critical role to play in U.S. democracy but are not performing that role well. One of Americans’ chief concerns about media is bias, and Americans are much more likely to perceive bias in the news today than they were a generation ago.

A Feb. 5-March 11, 2018, Gallup/Knight Foundation survey of 1,440 Gallup Panel members assessed how pervasive U.S. adults believe bias in news reporting is, and whether they make distinctions between bias and inaccuracy.

The survey also probed for Americans’ reactions when they see biased or inaccurate reporting and sought to determine if the reactions depend on whether that reporting is about groups or individuals they support or oppose. Among the key findings in the survey:

  • Overall, Americans believe 62% of the news they see on television, read in newspapers and hear on the radio is biased. They are much more inclined to see news on social media as biased, estimating that 80% of the news they see there is biased.
  • Americans tend to think the majority of news reporting is accurate, but they still believe a substantial percentage of it, 44%, is inaccurate. They think 64% of news on social media is inaccurate.
  • More than eight in 10 U.S. adults report being angry or bothered by seeing biased information. A slightly greater proportion of Americans — more than nine in 10 — get angry or bothered by inaccurate information.
  • In rating various news organizations, Americans make little distinction between bias and accuracy — generally, those that are perceived as biased are also perceived as inaccurate, and those that are perceived as unbiased are perceived as being accurate.
  • Republicans’ and Democrats’ ratings of the accuracy and bias of certain news organizations diverge sharply, most notably with respect to Fox News®, Breitbart News®, CNN® and MSNBC®.

To a large degree, bias and accuracy appear to be in the eye of the beholder, greatly influenced by whether one agrees with the ideological leaning of the news source. Americans’ perceptions of fairly widespread bias and inaccuracy in news may be unduly influenced by the bias they perceive from the “other side” of the ideological spectrum rather than their own side. Counteracting perceptions of bias and inaccuracy may have a role to play in addressing the lack of trust in the news media and giving Americans more confidence in the media’s ability to carry out its democratic responsibilities.

Gallup and Knight Foundation acknowledge support for this research from the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.

PUBLICATION DETAILS
  • Author: Knight Foundation
  • Publication Date: 06/20/2018
  • Focus Area: Journalism
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By Knight Foundation

Categories: World News

Fake: Ukraine Does Not Want to Claim its POW’s from Occupied Territories

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/23/2018 - 17:13

Kyiv is not interested in freeing Ukrainian citizens who were taken prisoner by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DPR, LPR). This claim has become a favorite trope of Russian and separatist propagandist media. On June 19 the so-called Justice Ministry of the DPR again declared that official Kyiv does not intend to free those prisoners and has “once again thwarted the exchange of prisoners”. RIA Novosti, Ukraina.ru, Regnum and others all disseminated this fake claim.

Website screenshot Justice Ministry of the DPR

Website screenshot RIA

Website screenshot Ukraina.ru

Pro-Russian militants claim a prisoner exchange was planned for June 27, but the Ukrainian side stopped meeting with the militant leadership.

Russian media regularly produce distorted and fake stories claiming Kyiv is stalling or disrupting prisoner exchanges. After a May 2018 meeting of the Ukraine, OSCE, Russia contact group in Minsk, Russian media disseminated fake stories claiming Ukraine’s authorities did not want a prisoner exchange. (The contact group was formed in 2014 aimed to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.)

During a June meeting of the contact group, Ukraine reiterated that Kyiv is waiting for an exchange of prisoners with the militants. Daryna Olifer, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian side said Ukraine was ready for compromises.

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Виконання безпекового блоку питань Мінських угод – беззаперечний шлях для встановлення повноцінного та всеосяжного…

Posted by Darka Olifer on Wednesday, June 13, 2018

 

According to Ukrainian MP Iryna Herashchenko, who represents Ukraine in a Contact Group Humanitarian Subcommittee, the issue of prisoner and hostage exchange is a burning one for Ukraine.

In an interview with Ukrainian television station Channel Five on June 17, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said he hoped the next prisoner exchange would take place sometime during the World Cup which is currently being played out in Russia. Moscow might agree to such an exchange as it would create a positive image of Russia in the eyes of its Western partners, but such a gesture would not be one of goodwill, but simply more of the Kremlin’s political manipulation, Klimkin said.

Categories: World News