Syndicate content
Struggle against fake information about events in Ukraine
Updated: 19 min 51 sec ago

Manipulation: US Preparing a New Revolution in Ukraine

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:38

On January 11 scores of pro-Kremlin media blazed with incendiary headlines such as US Threatens Ukraine with New Maidan, United States Preparing a New Revolution for Ukraine, A Third Maidan for Ukraine.  While the headlines may sound menacing, the story that follows purports to be an overview of a blog post by a senior fellow at the American think-tank the Atlantic Council Diane Francis This Time It Will Be Very, Very Different. But the retelling is very far from the truth of the original.

Website screenshot

Website screenshot Atlantic Council

Politnavigator, Rossiyskiy Dialog, Utro, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and other pro-Kremln media reprinted this manipulated retelling of Ms. Francis’ views.

Website screenshot

Website screenshot Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Diane Francis is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, she is editor at large with the National Post in Canada, a Distinguished Professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, and author of ten books. The Atlantic Council is an independent think tank committed to Euro-Atlantic cooperation and does represent any official US policy.

Neither Rossiyskaya Gazeto nor any of the other Russian publications retell Francis’ blog faithfully. Using words such as coup, western demands, they twist her points to present a classic trope of Russian disinformation on Ukraine, that the US is calling all the shots in Ukraine and predicts an early coup d’etat there.

All revolutionary events in Ukraine will be controlled by the West, which will not repeat any of its past mistakes, writes the site Utro, implying this to be the gyst of Francis’ blog. Needless to say, there is no such thing in the original text, on the contrary, Francis writes about the West supporting Ukrainians’ aspirations to real democracy and rule of law, the word control does not appear anywhere in her text, nor does the phrase past mistakes.

Francis’ article is a warning to the current Ukrainian administration to carry out further reforms before the next elections in 2019. Ukraine has successfully built one of Europe’s largest armies, Francis writes, “developed stronger financial institutions, important Western allies and expertise, and an ‘infrastructure of governance,’ consisting of hundreds of honest parliamentarians, executives, financiers, lawyers, activists, international donors and benefactors, and political leaders.

If the Ukrainians’ fight against corruption and for the rule of law will have to take to the streets again, all of these factors will make it a completely different fight, there will be no chaos, or of a Russian invasion, because the Ukrainian army is armed to the teeth, Francis writes. And then there are those Javelin anti-tank missiles and sniper rifles that America is sending to Ukraine’s military. Not a peep about those.

Categories: World News

StopFake #167 [ENG] with Yuri Polakiwsky

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:55

Fakes: Crimean Tatars to support Putin in Russia’s March presidential election; Kyiv residents want Russian social media back; Ukrainian train arrives in Russia carrying grenades.

Categories: World News

What (if anything) do Facebook’s News Feed changes mean for fake news?

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 09:05

Plus: Lessons from Bolivia and Slovakia, and what’s the reach of fake news in the EU?

By Laura Hazard Owen, for Nieman Lab

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.

Less is more? Facebook, as you certainly know by now, announced last week that it’s making changes to News Feed. Posts from friends and family are in; content from Pages (including publishers) is out. There are a lot of questions about what this means for publishers. There are also questions about what it means for the spread of fake news on the platform.

— “While it may cut down incidental exposure to misinformation, the changes could, in some cases, only harden filter bubbles with a steady stream of content from people with similar ideologies. Meanwhile, a retrenchment from News Feed into more walled-off Groups and communities could exacerbate exposure to misinformation.” (Charlie WarzelBuzzFeed)

— “Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, also wrote to some major publishers that the changes would cause people to see less content from ‘publishers, brands, and celebrities,’ but that ‘news stories shared between friends will not be impacted,’ which could suggest that fake news might get promoted over content directly from legitimate news outlets.” (Alex KaplanMedia Matters)

— “The accounts Facebook suggests at the top of your feed won’t have necessarily gone through any sort of vetting process. This is bad news if your fake news radar is a little rusty and your aunt is prone to sharing links from questionable sources.” (Marissa Miller, Teen Vogue)

Facebook’s solution to Fake News is to publish less news unless your racist uncle shares news with you.

— Anthony De Rosa

Categories: World News

Most people in the West make two fatal mistakes about Moscow ‘media,’ Yakovenko says

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 07:36

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Most people in the West continue to make two “fatal” mistakes about the media in Putin’s Russia, Igor Yakovenko says. They assume that Russians who call themselves journalists are in fact journalists and that Russian propaganda is propaganda in the normal sense.

“Few in the West understand,” the Russian commentator writes, “what the world is dealing with in the form of the Putin regime and its information arm;” and because of that, they commit “two principled and fatal” mistakes reflecting their willingness to take the claims of Moscow’s representatives at face value.

On the one hand, Yakovenko points out, people in the West “continue to call employees of Russia media journalists, a practice that automatically converts any measures taken against them into limitations on free speech.” But these people aren’t journalists and thus should not be able to expect the respect given to real journalists.

“Not a single government media outlet in Russia and also not a single one which adopts a pro-Kremlin position, has any relationship to journalism,” and understanding that must be the basis for the adoption of an adequate response by Europe and the West more generally to what these Russians are doing.

He continues: “Not a single employee working [for Russian outlets] should be considered a journalist, and everything connected with the defense of freedom of speech has nothing to do with them.  This also relates to ‘experts’ who live in the studios of Russian talk shows” and spew hatred against the West, Ukraine, and the Russian opposition.

And on the other hand, Yakovenko says, people in the West need to recognize that “the content of the Russian media” is not propaganda. Those who call it that implicitly put it in the same rank with “political propaganda of any other direction,” including that offered elsewhere now or in the past.

But “the distinguishing feature of Putin’s information forces from such models as the communist or Nazi versions is that the propaganda of Goebbels and Suslov advanced a definitive ideology, albeit an anti-human one.” Each offered a certain “image of the future” and sought to win people over to its pursuit.

“In Putin’s Russia,” however, “there is no such ideology and no image of the future. There are not and cannot be any books entitled ‘Putinism.’ The Putin media simply destroys the foundations of all norms, moral, legal and scientific.  It simply sows hatred, lies, crudities and provocations.”

And “not having any positive program for humanity,” Yakovenko continues, “Putin and his media trade in threats and unpleasantness, using any problems in the world for efforts to destroy it, to sow hostility among people and thus allow them to continue to rule and steal in Russia.”

Unfortunately,” he concludes, “the world still doesn’t fully understand the nature of the threat it is confronted by in the form of Putinism.”  Failure to recognize another threat in the middle of the 20th century cost Europe and all humanity.

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Categories: World News

Fake news kicks into high gear in Czech presidential runoff

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 06:26

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Czech President Milos Zeman in Sochi on November 21, 2017

By Alan Crosby, for RFE/RL

In the first round of the Czech presidential election earlier this month, Jiri Drahos was variously portrayed — without substantiation — as a pedophile, a thief, and a communist collaborator.

The smears were part of a string of unfounded allegations in social media and on websites suspected of dealing in fake news.

Now that the pro-Europe challenger’s campaign in a second-round runoff against incumbent Milos Zeman, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest allies in central Europe, is in full swing, the disinformation gloves have come off once again.

Within days of the start of the runoff, which will culminate in balloting on January 27-28, pro-Zeman websites and social media were sending out messages and publishing ads accusing the 68-year-old scientist of seeking to open the country’s borders to immigrants, playing on local fears of a possible influx of Muslim extremists.

“The deciding factor [in the second round] is expected to be the intensive disinformation campaign directed against Professor Drahos,” says Jakub Janda, deputy director of the European Values think tank in Prague.

Czech presidential candidate Jiri Drahos has makeup applied ahead of a debate in Prague on December 12

“We’ve already seen a growing number of attacks related to migration and his personal affairs, which is likely to intensify,” Janda adds.

Much of the focus has been on about 30 or so pro-Russian websites that have published a raft of conspiracy theories, slanderous articles, and anti-Western rhetoric against the United States as well as NATO and the European Union, both of which count the Czech Republic among their members.

Meanwhile, the sites consistently praise Zeman, who opposes immigration and is seen as pro-Russian.

Zeman won the first round on January 12-13 with 38.6 percent of the vote, compared to Drahos’s 26.6 percent second-place showing.

“I was expecting this type of lies and disinformation, common slander,” Drahos said in response to a wave of ads on January 18 that called him a “welcomer” in reference to wanting to increase immigration.

Drahos has repeatedly said during the campaign that he opposes quotas set by the European Union that would force member states to share asylum seekers, though he would accept a limited number if they met certain criteria.

Zeman, 73, has courted controversy since being elected four years ago by voicing antimigrant views, denigrating Muslims, and warming up to Putin at a time when Russia is unilaterally redrawing European borders and many in the West accuse Moscow of meddling in Western elections.

He once called the 2015 migrant crisis “an organized invasion” of Europe and has said that Muslims are “impossible to integrate.”

During the campaign before the first round of voting, attacks against Drahos from sites such as questioned his character, accusing him of collaborating with the StB, the communist-era secret police, even though he had been given a clean lustration by Czech authorities affirming that he never worked with the police.

For his part Drahos, a political novice who has railed against Zeman’s “unacceptable stance” toward Moscow, says he long expected more of the same before voters head back to the ballot box because “Russia is interested in our elections.”

“My adversaries are hoping that if they ram down people’s throats [the false accusations] that I was an StB collaborator or a pedophile, it will stick with some voters,” Drahos says.

Jakub Janda

“I know Milos Zeman is coming with blows below the belt,” the soft-spoken chemistry professor adds.

Analysts have been warning for the past year about meddling, mainly Russian-backed, in the Czech election after suspected similar campaigns in votes in the United States, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

Moscow has long sought to hold sway in the Central European country and intensified its Czech efforts after the outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists sparked a backlash, according to the Czech Security Information Service.

Zeman’s pro-Kremlin comments and ties between Moscow and some of his senior aides have raised fears even further that Russia is making inroads with its influence.

Martin Nejedly, the president’s chief economic adviser, worked in Moscow and subsequently headed a subsidiary of Russian oil firm LUKoil until 2015, when it collapsed. The bankruptcy left the Czech state with a liability of more than $1 million, which LUKoil reportedly covered after Zeman warned that it could cost Nejedly his job at Prague castle.

Neither Nejedly nor another senior Zeman aide, Vratislav Mynar, has received full security clearance from Czech officials, reportedly in part over possible ties to Russia.

In response to disinformation fears, the Czechs set up the Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (CTHT) last year. A unit inside the Interior Ministry, its agents look to combat terrorism and radicalization.

Several websites dedicated to rooting out fake news, such as,, and the VolbyDezinformace Facebook page, have also been set up to knock down erroneous reports.

But Josef Slerk, head of the Independent Journalism Foundation in Prague, warns that by the time fake news has been refuted, it may be too late.

“The biggest danger of fake news is the so-called ‘sleeper effect.’ From the beginning, we know it was from an untrustworthy source, but in a few weeks we will forget it and we will just say next time that we’ve heard it somewhere,” he said.

The attacks haven’t always flowed one way.

Zeman, who has the backing of the unreformed Communists and the far-right anti-EU and anti-NATO SPD party, has complained about allegations he is in ill health and will be unable to fulfill another four-year term.

The claims have been strongly rejected by the presidential office and Zeman’s own physician.

There have also been reports that some social media websites were spreading a hoax to Zeman’s voters that they did not have to vote since the incumbent president automatically advanced to the second round.

Some analysts are also skeptical about how much influence Moscow can really have on Czech voters.

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, says that while he believes the Kremlin clearly has a “favored candidate,” Zeman doesn’t need help mobilizing his base.

“Zeman is able to do that himself quite well,” according to Galeotti.

“At other times it [Russian disinformation] is quite good for mystifying, creating that situation where you have no idea what the truth is. But again, this is a situation where most people have had a chance to make up their mind about Zeman,” Galeotti told the Financial Times.

By Alan Crosby, for RFE/RL

Alan Crosby is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.

Correction: This story has been amended to fix the date of the runoff to January 26-27.

Categories: World News

Russians so overwhelmingly apolitical that poll numbers are meaningless, Kagarlitsky says

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 00:14

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Given that 90 percent of Russian society is “apolitical,” Moscow commentator Boris Kagarlitsky says, “it is impossible” to say how much support Vladimir Putin or anyone else has. Indeed, asking that question under Russian conditions now is completely inappropriate.

This comment from the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements came in response to a question posed by Kazan’s Business Gazeta to a number of Russian and Tatar analysts as to how much support Putin really has in Russia and in Tatarstan.

Talking about the support Putin has “would be possible if there were other politicians in the country or in general if there were politics.” But “as there is no political life or political competition and as strictly speaking, alternatives to society aren’t offered or are in fact banned, then the level of support [Putin has] is impossible to assess.”

Others surveyed and their reactions include:

  • Mikhail Delyagin, head of the Moscow Institute of Problems of Globalization, says that “support and attitudes toward a candidate are completely different things.”  Many who are very critical of Putin are still inclined to support him. Thus, he has support but not necessarily approval. Putin has mastered “the art of appearing to be the lesser evil.”
  • Maksim Kalashnikov, a Moscow commentator, says that post-Soviet people “vote for whoever is ruling” and they are especially likely to do so if their rulers as Putin have done create the impression that there are no alternatives.  The incumbent president will get “more than half” of the votes without any effort. Boosting his figures to 70 percent will require playing games.
  • Aleksey Mukhin, the head of the Moscow Center for Political Technology, says Putin’s support is “on the order of 80 percent” but that the authorities won’t be able to carry out the elections with scandals of one kind or another. The opposition “and other forces” have the capacity to ensure that things won’t go smoothly.
  • Iskander Yasaveyev of the Higher School of Economics says that since Aleksey Navalny has not been allowed to be a candidate, the vote has no drama and participation will be much lower than many expect.  As a result, the Kremlin will do whatever it has to in order to ensure  that participation “on paper” is what it wants.
  • Fedor Krasheninnikov , a Yekaterinburg political analyst, says that apathy among Russians  is “very great” and that makes the likelihood of Putin getting “a firm 55 to 60 percent” of those who will vote somewhat impressive.
  • Rafik Mukhametshin, the rector of the Bulgar Islamic Academy, says that the people of Tatarstan will support Putin at roughly the same level as voters in the country as a whole, 70 to 80 percent.
  • Rkail Zaydulla, a Tatar dramatist, says that given what Moscow has done to Tatarstan in the past year, support for Putin should be “much lower.”  But “under our conditions, that won’t be the case.”
  • Azgar Shakirov, a Tatar actor, says that no one in Tatarstan will speak against Putin “because it is well known that he will win.  “I think that more than 50 percent of the population will vote for the current president,” if votes are counted accurately.   But the re-election of Putin “will not lead to any changes.”
  • Fauziya Bayramova, a Tatar nationalist, says that Putin has all the administrative resources he could want but “the dissatisfaction of the people is very great.” He’s been in power for a long time without serious progress at home and with policies that have made Russia an outcast in the world at large.
  • Renat Ibragimov, a Tatar singer, says that Putin could easily boost his support to “more than 70 percent” if he were to come out in support of changes in the law such as the introduction of progressive taxation.
  • Marat Bikmullin, head of Kazan’s Information Systems group, says that Putin has more than 50 percent support but that most of it comes from those with low levels of education, low incomes, and a propensity to watch Moscow television all the time.
  • Ildar Bayazitov, head of the Yardem Foundation, says that despite what has happened in the last year, “the support for Putin in Tatarstan will be higher than in Russia as a whole,” possibly about 80 percent in the republic and only just over 60 percent in Russia as a whole. “The national republics always give [incumbents] more support.
  • Rafik Abdrakhmanov, co-owner of the Tugan Avylym company, says that in his view, “the rating of Vladimir Putin has fallen” because of what the Kremlin leader has done to Kazan. He suggests Putin will get about 60 percent of the vote and that the elections will be marred by falsifications and protests.

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Categories: World News

Antisemitism and pro-Kremlin propaganda

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 14:37

By EU vs Disinfo

“Most people know about, but few are willing to condemn, the strict taboo in the media, of criticizing Jews as a group, using that term. One cannot even criticize a small subsection of Jews, a miniscule percentage of the Jewish population, even when they richly deserve it”.

This, and a whole series of similarly anti-Semitic statements, was part of an editorial published on Monday in Moscow by the pro-Kremlin English language outlet, Russia Insider. The article, which ran under the headline “It’s Time to Drop the Jew Taboo,” attracted a wave of negative attention among observers of Russian media. How does it inscribe itself in the wider pro-Kremlin propaganda picture?

What is Russia Insider?

Russia Insider is a private, Moscow-based English language online media outlet, in which Western authors and commentators appear with criticism of Western governments and praise of the Kremlin. It presents itself as crowd-funded and run by a group of Western expats living in Russia who share a wish to make the Russian perspective on different issues available to audiences outside Russia. The author of the anti-Semitic piece is the outlet’s editor-in-chief, an American based in Moscow who appears as a commentator on RT (Russia Today). In a leak analysed by academic Anton Shekhovtsov, author of the book Russia and the Western Far Right, it is claimed that the outlet could be sponsored by the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who holds strongly nationalist views, allegedly sponsors rebels in Eastern Ukraine, and owns Russia’s largest nationalist media outlet, Tsargrad TV.

The Church and anti-Semitism in Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church is considered by many a strong source of nationalist sentiment in modern Russia; observers have seen the Church as central in building up an anti-Semitic narrative around the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution and the upcoming 100th anniversary of the execution of Russia’s last Imperial family. But also leading Russian politicians have publicly expressed anti-Semitic views. Former talk show host, now Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, was on the record with anti-Semitic statements a year ago. Similarly, news host and Secretary of the Russian Civic Chamber, Valery Fadeev, voiced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, targeting French President Emmanuel Macron and his election campaign.

Endorsed by RT

Even if the anti-Semitic component in the propaganda is not initiated from the top of Russian authorities, but rather has its roots in some religious and other nationalist conservative circles, it is clearly tolerated by a government that normally does not shy away from trying to control the country’s information environment. Similarly, the systematic endorsement of the editor of an anti-Semitic outlet on the government’s international channel, RT, suggests that there is hardly more than an arm’s length between the two.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Fake: Kyiv Residents Want Russian Social Media Platforms Back

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:25

Russian Defense Ministry television channel  Zvezda published a story claiming that the majority of Kyiv residents are against banning Russian social media sites and Russian films. Citing a poll carried out for the Ukrainian Obozrevatel internet newspaper, Zvezda claims the majority of Kyiv residents want the Russian social media network VKontakte back. The poll however was not about Russian social networks or Russian films, but rather about Kyiv residents’ attitudes to Ukrainian sanctions against Russia.

Website screenshot

Website screenshot

Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the Russian sponsored war in eastern Ukraine, there has been relatively broad popular resistance to Russian sites and servers. In May 2016, citing national security interests, President Petro Poroshenko banned Russia’s VKontakte and Odnoklassniki social networks, the email service and the search engine company Yandex.

Obozrevatel’s original story states that a small majority of Kyiv residents do not support Ukraine’s sanctions against Russia, there is no mention of support for any particular social media site. The poll was conducted by a group called Ukrainian Democratic Circle, who have done previous polls for Obozrevatel. This particular group however is not certified by the Ukrainian Sociological Association, who omitted it from their 2014 list of trusted sources.

Obozrevatel also has a poll of their own about the ban of Russian social media and search engines, the response is a resounding support for the ban.

A recent December 2017 rating of Ukraine’s top 25 internet sites did not include any Russian social media sites, mail services or search engine companies.

Categories: World News

NDI Poll: 30% of Respondents Believe Russian Propaganda Exists in Georgia

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:59

By Tabula

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) released the results of their most recent public opinion survey in Georgia regarding major issues surrounding the country, its foreign policies, efficiency of the government’s work, and political propaganda.

The fieldwork for the survey was carried out from November 29th to December 19th, 2017 throughout the regions of Georgia, excluding the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 2,298 face-to-face interviews were conducted based on a sampling selection. The NDI survey was conducted by CRRC-Georgia. The average margin of error is +/- 1.9%.

According to the NDI survey, 30% of respondents believe that political propaganda is common in Georgia. 53% disagreed and 17% did not answer the question.

To the question about Russian/US/EU propaganda, the results were:

29% believe that propaganda promoting the European Union exists in the country, 45% disagreed with this opinion, and 26% did not answer the question.

28% believe that there is propaganda coming from the United States. 44% did not agree with the opinion and 28% did not answer the question.

Respondents were given the definition of propaganda as “an attempt to spread information especially of a biased or misleading nature, to promote a positive image of a specific country, justify its actions and create a negative image of the opposing countries.”

Out of the 30% who believe that Russian propaganda exists in Georgia, 53% say it is spread through Georgian TV channels, and 32% believes Russian propaganda is promoted by political parties. 28% name the Internet and social media as a weapon for spreading Russian propaganda, 12% blame society, and 11% think foreign TV channels spread the misleading and biased information.

Out of the 29% of interviewed respondents who believe that there is a propaganda from the European Union, 66% thinks it is spread via Georgian TV channels, 31% thinks propaganda reaches society through the Internet and social media. 23% of respondents believe political parties bring propaganda to the public, 11% blame society, and 8% claims foreign TV Channels are responsible for spreading propaganda.

Out of the 28% who believe that US propaganda is heavily present in Georgia, 66% say that it is spread through Georgian TV channels, 32% believe information comes from the Internet and social media, 26% from political parties, 10% from society, and 9% think propaganda is spread through foreign TV channels.

By Tabula

Categories: World News

American views: Trust, media and democracy

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:42

By Knight Foundation

Technological advances have made it easier for Americans to connect with each other and to find information, including details about the major issues facing the country. But those advances present both challenges and opportunities for individuals and U.S. institutions.

Not only is more information readily available, but so is more misinformation, and many consumers may not be able to easily discern the difference between the two.

Amid the changing informational landscape, media trust in the U.S. has been eroding, making it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities of informing the public and holding government leaders accountable.

Results of the 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy show that most Americans believe it is now harder to be well-informed and to determine which news is accurate. They increasingly perceive the media as biased and struggle to identify objective news sources. They believe the media continue to have a critical role in our democracy but are not very positive about how the media are fulfilling that role.

The research reported here is based on a nationally representative mail survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. This project received support from theJohn S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda GatesFoundation and Open Society Foundations.

KEY FINDINGS Americans believe the news media have an important role to play in democracy, particularly in terms of informing the public, yet they do not believe the media are fulfilling that role.
  • More than eight in 10 U.S. adults believe the news media are critical or very important to our democracy. They see the most important roles played by the media as making sure Americans have the knowledge they need to be informed about public affairs and holding leaders accountable for their actions.
  • At the same time, Americans are more likely to say the media perform these roles poorly than to say they are performing them well.
  • The public divides evenly on the question of who is primarily responsible for ensuring people have an accurate and politically balanced understanding of the news — 48% say the news media and 48% say individuals themselves.
Americans believe that it is increasingly harder to be a well-informed citizen.
  • By 58% to 38%, Americans say it is harder rather than easier to be informed today due to the plethora of informationand news sources available.
  • Half of U.S. adults feel confident there are enough sources to allow people to cut through bias to sort out the facts in the news — down from 66% a generation ago.
  • Twenty-seven percent of Americans say they, personally, are “very confident” that they can tell when a news source is reporting factual news versus commentary or opinion.
  • Based on their self-reported knowledge of current events and perceptions of how easy it is to discern truth from misinformation in news reporting, most Americans fall into the categories of either Knowledgeable Optimists, who are informed and believe it is possible to find the truth, or Inattentive Skeptics, who are less informed and pessimistic that the truth can be identified. Partisanship and education influence these beliefs.
Americans’ perceptions of the news media are generally negative, and their perceptions of bias have grown considerably from a generation ago. A majority cannot name an objective news source.
  • More Americans have a negative (43%) than a positive (33%) view of the news media, while 23% are neutral.• Today, 66% of Americans say most news media do not do a good job of separating fact from opinion. In 1984, 42% held this view.
  • Less than half of Americans, 44%, say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively. Republicans who can name an accurate source overwhelmingly mention Fox News®, while Democrats’ responses are more varied.
  • On a multiple-item media trust scale with scores ranging from a low of zero to a high of 100, the average American scores a 37.
  • Media trust is highly influenced by partisanship, with Democrats largely trusting the media and Republicans distrusting. Older Americans tend to view the media more positively than younger adults do.
Americans are highly concerned about the effects of “fake news” on our democracy, but their definitions of “fake news” vary.
  • Seventy-three percent of Americans say the spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem with news coverage today; this percentage is higher than for any other potential type of news bias.3 Copyright © 2018 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy
  • A majority of U.S. adults consider “fake news” a very serious threat to our democracy.
  • Americans are most likely to believe that people knowingly portraying false information as if it were true always constitutes “fake news.”
  • Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.”
Americans view many newer sources of news positively, but they are less positive about social media.
  • Underscoring the changing news landscape, equal proportions of Americans rely on social media as rely on newspapers to stay informed.
  • Majorities say the effect of citizen videos, the internet, cable news and news aggregators has been positive for the news environment, while a majority say the impact of social media — and politicians’ use of it to communicate directly to citizens — has been negative.
Even in the midst of technological change affecting the news environment, television news programs are the most popular news source. TV news and newspapers are most trusted.
  • Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults say they rely on television news “a great deal” or “a fair amount” for staying up to date on news.
  • Internet news websites are the next-most-common source.
  • Americans have the greatest trust in national network news and local and national newspapers to provide mostly accurate and politically balanced news. They trust cable news more than they trust internet news sources.•
  • Younger adults (aged under 50) are more likely to consume news online, including on social media, while older adults are much more likely to watch or listen to news.
  • Reliance on newspapers is most common among adults with graduate degrees, as well as those who are aged 65 and older.
The public expresses concerns about the role that major technology companies are playing in the modern news environment, but it is divided on whether they should be regulated.
  • Seven in 10 U.S. adults report getting news at least occasionally from major internet platforms such as Google®,Facebook® or Yahoo®.
  • The public considers these internet platforms’ methods to direct news stories to individual users based on their past browsing history problematic for democracy. However, they divide on whether these companies’ methods should be regulated.
The news media may have as much potential to reinforce existing views as they do to persuade.
  • Most Americans claim to rely on a mix of liberal and conservative news sources, but one in four admit to getting news from only one perspective.
  • Forty-six percent of U.S. adults claim to have firm views that rarely change.
  • Americans commonly share news stories with others — primarily with like-minded people.
publication Details
  • Author: Knight Foundation
  • Publication Date: 01/16/2018
  • Focus Area: Journalism
Project Links

By Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation funds ideas from people with the vision, tenacity, courage, know-how, and commitment to discovery to see them through.

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: Czech presidential gambit

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:26

Topics of the Week

Unusual vigor: In a WSJ interview, President Trump spoke about protecting the integrity of US elections from foreign interference and stated that his administration is “looking at all sorts of failsafes” in order to prevent foreign meddling in the 2018 elections.

Czech presidential gambit: Miloš Zeman faces run-off after topping Czech presidential elections. The President, who has been criticised for his warm relations with Russia and China, received 38.6% of votes and now faces pro-Western candidate Jiří Drahoš (26.6%) in the second round.

Sweden will create a new public authority responsible for countering disinformation and increasing resilience among the public, says PM Löfven.

Information Laundering: The GMF’s Alliance for Securing Democracy has published a report suggesting a new approach to conceptualizing information influence operations. The authors note an “operational resemblance between the spread of disinformation and the laundering of illicit funds”.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Seeing a pompous and lavish burial of a member of the Politburo, Rabinovich sadly shakes his head: “What a waste! With this kind of money, I could have buried the entire Politburo!”

US Developments Russian hackers eye the US Senate

Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Inc. has published a report claiming that the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear that targeted the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign has been preparing an espionage operation against the US Senate for several months. The author of the report explained that he discovered “a clutch of suspicious-looking websites dressed up to look like the U.S. Senate’s internal email system”, whose digital fingerprints he cross-referenced with those used almost exclusively by Fancy Bear.

Kremlin trolls are going after Trump’s Republican critics

A report in Mother Jones, based on the cybersecurity project Hamilton 68, details how pro-Kremlin social media accounts are targeting prominent Republican critics of President Trump, including John McCain – the most consistent target – as well as Mitt Romney, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker, among others. In what is now a well-document tactic, these trolls typically repost and amplify hyperpartisan material originating on far-right US websites rather than in Russian media. For instance, McCain’s health has been a trending topic, with articles like “As the Trump Dossier Scandal Grows and Implicates Him, McCain checks into Hospital” from the right-of-Breitbart site True Pundit gathering steam with help from the Russian accounts. Read the report for further examples.

“We’re going to be very, very careful about Russia – and about anybody else, by the way.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Trump stated that his administration is “looking at all sorts of failsafes” and “working on different solutions” in order to prevent foreign meddling in the 2018 elections. While continuing to maintain that the 2016 election was not influenced by Russia “in terms of votes”, Trump nonetheless spoke with unusual vigor about protecting the integrity of US elections from foreign interference: “We’re going to be very, very careful about Russia – and about anybody else, by the way. […] We are going to make sure that no country, including Russia, can have anything to do with the results of the midterms or any other election, OK? That’s what our country is all about.” As with most things the President says, it remains to be seen whether he sticks to this message or once again changes his mind…

Turning the tables: Washington, DC trolls Putin

The city of Washington, DC has announced plans to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy after Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader who was assassinated in Moscow in 2015. Federal legislation to rename the street was introduced last year in both the House and Senate, but has not been passed. The Senate bill stipulates that the address of the compound containing Russia’s embassy, consulate, and ambassador’s residence would be changed to 1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza. Russian officials have long been against the move and sought to address it with their US counterparts. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that the decision comes at a time when “bilateral relations between the two countries still leave much to be desired, mildly speaking.”

The Kremlin’s Current Narrative Hold on, Twitter

A few months ago, the internet was shaken up by Twitter’s decision to ban ads from RT and Sputnik over Russia’s US election interference. While many saluted this decision as a long-awaited step to counter Russian disinformation, Russian state media and MFA officials vowed “retaliatory measures”. We didn’t need to wait long to see an attempt to destroy Twitter’s reputation. RT published a report by Project Veritas claiming that “Twitter ‘shadow bans’ undesirable voices, censors free speech” and quotes Steven Pierre, a Twitter software engineer. No need to be a prophet to realize that in the Twitter vs. RT battle, the latter assumes a position of victimhood, accusing Twitter of censoring a certain way of thinking.

“Sanctions didn’t work”

Whenever Vzglyad writes about foreign affairs, it is a classic compilation of Kremlin narratives. Vzglyad never tires of reminding us that sanctions didn’t work. It also claims that sanctions aren’t a European idea but a solely American initiative that pushes EU countries to go against their national interests. Apparently, someone at the newspaper also has a time machine that allows them to see into the future. It’s revealed that Merkel will no longer be Europe’s leader and now it’s time for Macron to take the spotlight. He won’t be able to solve the EU’s internal problems, but will be able to resolve problems in the Eastern neighbourhood by “putting the Ukrainian problem in the corner” and “creating” progress with implementation of the Minsk agreement. Vzglyad sums up this beautiful piece by stating that “restoring relations with Russia will be one of President Macron’s priorities”.

Policy & Research News Will Russia retain its key ally in Prague?

This weekend, the first round of presidential elections was held in the Czech Republic. During the presidential campaign, experts and several of the candidates warned against disinformation attacks that might influence the public vote. The leading reason behind these concerns is that, for the last five years, the Kremlin’s greatest Central European ally has been sitting in Prague Castle. Czech President Miloš Zeman often visits Russia and frequently shares the views of Vladimir Putin, including his disdain for journalists, the annexation of Crimea being a ‘done deal’, and denying the presence of Russian soldiers in the separatist regions of Ukraine. Zeman’s colleagues also have intimate and questionable ties to Russia: his economic advisor Martin Nejedly previously worked in Russia and the Russian energy giant Lukoil paid a fine Nejedly was given for selling oil from strategic reserves, so that he could remain in his position without security clearance.

The second election round is taking place at the end of the month; we are expecting probable strong attacks against Zeman’s opponent, Jiri Drahoš, whose views are on Russia and the transatlantic alliance are the polar opposite of Zeman’s.

“The deciding factor is expected to be an intensive disinformation campaign directed against Professor Drahoš in the two weeks leading up to the second round. We’ve already seen a growing number of attacks related to migration and his personal affairs, which are likely to intensify”, says Jakub Janda, head of the Kremlin Watch Program.

Macron wants to fight “fake news”, but what else?

Alina Polyakova warns in her brief expert contribution to Axios that even though French President Emmanuel Macron presents himself as a Kremlin hawk with respect to disinformation, France still remains Russia’s biggest foreign investor. Furthermore, France plans to double its investments and revive the bilateral economic agenda, despite the sanctions regime against the Russian Federation enacted by the European Union and United States.

People in Donbas have little choice but to be manipulated

Mariia Terentieva navigates a sensitive topic in her article for New Eastern Europe – the public opinion amongst residents of Ukraine’s separatist regions. She points out that these people cannot be blamed for their oft-distorted perceptions of what is happening in Ukraine and for their credulity in the face of disinformation. Often, they have no alternatives to Russian TV, and online fact-checking initiatives rarely reach them. She also points out several Ukrainian initiatives that are trying to address this problem, such as UA.TV, Ukrinform, and Hromadske radio. Still, she warns, once the separatist regions return to Ukrainian control, it will be challenging to reintegrate their citizens after such extensive manipulation.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion

U.S. Congressional report: Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy           in Russia and Europe

More than a year after the presidential elections which sparked a contentious debate about Russian electoral interference in the United States, Congress finally released a comprehensive report detailing Russian efforts to undermine the Western democratic order. A new report published by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations explains the Kremlin’s subversive influence tactics and provides an overview and assessment of countermeasures employed by European countries, which serve as a basis for recommendations of how the United States should tackle the issue.

The report, compiled by Democratic senators on the committee, is very critical of President Donald Trump. “Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president,” it says. The senators urge Trump and the country as a whole to start treating the problem with the urgency it deserves and to actively deter Russian hostilities. This failing, the Kremlin will continue to develop and refine its hybrid arsenal to deploy against democracies around the world, including in the upcoming U.S. elections in 2018 and 2020. The report’s recommendations, based on lessons learnt from the European experience, are well-articulated and clever – we strongly recommend having a look at them. Also, we are very proud to be mentioned three times in the report and named as an example of good practice.

Information Laundering

The GMF’s Alliance for Securing Democracy has published a new report suggesting a new approach to conceptualizing and investigating information influence operations. Specifically, the authors note an “operational resemblance between the spread of disinformation and the laundering of illicit funds”:

“Just as ill-gotten money needs to be moved from an illegitimate source into an established financial institution, disinformation is most powerful when a façade of legitimacy is created through “information laundering.” Russian disinformation follows a similar pattern (as money laundering); only here, the currency is information and the reward is influence.”

The report also comes with its own vocabulary on information laundering:

Image: Alliance for Securing Democracy

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

Putin’s ‘hybrid peace’ more threatening to Ukraine than his ‘hybrid war,’ Portnikov says

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 01:07

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric about Ukraine has changed in order to curry favor with Russians in advance of the presidential poll, but his approach on the ground has not changed, laying a potential trap for Ukrainians and meaning that his “hybrid peace” is even more dangerous than his “hybrid war,” Vitaly Portnikov says.

There is the great danger that Ukrainians and their supporters elsewhere, the Ukrainian commentator says, will focus on what Putin says rather than on what he continues to do and thus decide that Kyiv should make concessions to someone who has made none except at the level of propaganda.

In the weeks between his televised meeting with the Russian people and his more recent meeting with media editors, Putin has changed his tone in comments about Ukraine in remarkable ways.  He is no longer talking about the need for regime change in Kyiv but instead about the requirement for improving relations between the two countries.

But “nothing in the situation around Ukraine has changed,” Portnikov ways. “What has changed is Putin himself, above all from the point of view of rhetoric.”  The Kremlin leader wants to present himself as a peacemaker because that is what the Russian people want given the burdens his military efforts have placed on them.

That does not mean that Putin is interested in “any peace” with Ukraine, the Ukrainian commentator says, but only that “the hybrid war which Putin has carried out against Ukraine for more than three years must be replaced with ‘a hybrid peace,’” something “much more dangerous than a hybrid war.”

On the one hand, a peace even of this kind will mean that hundreds if not thousands of people may survive the conflict who otherwise would not. But on the other, Putin’s goal now with his peace offensive as in the past with his military moves is to secure “the destruction of the Ukrainian state itself.”

The features of Putin’s “hybrid peace” are already clear: willingness to end military actions in the Donbass and even pull out Russian forces but no willingness to allow any foreign peacekeepers from entering that region. Moscow will insist that Ukrainian control will be restored after Kyiv fulfills the Minsk accords – in short, “not in the near future.”

Such ideas will win sympathy in Russia but more important in Germany, France “and possibly even in Washington.” That will create problems for Ukraine but so too will be the continuing Russian influence in part of Ukrainian territory, maintaining it as “a suppurating wound on the body” of the country.

While this is going on, many in Western elites will begin to insist on lifting sanctions on Russia: “If there is no war anymore,” then they shouldn’t be maintained. Still more, Ukraine should adapt itself to this new reality.  But that is only one part of the problem, Portnikov says. The other is inside Ukraine, as Putin fully understands.

“In Ukraine itself, ever more loudly are sounding the voice of htose who call for reaching an agreement with Russia and ‘listening’ to the Donbass: there is no war, and only ‘the ineffective and corrupt Ukrainian authorities, which justify their unwillingness to carry out reforms by referring to the conflict with Russia, are interested in confrontation.”

“Russia will spend enormous sums on Ukrainian politicians and the imitation part of ‘civil society’” both directly and via “their Western friends which live on the very same Moscow means.” That could affect the next Ukrainian elections, out of which may arise “a surprising bloc of open collaborationists and pseudo-‘patriots’” committed to a deal with Russia.

If that occurs, Portnikov says, “then the Minsk accords will finally be realized. The Donbass will become a state within a state. Crimea will disappear from the Ukrainian agenda. And the new president of Ukraine will go to Moscow fully ready to sell out Ukrainian sovereignty.”

This is Putin’s plan for “’a hybrid peace.’”  And it is critically important that Ukraine not fall into the trap the Kremlin leader is laying.  “It is very important to understand that peace will not be hybrid. In a hybrid war, real people die; but in ‘a hybrid peace, real states are destroyed.” Moscow has no interest in the survival of Ukraine.

What Ukrainians must remember is that the West pays attention to Ukraine only when it is fighting, Portnikov says. If it stops fighting to try to make a deal with Putin, the west will ignore it; and then Putin will win not one victory but two.

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Categories: World News

Non-Political Nature of Russian Population Both Helps and Hurts Kremlin, New Study Says

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 16:31

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

The depoliticization of the Russian population via the revival of archaic values provides the regime with a reserve of unquestioning support, a new study says; but at the same time, it means that “the political elites are not capable of developing a stable agreement on the main questions of the development of Russian society.”

Sociologists Sergey Patrushev and Lyudmila Filippova say that “alienation from politics and from the authorities was and remains a key characteristic of Russian mass consciousness” (“Dualism in Mass Consciousness and a Typology of Mass Politics” (in Russian), Politicheskaya nauka, 1917, available online. It is summarized here.)

Drawing on the research of many scholars, they suggest that Russian attitudes toward the state and authority have deep roots in the tsarist and Soviet pasts and have changed far less than the attitudes toward politics which exist in many other countries, something that has limited the ability of Russia to modernize.

Among the features of this underlying Russian culture, the two sociologists say, are massive suspiciousness toward everything new and unique, an inability to understand the behavior of others apart from a hierarchy, a readiness to conform to any order, a limited understanding of alternatives, a view that deception is an appropriate behavior, a lack of confidence in oneself, a sense of incompleteness, a nostalgia for mythologized pasts, and hostility to any rules imposed by anyone except the immediate collective.

“These social habits and social mechanisms of the organization of life are extraordinarily stabile and important,” Paturshev and Filippova say, “and they have been preserved to the present day” where they continue to define the attitudes of the people and the powers toward one another.

What further complicated this situation, they argue, is the division between elites and masses in tsarist and Soviet times, and the divisions within the elites especially in tsarist times between those who celebrated these values, the Slavophiles, and those who opposed them, the Westernizers.

Borrowing of technologies and social ideals from the West, however, “in a paradoxical way were changed by a social system with deeply rooted stereotypes of archaic thought and behavior.” That combination produced as a result “the unique double think of Russian civilization” especially since 1917.

Western European cultures were able to avoid this because they developed on the basis of contracts in which the rights of both the individual and the state were recognized and kept in balance. “In Russia on the other hand, civil society wasn’t formed and the main principle of social organization was ‘collectivism,’” which dissolved the powers and rights of the one into the other rather than allowing both to exist.

That is “the main distinction between Western European and Russian social nature,” the two say. “The contract principle of the self-organization of the society sharply contrast with the collective. If the first of these guarantees the right of the individual to ‘freedom to be special and independent’ … the second principle sanctions his right to right only via service to the society where ‘each happily gives himself to the whole.’”

This popular “alienation from politics” as understood elsewhere “leads to an institutional trap,” Patrushev and Filippova say. On the one hand, because so few Russians feel responsible for what occurs at the political level, they behave in an apathetic and inert way that provides the basis for a kind of stability of the political order.

Indeed, they suggests, “the authorities are interested in maintaining the dualism of political consciousness by means of combining in political discourse traditionalist and modernizing elements.” But there is another side to this approach which works against the authorities.

It means that the rulers increasingly are dependent “on apparat and group interests, ambitions and intrigues” and that “the political elites aren’t capable of developing a stable agreement on the main questions of development,” the sociologists say. But because the population keeps apart from politics, the ruler often cannot easily mobilize it against these elites, leaving everyone in “an institutional trap.”

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Categories: World News

Chief Editor: RT is like “a defence ministry”

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 14:38

By EU vs Disinfo

The chief editor of RT (Russia Today), Margarita Simonyan, cannot be blamed for lack of openness about the nature of the outlet whose output she manages on behalf of the Russian government. In her own words, RT is needed “for about the same reason as why the country needs a Defense Ministry.” RT is capable of “conducting information war against the whole Western world,” using “the information weapon,” Simonyan has explained. According to Simonyan, RT’s strategic aim is to “conquer” and to “grow an audience” in order to make use of access to this audience in “critical moments”.

Ofcom: RT is unfair and biased

Simonyan’s statements were made available in English translation in a recent article from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. DFRLab identified two interviews Simonyan made with the Russian daily Kommersant in 2012 and with the Russian online news portal Lenta in 2013. The chief editor’s overall message – that RT’s mission is to use information and communication for purposes traditionally handled by military forces – echoes statements made with a similar degree of transparency by high ranking political and military leaders in Russia.

DFRLab’s article also analyses the claims made by Simonyan and other representatives of Russian state media that RT is supposedly no better and no worse than other media outlets, such as the BBC.In its analysis, DFRLab includes a series of rulings from the telecoms regulator in the UK, Ofcom, which underline that RT systematically fails to meet the minimal standards for fair and unbiased reporting, thereby jeopardizing the privilege of calling its work journalism.

RT’s chief editor Margarita Simonyan with President Putin at the celebration of RT’s 10th anniversary in December 2015.

RT weaponised information before the conflict in Ukraine

It is worth noting that the two interviews with Simonyan were published already in April 2012 and in March 2013, i.e. before Russian state media began to escalate their messaging around the conflict in Ukraine. This circumstance throws light on the fact that the idea that RT and similar outlets are the government’s weapons, cannot be seen as part of a reactive Russian response to the perception that the country’s interests were challenged in Ukraine; what Simonyan says about weaponising information and communication confirms that this proactive and strategic approach was present also well before the Ukrainian conflict became known.

RT launched a channel in France in addition to its English, Spanish and Arabic channels. The fact that Ms Simonyan is close to the Russian president was confirmed on Friday when her name appeared on the list of 259 “trusted persons” registered with Russia’s Central Election Committee as supporters of Vladimir Putin in his bid for a fourth term as Russia’s president, as reported by VedomostiIn December,

Follow this link to read DFRLab’s article in its full length.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

StopFake #166 with Marko Suprun

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 12:27

Fakes: America is preparing a new revolution in Ukraine; Ukrainian traces in the drone attacks on Russian bases in Syria, as well as fakes about milk sales and hepatitis epidemics.

Categories: World News

Fake: EU Bans Milk Sales from Private Ukrainian Farms

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 11:48

Russia’s propagandist newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta published an article claiming that the European Union has banned milk sales from small Ukrainian farms that do not have EU certification. Farmers selling milk or milk products from such farms face fines, the newspaper declared.

Website screenshot Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Website screenshot

The EU Ukraine Association Agreement that Rossiyskaya Gazeta refers to makes no mention of any ban on milk sales from private farms, but the agreement does outline the introduction of uniform sanitary standards for milk and other products. Meanwhile Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy assures that the purchase of milk from private farms will continue and the introduction of a new state standard will take place on July 1, 2018 followed by a one year transition period.

According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta the new sanitation standards will lead to the destruction of small farms, locals farmers will be faced with fines and the milk will not be able to meet the new requirements. Pro-Russian internet newspaper predicts that dairy product prices will rise dramatically but will fall in quality.

This fake story was also reprinted by RIA Novosti Ukraina, Obozrevatel, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Argumenty I Fakty and many other pro-Kremlin publications.

Website screenshot

Currently Ukraine’s milk industry adheres to the GOST standard, a regulatory basis for government and private-sector certification programs for the Commonwealth of Independent States covering energy, oil and gas, environmental protection, construction, transportation, telecommunications, mining, food processing, and other industries. Ukraine will introduce a new milk certification standard compliant with EU norms in July 2018. During the next six months the Agrarian Policy Ministry will prepare new guidelines for the quality of raw milk, hygienic requirements for milk and dairy products in production and processing.

According to the Deputy Minister for Agrarian policy Olena Kovalyova, the new guidelines first and foremost are aimed at improving hygiene among dairy workers and the animals as well as well as the quality of the milk itself.

Website screenshot

Ukrainian Association of Milk Producers project manager Olena Zhupinas explains that the new certification standard will have a five year transition period to raise the quality of milk production and refrigeration. Ukrainians have been talking about the quality of milk from small farms since we joined the World Trade Organization, Zhupinas points out.  “Now we must teach the population to collect milk and refrigerate milk properly and adhere to sanitary and hygienic requirements” she said.


Categories: World News

War in Ukraine: A struggle over Russia’s identity

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:50

A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov

By Janusz Bugajski, for CEPA

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its fifth year, two recently published books illuminate the fundamental motives for Moscow’s ongoing offensive. They make a compelling case that the armed conflict is intended to demonstrate and perpetuate Russia’s dominance through the usurpation of Ukraine’s history, territory, and identity.

In a masterful dissection of Russian history (Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation, 2017) Harvard professor Serhii Plokhy focuses on the sources of identity adopted by Russia’s rulers since the Principality of Moscow launched its drive for territorial expansion in the 15th century.

Plokhy asserts that Russia’s “myth of origin” was the medieval state of Kyivan Rus—a multi-Slavic kingdom centered in modern-day Ukraine and established 200 years before Moscow appeared as a small town located in an outlying province. The Rus were a Norse tribe that founded the ruling Rurik dynasty in Kyiv, but the “Rus” name was subsequently appropriated by Moscow in one of the earliest recorded examples of identity theft. Muscovite rulers feigned descent from the Ruriks and claimed Kyiv as the birthplace of the Russian monarchy, state, and church. This fraudulent history became the legitimizing narrative for Russian tsars when the small autocratic Muscovite polity began its imperial adventure in the 15th century.

Moscow’s earliest propagandists depicted the three developing East Slavic nations (Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian) as “tribes” of one Russian nation. Moscow’s rulers consolidated their claims to dominate all Eastern Slavs by declaring Russia as the “Third Rome” or successor to Christian Byzantium, which was extinguished by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. For the next 400 years, Muscovy annexed its neighbors’ territories and prevented the emergence of other East Slavic states. Its Russification campaign was crafted to eradicate the distinct identities and languages of neighboring Slavic peoples, particularly the Ukrainians, who had a more direct claim to Kyivan Rus.

Taras Kuzio (Putin’s War Against Ukraine: Revolution, Nationalism, and Crime, 2017), is a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University. He provides a remarkably detailed assessment of the Kremlin’s current attempt to destroy Ukraine’s statehood. He contends that the root cause of the Russia-Ukraine war revolves around Moscow’s unwillingness to recognize Ukrainians as a distinct nation. For Moscow elites, Ukrainians and Belarusians are branches of a single Russian nation and their statehood cannot exist outside Russia’s “zone of privileged interests.”

The Kremlin cultivated President Viktor Yanukovych as a pro-Moscow satrap, and if not for the Euromaidan Revolution—which lasted from November 2013 to February 2014—his regime may have succeeded. Hence, the verbal venom in official attacks on an independent Ukraine, in which opponents of Russia’s overlordship are denounced as “fascists” and Western puppets. After seizing Crimea, Moscow manufactured a rebellion in Ukraine’s Donbas region to weaken Kyiv and convince international mediators to incorporate rebel held territories in a “federated” structure. The objective was to block Ukraine’s ambitions to join pan-European institutions and to revive Russia’s regional dominance.

Moscow continues to fuel the war in Donbas with weapons and fighters to consolidate the separatist strongholds and cripple the Ukrainian state. Since 2014, at least 30,000 people have perished in the conflict, about a third of them civilians, and millions have been displaced from their homes. Washington finally decided to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons, including anti-tank missiles, to help protect the country against Moscow’s assault. Given Russia’s history, the Kremlin is only likely to withdraw from Ukraine if it faces major resistance and substantial losses. Even then, the withdrawal could be temporary unless Ukraine builds up its military and eventually enters NATO to ensure its long-term security.

Paradoxically, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has had the reverse geopolitical effect of the one intended. It has significantly strengthened the determination of Ukrainians to resist Moscow’s political manipulation and military challenges. And above all, it has helped consolidate Ukrainian identity and statehood despite Russia’s historical and ideological deceptions.

Zbigniew Brzezinski famously asserted that Russia cannot simultaneously be an empire and a democracy, and if it seeks to control Ukraine it will remain an imperial state. For Russian ideologists, the existence of Ukraine negates the mythological constructs in Russia’s history, identity, and imperial statehood. Hence, the Kremlin not only seeks to obstruct Ukraine from joining Western institutions but it also saturates the information sphere with claims that Ukraine is an “artificial” country. At the core of this disinformation offensive is the fear among Kremlin officials that Ukraine will be perceived as a more legitimate state than Russia, both historically and currently.

Russia itself is approaching a crossroads. It can either evolve into a genuine federation or fracture into a dozen or more countries, as its diverse regions struggle for political and economic emancipation. And to be internationally respected and coexist with its neighbors, Moscow needs to disavow its imperial pretensions and historical inventions. To be authentic and durable, Russian identity cannot depend on the denial of Ukraine’s nationhood, statehood, or independence.

By Janusz Bugajski, for CEPA

Janusz Bugajski is a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington DC and host of the “New Bugajski Hour” television show broadcast in the Balkans.

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Categories: World News

Russia Accuses Ukraine of Involvement in Syria Attacks on Russian Bases

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 14:55

Russia’s disinformation machine never tires of portraying Ukraine as an enemy. The latest manifestation of this narrative is to accuse Ukraine of involvement in a mysterious drone attack on Russian bases in Syria at Hmeimim and Tartus., Novaya Gazeta, RIAFan and other Russian media all carried this unsubstantiated accusation.

Website screenshot Novaya Gazeta

Website screebshot

Website screenshot RIAFAN

Russian media cite the Defense Ministry’s General Staff Department of Construction and Development director Alexander Novikov, who said the kind of explosives the drones carried, are manufactured industrially, including in the Shostka Chemical Reagents Plant, a chemical production company located in northeastern Ukraine. They contained PETN pentaerythritol tetranitrate, a highly explosive compound from the nitroglycerin chemical family.

The Shostka Chemical Reagants Plant is not part Ukraine’s military industrial complex and has never produced military components, not even during the Soviet era. After the collapse of the USSR the Shostka plant was privatized.

Responding to StopFake’s inquiry about the Russian claim, Shostka Chemical Plant director Serhiy Buhakov said the company’s production is purely for peaceful purposes. Shostka has neither the personnel nor the raw materials to produce explosives. We make dyes, chemical indicators and compounds, Buhakov emphasized.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry also dismissed Russia’s insinuation, calling it yet another attempt to assault Ukraine with disinformation, in order to draw away attention from Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, where Moscow is transferring vast quantities of weapons and munitions for Russian regular soldiers and pro-Moscow separatists.

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: “Normal course of diplomacy” between the United States and Russia?

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 14:35

Topics of the Week

Normal course of diplomacy”: The Trump administration has scheduled talks to be held in late January between the head of US forces in Europe, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, and the chief of the Russian armed forces and deputy defense minister, General Valery Gerasimov.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, is expected to provide electoral security recommendations within one to two months. The urgency of ensuring protections for upcoming elections resonates strongly in Europe as well.

The French Conservatives consider Macron’s law on “fake news” dangerous for press freedom. Mainstream media seem to share the president’s view that disinformation targets democratic principles in the country, but believe Macron is entering dangerous territory with his initiative. The Times reports.

In an article for the US Military Review, Lt. Cols. Jon Herrmann and Brian Steed present a virtual reality model for describing “the information battlespace in physical terms”.

Words and Wars” (Internews) offers an overview of the Ukrainian experience of dealing with Russian propaganda and information warfare.

“Evergreen MH17”: Bellingcat carefully analysed most of the claims made by Kremlin authorities and pro-Kremlin media outlets. Here they offer a summary of these narratives and why they are false, with a special focus on the position currently held by the Kremlin.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Stalin is giving a long speech at an event, naturally in front of a huge audience. While he’s in full flow, somebody near the front of the hall sneezes. Stalin stops and surveys the crowd.

“Who sneezed?” he asks. Deathly silence.

“I repeat,” says Stalin, “who sneezed?” Not a peep.

“Very well,” says Stalin. “First row, stand up!” Everyone in the first row stands up. “Guards! Open fire!” A few seconds later, the entire first row of the audience is lying in bloody heaps on the ground.

“Now, who sneezed?” Still not a whimper. “Second row, stand up! Guards! Open fire!” The second row writhes and breathes its last.

“Now, comrades: who sneezed?” Absolute silence.

“Third row! Stand up! Guards! Op….”

“Wait! Wait!” From the sixth row a man rises, shaking so hard with fear that he can barely stay on his legs. “Please! Comrade Stalin! It was me. I sneezed.”

Stalin fixes his eye on the wretch. The entire audience watches, paralysed. “You sneezed?”

“Yes, Comrade Stalin, yes. It was me.”

“Bless you, comrade!”

US Development Senate Intelligence Committee readies election security plan for 2018

The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – one of three congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election – have stated that they expect the committee to provide electoral security recommendations to states in the next one to two months. According to the vice chairman, Mark Warner (D-VA), the urgency of ensuring protections for upcoming elections (beginning with congressional primaries in March) led the committee to release these recommendations early, before completion of the full investigation. The chief of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, has accused Russia of seeking to interfere in this year’s congressional elections – a charge that Russian officials have of course vehemently denied.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to be the only committee to produce a bipartisan final report; the House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary committees have been fraught with partisan tensions that render bipartisan conclusions unlikely.

Renewed talks to be held between US and Russian military officials

The Trump administration has scheduled talks to be held in late January between the head of US forces in Europe and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, and the chief of the Russian armed forces and deputy defense minister, General Valery Gerasimov. This will be the first such get-together between top-level US and Russian military officials since such meetings were banned by the Obama administration in 2013, following Russia’s interference in Ukraine and support for pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

The renewed talks are being described by the State Department as a “normal course of diplomacy”. Topics of discussion are to include America’s $41.5 million sale of lethal defense weapons to Ukraine – a sore spot for Russia – and mutual accusations regarding violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

US-based reading suggestion:

In an article for the US Military Review, Lt. Cols. Jon Herrmann and Brian Steed present a virtual reality model for describing “the information battlespace in physical terms”. Given the simultaneously abstract and dynamic nature of the extant information environment, which renders its features and challenges often difficult to grasp, Herrmann and Steed advocate the use of a simulation model that can help military actors map the information landscape and formulate appropriate counterstrategies.

Regardless of the specific metaphors, commanders are finding the informational environment difficult to grasp and even more difficult as a battlespace. Using a model that explains the information battlespace in physical terms could enrich understanding. Granted, no model can depict every aspect of a complex environment. Misuse or misunderstanding of a model can lead a commander astray. However, if the limitations of the model are well understood, there are lessons to be learned. Regardless of the model used, America has to get a better understanding of the information battlespace. If this model can advance that cause, then it is worth considering.”

The Kremlin’s Current Narrative Iran uprising and American elections

‘Repetition is the mother of every lie’ – this is a fundamental tenet of propaganda strategy. It is also especially handy to repeat the same lies in the most unexpected places. For example, drawing parallels between regime change in Iran and … reiterating that Russia didn’t meddle in American presidential elections: unexpected? Not in the world of propaganda, where you use every occasion to attack your enemy and accuse it of the very thing it accuses you: “As US-based social media companies crack down on dissent at home in the name of fighting phantom ‘Russian meddling,’ Washington seeks to leverage them for regime change in places like Iran. The laughable irony of this is that American politicians and news media have been banging on for over a year with allegations of Russian meddling in US internal affairs, notwithstanding that no credible evidence has been provided for these American claims”.

Orban talks, Kremlin rejoices

Moscow has exploited the refugee crisis many times in order to create an atmosphere of fear and exacerbate fault lines between European states. No wonder, then, that speeches by European politicians that follow this line are warmly welcomed by Russian media. RT quickly followed up an interview Viktor Orban gave to German newspaper Bild about his attitude towards refugees. RT selected a few of Orban’s quotes, such as: “Refugees in Europe are just ‘Muslim invaders’ and economic migrants seeking better lives,  the large number of Muslims in the EU had led to the appearance of ‘parallel societies’”, his criticism of Merkel’s open-door policy: “I’ve never understood how chaos, anarchy and illegal border crossings are viewed as something good in a country like Germany, which we view as the best example of discipline and the rule of law”, and his earlier quote that refugees are “a Trojan horse for terrorism”. Indeed, it is good to have high-profile friends who will speak according to your narrative lines.

Policy & Research News Macron’s plan for a law against disinformation under scrutiny

We wrote last week that the French President has announced an upcoming law against “fake news”, which would make transparency rules before elections stricter and enable judges to remove disinformation content. But Macron’s opposition is less enthusiastic about this move, The Times reports: the French Conservatives consider Macron’s plan “dangerous for press freedom”. French mainstream media seem to share the President’s view that disinformation seeks to undermine democratic principles in the country, but believe that Macron is entering dangerous territory with his initiative. Predictably, the strongest opposition came from Macron’s presidential rival and Kremlin favourite, Marine Le Pen:

Russia tries to hold on in the Balkans

Coda Story presents a brief summary of the book by Dimitar Bechev, Rival Power: Russia´s Influence in Southeast Europe. It is contextualized with the recent giveaway of Russian ageing military aircraft to Serbian authorities, who would probably prefer purchasing Western weapons but cannot afford them. In this way, the Kremlin is trying to improve its public perception in Serbia. According to the author, Vladimir Putin has also had a relative PR success in the country, achieving a sort of a “cult status” among portions of Serbian society. But without a clear strategy – and considering that the West is highly unlikely to abandon the Balkan region – he will have a tough job holding on to his popularity.

The downing of MH17: Best of

Western investigations of the MH17 crash, notably that conducted by the Dutch government, have repeatedly and definitively concluded that a Russian-made BUK missile, launched by Russian forces or pro-Russian separatists, was responsible for the tragedy. There has been no variation in these findings. The same does not apply for the Kremlin’s narratives about the crash, which have changed several times over the past year and typically rely on presenting contradicting evidence, highly altered digital images, or fabricated witnesses to instil doubt about the official (Western) version of events. Investigative reporters at Bellingcat have long been working to expose these lies, carefully analysing claims made by Kremlin authorities or pro-Kremlin media outlets. Here, they offer a summary of all these narratives and why they are false, with a special focus on the Kremlin’s current position.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion Words and Wars: Ukraine Facing Kremlin Propaganda

This week, we recommend a piece that is longer than usual, but that we guarantee is worth your time! Words and Wars is a book by a group of Ukrainian authors that provides an overview of the Ukrainian experience of dealing with Russian propaganda and information warfare. Since Ukraine experienced the impact of Russian information warfare earlier and on a larger scale than other European or Western states, understanding Russian tactics and learning lessons from countermeasures employed by Ukraine can be very useful for anyone facing the Russian threat today.

The book is divided into seven chapters focusing on different aspects of the Ukrainian experience, and even features a handy overview of existing research into the topic of Russian propaganda and disinformation. If you just want to learn about the to-do’s in fighting Russian information warfare, you can find extensive recommendations for both the international community and Ukraine in the last chapter.

The authors present the following key messages: Russian propaganda has deep roots, which can be traced back at least to Soviet times, and “post-truth” strategies are not the invention of the Putin era. However, the propaganda of today is different in various aspects from the propaganda of the past. It does not provide its own narrative but rather tries to show that Western narratives are flawed. Moreover, the authors point out that that Russian propaganda goes further than fake news; it uses a specific discourse that has a clear semi-militarist tonality and is aimed at winning a war.

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

The “Chechen” Clone of Instagram: Not as Good – Part I

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 01:01

By Polygraph

Ramzan Kadyrov

Head of Chechnya

“There is a new social network being tested in Chechnya @ Mylistory, which is as good as the foreign ones”

Source: Telegram, January 3, 2018


Mylistory is an underdeveloped clone of the “old” Instagram, with mysterious origins.

On December 23, 2017, the head of Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov announced via his Telegram channel that his Facebook and Instagram accounts had disappeared.

Telegram Channel, Ramzan Kadyrov: “My Instagram and Facebook accounts disappeared”

Kadyrov, regularly rated among Russia’s most popular bloggers, said that he had been thinking of deleting his accounts, but did not do so for the sake of his “more than four million followers,” although his Kadyrov_95 Instagram account actually had 3.2 million followers.

The Istagram account Kadyrov lost as seen before it was deleted

Responding to the decision of the Western social media platforms to close his accounts, Kadyrov said he was happy with the actions of “Instagram and their bosses in the White House.” He also announced that he is switching to the “Chechen” network called Mylistory, which is “as good as foreign ones,” and to which “State Department employees can access only with the permission of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the government of Chechen Republic.”

Telegram Channel, Ramzan Kadyrov: “State Department Employees allowed only with Russian Foreign Ministry permission

Facebook explained that Kadyrov’s accounts were deleted in accordance with the company’s legal obligations after the U.S. sanctioned him for human rights violations.

The Chechen government’s Grozny TV channel dedicated dozens of reports to Mylistory, praising the app as #18 in the App store top charts.

Russia’s Ministry of North Caucasus Affairs called on all federal agencies to create accounts with Mylistory, indicating that Russia might see the app as having a larger role than simply a Chechen social network and will seek to boost it to the same popularity as vKontakte – Russia’s Facebook analog.

“Russia might be testing social media strategy similar to China’s: Rather than dealing with Western platforms, they’ve simply created an alternate universe where there’s a Chinese clone for every platform,” a social media expert told

Interestingly, President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev created official accounts with Mylistory immediately after Kadyrov did.

Mylistory, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Profile

Mylistory: The Kremlin’s official account follows only one other user and that is Ramzan Kadyrov

Mylistory: Russia’s PM Dmitry Medvedev created an account shortly after Kadyrov did

Kadyrov’s own accounts – both in Russian and English – look less attractive in terms of content, and have far fewer followers than the Instagram account he lost. As of January 9, the Kadyrov_95 account on Mylistory had 48,000 followers, while the Kadyrov_95eng had 5,349 followers.

Mylistory: Kadyrov_95eng is less active compared to it’s Russian language version

Mylistory: Ramzan Kadyrov’s account has far fewer followers than the Instagram account he lost

Several Russian and U.S. tech media specialist have tested Mylistory and given the app less-than-stellar ratings.

Russian T-Journal said the app is “a total copy of the old Instagram.”

The Russian newspaper Vzglyad wrote a flattering review for Mylistory, saying it is “booming in App store well ahead of Periscope, Tumbler and other popular applications. Its popularity is “not propaganda,” Vzglyad wrote, adding that many users have expressed gratitude to the app’s developers to Kadyrov for supporting it.

“It’s pretty much Instagram with fewer features, right down to a rip-off of Instagram’s old golden logo and font. It has basic functionality like the ability to post photos, comment and send direct messages, though there’s no way to share content on the site externally, and the app lacks features like ‘Stories,’” American wrote. tested the Mylistory application, from the process of downloading it from the App store to creating an account and digging into the developer’s IP address.

Mylistory is definitely not #18 in App store’s top charts of free social networking apps. It is not even close to being in the top 50.

The Web site listed in the apps’ page in App store as “App Support” opens only from unsecured connections and leads to the page, which states that it is “under development.” When attempting to open from secured connections, the page was blocked as a security risk. does not pass security filters

The developer of Mylistory, according to its page in App store, is a Chechen man named Magomed Eskhanov. In the Russia’s online database of registered businesses, he is listed asCEO of the Advertising firm “Myli,” at this address: 3/25 A. Kadyrov Ave, Grozny, Chechen Republic.

According to the database, Eskhanov’s agency is 100% funded by the LLC “Grozny-Citi” a company owned by one of Chechnya’s most notorious businessmen — Movsadi Alviev, a co-founder of the “Akhmad Kadyrov Foundation,” named after Ramzan’s late father (who was the republic’s ruler from October 2003 until his assassination in May 2004) and ranked as #5 on Transparency International’s list of “9 grand corruption cases.”

Reportedly, the “Akhmad Kadyrov Foundation” is Ramzan’s personal tool for appropriating and laundering of billions of rubles.

But the most interesting part of Mylistory’s “developer Magomed Eskhanov” story is the IP address of a search of the database of RIPE, the Amsterdam-based Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia, leads not to Chechnya, but to a whole network of “dead ends” – hidden IPs “located” at different addresses in Moscow, including a 24-hour auto parts store and several P.O. Boxes.

Here are just a few examples. IP adress leads to whole network of “dead ends” located in different parts of Moscow, Russia traced the “under construction” website listed in App store for Mylistory to one Alexey Galaev, who might be a real person and a freelance developer. The revelations of tracing the IP address

To be continued in Part II, which will reveal who Mylistory wants new users to follow.

By Polygraph

© 2018 All Rights Reserved

Categories: World News