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Struggle against fake information about events in Ukraine
Updated: 9 weeks 21 hours ago

Disinfo analysis: Moscow’s Balkan defeat

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 23:16

By Polygraph

Polygraph.info has used North Macedonia as the shorter version of the new official name of the Republic of North Macedonia. Since the new name came into force on February 12, 2019, we have used the earlier name Macedonia for past events and prior quotations.

Contrary to Kremlin’s assertion that North Macedonia is a small country of little strategic importance to NATO, Moscow has invested substantial efforts to undermine Skopje’s prospect of joining the Western defense alliance. However, the Kremlin has failed in its latest subversive mission in the Balkans, decisively defeated by Skopje and Athens, whose determination to end an old name dispute has reinvigorated the region’s Western integration.

A chance to resolve the name dispute finally emerged when the Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias, respectively—in the presence of their countries’ prime ministers, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras—signed a landmark agreement on the shores of Lake Prespa on June 17, 2018. The deal involved changing Macedonia’s name to North Macedonia in exchange for Greece’s full support for its northern neighbor’s NATO and EU accession, as well as recognition of the Macedonian nation and Macedonian language.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gesture before the signing of an accord to settle a long dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name in the village of Psarades, in Prespes, Greece, June 17, 2018. REUTERS/A

Remarkably, and despite nationalist opposition at home and Russian interference, both governments stuck to the deal, systematically taking each step to make it a reality. On February 12, when Macedonia’s name change to North Macedonia came into force, the NATO flag was raised in front of the government building in Skopje. The NATO accession protocol, signed in Brussels on February 6, must be ratified by all 29 members of the alliance. The process will likely take several months or a year, during which time Russia is expected to continue attempts at destabilizing the country.

Indeed, Russian officials were quick to claim that by becoming a NATO member, North Macedonia will lose its ability to pursue its own foreign policy. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova also warned that Skopje will have to pay for NATO’s patronage “…by increasing its defense spending and by taking part in military preparations and operations that have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Macedonia; moreover, it will be unable to conduct a truly sovereign foreign policy.”

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, stated that “joining NATO would bring nothing good either to Macedonia or to the European community.”

“This is more of a symbolic than a practical step, because it is about a small country that does not have any importance to NATO. But this, however, is important for the Alliance given the collision with Russia, which constantly points to the destructive role of NATO as a remnant of the Cold War,” Kosachev told the centrist Nova Makedonija newspaper.

BELGIUM — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, 3rd right, and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, 3rd left, pose for photographers together with NATO permanent representatives after they signed the “accession protocol” in a ceremony at NATO

Damir Marusic, the executive editor of The American Interest magazine, told Polygraph.info: “I expect the [Russian] assault to continue. Any hiccups in the implementation of Prespa, or in NATO accession, allows Russia to portray the alliance, and the West in general, as a paper tiger. There is no reason to become less vigilant and active in fighting Russian efforts now just because Prespa is coming into force. On the contrary, the game is just starting.”

According to Marusic, the Kremlin’s objectives “have little to do with North Macedonia qua North Macedonia, and rather operate on the principle of ‘anything that’s a headache for the West is a good thing’.”

“Their main objective is to cause as much trouble as they possibly can,” concurred Daniel Serwer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “I don’t think they ever really expected to stop Macedonia’s NATO accession, but they like to cause trouble for NATO as they see NATO as the enemy.”

​Moscow, however, appears to have devised a long-term strategy for limiting Euro-Atlantic integration and increasing Russian influence in the Balkans. Leaked intelligence reports from Skopje have detailed elaborate tactics used by Russian officials, military intelligence officers, Kremlin’s ideologues, Russian government-sponsored cultural organizations and media outlets, social media influencers, and even the Orthodox Church, to cast a wide net of subversion and disinformation over Macedonian society. Furthermore, the intelligence reports point to a campaign run from the Russian embassy in Skopje, but coordinated by the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) center in Belgrade and the Russian military intelligence service (GRU) center in Sofia—an extensive institutional structure for merely aiming to “create trouble” for NATO.

A Decade of Subversion and Disinformation

Kremlin propaganda directed against NATO expansion is nothing new for Skopje and Athens. According to intelligence reports obtained by investigative journalists in Skopje in 2017, Macedonia had been “undergoing strong subversive, propaganda and intelligence activity implemented through the Embassy of the RF [Russian Federation].” This policy has been in line with Moscow’s strategy of obstructing NATO integration and creating frozen conflicts in the region. The campaign started after NATO’s Bucharest Summit in 2008, when Macedonia’s invitation to the alliance was blocked by Greece.

The intelligence reports stated that Russia’s main purpose was to isolate Macedonia from Western influence and secure the country’s military neutrality as part of a larger strategy of creating a military neutral zone in the Balkans. In fact, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party initiated a regional platform for “the creation of a militarily neutral territory in the Balkans” by signing a cooperation agreement in June 2016 with several pro-Russian and anti-NATO parties from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Bulgaria. From Macedonia, only the small Democratic Party of Serbs was present at the signing, but its head also chaired the parliamentary committee for cooperation with Russia at the time.

Russia’s subversive policy, implemented through diplomatic channels and through energy dominance, also uses soft power, such as the media and cultural institutions. It aims to strengthen Macedonia’s pan-Slavic and Orthodox Christian affiliation, placing it “in a state of exclusive dependency on Russian policy.”

According to the Prague Security Studies Institute, Russia in recent years has established over 30 Russo-Macedonian cultural associations, funded the construction of Orthodox churches, sponsored local media outlets, and increased its embassy personnel by 25%. In addition, it has attempted to coerce government ministers and court pro-Russian political parties.

The last seven months have seen heightened activities aimed at preventing the implementation of the Prespa agreement. They included a massive disinformation campaign led by state-owned Russian media outlets such as Sputnik and Russia Today, social media agitation and trolling, Russian businessmen financing various groups to incite violent protests against the name deal, and intense interference in internal affairs by Russian diplomats.

In June 2018, Athens expelled two Russian diplomats for their attempts to undermine the agreement with Skopje, while Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev disclosed an elaborate scheme financed by Russian businessmen to disrupt the September referendum on changing the country’s name.

In addition, the NY Times says the US Congress allocated USD 8M to the fight against #Russia-n disinformation in #Macedonia. “But the money did not arrive for more than a year, and it has yet to be effectively deployed”. #Balkans #referendum https://t.co/fqN9EVKFJa

— Angel Petrov (@angel_a_petrov) September 17, 2018

The Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia reported that Greek-Russian billionaire Ivan Savvidis, a former deputy in Russia’s State Duma from the United Russia party who resides in Greece, has given at least 300,000 euros ($347,000) to Macedonian anti-NATO and anti-name change activists. The recipients include Macedonian politicians, newly established radical nationalist organizations and soccer hooligans from the Vardar club, who staged violent protests in front of the parliament in Skopje the day after the Prespa agreement was signed.

Vladimir Putin’s ideologue Alexander Dugin and his associates were also involved in undermining Skopje’s NATO aspirations. Voice of America’s Macedonian service reported that the key strategist in Russia’s information warfare in Macedonia was Leonid Savin, a close associate of Dugin and proponent of the Eurasian Union. Savin provided training to the United Macedonia party, a small pro-Russian formation opposing the name change deal.

The Kremlin dispatched to Macedonia the same instructors it used in its hybrid war before the annexation of Crimea and in the subsequent destabilization of Ukraine’s Donbas, as well as in the attempted coup in Montenegro in October 2016.

Disinformation Messages

The Russian disinformation campaign used in North Macedonia indicates that Moscow has assessed the country’s weak points and popular sentiments in an attempt to dissuade Macedonian society from joining NATO. But since support for NATO membership has been always extremely high (as high as 92% back in 2008 and down to 71 % in 2017), Russian disinformation has focused on stoking a strong patriotic sentiment among those Macedonians who are unwilling to join the EU and NATO at the price of changing their country’s name.

Along with the claim that North Macedonia is a small and irrelevant country for NATO and the EU, Russian officials have also said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticisms of NATO have prompted Brussels to demonstrate that the alliance is in good shape and continues to expand. Kosachev apparently put the cart before the horse in making this claim, as North Macedonia applied to be a NATO member, not the other way around.

Among the official Russian messages are warnings that Macedonia would be unable to make sovereign foreign policy decisions and even threats that the country would become a target in case of a NATO-Russia conflict. Russian Ambassador to Skopje Oleg Shcherbak famously threatened in March 2018: “If it came to a conflict between Russia and NATO, you will have the role of a legitimate target.”

Russian Ambassador to Macedonia, Oleg Shcherbak: “In case of an eventual war between Russia and NATO, Macedonia will be a legitimate target.” https://t.co/UdZKL93ioL via @meta_agency #Macedonia #Russia #NATO

— Augustine Zenakos (@auzenakos) March 30, 2018


Sputnik was even more explicit, stating that Macedonia could become “cannon fodder” if U.S. bases were stationed in the country with missiles pointing at Russia and war were to erupt between Russia and NATO.

“Macedonia wants to join the EU when others are leaving, like the smart Englishmen,” said a News Front website commentator, who also claimed that the Poles are gaining control over the EU.

But the most dangerous messages coming from Russian officials are the ones inciting ethnic discord in Macedonian society. During Macedonia’s prolonged political crisis in early 2017, the Russian foreign ministry alleged that the EU is accepting the “Tirana Platform,” which would lead to the federalization of Macedonia and the creation of “Greater Albania.” Both claims were false, as the December 2016 meeting in Tirana of Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati with representatives of three of the four main Macedonian Albanian parties did not result in any federalization plans. Nevertheless, the “Tirana Platform” has become a scarecrow of Moscow’s propaganda anytime ethnic Albanian grievances or aspirations are being discussed.

MACEDONIA — Albanians walk past a mosque in the town of Tetovo, near Skopje, on September 28, 2018, ahead of a referendum on whether to change the country’s name to “Republic of Northern Macedonia”

Russian propaganda also treats the Albanians in Macedonia as migrants, not as an indigenous population. It has gone as far as to urge the deportation of Macedonian Albanians, just like “dedushka” Stalin did with ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union.

Money for Nothing?

The extent of Moscow’s subversion operations in North Macedonia and Greece suggests that the region is of high importance for the Russian government. Sustaining a ten-year long intelligence and disinformation campaign requires large financial and human resources.

Damir Marusic considers the disinformation efforts “reasonably successful,” because “the referendum in Macedonia failed to cross the threshold, and politics in Greece remain very polarized on the issue.” But Daniel Serwer thinks that “[T]he Russians have failed in both Greece and Macedonia. But they tried hard, they made some trouble and they will continue to try and make trouble.”

The NATO flag flying in the center of Skopje does not put an end to Moscow’s struggles to maintain relevance in the Balkans. In fact, the ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and potential revisions to the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina will provide fertile ground for a new wave of Russian propaganda and agitation in the region.

By Polygraph
Categories: World News

Robotrolling 2019. Issue 1

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 23:03

By NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence

Executive summary

This report presents top-level findings from the first research project to systematically track and measure the scale of
inauthentic activity on the Russian social network VK.

On VK, a vocal core consisting of loyal news media, pro-Kremlin groups, and bots and trolls dominates the conversation about NATO. The volume of material from this core group is such, that overall genuine users account for only of 14% of the total number of messages about NATO in the Baltic States and Poland.

The spread of demonstrably fake content can offer a starting point for measuring how social media manipulation impacts genuine conversations. In the case of one story about a fictitious Finnish blogger, our algorithm estimates that at least 80% of users who shared the fake story were authentic.

This quarter, messages appeared in more than 2 000 different group pages on VK. Setting aside messages from group pages, 37% of VK posts came from ‘bot’ accounts—software that mimics human behaviour online. This level of activity is comparable to what we have seen on Russian-language Twitter. Unlike on Twitter, where the vast majority of humancontrolled accounts are operated anonymously, on VK most accounts are likely to be authentic.

Western social media companies have belatedly taken an active role in reducing the reach of the Kremlin’s social
media manipulation efforts. However, it remains hard for researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures
on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. In this context, VK offers a cautionary view of a network with
minimal privacy, regulation, and moderation.

Download the publication here.

By NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: The new British report summarizing the British inquiry into disinformation includes exemplary recommendations

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 22:38

Topics of the Week

The UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published its final report on disinformation with multiple recommendations, including the necessity of social media to take legal responsibility for harmful content and the reform of electoral laws.

Three online video channels targeting American millennials have been suspended by Facebook due to evidence they are funded by the Russian government.

New Robotrolling: On the social network VK, only 14 % of messages about NATO in the Baltic States and Poland are produced by recognisably human users.

Good Old Soviet Joke

During the excavations of ancient Rome, unknown wires were discovered in the ground. Probably, ancient Romans already used the phone.

During the excavation in the lands of the old Russia, no wires were discovered. Most probably, the old Russians already communicated with mobile phones.

Policy & Research News New British report summarizing the inquiry into disinformation

On Monday morning, the UK House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s final report on disinformation and fake news was finally released. It is the result of a parliamentary inquiry spanning 18 months and of an “International Grand Committee”, the first of its kind, involving elected representatives from eight countries. The report notes firmly that while propaganda and biased information have always existed, the current situation is radically different in terms of the level of threat that they pose to the ability to engage in a reasoned debate and to democracy itself.

The report mentions a “clear and proven” Russian influence in foreign elections – with a specific focus on the 2016 U.S. presidential election – and discusses at length the involvement of Russian-affiliated individuals and shell companies with the Leave campaign during the UK’s 2016 EU membership referendum. It also cites research by Cardiff University which proves how Russian troll accounts attempted to fuel social and racial tensions following IS terror attacks that occurred in the UK in 2017 and 2018 or made efforts to fill the Internet with competing narratives about the Sergei Skripal poisoning in March 2019.

The report calls for the UK government to state clearly how many investigations are currently being carried out into possible Russian interference in UK elections and recommends further investigation into previous elections and referenda. The inquiry also calls on the UK government to adjust election law in order to fit current needs and purposes, especially with regards to online microtargeted content.

Among other notable recommendations, the UK report firmly states that social media companies should assume legal liability if harmful content is being published on its platform and should be required to publicize instances of disinformation when they occur. There should also be tighter regulations when it comes to selling user data to advertisers and political campaigns. Finally, the report stresses the need for sponsors of politically targeted content online to be identified so that voters can make more informed and independent choices.

North Macedonia frustrates Kremlin’s efforts in the Balkans

The Kremlin has failed in its North Macedonia mission in the Balkans. Skopje and Athens have been moving along well in accordance with the landmark Prespa agreement, which was signed last summer. Their determination to end the old name dispute has reinvigorated the region’s Western integration, Polygraph reports.

The aggression from the Kremlin has been less about North Macedonia as a specific area of interest and more about the will to create a Balkan buffer zone between NATO countries and Russia. The Kremlin argues that Macedonia might lose sovereignty in its foreign policy and that NATO is a remnant of the Cold War, stoking divisions along familiar lines.

Intelligence reports from within North Macedonia have reported on widespread Russian interference in leaked documents (from 2017). According to the documents, the campaign fully started after the 2008 NATO Summit when Skopje was first invited to join the Alliance. Originally, it consisted of classic diplomatic blocking and interference, however, over the past year or so it has become more pointed through the establishment of Russo-Macedonian cultural associations. Most recently, disinformation campaigns run through Sputnik and RT attempted to affect the referendum held on the name change and later the implementation of the Prespa agreement.

This issue has also been telling in terms of Greek-Russian relations. In an unprecedented move, Athens expelled two Russian diplomats in June 2018 due to events linked to the Prespa agreement, while Greek-Russian billionaire Ivan Savvidis has been proven to support activists fighting against NATO accession. Keeping this in mind, it will be interesting to see which part of the region will come into the crosshairs of agitation next.

Ukraine’s ‘White Book’ narrativizes Russian disinformation campaigns

Not surprisingly, Ukraine has been the top target of Russian disinformation for many years, especially since the Euromaidan Uprising in 2013. The Ukrainian Ministry of Information Policy has now presented its summary of these activities in its “White Book of Special Information Operations Against Ukraine, 2014-2018.”

The methodological approach of the Book is immediately interesting. As the authors note in the introduction, they liken the Russian intelligence service’s attempts to manipulate the Ukrainian information space to the creation of a TV drama series. The first pilot episode introduces the characters and plot, assesses traction of the story, and can then built into an entire show with expanding seasons as the audience becomes expectant and ready to receive more disinformation. Trolls thereby begin to systematize their approaches, linking specific episodes into a greater narrative arc that targets specific audiences. Each episode, each season, and each show then fits into the narrative propaganda history of the entire disinformation campaign, further amplifying its effects and giving the ‘production company’ cohesion.

The main series of this entire production company then come into play in the chapter titles of the White Book. Most prominent are old themes like Ukraine’s involvement with ISIL, the crimes of Ukraine’s armed forces against Russian ethnic groups in the eastern regions of the country, the MH17 flight, and the ironic focus on “invisible” military units of Western powers in Ukraine. In the show about the MH17 flight, for example, Season 1 focuses on different iterations of alleging that Ukraine actually shot the flight down (episode 3 expands on this and claims the plane was filled with corpses). Season 3 then says that Ukraine is at fault for the downing of the flight because it did not secure its airspace.

This work by the Ukrainian government not only reads incredibly well but its structure hints that the production of these shows and episodes is a fluid process. Hopefully, a comprehensive analysis like this can point to weaknesses in the overall disinformation campaign while encouraging other nations to create similar summary documents of internal narratives.

Online Collection of Disinformation Resources

London South Bank University has compiled an online collection of resources on disinformation, including strategies fact-checking and digital literacy. The project also looked at the different responses to disinformation campaigns across multiple countries, while providing excellent research links to academic studies, government papers, and journalistic reports. In the United States, the research focuses mostly on election interference, with special attention on social media. In the United Kingdom, there is much more attention paid to journalism, particularly how to preserve journalistic integrity and stop ‘fake news’.  At the level of the European Union, the resources mainly look at research and policy, gauging people’s perception of disinformation and formulating effective policy.

US Developments Prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey detained in Russia

Michael Calvey, a U.S. citizen and one of Russia’s most prominent foreign investors has been detained in Russia and is scheduled to have an arraignment in a Moscow court. Calvey is a founder of Baring Vostok, a billion-dollar investment company with a focus on Russia.  Baring Vostok has invested more than  $2.8 billion in 80 companies across Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union, and is noteworthy for primarily investing in Russia’s internet, telecommunication, and financial sectors. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Calvey is being detained together with three Baring Vostok employees. Calvey and the other Baring Vostok employees are suspected of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($37.48 million) by persuading shareholders in a Russian bank to accept a stake in another firm at an inflated price. The Russian court has said that if found guilty they could face up to ten years in prison. Baring Vostok said in an official statement that the detention occurred because of a corporate conflict with the Russian Vostichny Bank, where they hold a stake, and stressed that their employees have been in full compliance with Russian laws. Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, tweeted: “If they can arrest Calvey, they are not afraid to arrest anyone. To my Americans friends still doing in business in Russia, it’s time to come home.” McCaul’s tweet sums up the fact that Russia is increasingly becoming dangerous for foreign venture capitalists.

Russia backs a viral video company aimed at American millennials

Three online video channels designed to appeal to American millennials have been suspended by Facebook due to evidence they are funded by the Russian government. This is significant because the pages collected tens of millions of views. The pages were run by Maffick Media, a company whose majority stakeholder is Ruptly, a subsidiary of RT, which is funded by the Russian government. Maffick Media has hired American freelance journalists and contractors but is based in Germany. Facebook has suspended the three pages until they disclose where they are run from and their affiliation with Ruptly. Facebook has traditionally not required users to provide details about parent companies, but they are attempting to increase transparency about who actually runs Facebook pages and to counter covert disinformation from foreign governments. These steps are being taken because the Kremlin has shown that it will create fake Facebook accounts and cleverly make them appear as if they are run by American activists. A commonality amongst the three different Facebook video channels is that they featured journalists that had progressive left-wing anti-imperialist views, and much of the content was critical of the U.S. involvement in world affairs.

Pentagon report warns of Russian and Chinese threats to U.S. satellites

A recent Pentagon report said that Russia and China are building their capabilities to potentially threaten the superior position of the United States in space. Both nations are developing laser devices that could target U.S. satellites. This is alarming because American satellites play a critical role in global satellite imagery, nuclear weapons monitoring, and intelligence gathering. The two nations are also pursuing technology that will detect missile launches. This is occurring as China has been increasing their space program; in January they became the first nation to send a probe to the far side of the Moon. The report even says that Chinese weapons might already have the capability to employ laser systems against other satellites. Russia is possibly developing a ground-based mobile missile system capable of destroying space targets” in low-Earth orbit in addition to ballistic missiles. Space has been an area that the U.S., Russia, and China have cooperated in over the past few generations. However, the deterioration of American relations with China and Russia over the past year as well as Russia and China’s advancement of their space technology has raised eyebrows. China said last Tuesday that the Pentagon report was without foundation, nevertheless, the growth of Chinese and Russian space capabilities and the need to protect U.S. satellites have been cited by president Trump as reasons why the U.S. needs a space force.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion Robotrolling 2019/1

The new issue of Robotrolling, regularly published by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, focuses on the Russian social network VK, systematically examining automated activity from robotic accounts and messages from fake human accounts. The conversation about NATO on this platform is dominated by pro-Kremlin groups and media, in addition to trolls and bots mimicking human behaviour. As a result, only 14 % of messages about NATO in the Baltic States and Poland are produced by recognisably human users.

Furthermore, the report finds that whereas on Russian-language Twitter, most human-controlled accounts are operated anonymously, on VK the majority are likely to be genuine. Social media manipulation can therefore have a significant impact on genuine discussions, as in the case of a fictitious Finnish blogger Veikko Korhonen, whose story was shared mainly by authentic users. Advertisers, journalists, politicians, and researchers increasingly consult social media to quantify public opinion and test the appeal of policies or ideas. In light of the efforts of Western social media to address the Kremlin’s manipulation, VK can be seen as a cautionary case of a network with minimal privacy, regulation, and moderation.

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

Propaganda narratives most often appeared in online media – the first results of monitoring the coverage of presidential elections in Ukraine

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 02:16

StopFake co-founder Olga Yurkova presents the results of monitoring the appearance of Russian propaganda narratives in Ukrainian media

On Monday, February 18, a coalition of CSOs consisting of “The Commission on Journalism Ethics”, “Human Rights Platform”, “Ukrainian Media and Communications Institute” and “StopFake” with the support of the Council of Europe* presented the first interim results of independent public monitoring of media coverage of the Presidential pre-election campaign in Ukraine were presented to the public. The monitoring covered the  period of 14 January – 3 February 2019.

Since 14 January 2019, using the methodology developed by the Council of Europe experts, a team of independent monitoring specialists have been conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis of the media coverage of the presidential race by a number of national TV channels, online media and social networks.

“When it comes to the media coverage of the election so far, we have seen a mixed picture. On the one hand, the media have covered extensively activities of candidates as well as procedural aspects related to elections. On the other hand, most media have shown their preferences towards concrete candidates” said Rasťo Kužel, international expert of the Council of Europe. “In order to be able to make a more qualified choice, voters would benefit from a more unbiased and analytical coverage of the campaign.”

Media lawyer and Executive Director of the NGO “Human Rights Platform” Oleksandr Burmahin said: “The first results of monitoring prove that similarly to previous election campaigns, media on a whole, do not observe the requirements of the law regarding the need for balanced and unbiased media coverage of electoral campaign. As a result, the audience, future voters lack the conditions for informed and conscious choice, and on the contrary, become the subject to various manipulations. The situation can be changed only through introduction of clear rules at the legislative level, significant responsibility for their violation and operation of professional, independent regulator (regulators) which possesses adequate authorities”.

Diana Dutsyk, media expert and Executive Director of the NGO “Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication”: “Almost all media which were included in the monitoring sample  and first of all TV channels, with a minor exception,  have demonstrated their sympathies and antipathies  towards particular candidates. In majority of cases this could be explained not so much by the position of the journalists but rather by position of the media owners, which have their own political interests. This trend characterizes not only current but almost all electoral campaigns in Ukraine“.

“The news which fit Russian propaganda narratives often appeared in the online media,” said Olga Yurkova, media expert and co-founder of NGO “StopFake. – For example, four news websites on 31 January simultaneously published Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement about the religious situation Ukraine. The statement was discriminatory towards United Ukrainian Orthodox Church and did not cover the position of Ukrainian side. Getting independence by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was the main topic, around which such messages appeared. Other topics concerned the news legitimizing the occupation of Donbas or Crimea and discrediting Ukrainian authorities. Some TV channels while covering the situation in the frontline avoided calling the opposite side other than “fighters” and do not call Russia an aggressor state or invader.”

Download report (in Ukrainian). The report will be published in English shortly.

*Monitoring is carried out by the coalition of NGOs consisting of “The Commission on Journalism Ethics”, “Human Rights Platform”, “Ukrainian Media and Communications Institute” and “StopFake” (Ukraine) with the support of the Council of Europe Projects “Supporting the transparency, inclusiveness and integrity of electoral practice in Ukraine” and “Strengthening freedom of media, access to information and reinforcing the public broadcasting system in Ukraine”, which are implemented within the framework of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2021.

Categories: World News

StopFake #222 with Marko Suprun

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 14:05

Fake: UN calls Ukraine the most dangerous country in the world. Moldova renounces Transnistria for NATO. The Strategic Cultural Foundation unmasked, not too cultural, but very strategic.

Categories: World News

Propaganda and disempowerment

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 18:25

By EU vs Disinfo

Mass media are grouped along two major concepts: Media as a Forum or media as a Tribune. This is, of course, a theoretical model to describe two ideal types of relations between the media and its audience.

The concept of the Forum is based on a horizontal exchange of ideas and views. In general, the media lends itself to a function as a space for a public discourse. The forum is not a place where decisions are being made; it is a place for debate, questioning, scrutiny, criticism. A successful forum can be loud, rough and even vulgar. It can be moderated, but never controlled.

The concept of the Tribune is first and foremost a platform for dissemination of the ideas and values of whoever is controlling the platform. It is a top-down process, where the audience is expected to passively accept the notions; to receive instructions from the rulers on how to act and what to think. The concept is based on unconditional loyalty from the audience’s part.

The Forum and the Tribune have different views on the concept of “fake”. For the Forum, fake is information lacking a factual base. The participants in the discourse demand sources, they have a critical approach to statements. Attempts to doctor pictures, forge documents, hide details or just lie will sooner or later be brought to public attention.

For the Tribune, “fake” is anything that challenges the authority of the broadcaster. Whether or not a statement is based on fact is less important; the truth is anything that benefits the broadcaster. It is true, because the rulers say it is.

It is easy to see that most propaganda outlets have all the features of the Tribune. The media is an instrument, “The Party’s Sharpest Weapon”. A weapon wielded only by the powerful men in charge: their instrument. The audience is disempowered, force-fed views and thoughts.

Yet, the audience possesses a powerful tool. It can stop listening. The former Czech President, poet and dissident Václav Havel called this “The Power of the Powerless“. The Tribune is based on the acceptance of a set of ideological rituals, quickly eroding, as they have never been tested in a fair contest between ideas.

Historically, Forums for public discourse have appeared in unexpected places when public debate has been forced out from the media. People have found spaces, rooms elsewhere,  means of questioning, discussing, challenging authority when the media has degraded to dissemination of the Party Line.

The Forum corresponds with Democracy, just as the Tribune corresponds with Authoritarianism. The core of democracy is dissent; its method is critical thinking. The core of authoritarianism is submission; its method is disempowerment and corruption.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Russian state media decries Ukraine for renaming its own cities

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 18:11

UKRAINE — An action was held in Dnipro to propose renaming the Dnipropetrovsk region to Sichaslavsk, 29 Jan 2019

By Polygraph

RIA Novosti

Russian state-owned media outlet

“‘Not Odessa, but Kotsyubeyev!’ Why does Kyiv erase the real names of cities”

Source: RIA Novosti website

FALSE

Ukraine is a sovereign country that can rename its cities as it sees fit: there are no “real” names.

On February 11, the Russian state-owned media outlet RIA Novosti published an op-ed criticizing Ukraine’s renaming of towns and other toponyms in accordance with the country’s law on de-communization.

RIA Novosti’s headline read: “’Not Odessa, but Kotsyubeyev!’ Why does Kyiv erase the real names of cities.” According to the article, Alexander Vasiliev, a former deputy of the Odessa (Ukrainian: Odesa) city council and historian, implies “Ukrainian nationalists” would prefer Odessa be called Khadjibey-Kotsyubeyev, as it was known before the Russian empire conquered it from the Ottomans in the late 18th century. Although he admits that it’s unlikely that anyone will actually decide to change the name. Vasiliev does not identify the Ukrainian nationalists (or any Ukrainians at all, for that matter) who supposedly prefer the old name. Polygraph.info found no indications that anyone in the Ukrainian media, or among Ukrainian politicians or government officials, have discussed such a proposal regarding changing Odesa’s name. In fact, the idea seems to have been absent from Ukraine’s public discourse.

The changing of names is part of the Law of Ukraine No. 317-VIII “On condemning Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and banning propaganda of their symbols,” adopted in 2015. Under this law, the names of cities and other geographic features originating from the Soviet period must be changed. In some cases, the names have reverted back to their pre-revolutionary names, but in other cases new names have been devised, as the law does not require the new names to be historic names. For example, Dnipropetrovsk, named for both the Dnipro river and the Ukrainian Bolshevik leader Grigory Petrovsky, did not revert to its last pre-revolutionary name, Yekaterinoslav, which was in honor of Russian Empress Catherine the Great (Yekaterina in Russian) and thus reflected the legacy of Ukraine’s colonization by Russia. Instead, the city was simply renamed simply Dnipro.

The RIA Novosti article also questioned a recent initiative to rename Dnipropetrovsk region — named after Dnipropetrovsk city — to Sicheslavska region. It noted that the Rada deputies who proposed the name change claimed that in 1918-1921, residents of then Yekaterinoslav intended to change the city’s name to Sicheslav — derived from the term “sich,” which denoted a military-administrative organ used by Zaporozhian Cossacks.

The town of Komsomolsk in the Poltava region was renamed in 2016 because it was named after the Komsomol — the Communist youth league of the Soviet Union. In accordance with Law No. 317-VIII, it was renamed Horishni Plavni. In this case, the city had no pre-revolutionary name, given that it was founded in 1960 as a mining town.

Incidentally, the same cannot be said for Odessa: while the city was renamed under Catherine the Great, the name derives from the ancient Greek city of Odessos, which is believed to have been located in that region.

Ukraine’s decommunization law and many of its provisions have been criticized both inside and outside the country. Legitimate complaints tend to focus on its top-down implementation and the substitution of Soviet-approved history with equally distorted, politicized narratives. Still, it is ultimately up to each country to decide how it names its cities and geographic features.

It’s also worth noting that Russia has also changed the names of many cities, particularly when they conquered them as the Tsardom of Moscow expanded and evolved into the Russian Empire. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some cities such as Leningrad and Sverdlovsk were changed back to their pre-revolutionary names of St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. In the Soviet era, Stalingrad was given the generic name of Volgograd (city on the Volga) rather than its historic name, Tsaritsyn.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

“Party of war” or “pro-peace?”

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 16:13

By Poman Shutov, for Ukrainian Election Task Force

To discredit some of the candidates running in the upcoming Ukrainian presidential election, Kremlin propaganda outlets accuse candidates trying to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression of warmongering.

Meanwhile, these propaganda outlets praise Ukrainian candidates who advocate for peace “here and now” under Moscow’s conditions, labeling them pro-peace candidates.

Thus, the Kremlin-controlled propaganda machine uses the candidates’ various roadmaps for peace as yet another tool of election interference.

Candidates who insist on further military resistance and alignment with the West and NATO receive a “party of war” label. A speaker on Politnavigator, a news show on the Russia 1 channel, proclaimed: “All of them – Poroshenko, Tymoshenko – they say, ‘we won’t go to NATO; we want peace; we will start negotiations on amnesty, on the Minsk agreement.’ They all represent the party of war; not one of them is running for presidency with reasonable solutions on how to stop this war. They all remain on this nationalistic wave: war until victory. But this is an entirely different thing.”

According to the Kremlin’s propaganda, the “party of war” uses anti-Russian rhetoric to mobilize its voters. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Facebook: “[…] the presidential electoral campaign has become another occasion for current Ukrainian authorities to pump up anti-Russian hysteria.”

On January 29, 2019, the current president Petro Poroshenko announced his run for another term. In his speech, he asserted that peace with Russia (he used the term “cold peace”) is only achievable on Ukrainian conditions agreed upon by the international community. In particular, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) recently announced a UN and OSCE peacekeeping mission for The Donbas – a plan the Kremlin immediately dismissed as promoting Ukrainian interests.

Poroshenko’s statement prompted Kremlin officials to launch another wave of attacks on Poroshenko, accusing him of using anti-Russian feelings to mobilize his voters. Russian Senator Aleksei Pushkov declared that “Ukraine will not receive a ‘cold peace’ but rather a ‘cold war’ with Russia on the brink of military conflict.”

RT echoed the same idea: “[Russia] should be prepared till the end of elections for anti-Russian provocations …”

Russian diplomat Boris Gryzlov stated: “The experience of the previous year confirms that Kyiv’s ‘party of war’ is set on pre-election provocations.” Speaker of the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova also pointed to anti-Russian “provocations” in Ukraine. She said that “provocation are designed, of course, to agitate a certain part of the population, based on Russophobic motives.” Zakharova went further by accusing the West of inspiring such Russophobia: “We have stated before that [such Russophobia] has been widely supported abroad, and even generated [abroad].”

By “provocations,” Russian officials mean the recent incident in the Kerch Strait when Russian naval ships fired on ships of the Ukrainian Navy. The international community condemned this incident as a brazen act of Russian aggression. Despite the international condemnation, the Kremlin continues to repeat, as Vladimir Putin himself stated, that Kyiv provoked the incident to agitate Russia. This became the main narrative of Kremlin-backed media. They predict more provocations in the future – in particular, against Russian journalists in Ukraine.

“I don’t trust him in any single word,” said Bogdan Bezpalko, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations. “Had he really wanted peace, he could have ensured it long ago, even without Minsk agreements – he could have just taken the army out from the division line, stop shelling, remove the far-right radicals [from The Donbas], agree to the presence of some UN peacemakers.” Bezpalko’s manipulation of the facts is clear; in reality, the war in eastern Ukraine started when Russia annexed Crimea, and when Russian soldiers appeared in The Donbas. Additionally, the UN peacekeeping mission is an initiative spearheaded by Ukraine and its partners, one which had been long opposed by the Kremlin (though Russia proposed it a while back, albeit not seriously).

It has been widely reported that the Kremlin, via its politicians and affiliated media, uses negative rhetoric to accuse the West of disseminating anti-Russian propaganda, harboring hostile intentions, and creating a global anti-Russian coalition. The tactics described above help Kremlin propagandists to engineer “evidence” of growing Russophobia in the West. Such disinformation campaigns could potentially shape electoral opinions in Ukraine by offering additional fodder to pro-Russian candidates and politicians.

By Poman Shutov, for Ukrainian Election Task Force

Categories: World News

Are Russian trolls saving measles from extinction?

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 04:09

A child receives a vaccination in Ukraine, the country worst hit by Europe’s measles epidemic

By Ron Synovitz, for RFE/RL

Scientific researchers say Russian social-media trolls who spread discord before the 2016 U.S. presidential election may also have played an unintended role in a developing global health crisis.

They say the trolls may have contributed to the 2018 outbreak of measles in Europe that killed 72 people and infected more than 82,000 — mostly in Eastern and Southeastern European countries known to have been targeted by Russia-based disinformation campaigns.

Experts in the United States and Europe are now working on ways to gauge the impact that Russian troll and bot campaigns have had on the spread of the disease by distributing medical misinformation and raising public doubts about vaccinations.

Studies have already documented how cybercampaigns by the Internet Research Agency — a St. Petersburg “troll farm” that has been accused of meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election — artificially bolstered debate on social media about vaccines since 2014 in a way that eroded public trust in vaccinations.

Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that “vaccination hesitancy” has become one of the top threats to global health.

It notes a 30 percent rise in measles globally and a resurgence of measles in countries that had once been close to eradicating the disease.

New efforts are now being launched by researchers in the United States and Europe to understand what they describe as “an incredibly complex” issue — people opting out of available vaccinations for themselves or their children.

At Duke University in North Carolina, a center for scientific health data called The Forge is working to understand and respond to medical misinformation on the Internet.

Forge director Robert Califf, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has said that medical misinformation may be “the issue of our times that demands top priority.”

He said combating misinformation campaigns about vaccines had become more complex now that research is demonstrating that a large amount of the social-media posts represent what he called “state-sponsored cyberwarfare, particularly from Russia.”

Katharina Kieslich, a political scientist at the University of Vienna, has written that “vaccination hesitancy might be explained from a political-science perspective.”

Kieslich says the pervasiveness of anti-vaccination arguments ensures that challenges will remain for policymakers and health workers trying to reach “citizens who are skeptical of vaccines.”

‘Negative Misinformation Online’

WHO vaccine specialist Katrine Habersaat tells RFE/RL that misinformation is just one factor behind a recent decline of vaccination coverage in Eastern and Southeastern European countries where there has been a resurgence of measles.

She says other factors include complacency about the threat of the disease, the convenience of vaccination services, and confidence in health workers who carry out vaccination campaigns.

In Ukraine, the country worst hit by the 2018 measles epidemic, vaccination services and supplies were also greatly reduced in 2015 and 2016 as fighting intensified between government forces and pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country.

“We actually don’t know enough about the influence of misinformation available online upon vaccination intentions and behaviors,” Habersaat says. “What we do know is that there is an element of echo chambers in this.”

“We may never know for sure, but I hope there will be more studies exploring this so we know how much we should fear or work against negative misinformation online,” she says.

Toward that goal, Habersaat says the WHO’s European regional office recently entered a “strategic relationship” with Russia’s Health Ministry. They are working together with researchers in Germany to develop a framework on how to study vaccination hesitancy in the context of Russian and Eastern European culture. The results of that study are expected in mid-2020.

Hardest Hit

If applicable, Habersaat says, that framework would be applied to WHO’s research in other countries where vaccination coverage has dropped and measles has become resurgent — including Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

“In countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are many misperceptions,” Habersaat explains. “A lot of misinformation is leading parents to make decisions not to protect their children against dangerous diseases.”

In Europe, vaccination coverage is high but there are specific “pockets” of population groups in all countries that have lowered coverage, she notes.

“Over the years, the number of people in those pockets that are not protected from the disease grows,” she says. “At some point, there are enough to spread the disease. Then somebody comes by with measles and, poof, it spreads easily because there are enough people to transmit and it’s difficult to control.”

Europe’s measles epidemic may have been bolstered by Russian trolls who infiltrated anti-vaccination groups

Data published by the WHO at the beginning of February confirm that Eastern and Southeastern Europe bore the brunt of the 2018 measles epidemic.

Ukraine had more than 53,200 confirmed cases of measles and 15 deaths during 2018. Serbia, Russia, Georgia, and Romania were also among the worst-hit countries — collectively accounting for another 8,400 cases of measles, including 40 deaths.

WHO registered 22 deaths from measles in Romania last year, 14 in Serbia, three in Georgia, and one in Russia.

Russian Troll Campaign

David Broniatowski, a professor at George Washington University in the U.S. capital, has documented how trolls at the Internet Research Agency have amplified the vaccine debate in the United States and “eroded public consensus on vaccination” since 2014.

Broniatowski tells RFE/RL he hasn’t seen any evidence that Russia has tried to weaken Western democracies by persuading people to stop vaccinating. Rather, known trolls masqueraded as legitimate users on social media and debated vaccines as part of their strategy to promote political polarization.

“It’s a known strategy to infiltrate an interest group around a particular issue or topic and then slowly try to introduce new things into that discourse,” he explains.

After “getting access to a vulnerable subgroup and getting followers from that subgroup” on social media, Broniatowski says, the Russian trolls would get their followers to retweet messages about other issues that are in line with the Kremlin’s agenda.

They’d also retweet messages from known anti-vaccination accounts in order to gain credibility after infiltrating an anti-vaccination group.

By giving “equal time” to both pro- and anti-vaccination arguments, Broniatowski says Russian trolls and bots disproportionally helped legitimize and spread the dubious arguments of vaccine skeptics. “What we saw was the use by these Russian troll accounts of these hot-button issues like race relations and freedom of choice,” he says.

One anti-vaccination tweet by a confirmed Russian troll account declared that “mandatory #vaccines infringe on constitutionally protected religious freedoms.” Another played up the idea that the U.S. government cannot be trusted by asking, “Did you know there was a secret government database of #vaccine-damaged children?”

Broniatowski says other Russian troll tweets bolstered distrust in pharmaceutical companies and promoted “vaccine complacency” with the idea that vaccines are unnecessary because they target diseases that are relatively harmless.

Other Russian trolls played on fears by posting medical misinformation like “Natural infection almost always causes better immunity than #vaccines,” and “Did you know vaccines cause autism?

By Ron Synovitz, for RFE/RL

Ron Synovitz is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.

Categories: World News

Kseniya Kirillova: The power of disappointment

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 04:02

By Kseniya Kirillova, for Integrity Initiative

In the first year of the Russian-Ukrainian war, while trying to understand the origins of the patriotic upsurge that had gripped Russia after its aggression against a neighbouring state, I wrote about the vagueness of moral norms in public consciousness. The same thoughts were later expressed by many political scientists and publicists: Kremlin propaganda does not try to convince Russians that their country is ideal, it only aims to convince them that others are no better, or even worse. Russian ideologues do not aim to show that Russia is a stronghold of democracy, freedom and the rule of law; they only systematically promote the idea that, in principle, there is no democracy, freedom or rule of law anywhere in the world.

Russians, for the most part, are tolerant of corruption because they are confident that everyone steals, and the liberal opposition, once in power, would also steal, and on top of that, deliberately destroy Russia on the orders of their ‘foreign masters’. Russians strongly associate democratic values with the ‘wild 90s’, the plunder of the country, and the ‘colour revolutions’ with accompanying chaos. Many Russians no longer believe in the existence of truth as such, having become accustomed to believing that everything is relative, and everyone has their own truth which corresponds to their own interests. The concept of objective truth does not exist for them. They have a similar attitude when it comes to Western countries, believing that these countries have no real democracy, that all decisions are made ahead of time in back rooms, dissenters are treated as badly as in Russia, and corruption, especially in the ruling circles, is just as prevalent, but carefully hidden from their citizens.

One element that led to this worldview was disappointment — partly absolutely sincere, and partly competently directed by the state. Russians’ disenchantment with democracy is the product of the wild 90s, but domestic propaganda neglects to mention the ties that were forged in those years between organized crime and the KGB, and that it was the former security officers who were able to monopolize resources and positions in Russia.

Against this background, it’s paradoxical that rampant crime, banditry, the notorious ‘new Russians’ and mafia turf wars are still associated in the mind of the average person only with reforms, democracy and the West. At the same time, more and more facts are coming to light that prove that in the 1990s, it was not the young reformers, who were connected with crime, but people from the Soviet KGB, and it was they who plundered Russia. At the same time, the West itself was not at all pleased with this symbiosis: Western countries not only did not control the process of the criminalization of elites in Russia, but also suffered from it.

Nevertheless, with the help of propaganda, it was possible to convince most Russians that organized crime was associated with reforms, reforms with democracy, democracy with the West, and the West itself exclusively with the CIA. This false association was enough to instill in Russians a panicked fear of returning to the 90s and total distrust of the West in general and democratic values in particular.

The propaganda efforts were so successful because the feeling of disappointment is a strong emotion that’s difficult to overcome. Disappointment is like a feeling of past love: it’s possible to love a person with whom you have not been in love before, but it’s almost impossible to love again someone with whom you have already fallen out of love. Disappointment is the feeling of growing up, rethinking our experience. It’s a winning argument: “we did this already” and “we already know this”. Disappointment, unlike ideology, is a feeling that also appeals to personal experience, which for any person is perceived as more meaningful and decisive than any logical frame of reference. Moreover, one can argue with a system of views, but not with experience, which, by definition, is something individual and subjective and in principle impossible to argue with.

This phenomenon is especially well illustrated by the example of my generation — ‘children of the 90s’ — whose school years took place in the first post-Soviet decade and who from childhood dreamed of living in the West and idolized its values. For those people, rethinking their childhood experience seems to be a necessary attribute of maturity and even an accomplishment, since it breaks stereotypes that paint us as the ‘lost generation’. My peers who have turned into flag-waving patriots proudly believe that they are the only ones who managed to see through all the lies that they had been fed by the consumerist society for ten years, and against all odds they have become patriots, not ‘liberasts’ (a ruder equivalent of ‘libtards’).

It’s ironic that in their formal renunciation of freedom, the children of the 90s, even in crossing over to the other side of the barricades — where there is no freedom — would not admit to themselves how important freedom is to them. It was important for them to emphasize that they made their choice freely, did not go with the flow and did not make their decisions just because it was trendy or because they were told to. And it’s precisely for this reason that it would be most difficult for them to return to the values they had rejected, since they perceive their disappointment as something very personal and painful.

In fact, in this phenomenon there is a serious substitution of concepts, since it’s almost impossible to become disenchanted with values. Unlike ideology, which may turn out to be unattainably utopian, values exist as long as there are people who embody them in their lives. For example, even if “everyone steals,” a single person who does not steal is enough to show that honesty exists. A single country that has real freedom of speech and where you don’t go to jail for expressing an opinion is enough to understand that freedom of speech exists. One example of fair elections is enough to believe in the existence of democracy. It’s enough to carefully study the facts in order to understand that there is objective truth in the world. And finally, even if all the people around you behave dishonestly, it’s enough to live according to your own values to prove by your own example that these values exist in reality, and not just on paper.

But if we look at values as ideology, that is, a certain universal concept, which must be absolutely true and exist independently of our efforts, then, of course, it can be very easy to give up on them, because you can find many examples of how values are proclaimed, but not followed.

This is exactly what Kremlin propaganda does: it overwhelms with many negative examples, but denies or ignores the positive examples that can be found in most Western countries.

By Kseniya Kirillova, for Integrity Initiative

Kseniya Kirillova is a Russian journalist. She challenged the Putin regime’s false narratives about the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine and now lives in the US. Here she looks at how the Kremlin has convinced many Russians that there can be no alternative to Putin’s corrupt regime.

Categories: World News

Fake: Ukraine To Accept 20,000 Refugees Instead Of Germany

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:17

Citing a Bavarian newspaper, last week scores of pro-Kremlin media claimed that Ukraine would accept 20,000 refugees instead of Germany with headlines such as Why does Poroshenko need militants from Asia and Africa?

Citing a German publication called Kraichgau News, Russian media claim that by the end of 2018 Ukraine will accept no less than 20,000 refugees most likely those who are currently in Bavaria. This deal allegedly resulted from an agreement with Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and its German counterpart and Ukraine is actively preparing for the reception of such a large number of people.

Website screenshot RIA

This fake began to be widely republished in Russian media during the recent EU Eastern Partnership summit at the end of November. The Eastern Partnership is a European Union program launched in 2009 in the framework of European Neighborhood Policy and addressed to six countries in Eastern Europe: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Kraichgau News is neither Bavarian nor is it a newspaper. It is an internet portal where anyone can post their information based in the Baden-Württemberg area. A user calling themselves Kerstin Neumann who wrote the article that Russian media cite registered with the Kraichgau News portal one day before publishing her fake story on November 1.

Replying to StopFake’s inquiry about these claims, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry confirmed that German diplomat  Dorothea Metschkowski. who specializes in human rights, recently presented a human rights project in Kyiv aimed at fostering tolerance towards refugees in Ukraine. All other claims about refuges are patently false, the ministry said.

While Ukraine is actively cooperating with Germany on human rights issues, there is no agreement between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding refugees.

Categories: World News