A Guide to Russian Disinformation

Russian Disinformation

I do not pretend to understand everything the Russians mean when they issue a press release, a news report or an opinion piece, but here are a few key phrases and words I keep seeing that only sometimes make sense.  My gut feeling is that if they keep saying these phrases enough, eventually the reader will break down and just accept the words as…  not the truth but an acceptable word or phrase.

Kyiv the Junta.  The word Junta means a small group that rules a country after a Coup d‘ état.  The Russians use this as a pejorative, a negative term that also seems to carry the meaning of an illegitimate government, an illegal government.  Proof?  The government that rules has often been called illegal in russian media; until the May 25th elections it will be continually referred to as illegal.  So much for Russia trying to “stabilize” Ukraine.

a small group ruling a country, especially immediately after a coup d’état and before a legally constituted government has been instituted.

Traitor Maidan.  Those participating in the popular uprising in Kyiv, more specifically in the central square known as the Maidan, that resulted in Ukrainian President Yanukovych fleeing to Russia.  By linking the word traitor with an event that occurred in the Maidan, the purpose is to create a negative connotation for people revolting against an unpopular politician who was widely considered pro-Russian.  

A person who is not loyal to his or her own country, friends, etc. : a person who betrays a country or group of people by helping or supporting an enemy.

Freedom fighters.  This term was originally used by those fighting for Ukrainian freedom has now been bastardized by pro-Russian propagandists to mean freedom from Ukrainian ‘oppression’ in East Ukraine.  

a person who is part of an organized group fighting against a cruel and unfair government or system

Neo-Nazi Euromaidan regime.  Ukrainian government (junta) in power in Kyiv.  This phrase is pointedly designed to de-legitimize the government in Kyiv by associating them, fairly or unfairly with Right Sector, an ultranationalist movement run by Dmytro Yarosh.  Right Sector has a membership of approximately 10,000, so any real impact to the government is minimal.  The word regime is also has a negative connotation.  The Neo-Nazi phrase is another extreme negative but the truth is a symbol, reminiscent of the Nazi swastika, has been used by members of the far right, hence the overly broad use of this label on the current Ukrainian government. 

Foreign mercenaries snipers February 20, 2014 in Kiev. There are a number of different theories about the snipers in Maidan.  Some say Russian Special Forces.  Some say SBU, Ukrainian Special Security Service (Sluzhba Bezpeky Ukrayiny), trained by Russian FSB. Now the Russians are claiming the snipers were foreigners.  There is no proof as of present, but my gut feeling is they were Russians or Russian trained. 

Slovyansk and the CIA and MI6.  A current bit of real disinformation by Russian are the forces “disguised as the Ukrainian police” are purportedly CIA or MI6.  *cough* Perhaps they are Russian agents or Russian Special Forces or even out of work Ukrainians hired by Russia to pose as Ukrainian police.  Russian disinformation rules seem to apply: say it enough and your own people might believe it. 

Greystone Mercenaries.  Starting in Crimea, a popular Russian ruse is to say foreign mercenaries, more specifically Greystone, is present and at work in Ukraine. Greystone is a descendant of Blackwater, who became Xe, who became Academi, who now has a subsidiary named Greystone.  Put a balaclava on someone and call them Greystone.  Until they are unmasked and interrogated, there is no proof, hence a nasty source of fairly effective disinformation. The problem is Greystone is not going to deploy people to this sort of an area, not without the protection of some sort of US legitimacy.  Only someone without more than two brain cells is going to believe this after hearing it once.

Self Defense Forces.  This tiresome term is used for Russian Special Forces, Russian agents, out of work coal miners or Ukrainian citizens for hire by Russians or their agents.  The ‘provocateurs” are historically used by Russia to create unreal support for Russia and its causes.

Third Rome (Moscow).  The idea that Moscow is the successor to the legacy of Rome (First Rome) and the Holy Roman Empire (Second Rome).   There is little to no documentation and little and less meaning to this phrase. 

Third Carthage (London). An indistinct phrase used by Russian propagandists, most likely to make researchers like me waste their time.  Carthage was a powerful shipping port in modern-day Tunisia. It was destroyed and rebuilt in multiple Punic Wars.  Why it is supposed to mean London, today, is beyond me.  What’s more, I don’t care enough to look it up.  

Fourth Reich. Just as Nazi Germany was the Third Reich, this is a term for a supreme Fourth Reich, which supposedly means a reborn Germany.  Sometimes extended to mean the United States in a pejorative term.  A silly symblomatic term.

Gladio 2.  An invented term born out of NATO Operation Gladio, which put “stay behind” units in place in Europe.  This was an actual operation, which ceased functioning at the end of the Cold War.  Suddenly Operation Gladio 2 is springing up as a Russian disinformation term and every suspicious person in or near Ukraine without ties to a legitimate Ukrainian spy operation bears the moniker Gladio 2 operative.  Seeing as there is no such operation, it is difficult to disprove a negative.  Bottom line, a made up term with no basis in reality.


4 thoughts on “A Guide to Russian Disinformation

  1. What you are describing seems to fit what I’ve heard called “semantic infiltration”…if you use a word/phrase long enough, your use of it will bump aside the “real” meaning. Example…German Democratic Republic, or GDR, East Germany, wasn’t democratic nor a republic…but we kept describing it as such because of the words that were used.

    Sent from my iPad


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