Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russia has been trying to influence the elections in France and the Netherlands by publishing dubious sociological research

(Translated from Russian by GMail)

by Bellingcat Investigation, Team


Earlier this week, the head of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will not interfere in the conduct of the presidential elections in France. However, the facts show that in the course of the presidential race in France, the Russian state-controlled media have used questionable results of sociological research, trying to promote the candidacy of Fransua Fiyona, while according to other polls, he was only in third place. Shortly before the first round of elections, the Election Commission of France issued a warning that the poll news agency Sputnik, whereby Fransua Fiyon is leading in the presidential race, contrary to public opinion, and is not considered a “case study” in accordance with French law.

This survey was conducted by Sputnik to Brand Analytics, which has previously been involved in joint projects with the state organization Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM). Superior customer VTsIOM serves the Kremlin, and he decides what data VTsIOM may publish and what not. Company Brand Analytics owned Russian company PalitrumLab, most of the shares which, in turn, owns a system integrator “I-Teco”. Integrator customers are the Federal Security Service, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense.

In March, the Wall Street Journal wrote that before last year’s elections in Bulgaria the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party allegedly received from the former Head of Information and Analytical Department SVR Russia Leonid Reshetnikov secret strategy document. At that time, Reshetnikov served as Director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, linked to the Kremlin. It is reported that he gave the Bulgarians a phased plan of action that would lead the party to victory in the elections, and suggested the use of tools such as misinformation in the news and embellished the results of sociological research.

There is evidence that the Russian state-controlled media regularly publish untrue survey results. One example is the manipulation of results on public opinion about the annexation of Crimea to Russia.

In March, the anniversary of the referendum on the status of the Crimean Peninsula, Sputnik published results of the survey, according to which “many Europeans and Americans consider Crimea as part of Russia.” News Agency conducted a similar study in 2016. It also published the results of the opinion poll under the headline “Almost 80% of Russians believe that the reunification of the Crimea with Russia has brought the country benefit.” Russian TV channel RT, receive funding from the state budget, was also convicted of publishing questionable data associated with the opinion polls. In an article released by RT in March, stated that according to conducted in the Netherlands in the course of the race to the survey “most Dutch people do not want to remain in the European Union.” The survey was carried out a research center Bruges Group. The Times newspaper reported that the director of the Bruges Group traveled to the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and interviewed the “foreign minister” of the separatists. According to RT, «most Dutch – 56% – are attractive idea neksita (a term formed by analogy with breksitom)”. In this study did not contain a direct question about whether the Netherlands should withdraw from the EU structure, and the figure 56% is given without regard to those respondents who abstained, giving the answer “I do not know.”

Fears French Election Commission

In April, French Election Commission expressed concern about the results of a survey published by the news agency Sputnik, which is under the control of the Kremlin. According to Sputnik, Fransua Fiyon again came in first place in the election race, although the main surveys conducted in France showed that Fillon is in third place, the first takes Emmanuel Macron, and the second (by a small margin) – Marine Le Pen. The Election Commission of France said that the study of Sputnik is not a “survey”, as the data were obtained by analyzing the social media (which held Russian company Brand Analytics ).

According to the opinion of DFRLab, published data Brand Analytics, Sputnik showed “preference polls, highlighting the popularity of Fillon and Le Pen, and unwillingness to cover research that leads Macron.” In his defense, Brand Analytics company stated that according to their research earlier leaders and other candidates came out: “For example, two weeks ago, when we were leading sociologists Fillon and Le Pen, according to our data led Macron.” Despite this, the Russian state-controlled media have paid attention to the results Brand Analytics works only when the leaders were Fillon. March 30 BBC News wrote : “While most polls still insist that leadership <…> from Marine Le Pen and Makron, the survey of the” Brand Analytics “Company <…> the first time in a month before the election gave Fransua Fiyonu first place. ”

Brand Analytics and VTsIOM

Brand Analytics founder of the company is a system integrator “I-Teco” , which deals with the creation of the IT infrastructure, as well as provides services in consulting and information security. Among his clients – Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defense and the FSB . Brand Analytics defended its methodology , pointing to studies conducted during other elections: “The method will accurately predict the results of elections in France in 2012, USA in 2012 and 2016, Venezuela, Greece and other countries.”. The company has also studied public opinion against chemical attack in Guta (Syria) in 2013, saying that the investigation took only a few hours and involved six countries. The aim of the study was to “determine the level of support for the population of the United States and several other Western countries <…> planned bombing.” Brand Analytics also found who, according to public opinion, is the culprit chemical attack.

Sociological research in Huta attacks, as well as other key studies were performed by the group in collaboration with the Vox Populi , is closely related to the VTsIOM. VTsIOM 100% owned by the Ministry of Property Relations of the Russian Federation. Alternatively, according to a recognized and independent polls were conducted by the Levada Center in Russia several influential surveys, including a case study, which appeared a week before the elections to the State Duma in 2016, which showed the growing popularity of the ruling party. The results of this study extended state and pro-government media. In 2013, in one of the interviews CEO VTsIOM Valery Fedorov mentioned: “Our main customer – is the Kremlin and the” United Russia “. As customers, they have the rights to the results of our research. In every contract there is always a confidentiality clause. <…> All data that requests the Kremlin, are published only with his consent. ”

Polls Sputnik on recognition of Crimea as part of Russia

March 16 Sputnik published an article entitled “Independent poll found that many Europeans and Americans consider Crimea as part of Russia.” According to a study conducted by Sputnik, «more than a third of Germans and Italians consider Crimea as part of Russia; the same opinion is shared by 26% of British, 23% of Americans and 20% of the respondents of the French. ” March 16 – the day of the referendum in the Crimea in 2014, so that the article immediately expounded a blatantly pro-government Russian media. RIA Novosti article on this subject gained 300,000 views and the Russian Embassy in Malta even posted a link to it on Twitter.

According to Sputnik, the respondents were asked the following question: “Based on what you have seen and heard, do you consider the Crimea as part of Russia”, the following options were offered an answer: “yes”, “no”, “do not know”. This question is exactly the same one that Sputnik asked a year earlier . In 2016, on the anniversary of the Crimean referendum Sputnik published an article “A third of Europeans and Americans consider Crimea as part of Russia.” March 16 the results of a sociological study on the Crimea, also published VTsIOM. Sputnik unveiled data VTsIOM titled “Almost 80% of Russians believe that the reunification of the Crimea with Russia has brought the country benefit.” That is, in 2017, the third anniversary of the date of the referendum in the Crimea, Sputnik published an article according to which the Kremlin’s policy toward the peninsula supports both Russians and the West. However, this year to conduct a survey of the Crimea Sputnik chose TNS Global – that is interesting, especially when you consider the recent events that have occurred with this company in Russia.

Until the summer of 2016 TNS Russia was owned by WPP British holding. TNS company Russia was engaged in television research in Russia as long as Andrei Lugovoi (one of the two main suspects in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, now – State Duma deputy from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party) is not amended the law on the media and advertising law . According to these amendments the company engaged in telemetry Russia, can be owned by foreign shareholders no more than 20%. As a result, 80% of the shares of TNS Russia has sold VTsIOM. In addition, in December 2016 the head of the board of directors became Angelo Kodinoni. Kodinoni served as adviser to Berlusconi and was a founding member of the now-defunct party “Forza Italia” (Italian. Forza Italia). According to documents of Wikileaks published, Kodinoni played mediator between Berlusconi and Putin. In early 2015, Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting Russian citizenship Anzhelo Kodinoni.

TNS Global was asked about Sputnik study about the Crimea and the relationship with TNS Russia. The answer: “As part of the TNS study was responsible only for the method and the process of gathering information, and primary processing of data customers to their own. TNS adhere to a code of professional activity MRS and ESOMAR and is committed to the quality of MRS ».

RT: «most» Dutch vote for the exit from the EU

Last year, the Times article on the influence of Russia in the United Kingdom referred to the research center Bruges Group. It stated:

“Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group, <…> passed by the Kremlin-funded” Donetsk People’s Republic “in the east of Ukraine. <…> In the video of the visit published Bruges Group, Oulds described the Ukrainian government as a “junta” and asked whether this enclave further “expand its borders, ie to liberate the territory from the power of Kiev”. “

Ten days before the general election in the Netherlands in 2017. The RT has published an article in Russian under the title “Out of the Netherlands: majority of Dutch people do not want to remain in the European Union.” The publication pointed out that the source of information served as the survey that in the Netherlands conducted Bruges Group. This is what has been written on this subject: “As a result of a survey conducted by the British think tank Bruges Group in the Netherlands, found that most Dutch people – 56% – are attractive idea neksita (a term formed by analogy with breksitom). The poll was conducted on February 14-15, across the country. ”

According to information published on the Bruges Group page , it has commissioned a survey of the Dutch site . Bruges Group has published some data on the poll:

“Respondents were asked which of the three options they prefer, the results are shown below:

39% = EU

23% = EFTA (European Free Trade Association)

= 27% of FTA (Free Trade Zone)

11% Do not know =

Excluding abstentions

56% = Nexo (EAST + FTA)

= 44% of the EU “

That is, respondents were not asked directly whether they support withdrawal from the EU Netherlands. In addition, RT resulted in data excluding 11% abstentions, who chose the answer “I do not know.” According to the method Bruges Group, if you add up the number of respondents who answer “EFTA” and “free trade area”, you get a 50% rather than 56%.

RT is not mentioned that the figure 56% does not account for abstaining.

The paper also addressed the theme of general elections in the Netherlands. This is what has been written on this subject: “A survey in the Netherlands showed that the majority of Dutch people are dissatisfied with the policy of Brussels and in favor of the country’s withdrawal from the EU following the example of Great Britain. <…> In the presidential race leader right-wing Freedom Party and its leader Geert Wilders is going to bring the Netherlands from the European Union. ” In one section of the article discusses the pros and cons “neksita” and research data, which results in RT, speak in favor of the Netherlands out of the EU.

“The report of the British Capital Economics consulting firm said the benefits which will be received as a result of Amsterdam exit from the EU. According to analysts of the company, in the interests of the Dutch to leave the EU as soon as possible: otherwise the Netherlands waiting for a long-term crisis. “

RT did not result in a reference to the report, which states that “the company Capital Economics has been involved with the Freedom Party to examine the possible economic consequences in the event of the Netherlands from the European Union, ie. N. “Neksita. ‘” Freedom Party – the party of Gerta Vildersa, who lost the elections in March, Mark Rutte.


3 thoughts on “Russia has been trying to influence the elections in France and the Netherlands by publishing dubious sociological research

  1. “Fransua Fiyon”… please… I know this is a machine translation, but maybe some search and replace is in order ? François Fillon, anyone ? I also notice that “Chrome” is thoroughly infiltrated by putinist agents, since it manages to throw a “Fransua Fiyona” for good measure… which is, according to my non-existent knowledge of Russian, the feminine of the former… So Google, in effect, is joining the Kremlin defamation machine in suggesting European politicians are poofs…

    1. I am no longer fluent in French (my first wife was French), so should I send French translations to you in the future for corrections?

      Just joking, that is precisely why I almost always post how the translation was obtained. Ukrainian is especially bad for Chrome, Google Translate, and Bing Translator. At one time I was fluent in seven languages including Swahili and Hangul. Now I have am having occasional problems with English! My mother taught English and I still go to her for lessons.

      But Gmail translated that message…

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