For years, she participated in the intense spreading of pro-Russian propaganda in Czechia. She cooperated with a Czech national living in Russia who defends the occupation from 1968 as justified and advocates the return of Russian tanks. Today, Blanka Morávková herself became the target of propagandists who labeled her as a traitor because of her confession and her defense of homosexuals. Morávková spent several weeks discussing her activities with INFO.CZ, providing a unique behind-the-scenes insight into the actions of pro-Russian trolls in Czechia.
It was February 2017 when Blanka Morávková published on her profile the following call: “Are you fed up with Western seditious anti-Russian politics? Do you want to support Russia? And, most importantly, do you want to see the faces of our politicians who open their Facebook and find out that Putin agents are already united and in uniform? If you do, change your profile picture to this one (the picture below the text showed text Agent of Kremlin). In case of any trouble feel free to blame Russian hackers”.
The call was a part of activities Morávková had been participating in for months. Since 2016, thrilled by the hybrid war, she has been spreading a number of propagandist statuses and collages into the world of social media from her Most residence. She dedicated all her free time to pro-Russian propaganda, as well as about 90% of her night doorkeeper working hours. In a while, Morávková’s profile was more influential than some pro-Russian groups.
These activities also profoundly affected her personal life. In hindsight, she admits that she put on weight, and at the time when she worked in social services, people ridiculed her because of her activities. “For example, my supervisor handed me an envelope with my paycheck as “Reward from Putin”.
When they forgot to tell me about the location of a work-related training, they were making fun of me that Putin will navigate me by satellite. Later, my boss became a bit more nervous and banned me from using the work computer, citing potential trouble because of their computer’s IP address. She continued. A colleague, who was a Nazi, and was on probation for spreading Nazi propaganda, secretly and eagerly plugged in the internet cable into my computer, laughing that I will be locked up before he will”, recounts the woman for INFO.CZ.
She did not cooperate with the Russians, but they used her profile to recruit for Donbass.
Morávková comes from a Communist family. Russia was her passion since she was young. In 2016, as she says, she sensed a chance to become a field soldier of the Cold War. “Facebook appealed to me as a wonderful weapon. So the motivation was, frankly speaking, to participate in this hybrid war. I started to attend Slavic groups and kept sending around friend requests. She was trying to pinpoint each person’s opinion highlights, and mainly asked for friendships those who liked Stalin and Putin” she stated in the interview.
„Petr Michalů is an embodiment of emotion and a live icon of socialism.“ (Blanka Morávková)
At the same time, she denies being handled by anyone in the Kremlin circle and does not report to anyone. She did not receive any money from Russia. The only contacts she had in Russia were her Facebook friends. However, one of them abused her profile for the recruitment of fighters in Ukrainian Donbass where the Ukrainian army continues to fight pro-Russian separatists supported by Moscow, a place where the world can observe the purest manifestation of a modern hybrid war.
Morávková herself took her activities mostly as an attempt to show strength in the face of an enemy, who, in her eyes, was represented by the West and by the members of NATO. In addition to that, her actions were also a source of entertainment. “All my actions were kind of fun, the sort of humor known from Good Soldier Schweik (widely popular Czech novel by Jaroslav Hasek from WW1 about a feebleminded soldier-saboteur, transl. note).
On the other hand, it has to be noted that humor will attract a lot of people. And if they are not clear on where they stand, you can gently persuade them that what you are presenting to them is the truth. People spend their free time on Facebook, they are not looking for facts, just want to laugh and reassure themselves in their views. And that is what it was all about,” she said.
Money collection for an “emigre” raised suspicion
Her coworker was pro-Russian activist Petr Michalů. In the past, he was employed by the Prison Service and also as a test commissioner for applicants for a firearms permit. That is why he ended up in court. In 2010, he was charged with facilitating criminal conduct. With a colleague, he unlawfully assisted applicants with firearms tests, and in one instance even waved the practical part of the exam. Michalů evaded jail sentence because in 2012 he fled for Spain, pretending it was a forced emigration. Four years later he moved to Russia where he applied for political asylum.
Michalů is also the author of text titled “Apology to the Russian Nation, the People of Russia, and to President Putin” in which he calls for harsh punishment of his ideological opponents whom he calls traitors. Apart from that, he also praised the invasion of Warsaw Pact armies in Czechoslovakia and called for a re-run. “If Russian tanks arrive in Czechoslovakia again, we will never let them leave,” he wrote in one of his pictures.
“Petr Michalů is a living emotion and a living icon of socialism”, describes him Morávková. She herself has never seen him in person. If it was not for the cooperation, he would be only one of her thousands of Facebook friends. Their communication took place solely in the virtual world.
Upon his arrival in Russia, Michalů became a celebrity. Some of the local media portrayed him as a Czech journalist who had to abandon his home because he could no longer stand European oppression. In Russian media, Michalů painted a happy picture of the years of socialism. Some of his works were also published in Parlamentni Listy.
And not only that. He also supplied his Czech followers with photographs of cheerful Russia. He was trying to create an impression that Putin’s stat is a Paradise on Earth. In the meantime, Morávková had to organize a money collection to sustain his life abroad. Even though the followers of Morávková included, for example, people, who firmly believed that the European Union intends to cancel letter „Ř“, the money collection for Michalů in the context of his wonderful life in Russia seemed somewhat suspicious even to them.
Agents! Our time has come! She called trolls for attacks.Russian media turned her into an example to follow.
However, the collection of money was not the only activity that linked Morávková with Michalů. Their cooperation was much wider. “We worked together on collages, pictures, and jokes that we were posting on Facebook. For example, I had an idea which Petr realized graphically. Or I used Petr’s photograph for my texts. We even had a common logo. Petr, of course, worked alone, the same way as before, and I shared his works on Facebook”, says Morávková who with Michalů also started a coordinated attack on Roman Máca, who at that time worked as an analyst of Kremlin Watch think tank European Values, and currently works for the Institute for politics and society.
“Agents! Our time is here! The more of us join, the more likely it is that Máca will throw up on his Apple laptop and we will cause their business first war casualty! Forward!” wrote Morávková on Facebook and added link to Máca’s profile in comments.
Máca dedicated Michalů several articles on his blog and on Facebook he consequently used Morávková’s actions as an illustration of activities of pro-Russian trolls. “Facebook political officers is the first to come to work. He is the one who creates calls where shall other internet agitators gather and directs them to individual posts,” writes Máca, adding that threats and degrading the targets as uninteresting losers usually follow. From that, the mob segues to the adoration of Russia and totalitarian regimes.
European Values and especially Máca were frequent targets of Morávková and Michalů. However, their biggest success was the abovementioned campaign “Agent of Kremlin”. The call to arms on Morávková’s profile was answered by tens of her friends. Moreover, due to Michalů’s contacts among Russian journalists, the affair reached Russian media as well. They cited both authors and presented the action as an expression of belonging of the Czechs and the Russians.
“As part of action “Agent of Kremlin,” we created a sleeve patch with the depiction of “Agent of Kremlin”. The patch is highly popular. People write us, ask where the patch can be purchased, want to wear it, and are proud of it. The demand for this patch comes from Finland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia,” stated Michalů in one of the videos for Russian media. Morávková added that they managed to get two individuals from Czechia and one from Slovakia, their Facebook friends, to make those patches.
They were not interested in facts. They were asking for the support of SPD and Communists.
The facts did not interest them. The couple called for the SPD and Communists to be elected
In February 2017, Morávková and Michalů joined the campaign of people burning the Quran in public. Michalů created a collage with a picture from the movie The Black Barons (Černí Baroni, The Black Barons, was a 1992 black comedy about a military unit made of politically unreliable recruits, transl. note), Morávková published jokes about burning the book. Their work, visible to thousands of their friends, was consequently used by organizers of demonstrations against Islam. Whilst many anti-Muslim Czechs were pleased, many of their Russian friends were less impressed. “As always, I was trying to compensate this with humor,” stated Morávková.
“Now, I am looking around, how much chaos propaganda had caused among my Facebook friends. Those people resemble products from a single manufacturing line: they adore Russia, believe in chemtrails, believe that homosexuals want to destrthe oy traditional family, and that imigrants along with NGOs are destroying our nation and our culture.” Blanka Morávková
The couple was also active before the election. “the election time was very important for us. I intentionally published my status, that was meant to support the right choice, at time when people were leaving their homes to cast their vote. And Petr did not sit idle, either”, remembers Morávková. Michalů published a post in which he stated that the only two acceptable parties are Tomio Okamura’s SPD and the KSČM (Czech and Moravian Communist Party, unreformed hardline communists, transl. note). If these did not succeed, he suggested the next course of action could be a coup and armed rebellion. Morávková denies being in any contact with any of these political parties, or acting on their behalf. None of them attempted to persuade her to cooperate with them.
Morávková did not work with the so-called disinformation websites such as Sputnik or Aeronet, either. She took them the same way as any traditional media – she ignored them. “I did not need facts. I worked with emotions. I avoided any discussions where it was necessary to know facts. For me, the relevant news were statuses of friends. I only sought information to the extent to be able to crack a joke about an event, and most of the time not even that, as it was not necessary. I wrote what people wanted to hear and what they laughed about,” she explains.
Morávková is frightened by attacks on homosexuals. She sees how vulnerable are people to propaganda.
Over time, the activities became tiring. She was becoming concerned how propaganda works with emotions and leaves facts out. One of the triggers was an article about her activity “Agents of Kremlin” on a Russian website. In addition, she did not support attacks against homosexuals. Because of her confession to lies, she herself is now a target of pro-Russian trolls and Facebook users, for whom she once was an icon. They perceive her as a traitor. This August she also ended her cooperation with Michalů. According to her, this was a culmination of a year-lasting conflict between the two. After a critique of his communication, Michalů blocked Morávková not only on Facebook but also on Russian network VK.com.
Propaganda remains Morávková’s hobby. “If a person is a locksmith, he can put a lock together and dismantle it as well. Now, I am looking around, how much chaos propaganda had caused among my Facebook friends. Those people resemble products from a single manufacturing line: they adore Russia, who believe in chemtrails, are convinced that homosexuals want to destroy the traditional family, and that immigrants along with NGOs are destroying our nation and our culture,” says Morávková and adds that she finds the attacks on homosexuals the most frightening of all.
“In response to my appeal for some examples of homosexual lobby that is grinding my friends, I received two children’s books. The rest were again feelings, emotions, scaremongering, and links to disinformation websites. Now, I feel good about my ability to see the locks on the minds of people that were installed by propaganda”.