In one of the most egregious examples of fabricated propaganda, state-sponsored and state-controlled RIA Novosti published an over-the-top smear piece targeting the UK and Bill Browder.
Why do I say it’s propaganda?
- The article contains no documentation. No proof. No evidence. No citations. No links. Zero. Zip. Nada. No corroboration. No verification.
- Numerous references to Anonymous websites, but no links.
- Numerous references to quotes, but no links.
- Numerous citations to hackers referencing a connection to “a” UK anti-Russian program, but no links.
- Numerous citations to Bill Browder’s connection to these programs, but no links.
- A plethora of Anonymous phrases, mottos, and memes, but no links.
- Numerous references to documents, but no links.
- The only link in the entire article is to the home page of cyberguerilla.org, an Anonymous group. It is not clear of the purpose behind the link as there is no material on this page and no links to anything useful.
- Lots of allegations without any actual references.
- There is criticism of UK sanctions against Russia, “Unlike our“ sworn friends ”who, five minutes after the appearance of this kind of information, would have introduced another draft law on sanctions to their parliament”.
I get it.
- Bill Browder is hated by Putin and the Russian government for helping establish the Magnitsky Act.
- The UK has historically been blamed for all of Russia’s ills.
- Russia is in a deep spiral of propaganda losses and bloody noses and Russia desperately needs a propaganda coup
This article is nominally targeted internally to Russia, perhaps to reinforce the belief that the UK is targeting Russia, but it serves no internal purpose to mention Bill Browder unless Russia is seeking to create an external ‘devil’ of sorts. This article, therefore, is intended for an external audience. In Russian? No. It must be translated for foreigners to easily read it. Perhaps this is just an initial “seed” to see how it sells. If it is retweeted sufficiently, perhaps… Stay tuned.
To help spread this propaganda, Doctor Igor Panarin of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Chief of the Russian Information Speznaz (Special Forces) Association posted a link to this article on Facebook. I have not searched for other activity pushing this article.
The article is so outrageously fake and fabricated, however, that I give this article zero chances of going viral, going mainstream, or being believed, even by the most jaded pro-Russian.
Another Russian propaganda failure of the highest order. Oh, Russia, you really used to have talent in this area. Your desperation screams out loudly in this article.
Hackers talked about Britain’s anti-Russian program
WASHINGTON / LONDON / MOSCOW, Nov. 24 – RIA Novosti. The hackers from the group Anonymous posted in open access the documents of the Integrity Initiative, which the British authorities, according to their assumption, used to interfere in the internal affairs of European countries and for the information war against Russia.
As reported at one of the sites Anonymous, the project, founded in 2015, was funded by the British government. Among those associated with him were the financier William Browder, an associate of Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Ashurkov, and a scientist Igor Sutyagin, convicted in 2004 of espionage and subsequently pardoned.
The cost of the project for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, is estimated at 1.96 million pounds sterling (2.51 million dollars), follows from the message of hackers. The purpose of the project is called information countering Russia. Among those who allocated grants to the project, the US Department of State, NATO and the social network Facebook are indicated.
“We are the network”
The project’s leaked online textbook says that it was founded by the British Institute of Public Administration Center in cooperation with the Free University in Brussels in order to draw the attention of politicians, opinion leaders and other interested parties to the threat Russia represents to democratic institutions in the UK, Europe and North America. ”
The project’s website itself reports that it connects those who consider it necessary to counter Russia and other countries: China, Iran and Venezuela into a “network of clusters in Europe and North America”. To this end, “cluster members actively work with politicians and the general public in their countries,” and also exchange information and experience on the region.
“We are a network of people and organizations from all over Europe, who seek to uncover and fight propaganda and disinformation. Our common goal is to teach how to find disinformation and confirm sources,” the organization’s website says. She does not hide the fact that most of its members intend to maintain anonymity, referring to the “aggressive attention of disinformers, such as the Kremlin and its henchmen.”
The organization also does not hide its ties with the government. “The network is coordinated from the UK. We are not a government agency, but we work with government agencies and departments that share our goals,” the project organizers say.
Part of the documents made public by hackers suggests the availability of funding from the UK state budget. These are applications that are drawn up on the forms for contractual documentation of the Foreign Office, as well as a list of contact persons for the program “at embassies”, presumably British, throughout Europe and beyond. For persons on the list of contact persons, the official e-mail addresses of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs are listed RIA Novosti does not yet have their comments.
The representative of the British Foreign Ministry also did not refute the assumptions about the relationship of the project with the authorities, saying only that the government welcomes his wide publicity.
“The Integrity Initiative is a program that is publicly available. We will be happy to raise awareness about this project,” he told RIA Novosti.
The UK National Cyber Security Center was also briefed on this.
Browder, Ashurkov and Sutyagin
There are famous people in the list of potential employees of the organization. First of all, this is the financier William Browder, the former largest portfolio investor in Russia, who is now engaged in the promotion of sanctions against Moscow in different countries of the world, and in Russia he has been convicted in absentia on charges of tax fraud.
In addition, the list includes a colleague of Alexei Navalny, the former head of the Anti-Corruption Fund, Vladimir Ashurkov, who in 2015 received asylum in the UK. In Russia, he is charged with a fraud of 10 million rubles in collecting donations for the Navalny campaign during the election of the mayor of Moscow in 2013.
There is in the list and Igor Sutyagin – a scientist, a former employee of the Institute of USA and Canada, Russian Academy of Sciences, convicted of treason. In 2010, he and three other people were exchanged for ten detainees in the United States on charges of illegal activities in favor of Russia.
The document, which mentions Browder, Ashurkov and Sutyagin, does not give an opportunity to understand what business relations with the Integrity Initiative they are in and how they cooperate with it. There is no title to the document. Opposite to the names of the mentioned people it is written that they belong to a certain “Russian core” of the British cluster, but are not its members, like other persons on the list. Some cluster members are listed without a last name (Andrew, Maria) or even without a first name (simply “A”).
In addition, the author of a book about the Gulag, Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, an employee of the Hermitage Browder Foundation Vadim Kleiner, and co-founder of the StopFake.org project Evgeny Fedchenko are listed on the British cluster list. The most famous figure in the American cluster is the economist Anders Aslund, who works on the Atlantic Council of Experts in Washington. The cluster coordinator is Mary Ellen Connell. Her e-mail is registered to the domain of the Center for Naval Analysis – a military expert center funded by the US government.
The true goal of the project hackers Anonymous called intervention in the affairs of European countries.
“The stated goal of the project is to counter Russian propaganda and the hybrid war of Moscow. Hiding behind noble intentions, Britain actually created a large information secret service in Europe, the USA and Canada, which consists of representatives of the political, military, scientific and journalistic community headed by an expert center in London, ”says cyberguerrilla.org .
“Within the framework of the project, Britain has repeatedly interfered in the internal affairs of independent European states. The most obvious example is Moncloa’s operation in Spain. Britain decided to prevent Pedro Banos from being appointed director of the Spanish Internal Security Department. – say hackers. From the enclosed document it follows that the Spanish cluster conducted a campaign in the local media in order to present Baños as a supporter of Russia.
“The UK government must step out of the shadow and clearly state its intentions, disclose the results of the Integrity Initiative, otherwise we will do it ourselves,” the authors of the leaks warn.
Facilities and activities
In applications for funding on the forms of the Foreign Office there is a column in which you need to specify where the organization received the funds from. The list of grantors includes the NATO Office of Public Diplomacy, which allocated £ 168,000 to hold seminars, unnamed “partner organizations” with £ 70,000. The Lithuanian Ministry of Defense provided a strategic communications team to create a local organization cluster and £ 20,000. The US State Department allocated £ 250,000 for “research and distribution activities.” In addition, the amount of 100 thousand pounds from Facebook “for research and educational activities.”
The application for the fiscal year to March 2019 indicates a broad activity on the information opposition of Russia. This is the foundation of nine country clusters, educational events, preparation of country reports, the creation of an expert network in Brussels. In addition, mention is made of work with the ministries of foreign affairs and defense of various countries in order to encourage them to create organizations to study and counter the “Russian threat”. It was also planned to allocate funds for in-depth study of the principles of “Russian propaganda” and the main methods of the alleged disinformation, and for tracking Moscow’s attention to international events such as elections, summits, military exercises and the like.
In addition, it was supposed to prepare a guide on combating disinformation and a study on the mood of Russian-speaking diasporas in the Baltic countries, Germany and other countries. A broad program of publications, including in multimedia format, should have been supplemented by translations into English and Russian. In addition to monitoring itself, the organization spread its position through various channels, including social networks. Information campaigns were also planned on “confronting disinformation” and using entertainment programs to influence the Russian-speaking population of some countries. Finally, it was proposed to introduce courses on “information war” in the program of universities.
As for the persons interested in the project, they are not specifically named, although “governments of states and international institutions” are mentioned. The “risks” column indicates the threats that the authors of the project are afraid of facing. These include “malicious claims in court,” hacker attacks, reputational and physical risks for program participants, “negative advertising from Russia or its supporters,” as well as “physical elimination of managers and experts on the topic.”
Russian parliamentarians responded to the revelations of hackers.
According to Andrei Lugovoy, a member of the State Duma Security Committee, even without these hackers it was obvious that London’s informational activities were aimed at trying to discredit Russia. “You can call it anything: attack, counteraction,” he told RIA Novosti.
Nikolay Ryzhak, a member of the Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, in an interview with RIA Novosti, offered to check the financial activities of those who cooperate with the project for violations of Russian legislation.
“I will prepare, perhaps, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation a corresponding deputy request with the purpose of developing proposals for ensuring cyber security in relation to our state,” added Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee Yury Shvytkin.
The head of the international committee of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, urged not to make hasty accusations, but to investigate the hacker’s assumptions.
“Undoubtedly, this information deserves the closest attention and the most thorough investigation. Unlike our“ sworn friends ”who, five minutes after the appearance of this kind of information, would have introduced another draft law on sanctions to their parliament, I consider it crucial to focus now on evidence, and not on a hasty accusation, no matter how seductive it may be, “he told RIA Novosti.
“I think this is not the last publication,” suggested Andrei Krasov, first deputy chairman of the defense committee of the State Duma.