A guide to Russian propaganda. Part 3: Rapid fire conspiracy theories

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Euromaidan Press presents its third video dealing with Russia’s propaganda tactics. Our first video was about how Russian propaganda impacts Russians, and the second was about whataboutism.

The Russian propaganda machine produces endless streams of fakes and manipulative stories. While at times they may seem outrageous or silly, they are far from being random. Russian propaganda for both domestic and foreign audiences follows techniques that stem from Goebbel’s times. Ultimately, it is a weapon of war. In our series A guide to Russian propaganda, we examine how propaganda works, and how one can avoid falling for it.

“The truth becomes one of many possible competing theories, just one of several alternative realities. It messes with people’s minds and that’s what it’s designed to do.” – Liz Wahl, former RT anchor

One of the ways Russia achieves national goals is by creating falsifications and  conspiracy theories.

When Russia wants to, it can create high-quality fakes and sophisticated deceptions with brilliant intricacy, like operation INFEKTION or the moon landing hoax. But when something goes wrong in Russia’s wars abroad, there’s no time. Quick and dirty conspiracy theories and disinformation slow down analysis and distract people in the early stages of a news story.

Just recently, Russia used this tactic to hide its bombing of a UN humanitarian aid convoy delivering food and medicine to Syria, which was bombed on 19 September 2016, with 21 people killed and aid for 78,000 people destroyed. Since that part of Syria is controlled by the joint Rusian-Assad forces, the suspicions fell on Russia.

First, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed on 20 September that a mortar was moving with the convoy, suggesting either the convoy was protecting a “terrorist” truck, or that terrorists had attacked the convoy. However, this was easily debunked by Conflict Intelligence Team, which proved the truck shown on the MoD’s video was filmed 6 km away from the bombing site, 5 hours before the incident.

Then, Russia’s MoD claimed that the convoy wasn’t destroyed by an air strike at all. But it was obvious from the photos that only an air strike could leave those kinds of holes in the destroyed vehicles.

Then Russian propaganda suggested a US drone was responsible for the bombing – which was the total opposite of the previous version, but it does dovetail with recent fears of US overreach with drone warfare.

But photos from the site showed the tails of OFAB 250-270s, Russian-made bombs used by the Syrian and Russia air forces and not used by NATO forces, sticking out of the wreckage.

Russia’s domestic media immediately created more theories, first saying that it was Assad, then that it wasn’t, that it was a US plot, that it was the Syrian rebels. One even suggested there was no convoy in the first place, and that the whole story was a conspiracy against Russia.

Then, alternative outlets picked up the story from there – one said that it was the White Helmets–the rescuers!


Do you feel your head swirling already? That’s exactly the point! You are witnessing the birth of conspiracy theories. Since they’re being made up on the run, they contradict each other, creating chaos and confusion. Amateurs will take them up, weave them together, and produce new material that Russian propaganda can use later. In the meantime, specialists in Moscow are probably already working on the “official” deceptive story that will be much more airtight.

We’ve seen this before: on 17 July 2014, civilian airliner MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk, operated by Russian servicemen invading Ukraine who were aiming for a Ukrainian military plane. But to obscure the facts, Russia produced multiple conspiracies.

Days after the crash Russia’s Ministry of Defense planted two theories that would later be regurgitated many times over: that it was either a Ukrainian plane or a Ukrainian Buk that shot down MH17. For this, it on 21 July 2014, it produced faked satellite images of a Buk that bellingcat proved were taken at least one month before the launch, and on 21 July 2014, fake radar data purporting to show a a Su-25 warplane 3-5 km from the civilian airliner. The Joint Investigation Team report later on showed that this was impossible and that the distance between the closest aircraft and MH17 was approximately 30 km.

Someone in Moscow even edited Wikipedia to make you think that SU-25s fly at the same altitude as airliner MH17 (which they don’t); and to make you think that Russia doesn’t use that same type of missile anymore.

Too bad Putin took a photo right next to it at a Russian military base in Armenia. The same rocket was displayed at a military parade in Chita, Russia, on 9 May 2015.

9М38 за спиной у Путина

And other theories flooded the landscape.


Read more: The most comprehensive guide ever to MH17 conspiracies

Do all these theories work? Let’s  listen to Liz Wahl, former anchor at RT:

“Part of the strategy is to plant seeds of doubt to the official story and question everything so facts can’t be established. So no one really knows what’s fact and what’s fiction. What ends up happening is that the truth becomes one of many possible competing theories, just one of several alternative realities. It messes with people’s minds and that’s what it’s designed to do.”

The Joint Investigation Team confirmed conclusively that MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk, but Russia is still trying to sow a seed of doubt, accusing the investigation of bias, and that it’s all a conspiracy against Russia.

Rapid fire conspiracy theories distract people at the early stages of the story, concealing the most obvious and damning version of events.

Luckily, these conspiracies are produced so fast, there’s no time for a credible theory, and with the help of investigative journalists the truth will come out.

Related: Former RT anchor: I became the target of a Russian propaganda conspiracy theory

Scenario by Alya Shandra, Alex Leonore, graphics by Ganna Naronina, narration by Paula Chertok. Find more videos about Russian propaganda in our series  A guide to Russian propaganda.


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  1. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

    A sick dysfunctional society being manipulated by an international mafia syndicate that occasionally governs. WAKE UP!!

  2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    The best thing to do is to regard anything coming out of the Kremlin or RuSSian media as a lie. The truth is usually the exact opposite of what the official RuSSian stance is. 99.9% of the time, this approach works.

  3. Avatar Styx says:

    The whole article is a baseless projection of the most obvious kind unsupported by any real evidence worthy only of highly sophisticated specimens like zorbatheturk or the legendary moonshine connoisseurs of Dirk Smith variety ..

    1. Avatar Simba Kijani says:

      Styxski Old Chum, I have written you several correspondences and am awaiting your response with baited breath. It’s not nice to leave an old friend hanging mate.

  4. Avatar Styx says:

    Incidentally, some history lesson for the readers of this article:

    “We know how preparations for meetings with Russia are discussed at NATO. The predominant feature is not a desire to hold business-like discussions or to search for ways to reduce tension and normalise relations, but a desire of the Russia-hating minority who call for punishing Russia for what is happening in Ukraine, which they describe as unacceptable aggression, annexation and occupation. If this is what they want to use the Russia-NATO Council for, then we need not attend its meetings. We will see whether common sense will prevail over the anti-Russia choir at the meeting that will be held today.

    We definitely do not want to increase tension in Europe. But we know that the bloc’s military infrastructure is being deployed on our border. Canada, Germany and the UK are doing this in the Baltics and the United States in Poland, and this involves the delivery of a huge number of heavy weapons. What matters is not that they are only sending one battalion each or that they say we should not worry. This situation involves certain symbols and makes us think about historical analogies.
    A year ago, President of Finland Sauli Niinisto proposed that Russian and NATO planes fly with their transponders operating. Finland, although it is not a NATO member, wants to see a tranquil situation in the Baltic Sea area. We put the idea on paper, added a few more details and presented this initiative at the Russia-NATO Council a year ago. But things are not moving. NATO, which keeps talking about reducing tension and coming to agreements, are not enthusiastic about this idea. Russia has been accused of violating agreements, while we say that NATO is building up its strength and has advanced far beyond the limits that are set out in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. We have called for our military personnel to meet within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council to show on the map where each country concerned has its forces in Europe. This will allow us to compare our potentials and to deal with this issue professionally rather than engage in double-talk.”

    It is very important to resume the analysis and comparison of our military doctrines, which NATO has suspended as well. It has been shelved. We are open for cooperation and ready to resume this work. But are our partners ready as well? We will not cajole them into resuming negotiations. Everyone must decide for themselves.”

  5. Avatar Styx says:

    Another propaganda myth, expertly deconstructed:

    According to Browder’s narrative, companies ostensibly under his control had been hijacked by corrupt Russian officials in furtherance of a $230 million tax-fraud scheme; he then dispatched his “lawyer” Magnitsky to investigate and – after supposedly uncovering evidence of the fraud – Magnitsky blew the whistle only to be arrested by the same corrupt officials who then had him locked up in prison where he died of heart failure from physical abuse.

    Despite Russian denials – and the “dog ate my homework” quality of Browder’s self-serving narrative – the dramatic tale became a cause celebre in the West. The story eventually attracted the attention of Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, a known critic of President Vladimir Putin. Nekrasov decided to produce a docu-drama that would present Browder’s narrative to a wider public. Nekrasov even said he hoped that he might recruit Browder as the narrator of the tale.

    However, the project took an unexpected turn when Nekrasov’s research kept turning up contradictions to Browder’s storyline, which began to look more and more like a corporate cover story. Nekrasov discovered that a woman working in Browder’s company was the actual whistleblower and that Magnitsky – rather than a crusading lawyer – was an accountant who was implicated in the scheme.

    So, the planned docudrama suddenly was transformed into a documentary with a dramatic reversal as Nekrasov struggles with what he knows will be a dangerous decision to confront Browder with what appear to be deceptions. In the film, you see Browder go from a friendly collaborator into an angry adversary who tries to bully Nekrasov into backing down.

    Full article: How Russia-gate Met the Magnitsky Myth
    July 13, 2017 on Consortiumnews.com

  6. Avatar NATOcracy says:

    What a pile of crap.

    “Someone in Moscow even edited Wikipedia to make you think that SU-25s fly at the same altitude as airliner MH17 (which they don’t); and to make you think that Russia doesn’t use that same type of missile anymore.”

    Did someone in Moscow edited the Ukrainian government defense company UKROBORONSERVICE website also?

    Practical ceiling, m 7000-10000


    UKROBORONSERVICE is a state company which major activity is the realization of state interests of Ukraine in the field of export / import of products, military-technical and special-purpose services.