Seven things you should know about pro-Kremlin disinformation

rt van in moscow

RT van with the network's employees working in the foreground of the Kremlin in Moscow. Photograph: rt.com 

Information security

Pro-Kremlin disinformation is often spread as the fake news stories via Russian government-controlled news outlets. The message of the disinformation pieces may be worded as “Don’t trust anyone! Especially not your media.” The global goal behind Russian disinformation is challenging democratic values and dividing Europe. The Disinformation Review reveals the seven key points regarding Russian disinformation.

1) Pro-Kremlin disinformation can look like just another news story

Claims made in pro-Kremlin fake news stories are sometimes simply taken out of the blue. This has for example been the case when it has been claimed that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian armed forces when there is overwhelming evidence that it was shot down by Russia-supported rebels. However, in most cases, pro-Kremlin disinformation stories use pre-existing knowledge and prejudice to make their fake news seem probable. One such example was the fake story about the kidnapping and rape of a 13-year-old “Lisa” in Germany by a group of newly arrived refugees. The story was spread shortly after events in Cologne, Germany, when many women had been harassed by groups of men with the foreign background. That contributed to making the disinformation story about “Lisa” sound plausible.

2) It comes from RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik

RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik are the international flagships of Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns. Three things worth knowing about them is that they are not independent; they do not want to be impartial, and they produce fake news to promote political objectives. Also, you will never see them criticising the Russian government.

3) … and from many sites that hide their links to Russia

An example of a site that does not advertise its affiliation with RT is the YouTube channel In the Now, which makes itself popular by buying up and sharing entertaining videos with the potential to go viral. Once social media users “like” the videos, they will begin to see videos with pro-Kremlin political messaging in their feed. But also other media share, knowingly or unknowingly, narratives which include pro-Kremlin disinformation. Check out our searchable database with almost than 3,500 examples of the spread into both openly pro-Kremlin and other media.

4) They look like facts, but they are not

Making something which isn’t true sound or look convincing isn’t necessarily difficult. You can create the false impression that the Russian president is highly popular in the US by simply staging a news report from a restaurant in New York City. You can also present the popular yellow plastic duck or the fidget spinner as instruments of global US-led conspiracies to overthrow governments and hope people will believe in your conspiracy theory. At the less entertaining end of the spectrum, you can make an actor claim to be the eye-witness of a crucifixion of a child, which never happened, or you can let a news host say that a little girl has been killed, knowing perfectly well that this did not happen at all.

5) Their message is: Be afraid! You face a massive threat: from migrantsfrom Muslims, from invented disasters

Making use of concerns in societies about migration and religious minorities is an important part of the pro-Kremlin disinformation toolbox. Find out more about how disinformation about migrants in EU member states has been used in pro-Kremlin media in our feature story about this topic.

6) The message is: Don’t trust anyone! Especially not your media

Sowing distrust in the independence of journalism and media as such is another key message in pro-Kremlin outlets. This message makes their own bias and disinformation look normal, and at the same time, the message weakens targeted societies, as it challenges the idea that media can pursue truth on behalf of all of society and make society a better place. RT (Russia Today) leads by example: Investigations into RT’s target audiences have shown that these at one point even begin to appreciate RT being “open about lying.”

7) Why? “To challenge democratic values and divide Europe”

The wording that the aim of pro-Kremlin disinformation is “to challenge democratic values” and “divide Europe” is taken from a resolution passed by the European Parliament. We know that the disinformation campaign is centrally coordinated by Russia’s authorities and that it inscribes itself into fundamental thinking in Russia’s military. We know quite a lot about in which ways the Russian authorities exercise control over the disinformation messaging in the media they control, or which are loyal to them.


Read more:

Source: EU vs Disinfo

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  • focusser

    Spot on, yesterday saw the Kremlin mouthpiece Maria Zakharova release yet another blatant propaganda lie.

    https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-foreign-ministry-spokeswoman-cites-fake-bin-laden-visit-to-slam-manafort-indictment-59459

    • Screwdriver

      I checked that out of curiosity and watched the video, but did not see anything from Zakharova about B. Laden in White House.
      So looks like fake news from moscow times.

    • Fortranz

      How about this one, where Putin tries to imply that the US is developing bio-weapons targeted at Russians. Seems RT was behind this one as well.

      Is the U.S. Really Targeting Russians With Bio Weapons?
      One expert says there are easier ways to kill off a population
      https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/is-the-us-suddenly-targeting-russians-with-bio-weapons-59464

      • Mick Servian

        Hey you understand what a news outlet is and what sources are? Right?
        I challenge anyone to pick one day of RT and show where they have been wrong.
        I keep doing so. But no answer

  • Eolone

    One thing is certain, Putin and Trump are headed to the trash heap of history. They’ll make as much trouble as they can, but in the end it’s all useless.

    • Mephisto

      it is the case with all the dictators with delusions of grandeur – Stalin, Hitler, Erdogan, Putin and many others. All they will ever achieve is destruction and chaos.

    • Fortranz

      Hope your right about Trump, and it can’t happen soon enough.

  • zorbatheturk

    It’s the old KGB playbook. They just added a couple of new chapters.

    • Fortranz

      No, mostly all the Russians did was change the word Soviet [or USSR] with Russia and just reprinted the same playbook.

      • zorbatheturk

        They always were Cheap Charleys.

  • zorbatheturk

    Nazis are in the Krumlin speaking RuSSian.

  • goodvibrations

    Crimea: Prominent critic of Russian occupation sentenced to two years in penal colony
    https://www.amnesty.ca/news/crimea-prominent-critic-russian-occupation-sentenced-two-years-penal-colony

    Crimea: Crimean Tatar leader sentenced to eight years in penal colony following sham trial
    https://www.amnesty.ca/news/crimea-crimean-tatar-leader-sentenced-eight-years-penal-colony-following-sham-trial

    Is this what you said was coming form Amnesty International?

    • Screwdriver

      Amnesty International have plenty of different reports, I never said that Amnesty International only accuse Ukraine. So you can find reports on Russia, some other countries, but those reports would not make Kiev Nazi regime innocent.
      Another words…If you a blood thirsty wolf trying to hide under sheep skin, and you got exposed, then pointing fingers to another bad wolf would not make you look innocent.

      • goodvibrations

        You didn’t show any reports to back-up what you said. All you did is say that there are reports. In other words you just lie your head off. That’s about the size of it buddy, you are pathetic.

        • Screwdriver

          Piece of cake.
          “Kostyantyn Beskorovaynyi returned home on 25 February after his abduction and indirect official acknowledgement of his secret arrest became the subject of international campaigning.4 In July, Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor promised an effective investigation into his allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and 15-months’ secret detention by the SBU, but no tangible outcomes of the investigation were reported by the end of the year.

          Dozens more individuals were held secretly on SBU premises in Mariupol, Pokrovsk, Kramatorsk, Izyum and Kharkiv, and possibly elsewhere. Some were eventually exchanged for prisoners held by the separatists. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch received the names of 16 individuals from three separate sources, all independently confirming them as secret prisoners held by the SBU in Kharkiv since 2014 or 2015, and shared the list with the Ukrainian authorities. At least 18 people, including the 16 independently confirmed prisoners, were subsequently secretly released; their detention was never officially acknowledged.” https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/ukraine/report-ukraine/

          • goodvibrations

            You left out this part;

            Crimea

            None of the enforced disappearances that followed the Russian occupation were effectively investigated. Ervin Ibragimov, member of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, was forcibly disappeared near his home in Bakhchisaray, central Crimea, on 24 May. Available video footage from a security camera shows uniformed men forcing Ervin Ibragimov into a minivan and driving him away. An investigation was opened, but no progress had been made at the end of the year.7

            Freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, already heavily restricted, were further reduced. Some of the independent media that had been forced to relocate to mainland Ukraine in earlier years had access to their websites blocked by the de facto authorities in Crimea. On 7 March, the mayor of Crimean capital Simferopol banned all public assemblies except those organized by the authorities.

            Ethnic Crimean Tatars continued to bear the brunt of the de facto authorities’ campaign to eliminate all remaining vestiges of pro-Ukrainian dissent.8 The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, a body elected at an informal assembly, Kurultai, to represent the community, was suspended on 18 April and banned by a court as “extremist” on 26 April. Its banning was upheld by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on 29 September.9

            The trial continued of the Mejlis’ deputy leader, Ahtem Chiygoz, on trumped-up charges of organizing “mass disturbances” on 26 February 2014 in Simferopol (a predominantly peaceful rally on the eve of the Russian occupation, marked by some clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian demonstrators). Held in a pre-trial detention centre in the vicinity of the court building, he was only allowed to attend his court hearings via a video link, purportedly because of the “danger” he would pose. Ahtem Chiygoz remained one of several prisoners of conscience in Crimea. Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhi also continued to be held in pre-trial detention for allegedly participating in the same “mass disturbances” on 26 February 2014.

            The Russian authorities used allegations of possession of “extremist literature” and of membership of the Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir as a pretext for house searches of ethnic Crimean Tatars (predominantly Muslims) and arrests. At least 19 men were arrested as alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Of them, four men from Sevastopol were put on trial in a military court in Russia, in violation of international humanitarian law governing occupied territories, and sentenced to between five and seven years in prison. During the trial, nearly all prosecution witnesses tried to retract their earlier statements, claiming that these had been forcibly extracted under threat of criminal prosecution by members of the Russian security service.

            1.Ukraine: Two years after Euromaydan – The prospect for justice is threatened (EUR 50/3516/2016)
            2.Ukraine: Further information – Body of missing lawyer has been found (EUR 50/3734/2016)
            3. “You don’t exist”: Arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and torture in eastern Ukraine (EUR 50/4455/2016)
            4. Ukraine: Authorities must disclose missing man’s fate: Kostyantyn Beskorovaynyi (EUR 50/3275/2016)
            5. Five men in secret detention in Ukraine (EUR 50/4728/2016)
            6. Ukraine: Kyiv Pride – A genuine celebration of human rights (EUR 50/4258/2016)
            7. 6 Ukraine: Crimean Tatar activist forcibly disappeared – Ervin Ibragimov (EUR 50/4121/2016)
            8. Ukraine: Crimea in the Dark – The silencing of dissent (EUR 50/5330/2016)

            Ukraine: Crimea – Proposed closure of the Mejlis marks culmination of repressive measures against the Crimean Tatar community (EUR 50/3655/2016)

            Why did you leave this out?

          • Screwdriver

            I explained you already ,
            if you an idiot, pointing fingers at another idiots would not make YOU normal.