Briefs

Estonia: 12-18 September 2016

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A few hours before Russia’s Duma elections on 18 September, Baltnews.ee—a Russian-language propaganda website—quoted a Russian citizen living in Estonia as saying he would vote, for the first time,for pro-Kremlin parties to protest Western hostility towards Russia.  This attitude, which appears widespread, shows that Russian propaganda may have succeeded in strengthening anti-Western attitudes among Estonia’s Russian citizens.
 
Event: In an 18 September article discussing the Russian state Duma elections held in Estonia (almost 7 percent of the Estonian population are Russian citizens and therefore eligible to vote), Baltnews.ee quoted an Estonian Russian as saying he had never voted in such elections before, but would use his vote this time as a protest against West’s dishonesty and hypocrisy towards Russia.
 
The false fact or narrative: The quotation contains two narratives which pro-Kremlin media have been spreading for months. The first, that the Western media and politicians are lying about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, about Russia not targeting ISIS in Syria, and about Russia waging a disinformation campaign. The second is that Western countries have no right to criticize Russia because they are just as bad, if not worse.
 
Reality on the ground: There is no proof that Western media or politicians intentionally lie or spread disinformation towards Russia.
 
Techniques: 
  • Tu quoque (you too);
  •  no proof,
  • “wolf cries wolf.”
 
Audience: Estonia’s ethnic Russian population.
 
Analysis: This case study is a good example of a Kremlin media disinformation technique used with increasing frequency and which may be a reaction to Western initiatives like the CEPA Information Warfare Initiative and the EEAS East Stratcom Task Force initiative.   Since these initiatives seek to actively debunk Russian disinformation and explain it to targeted audiences, the Kremlin media in reaction appears to be turning the same allegation back upon the West.  The case study also shows the efforts of the Kremlin-funded media to show that the Western media and politicians are lying about Russia, and that Western countries have no right to criticize Russia because they are just as bad, if not worse. 
 
Description of sources:
Baltnews.ee is a Russian-language propaganda site in Estonia founded in October 2014.  Similar portals for Latvia and Lithuania were launched in 2014. According to the Annual Review of the Estonian Internal Security Service, all three Baltnews portals are funded by Media Capital Holding BV, a Dutch-registered company controlled by people related to Rossiya Segodnya—a news agency wholly owned and operated by the Russian government.  The report says one of the project’s founders was Vladimir Lepekhin, director of the Eurasian Economic Community Institute, which attempts to influence policy in Russia’s neighboring countries. Aleksandr Kornilov, who belongs to the local Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots and heads the propaganda portalbaltija.eu, manages baltnews.ee.