Briefs

Estonia: 25 September – 2 October 2016

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A day before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) presented the preliminary results of its probe of the 17 July 2014 crash of Malaysia Flight 17, the Estonian-language, Kremlin-funded propaganda website Sputnik-news.ee claimed that its findings cannot be correct because both the U.S. and Ukrainian governments aimed to distort the investigation. 

Event: In a 27 September article, Sputnik-news.ee quoted the Russian Defense Ministry’s official representative, Igor Konashenkov, as saying that Ukraine—a member of the JIT— hindered the investigation by hiding data and initially disseminating false information on the plane crash. The article also quoted a former Verkhovna Rada deputy from the Communist Party of Ukraine, Alexander Golub, who claimed that because the MH17 crash has become an important element of Ukraine’s propaganda war against Russia, Kyiv is not interested in an open, fair and just investigation. Golub also claimed that the Obama administration has chosen to support Ukraine’s version of the story, but that as soon as a new one is in place next year, the truth will be revealed. 
 
The false fact or narrative: There is no proof that either Ukraine or the United States tried to  distort the investigation. Rather, the claims made by Sputnik-news.ee  are the Kremlin’s attempt to discredit the JIT investigation and its preliminary results.

Reality on the ground: The preliminary results offer irrefutable evidence that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile of the 9M38-series, and that the BUK was launched from a field near Pervomaiskyi, which at the time was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. 

Techniques: 
  • No proof; 
  • ridiculing, 
  • discrediting, 
  • diminution; 
  • narrative laundering; 
  • conspiracy theories.

Audience:  Estonia’s Estonian-speaking population.

Analysis: This article is one of the many published by Kremlin propaganda websites before and after the JIT presented its preliminary results on 28 September. All these articles had one similar goal: to discredit the results and the JIT itself.  

Description of sources: Sputnik-news.ee is an Estonian-language news portal owned by Russian state media company Rossiya Segodnya [Russia Today]. According to the annual report of Estonia’s Internal Security Service, Rossiya Segodnya was established in December 2013 to replace the Russian news agency RIA Novosti and the radio network Golos Rossii [Voice of Russia]. Rossiya Segodnya launched a multimedia channel, Sputnik, in November 2014 to distribute messages supporting Russia’s policy via web portals, radio stations and press centers in 35 languages. Sputnik’s Baltic operations are led by Andrey Blagodyrenko of the Rossiya Segodnya news service. The editorial office includes Viktoria Jürmann, reportedly a member of the Russian intelligence services.  Sputnik repeatedly delayed the launch of its Estonian web portal, mainly because it was hard to find journalists with a sufficient command of the Estonian language who were willing to engage in such propaganda. Sputnik opened the website on 24 February 2016, Estonian Independence Day.