Briefs

Estonia - 21-31 March 2016

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  • Eesti- 21-31 märts 2016  Artiklit saab lugeda ka eesti keeles
Date: 28 March 2016
Title: “Acts of terrorism in Brussels: Chilling footage” (Теракты в Брюсселе: леденящие душу кадры)
Author: A journalist writing under the name Koka (Kosntantin)

Source of manipulation: Russian TV channel Rossiya-24
Date: 27 March 2016
Title: Вести недели (Newsweek)
Anchor: Вести недели (Dmitry Kiselev)

The false fact or narrative: Both the Seti.ee article and the Вести недели (Newsweek) program were based on two Kremlin narratives: that Russia successfully fought ISIS in Syria, and that the Brussels terrorist attacks were a result of the European Union not cooperating with Russia. 

The truth: As the studyOpen Source Evidence on Russian Strikes in Syria” shows, Russia did not focus its Syrian air campaign against ISIS. Given that, Russia’s intention to fight Islamic State (ISIS) in Europe is doubtful.

Technique: Since the article published by Seti.ee was based entirely Rossiya-24’s Вести недели (Newsweek) program, it is useful to analyze the methods Newsweek used to cover a tragedy like the Brussels terrorist attacks as propaganda. 

  • Creating the context: Prior to reporting on the Brussels attacks, Newsweek described Russia’s military success in Syria and its ability to fight ISIS effectively. 

  • Drowning facts in emotions: The program, noting that lives were lost in Brussels, asked how many more people would have to die before EU leaders come to their senses and view Russia as an ally, not an enemy.

  • Simplifying: Newsweek portrays the situation in Syria as having been solved, and Europe’s terrorist threat as a problem easily fixed if only the EU would cooperate with Russia. In fact, both situations are far more complex than this.

  • Creating false dilemmas: The EU’s dilemma, according to Newsweek, is to either improve its relationship with Russia or face more terrorist attacks at home. 

  • Blaming the victim: Newsweek suggested that both the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks were the EU’s own fault.


Audience: Seti.ee gets about 2,000 daily visits; this particular article had 1,252 hits. Rossiya-24 is a state-owned Russian-language news channel that covers major national and international events as well as domestic issues. 

Analysis: The Kremlin exploits terrorist attacks to convince the EU to improve relations with Russia. It used the recent attacks in Brussels to spread propaganda about Russia’s success in battling ISIS in Syria, as well as its potential help in fighting ISIS throughout Europe. Moscow argues that the EU should drop its anti-Russia sanctions, forget the annexation of Crimea and go back to “business as usual.” In fact, ISIS is exploiting the refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe, while Russia is weaponizing the refugee crisis to force Syrians to flee their homeland, thereby weakening Europe and pressuring EU leaders. Russia seems to be trying to drive a wedge between EU citizens and their leaders by showing that even though the people want to solve both the refugee crisis and the terrorist threat, their leaders don’t want a solution, even though it would be easy.


Description of sources: Seti.ee is the unofficial Russian-language web portal of Narva, Estonia’s third-largest city. Located at the eastern extreme tip of Estonia—along the Russian border—Narva is home to 62,000 inhabitants, 93.8 percent of whom speak Russian. Of the 62,000, about 82 percent are ethnic Russians. 46.7 percent are Estonian citizens, 36.3 percent are Russian citizens and 15.3 percent have undefined citizenship. Seti.ee is owned and financed by Estonian businessman Roman Gribov, and was one of the first web portals in eastern Estonia aimed at a local audience. Most of its content is not original but comes from other sources. Nor does it maintain a strict difference between journalists and non-journalists; anyone with an account can use the web portal to publish an article. In fact, most of its writers use pseudonyms rather than their real names.