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Latvia - 22-30 March 2016

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Date: 22 March 2016

Title: Евродепутат Андрей Мамыкин: „Кошмар в Брюсселе - это расплата”

Author: Андрей Татарчук


The false fact or narrative: On 22 March, the Internet portal published an interview with Andrejs Mamikins, a member of the European Parliament’s Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. The same day the article appeared online, Islamic State terrorists struck Brussels, killing 32 people. In the interview, Mamikins—who was in Brussels during the two attacks—criticized NATO, arguing that the alliance might “undertake a military operation which will again result in raising the terror threat level in Europe.” Mamikins pointed out that refugees threatened by NATO operations flee their war-torn countries to the relative safety of Europe. He also emphasized that, having lost revenues from oil extracted by Islamic State, Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has placed Europe in a humiliating position, as “The Turkish leadership intends to profit from blackmailing Europe by controlling the flow of refugees.” Finally, Mamikins insists that the European People’s Party is pushing for the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and lobbying on behalf of large German and French arms suppliers. These weapons, Mamikins argues, are later used by ISIS and Chechen terrorists. The interview was shared 578 times on Facebook.

The truth: In this interview, Mamikins reduces the cause of the Brussels terrorist attacks and Europe’s refugee crisis to a wrongheaded NATO policy and a conspiracy by arms dealers. He bases his opinions largely on unverifiable or unproven assumptions presented as facts. Yet such assumptions ignore the reality that NATO-led operations in both Yugoslavia and Afghanistan were themselves a response to already existing threats to its member states. Mamikins also downplays Russia’s role in escalating Middle East tensions, especially in Syria. On 8 March, the EU and Turkey reached an accord under which Turkey would take back all new migrants attempting to reach the Greek islands; for every Syrian returned to Turkey from Greece, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to EU countries. In addition, the EU will give Turkey €6 billion to help resettle Syrian refugees on Turkish soil. Mamikins sees the agreement as blackmail by Turkey, particularly by Erdoğan. But he overlooks the fact that the estimated 2.7 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey are straining that country’s financial and social resources.

Technique: This disinformation is carried out by a member of European Parliament who uses the sensitive context of the Brussels terrorist attacks to express an evidently biased opinion.  

Audience: The target groups of this disinformation are Latvia’s Russian speakers as well Russian citizens.

Analysis: The purpose of this disinformation is to discredit both NATO and the EU. It comes from Andrejs Mamikins, who represents Harmony—the most popular political party among Latvia’s sizeable Russian-speaking minority. Latvia’s Russophone media often quotes Mamikins as the only source who can explain current EU affairs; he is also used by Russia’s media. In other words, the Kremlin propaganda machine sees Mamikins as a useful opinion leader, even if his positions don’t always hew to Moscow’s narratives.

Importantly, published this interview the same day ISIS terrorists attacked Brussels; this instantly gave Latvia’s Russian-speaking audience a prominent and reliable “witness perspective.” Mamikins’ interpretive scheme follows the Kremlin’s strategic narrative which claims that the West and NATO are responsible for Europe’s refugee crisis, since they are used to dealing with other countries via military methods. His attitude toward Turkey, in turn, echoes the denigration narrative that dominates Russian media and which has been actively cultivated since 24 November 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane. According to this narrative, Turkey has an economical and political interest in supporting terrorists in Syria.