10 February 2016
On the website of the Polish weekly „Rzeczpospolita” there appeared an article entitled: „Lavrov about the Russians at war in Ukraine” (Polish: „Ławrow o Rosjanach na wojnie na Ukrainie”). It informs about the statement of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the alleged efforts of the Western countries to make Russia open the „second front” in Syria. The first front is to be opened in Ukraine. Such a statement is interpreted as admitting that Russia has been actively involved in this conflict. (Before that Moscow has many times denied the participation of its troops in the conflict in Ukraine). In the text there is also a statement of the Russian political scientist Sergei Markov.
– Let us be realists. In Donbass there are both Russian Special Forces and US Army Special Forces. Still, only Russia has been held politically responsible for the conflict and sanctions have been imposed only on Russia – said Sergei Markov, a political scientist closely linked with Kremlin. – The parties to the conflict in Ukraine are supported by Washington and Moscow and it is only there that the critical decisions are taken. This war resembles the war between Southern and Northern Vietnam. The operations in Donbass are planned by American and Russian generals – he added.
The thesis about the participation of the US Army Forces in the hostilities in Donbass has long been endorsed by the Russian propaganda. However, no proof has ever been presented to support it. Nonetheless, in the aforementioned article Markov's statement is left without any appropriate comment. The reader may come to the conclusion that the US Army units have indeed been fighting the Russians in Ukraine.
On this occasion one of the most important questions arises with regard to the Russian disinformation campaign. How to treat the statements of the people who, like Markov, have several times been publicly caught lying? Is it worth offering them a possibility of expressing themselves? Is it worth ignoring them? Or is it better to give them a possibility of speaking their mind and then to add the appropriate comment?
9 February 2016
The Polish Radio Information Agency (IAR) broadcast a news item: „Russian volunteers fight jihadists in the Middle East” (Polish: „Rosyjscy ochotnicy na Bliskim Wschodzie walczą z dżihadystami”). It was then reprinted on the website of the Polish daily „Dziennik Gazeta Prawna”
The piece of information was composed on the basis of a report from the Russian news agency Interfax which attempted to explain the earlier statement of the President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov about the involvement of the Russian military special forces in the fight against ISIS in Syria. On 7 February 2016 in the television programme “Weekly News with Dmitry Kiselev” (“Vesti s nedeli s Dmitriem Kiselovym”) on the TV channel Rossiya there appeared a video material about the involvement of the Russian spetsnaz units (special forces) formed by Chechens in the fights in Syria. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asDCJ4aZYRM (the material starts at 1:17)
Kadyrov stated that in Syria, on the backstage of the terrorists, the spetsnaz units are active and, among others, they inform the Russian airport about the targets which the Russians want to destroy there, as well as about the results of bombings.
The information about the participation of the Russian spetsnaz in the hostilities in Syria was quickly denied by Kremlin. The spokesman of President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Pieskov, said that similar questions should be addressed primarily to the Russian Ministry of Defence and not to Kadyrov. Since that moment the Russian media have started to underestimate and challenge Kadyrov's statement. As part of such actions, the following piece of information was released by Interfax, according to IAR.
- The Agency Interfax, quoting an anonymous official from the circles close to the Chechen authorities, stated that Kadyrov did not mean any regular Chechen special forces. “The President of the Republic meant the volunteer units which made a reconnaissance in the areas controlled by terrorists” – said the source of the Russian Agency. The same person added that in the volunteer units there were, among others, the Chechens who went to the Middle East in order to find and to liquidate their own relatives involved in the terrorist activity in the ISIS squads – IAR informed.
However, it needs to be emphasized that the discourse of the anonymous official from President Kadyrov’s closest circle is significantly less credible than the statement of the President himself, who publicly never denied his words. The Agency IAR, uncritically “buying” the aforementioned piece of news, joins the choir of the Russian propaganda which underestimates the information conveyed by Kadyrov.