Russia’s full throttle disinformation campaign against the West continues in earnest. Considering the dearth of Russian fake news, I’ve decided to highlight some selected stories each week to help make readers aware of: 1) fake news 2) what Russia wants us to believe and 3) take a look at both internally as well as externally directed propaganda. Novorossia has all the hallmarks of a fake news website with inaccurate headlines, empirically false information in the body of the story, misleading pictures, and no author byline. Canada has sent 200 troops to Ukraine as a part of Operation UNIFIER, but that is where the facts end and the fiction begins with this story.
“Novorossia” claims that a dozen Canadian soldiers were killed in Donbass recently, a purely fictitious claim meant to scare and outrage the Canadian tax-payer into pressuring their government to withdraw. Most disgusting of all is that the website displays pictures of flag draped coffins containing fallen Canadian service members. However, these soldiers were not killed in Ukraine. Corporal Andrew Doiron was a CSOR soldier killed in Kurdistan when his convoy came under friendly fire from a Kurdish checkpoint. Another pictures shows the casket of Nathan Cirillo, a soldier who was shot and killed while performing sentry duty at a Canadian war memorial in Ottawa. The disrespect shown to both men by Russian fake news propaganda demonstrates that there truly is no depth to which this disinformation campaign will not sink.
A major facet of Russian propaganda used to color the Ukrainian conflict is to present the opposing side as neo-Nazis. Like the best of lies, this one contains an element of truth. When the conflict in Ukraine kicked off, the government emptied their prisons of neo-Nazis and sent them up to the front lines to fight. Russia performed an identical act by sending Chechens to fight as “separatists” in Ukraine, both sides seeking to rid themselves of undesirables. For the wealthy folks living in Moscow, some dead Chechens in Ukraine are of no concern. However, the neo-Nazi narrative falls flat when the Russians try to apply it to NATO. By all accounts, the presence of NATO has forced Ukraine to begin cleaning up their armed forces and purge most (but probably not all) neo-Nazi elements.
Canadian troops are also under attack from Russian disinformation in Latvia. Using homophobic propaganda, “news” site Vesti published a piece denouncing NATO troops in Latvia as being incompetent. Again using the technique or re-purposing old photos, the article published pictures of Canadian Colonel Russel Williams who was a murderer in addition to being a cross dresser. He was a criminal and is now in prison where he belongs. The Russians would use this as their example of the entire Canadian military, and use one criminal to denounce the Canadian mission in Latvia.
Russia is a paranoid country, with some historical reasons to be since they have traditionally faced invasions from external actors. That said, their fears of NATO charging across the steppes and laying siege to Moscow can be classified as little more than irrational paranoia which means that their opposition to NATO missions in Ukraine and Latvia makes little sense. That is of course, unless they are not really afraid of invasion but rather see NATO as a check on their own aggressive territory expansion into Eastern Europe.
Of course, Novorossia and Vesti are just two of many conduits of Russian sponsored fake news. More prolific is RT and Sputnik, both of which we will spotlight in the near future.
(Lead image courtesy of Joint Task Force Ukraine)