External threat

Sep 18 2015

In Eastern Ukraine the shooting does not cease, in occupied Crimea the main “tourists” have long been Russian tanks and other heavy weapons, Russia pointedly puts the UN Security Council veto on the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the disaster downed “Boeing” that is actually an admission of guilt for the deaths of nearly three hundred innocent people.

A London court has openly said that the murder of Litvinenko was personally ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda, meanwhile, continues to stubbornly stand on its own, broadcasting in various ways, two mutual theses: “It’s not us” and “we just defended.”

However, the Russian authorities, and after them, the media, have, for several years, successfully proven to townsfolk that any meanness and crime are justified by the unprecedented state of “external threat”. It turns out that the United States is to blame for all that today makes Russia an “organized” orange revolution” at the Russian border, supporting and continuing to support the opposition, cultivate a” fifth column “, lobby their interests in Russia” and so on.

As the hysteria on this subject in Russian society, not only does not subside, but is also gaining momentum, let’s try to understand one of the most common propaganda theses “The US organized Maidan in Ukraine.”

First, it is worth saying that the statement that the United States doesn’t support anyone and will never support anyone, is untrue. World reality is that there are no Saints – every country supports movements in other countries that are close to them, but does not go with the defined framework and rules. Revolution will also occur where there are strong and appropriate sentiments in society. Without them it is impossible to organize a revolution from outside that particular country. For this reason pro-Kosovo rallies in Serbia in 2013 could not develop into a revolution, as well as opposition rallies in Belarus in 2011 which did not lead to the victory of the “Revolution through social networks” not only because of the repressive machine of Lukashenko, but also because, his popularity was really high among the people.

In short, the revolution can be supported, but not organized, and both Russia and its opponents are doing it well. The “Winner” is the one whose interests most correspond to the real aspirations of the people of a country, that’s all. “Blood” is a revolution that happens when the dictator, against the will of the people, usurped power and does not want to leave. Unfortunately, practice shows that dictators do not really go without a lot of blood.

Thus, it is no secret that the United States at the diplomatic level supported the Maidan in Ukraine, but not to organize or hold it they simply would not do. Ukrainians took to the Maidan, because corruption and gangster lawlessness under the regime of Yanukovych rolled over, and to top it all, he sharply and severely ruined the dream of the majority of Ukrainians, which he himself had previously entertained. Add to that the brutal crackdown on students’ rally; it becomes clear why the Ukrainian revolutionaries were set up so strongly.

Some advocates go further and argue that the very mentality of Ukrainians was also a product of the influence of the United States. In a sense, this is true: the value of life and human dignity, the desire to live by the law and not by the bandit concept of law, protest against corruption, the corruption of judges and officials, and the arbitrariness of the siloviki, the value of freedom as such are all indicators of Western, and not Soviet mentality. It is clear that the mentality was formed over decades, and there are some absolutely legitimate means of broadcasting values through culture and education.

CCt2iZFWEAMhIxy

On the other hand, is the mood of the inhabitants of Eastern Ukraine not a product of Russian influence? The only difference being that in their “wards” Russian political technologists produced no values, but fears, moreover, false fears. Do not forget the fact that the flag and the symbols of the DNR arose long before the Maidan and that throughout Eastern Ukraine Cossacks and other groups acted, distributing books about “Ukrainian fascism” and in this manner acted Russian propaganda. If we talk about the clash of the two poles of influence on the public mood – Russian and American – it cannot be denied that the US was at least more honest, because it aired universal values, not invented fears.

The next argument is that Russian propaganda has, for several years, fanned the fear of “foreign agents.” Many subjects of propaganda films have intended to illustrate the central idea of the Kremlin – “financed by the US, Russian NGOs currently allow too much.”

If you understand the issue, it appears that this is a blatant lie, or we will have to admit that financed by Russia, NGOs can afford in the US and Europe much more than “too much”. For example, in America there are a variety of affiliated Russian NGOs formally aimed at improving Russian-American relations, that is, in fact, the NGOs, which in Russia would be called foreign agents. However, these organizations exist in the United States quite easily, and there is no pressure against them.

The members of these NGOs are very active. Their members come to the US-Ukrainian conferences at local universities, behave defiantly, organize provocations actively debated with the speakers and even publicly called them liars. Members of these organizations are trying to disrupt any pro-Ukrainian activities, including marches, and are making alternative actions, including in support of the pro-Russian militants, in short aggressively and openly spreading Russian propaganda worldwide.

Similar actions are taking place in other countries. Recall how an unknown person tried to disrupt, by shouting pro-Kremlin slogans, the speech the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko at the Institute of Europe at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). Russian security services behave in the Baltic States pretty cheeky. I’m not talking about the many Kremlin “trolls”; mudslinging authors of different articles other than Putin’s propaganda.

And it refers only to ordinary propagandists, not professional spies, who also turn out to be numerous. Take for example the scandal exposing the ten Russian agents in 2010, the year or winter spy scandal in New York. But it pales in comparison to recently published data on the bribery of politicians and Putin’s secret service in the European Parliament and the parliaments of some European countries.

So, summarizing the above, the question arises: why in this case has the United States or Europe not built up arms and seized foreign territory under the pretext of protection from the invisible but tangible pressure from Moscow? Why has it happened that Russia has turned out to be so “sensitive” to the much milder manifestations of “soft power”?

In my opinion, the answer here lies in the phenomenon of the perception of bias. The fundamental difference between the United States from Russia is that the United States government does not to get involved in the foreign opposition – real or imaginary – of ordinary people, in other words, does not solve their problems at the expense of society. In normal countries the state’s task is to ensure a calm and peaceful life for its citizens, even if in some moments it would be advantageous to resort to the help of citizens, violating peace. However, the Americans are willing to take risks and to allow the Russian agents of influence to openly promote their views, but do not allow aggression and “witch hunt” into its society.

Just imagine what would happen if US media broadcast, local pro-Russian propaganda coming out in protest with banners DNR “is a foreign agent”, “it is financed by Russia”, “they are traitors, and a fifth column” “Ten friends of terrorists” and all the like. Imagine if all of these revelations were accompanied by the angry complaints about the fact that these “enemies and traitors” act with impunity, because they not formally violate the law. To what hatred of the Russians came from the Americans in this case?

However, the Americans have not fallen so far as to begin to poison the people, borrowing the rhetoric of Kremlin’s “Goebbels-TV.” For centuries, developed in the United States, the balance between private and public has been too expensive for the American nation, to put it in jeopardy because of a few strange people with no less bizarre posters. And in that respect – and to their own people – and to the “enemy” this is a special honour.

The situation is different in Russia, where people have always been used, not as an end in itself, but as a tool that is easy for the state to sacrifice their interests. “Cannon fodder”, “consumable” – the attitude of the Russian authorities to their own people has led to the extraordinary aggression in Russian society.

The authorities feared the “Bolotnaya” protests in 2012, and incited one side of the people against the other. The Russian government is frightened by the repetition in Russia of a Ukrainian Maidan, and incited the Russians against the brotherly Ukrainian people. Afraid of American influence the Russian government threw society into the abyss of militant chauvinism. One need only recall the recently published, in social networks, “manual for informers”, which in plain text said: “It is foolish to rely on the intelligence services in this situation. The special services should be the whole of Russia. ”

This mobilization of society might at some stage be profitable, but it has one very significant drawback in a country that has nothing to defend. There is no society – one big “secret service”. There is no peace and no quiet people, instead there is one big war. No stability – only economic collapse and calls “to survive under the pressure of the enemy.” No joy and friendship – only aggression and hatred. There is no truth, no freedom, no human happiness, because “consumables” cannot be happy, and should not. And this means that such a country has no future.

By Ksenia Kirillova
Translated by Steve Doyle

A London court has openly said that the murder of Litvinenko was personally ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda, meanwhile, continues to stubbornly stand on its own, broadcasting in various ways, two mutual theses: “It’s not us” and “we just defended.”

However, the Russian authorities, and after them, the media, have, for several years, successfully proven to townsfolk that any meanness and crime are justified by the unprecedented state of “external threat”. It turns out that the United States is to blame for all that today makes Russia an “organized” orange revolution” at the Russian border, supporting and continuing to support the opposition, cultivate a” fifth column “, lobby their interests in Russia” and so on.

As the hysteria on this subject in Russian society, not only does not subside, but is also gaining momentum, let’s try to understand one of the most common propaganda theses “The US organized Maidan in Ukraine.”

First, it is worth saying that the statement that the United States doesn’t support anyone and will never support anyone, is untrue. World reality is that there are no Saints – every country supports movements in other countries that are close to them, but does not go with the defined framework and rules. Revolution will also occur where there are strong and appropriate sentiments in society. Without them it is impossible to organize a revolution from outside that particular country. For this reason pro-Kosovo rallies in Serbia in 2013 could not develop into a revolution, as well as opposition rallies in Belarus in 2011 which did not lead to the victory of the “Revolution through social networks” not only because of the repressive machine of Lukashenko, but also because, his popularity was really high among the people.

In short, the revolution can be supported, but not organized, and both Russia and its opponents are doing it well. The “Winner” is the one whose interests most correspond to the real aspirations of the people of a country, that’s all. “Blood” is a revolution that happens when the dictator, against the will of the people, usurped power and does not want to leave. Unfortunately, practice shows that dictators do not really go without a lot of blood.

Thus, it is no secret that the United States at the diplomatic level supported the Maidan in Ukraine, but not to organize or hold it they simply would not do. Ukrainians took to the Maidan, because corruption and gangster lawlessness under the regime of Yanukovych rolled over, and to top it all, he sharply and severely ruined the dream of the majority of Ukrainians, which he himself had previously entertained. Add to that the brutal crackdown on students’ rally; it becomes clear why the Ukrainian revolutionaries were set up so strongly.

Some advocates go further and argue that the very mentality of Ukrainians was also a product of the influence of the United States. In a sense, this is true: the value of life and human dignity, the desire to live by the law and not by the bandit concept of law, protest against corruption, the corruption of judges and officials, and the arbitrariness of the siloviki, the value of freedom as such are all indicators of Western, and not Soviet mentality. It is clear that the mentality was formed over decades, and there are some absolutely legitimate means of broadcasting values through culture and education.

CCt2iZFWEAMhIxy

On the other hand, is the mood of the inhabitants of Eastern Ukraine not a product of Russian influence? The only difference being that in their “wards” Russian political technologists produced no values, but fears, moreover, false fears. Do not forget the fact that the flag and the symbols of the DNR arose long before the Maidan and that throughout Eastern Ukraine Cossacks and other groups acted, distributing books about “Ukrainian fascism” and in this manner acted Russian propaganda. If we talk about the clash of the two poles of influence on the public mood – Russian and American – it cannot be denied that the US was at least more honest, because it aired universal values, not invented fears.

The next argument is that Russian propaganda has, for several years, fanned the fear of “foreign agents.” Many subjects of propaganda films have intended to illustrate the central idea of the Kremlin – “financed by the US, Russian NGOs currently allow too much.”

If you understand the issue, it appears that this is a blatant lie, or we will have to admit that financed by Russia, NGOs can afford in the US and Europe much more than “too much”. For example, in America there are a variety of affiliated Russian NGOs formally aimed at improving Russian-American relations, that is, in fact, the NGOs, which in Russia would be called foreign agents. However, these organizations exist in the United States quite easily, and there is no pressure against them.

The members of these NGOs are very active. Their members come to the US-Ukrainian conferences at local universities, behave defiantly, organize provocations actively debated with the speakers and even publicly called them liars. Members of these organizations are trying to disrupt any pro-Ukrainian activities, including marches, and are making alternative actions, including in support of the pro-Russian militants, in short aggressively and openly spreading Russian propaganda worldwide.

Similar actions are taking place in other countries. Recall how an unknown person tried to disrupt, by shouting pro-Kremlin slogans, the speech the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko at the Institute of Europe at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). Russian security services behave in the Baltic States pretty cheeky. I’m not talking about the many Kremlin “trolls”; mudslinging authors of different articles other than Putin’s propaganda.

And it refers only to ordinary propagandists, not professional spies, who also turn out to be numerous. Take for example the scandal exposing the ten Russian agents in 2010, the year or winter spy scandal in New York. But it pales in comparison to recently published data on the bribery of politicians and Putin’s secret service in the European Parliament and the parliaments of some European countries.

So, summarizing the above, the question arises: why in this case has the United States or Europe not built up arms and seized foreign territory under the pretext of protection from the invisible but tangible pressure from Moscow? Why has it happened that Russia has turned out to be so “sensitive” to the much milder manifestations of “soft power”?

In my opinion, the answer here lies in the phenomenon of the perception of bias. The fundamental difference between the United States from Russia is that the United States government does not to get involved in the foreign opposition – real or imaginary – of ordinary people, in other words, does not solve their problems at the expense of society. In normal countries the state’s task is to ensure a calm and peaceful life for its citizens, even if in some moments it would be advantageous to resort to the help of citizens, violating peace. However, the Americans are willing to take risks and to allow the Russian agents of influence to openly promote their views, but do not allow aggression and “witch hunt” into its society.

Just imagine what would happen if US media broadcast, local pro-Russian propaganda coming out in protest with banners DNR “is a foreign agent”, “it is financed by Russia”, “they are traitors, and a fifth column” “Ten friends of terrorists” and all the like. Imagine if all of these revelations were accompanied by the angry complaints about the fact that these “enemies and traitors” act with impunity, because they not formally violate the law. To what hatred of the Russians came from the Americans in this case?

However, the Americans have not fallen so far as to begin to poison the people, borrowing the rhetoric of Kremlin’s “Goebbels-TV.” For centuries, developed in the United States, the balance between private and public has been too expensive for the American nation, to put it in jeopardy because of a few strange people with no less bizarre posters. And in that respect – and to their own people – and to the “enemy” this is a special honour.

The situation is different in Russia, where people have always been used, not as an end in itself, but as a tool that is easy for the state to sacrifice their interests. “Cannon fodder”, “consumable” – the attitude of the Russian authorities to their own people has led to the extraordinary aggression in Russian society.

The authorities feared the “Bolotnaya” protests in 2012, and incited one side of the people against the other. The Russian government is frightened by the repetition in Russia of a Ukrainian Maidan, and incited the Russians against the brotherly Ukrainian people. Afraid of American influence the Russian government threw society into the abyss of militant chauvinism. One need only recall the recently published, in social networks, “manual for informers”, which in plain text said: “It is foolish to rely on the intelligence services in this situation. The special services should be the whole of Russia. ”

This mobilization of society might at some stage be profitable, but it has one very significant drawback in a country that has nothing to defend. There is no society – one big “secret service”. There is no peace and no quiet people, instead there is one big war. No stability – only economic collapse and calls “to survive under the pressure of the enemy.” No joy and friendship – only aggression and hatred. There is no truth, no freedom, no human happiness, because “consumables” cannot be happy, and should not. And this means that such a country has no future.

By Ksenia Kirillova
Translated by Steve Doyle

Lukashenka’s Ryanair Hijacking Proves Human Rights is a Global Security Issue

May 24 2021

The forced diversion and landing in Minsk of a May 23, 2021 Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania, and the subsequent arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich who was aboard the flight, by the illegitimate Lukashenka regime pose an overt political and military challenge to Europe, NATO and the broad global community.  NATO members must respond forcefully by demanding (1) the immediate release of Protasevich and other political prisoners in Belarus, and (2) a prompt transition to a government that represents the will of the people of Belarus. 

The West’s passivity in the face of massive, continuous and growing oppression of the Belarusian people since summer 2020 has emboldened Lukashenka to commit what some European leaders have appropriately termed an act of “state terrorism.”

The West has shown a manifest disposition to appease Putin’s regime —Lukashenka’s sole security guarantor. It has made inappropriate overtures for a Putin-Biden summit and waived  Nord Stream 2 sanctions mandated by Congress. These actions and signals have come against the backdrop of the 2020 Russian constitutional coup, the assassination attempt against Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment on patently bogus charges, the arrests of close to 13,000 Russian activists, and the outlawing of all opposition movements and activities. All this has led Putin and Lukashenka to conclude that they eliminate their political opponents with impunity.  

Today’s state-ordered hijacking of an international passenger airplane—employing intelligence agents aboard the flight,  and accomplished via an advanced fighter-interceptor—to apprehend an exiled activist, underscores that violation of human rights is not only a domestic issue, but a matter of international safety and security.  Western governments unwilling to stand up for the victims of Putin’s and Lukashenka’s regimes are inviting future crimes against their own citizens. 

Absent a meaningful and swift response, the escalation of violence and intensity of international crimes committed  by Lukashenka’s and Putin’s regime will continue, destabilizing the world and discrediting the Western democratic institutions. 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – THE KREMLIN’S INFLUENCE QUARTERLY

May 20 2021

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them, we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.

Criminal operations by Russia’s GRU worldwide: expert discussion

May 06 2021

Please join Free Russia Foundation for an expert brief and discussion on latest criminal operations conducted by Russia’s GRU worldwide with:

  • Christo Grozev, Bellingcat— the legendary investigator who uncovered the Kremlin’s involvement, perpetrators and timeline of Navalny’s assassination attempt. 
  • Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic) where he researches Russia’s hostile influence operations in the West
  • Michael Weiss, Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation where he leads the Lubyanka Files project, which consists of translating and curating KGB training manuals still used in modern Russia for the purposes of educating Vladimir Putin’s spies.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 11 am to 12:30pm New York Time (17:00 in Brussels) and include an extensive Q&A with the audience moderated by Ilya Zaslavskiy, Senior Fellow at Free Russia Foundation and head of Underminers.info, a research project on post-Soviet kleptocracy

The event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/events/223365735790798/

  • The discussion will cover Russia’s most recent and ongoing covert violent operations, direct political interference, oligarchic penetration with money and influence; 
  • GRU’s structure and approach to conducting operations in Europe
  • Trends and forecasts on how data availability will impact both, the Kremlin’s operations and their investigation by governments and activists; 
  • EU and national European government response and facilitation of operations on their soil; 
  • Recommendations for effective counter to the security and political threats posed by Russian security services. 

YouTube Against Navalny’s Smart Voting

May 06 2021

On May 6, 2020, at least five YouTube channels belonging to key Russian opposition leaders and platforms received notifications from YouTube that some of their content had been removed due to its being qualified as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

They included: 

Ilya Yashin (343k YouTube subscribers)

Vladimir Milov (218k YouTube subscribers) 

Leonid Volkov (117k YouTube subscribers)

Novaya Gazeta (277k YouTube Subscribers) 

Sota Vision (248k YouTube Subscribers)

Most likely, there are other Russian pro-democracy channels that have received similar notifications at the same time, and we are putting together the list of all affected by this censorship campaign. 

The identical letters received from YouTube by the five account holders stated:

“Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our spam, deceptive practices and scams policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube:

URL: https://votesmart.appspot.com/

YouTube has removed urls from descriptions of videos posted on these accounts that linked to Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting website (votesmart.appspot.com).

By doing this, and to our great shock and disbelief, YouTube has acted to enforce the Kremlin’s policies by qualifying Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting system and its website as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

This action has not only technically disrupted communication for the Russian civil society which is now under a deadly siege by Putin’s regime, but it has rendered a serious and lasting damage to its reputation and legitimacy of Smart Voting approach. 

In reality, Smart Voting system is not a spam, scam or a “deceptive practice”, but instead it’s a fully legitimate system of choosing and supporting candidates in Russian elections who have a chance of winning against the ruling “United Russia” party candidates. There’s absolutely nothing illegal, deceptive or fraudulent about the Smart Voting or any materials on its website.

We don’t know the reasons behind such YouTube actions, but they are an unacceptable suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Russian people and help the Kremlin’s suppression of civil rights and freedoms by banning the Smart Voting system and not allowing free political competition with the ruling “United Russia” party. 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent in an environment where opposition activities in Russia are being literally outlawed;  key opposition figures are jailed, exiled, arrested and attacked with criminal investigations; independent election campaigning is prohibited; and social media networks remain among the very few channels still available to the Russian opposition to communicate with the ordinary Russians.

We demand a  swift and decisive action on this matter from the international community, to make sure that YouTube corrects its stance toward Russian opposition channels, and ensures that such suppression of peaceful, legal  pro-democracy voices does not happen again. 

FRF Lauds New US Sanctions Targeting the Kremlin’s Perpetrators in Crimea, Calls for Their Expansion

Apr 15 2021

On April 15, 2021,  President Biden signed new sanctions against a number of officials and agents of the Russian Federation in connection with malign international activities conducted by the Russian government.

The list of individuals sanctioned by the new law includes Leonid Mikhalyuk, director of the Federal Security Service in the Russian-occupied Crimea.

A report issued by Free Russia Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in December 202, identified 16 officials from Russian law enforcement and security agencies as well as the judiciary operating on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula currently occupied by the Russian Federation. These individuals have been either directly involved or have overseen political persecution of three prominent Crimean human rights defenders – Emir-Usein Kuku, Sever Mustafayev and Emil Kurbedinov.

Leonid Mikhailiuk is one of these officials. He has been directly involved and directed the repressive campaign in the occupied Crimea, including persecution of innocent people on terrorism charges and massive illegal searches. The persecution of Server Mustafayev was conducted under his supervision. As the head of the FSB branch in Crimea, he is in charge of its operation and all operatives working on politically motivated cases are his subordinates. 

Within the extremely centralized system of the Russian security services, Mikhailiuk is clearly at the top rank of organized political persecution and human rights violations.

Free Russia Foundation welcomes the new sanctions and hopes that all other individuals identified in the report will also be held accountable.