There has been a large leak of documents from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) showing that the UK is sponsoring and providing editorial guidance to anti-Kremlin journalists, media organizations, and YouTubers as part of a £100 million plan to “tackle Kremlin disinformation” during 2018-22.
Their aim, forthrightly stated, is to “[weaken] the Russian state” (sic).
You can read Kit Klarenberg article for RT here, or the Twitter summary by RT’s Bryan MacDonald:
Okay, this is a big deal: Leaked files suggest the British government has been running a covert, multi million pound, 'info war' campaign since 2017 to co-opt Russian-language anti-Kremlin media & influencers to ‘weaken the Russian state.’https://t.co/fNvuyaEIaq
— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) February 18, 2021
This involved “weekly mentoring sessions with specialists from the outlets”, “adjusting their editorial and commercial strategy accordingly” and creating “common framings of issues” with “two of Russia’s leading independent media outlets – Meduza and MediaZona.”
This is in addition to their public financing from Khodorkovsky’s organization. I also I wrote about Meduza’s English-language editor Kevin Rothrock’s possible ties to American intelligence back in 2019.
This involves a forthright acknowledgement that efforts are to be focused on youth. As another contractor put it, Baltic Russian youngsters would serve as “agents of change” and “influence their parents’ and grandparents’ generations and amplify a distinct ‘Euro-Baltic’ identity.”
That this programming was to be explicitly anti-Moscow in character is starkly underlined by a section on “creating narrative games which encourage participation through social media and mobile platforms.”
“Meduza is a leading proponent of these games which, for the most part, embrace political themes (e.g. Putin Bingo, ‘help Putin get to his meeting with the Pope on time’ and ‘help the Orthodox priest get to his church without succumbing to earthly pleasures’),” Albany notes. These “satirical games” would make the “valid point” that “the offer of a fairer, respectful and caring society is better than that of an arrogant, nationalistic regime.”
Even as the UK finances smears against the Russian Orthodox Church, it’s worth pointing out that Latvia has recently banned most Russian media from the country (including RT) during the past year.
Amusingly, this is sometimes complicated by the acknowledgement that Russian “disinformation” is sometimes true:
“Another barrier to combating disinformation is the fact that certain Kremlin-backed narratives are factually true. For example, the Serbian organisation European Western Balkans noted that one of the country’s most prominent pro-Kremlin narratives relates to Russia’s ongoing support for Belgrade in the Kosovo dispute which is true. Responding to inconvenient truths, as opposed to pure propaganda, is naturally more problematic.”
Meanwhile, in Russia, they help anti-Kremlin influencers to skirt the “foreign agents” law on receiving international payments and to “develop editorial strategies to deliver key messages.”
All in all, this all suggests that the UK is involved in a large-scale propaganda (“misinformation” and “foreign meddling”, to use currently popular terms) against the Russian government while it in turns massively projects on the Russian government (mandatory reminder that Russiagate started off as a British intelligence operation).
This also puts the revelations from three weeks ago that the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund Vladimir Ashurkov with MI6 agent James Ford in London in 2012, in which he beseeched him for money and dirt on figures within the Russian government, in an intriguing new light. While Ford himself may have been unenthusiastic, it is quite imaginable that there were subsequent meetings, with better opsec, under which the parameters of the current GCHQ/MI6 –> Bellingcat –> Meduza/MediaZona/@navalny information-propaganda model were established.