The anatomy of Russian disinformation operations in Germany

As I have argued elsewhere, the Russian marketing and political consulting firm called Social Design Agency (SDA) founded by Russian political technologist Ilya Gambashidze (sanctioned by the EU) is currently a major Russian organisation conducting malign influence operations in the Western media and public spaces. In particular, the SDA “was involved in one of the most insidious Russian disinformation international campaigns that was dubbed Operation Doppelganger and consisted in spreading false information using fake websites impersonating government organisations and international media”.

In response to the Russian leaks of the secret talks in the German Bundeswehr, in this post I detail SDA’s two disinformation operations targeting Germany. While I provide original names of these operations, I refer to them, for brevity’s sake, as (1) “German boots on the ground”, and (2) “German reparations to Poland”. The text below is an English translation of the SDA’s description of the two operations; my additional comments and clarifications are highlighted. This post aims to show the typical mechanics, principles and scenarios of Russian disinformation campaigns.


More evidence the Polish Center for Geopolitical Analysis was a Russian front

More evidence has now emerged suggesting that the Poland-based European Center for Geopolitical Analysis (Europejskie Centrum Analiz Geopolitycznych, ECAG) was an organisation handled by the Russian authorities.

The ECAG was founded in 2007 by a Polish far-right activist Mateusz Piskorski, then a member of the Polish populist party Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland (Samoobrona Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej). The activities of the ECAG were originally limited to providing authoritarian East European regimes with compliant “election observation” missions. (More on this see Chapter 4 in Russia and the Western Far Right) but later would be engaged in other pro-Kremlin efforts. […]

Foreign right-wing terrorism and American politics

Five years ago, I already wrote about the extreme-right Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and the danger it posed internationally. And now, on the 6th of April this year, the US State Department designated the RIM, as well as three persons who were associated with this movement, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT). Explaining the State Department’s decision, Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Nathan Sales said that the RIM was “a terrorist group that provide[d] paramilitary-style training to neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and it play[ed] a prominent role in trying to rally likeminded Europeans and Americans into a common front against their perceived enemies”. Furthermore, Ambassador Sales noted that the RIM provided paramilitary training to Swedish persons who would, a few months later, become involved in a series of terrorist attacks in Gothenburg. Ambassador Sales also reminded that the RIM “was among the forces that [had] fought in Ukraine on behalf of the pro-separatist forces”. (I wrote about the RIM and the danger it posed five years ago.) […]

British far-right activist “Tommy Robinson” in Moscow

On 22 February 2020, a conference titled “Power and Market” took place in St. Petersburg. It was named after the book by Murray Rothbard, one of the key American libertarian thinkers, and was co-organised by the St. Petersburg branch of the Libertarian Party of Russia (LPR) and the “Civil Society” movement. One of the speakers at the event was a British far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson), a former leader of the far-right English Defence League and a convicted criminal whose criminal record includes convictions for violence, financial and immigration frauds, drug possession, and contempt of court. His presentation at the conference was titled “The Rape of Britain” and focused on what he called “jihad rape gangs” referring to the groups of men convicted of sexual offences against girls in the UK. The presentation elicited a great round of applause from the Russian audience. […]

A quick glance at the far-right vote on the EP resolution on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe

On 19 September 2019, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe. This resolution, in particular, stressed that the Second World War had been “started as an immediate result of the notorious Nazi-Soviet Treaty on Non-Aggression of 23 August 1939”, recalled that “the Nazi and communist regimes [had] carried out mass murders, genocide and deportations, and [had] caused a loss of life and freedom in the 20th century on a scale unseen in human history”, and condemned “in the strongest terms the acts of aggression, crimes against humanity and mass human rights violations perpetrated by the Nazi, communist and other totalitarian regimes”.

535 MEPs voted for the resolution, 66 MEPs voted against it, and 52 MEPs abstained. (See the results of the vote here.) The only EP group that decided to vote against the resolution was the far-left group “European United Left/Nordic Green Left” (GUE-NGL) that predominantly consists of MEPs coming from West European countries that have no experience of the post-war Soviet occupation. Out of 41 members of the GUE-NGL group, only 5 MEPs come from the countries or territories (the case of former East Germany) that suffered the Soviet yoke. […]

Ukraine fecklessly irritates OSCE, but fails to identify genuine security threats related to election observation

On 2 January 2019, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wrote a letter to Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), in which he invited ODIHR observers to monitor the presidential elections in Ukraine planned for 31 March 2019. In the same letter, Klimkin informed Gísladóttir that Ukraine recognised the Russian Federation “as an aggressor state and an occupying power” and said that Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry would not “accept applications for accreditation as official observers from foreign states or international organizations from the holders of Russian passports or other individuals seconded by the Russian side”.

On 23 January 2019, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Ukraine issued a statement in which – referring to the need of “minimizing the risks and threats of the Russian intervention [sic] in the upcoming presidential elections on March 31, 2019” – it reminded “all foreign states and international organizations intending to monitor the electoral process” that the Russian Federation was recognised by Ukraine as “an aggressor state, committing a crime of aggression against Ukraine and temporarily occupying parts of its territory”. […]

French Yellow Vests, the Far Right, and the “Russian connection”

The Movement of the Yellow Vests (“Gilets Jaunes” in French) was started in the mid-November 2018 as a popular protest against an increase of fuel taxes underpinned by the environmental concerns. The protesters chose to wear high-visibility vests: since 2008, all drivers are required to have these vests in their vehicles. On 17 November, the protests mobilised, according to the Interior Ministry, 282,000 demonstrators throughout France, on 24 November – 106,000 people, on 1 December – 75,000 people, and on 8 December – 136,000 people. At the end of November, public opinion polls showed that the protests were supported by 84% of the French. […]

Belarus tries to follow in Moscow’s steps and team up with the European far right

On 21 May 2018, Belarusian far-right politician Oleh Haidukevich published on his Facebook a message that said that his party, the misleadingly named Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB) led by his father Siarhei Haidukevich, started preparations for the “Congress of Patriotic Parties in Europe” that would take place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

In his post, Haidukevich mentioned that the LDPB had invited representatives of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), French National Front (FN, renamed into the National Rally on 1 June 2018), Alternative for Germany (AfD), “United Russia” and 15 unnamed parties. He also posted two scanned copies of invitations addressed to FN’s president Marine Le Pen and the FPÖ’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache. The invitations were dated 26 April 2018 and said that the congress would discuss “patriotism, conservatism, national conservatism and social-conservatism”, “the right [sic!] renaissance”, “perspectives of identity and traditional values”, preservation of “national traditions and mentality [sic!]”, “the problem of Islamic fundamentalism”, “the crisis of the European Union and NATO”, European and Russian (counter-)sanctions, “the idea of the Greater North from Antwerp to Vladivostok”, “the Great North as a single civilizational and cultural space of great Europe”, “the crisis of the family and family values” and “alternative media self-organization and promotion experience”, among other topics. […]

Russian active measures, European neo-Nazis and the Kremlin’s French connection

On 7 June 2018, the Russian far-right, misleadingly named Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky held a meeting called the “World Congress of Peace-loving Forces” (WCPF), which became yet another LDPR’s attempt to unite pro-Kremlin European far-right organisations.

The title “WCPF” is a reference to a conference held in Soviet Moscow under almost the same in 1973. That historical conference was a Soviet active measure aimed at promoting the allegedly peaceful image of the Soviet Union. It brought together over 3 thousand of left-wing activists and politicians from all over the world who praised the totalitarian Soviet regime for its struggle for the “preservation of peace”. […]

Full list of Members of the European Parliament who voted against the resolution on political prisoners in Russia

On 14 June this year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that, in particular, demanded “that the Russian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula”.

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film maker who lived in Crimea. He stayed there after Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula; shortly after the annexation, Sentsov was arrested, forcibly “granted” a Russian citizenship, falsely charged with terrorist activities and sentenced to 20 years. […]