The Embassy of Russian Federation in the United Kingdom posts on the social network Twitter that are denying Moscow’s responsibility for the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter’s poisoning with the nerve agent “Novichok” are the prime examples of how the Kremlin’s propaganda works today.
1. Let’s examine a few specific examples of how, according to the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Russia is hiding ‘a needle of truth in a haystack of lies’. Trolling. ‘Does Russia’s dialing code 007 make James Bond a “Russian spy”?’ ‘In absence of evidence, we definitely need Poirot in Salisbury!’. Such posts were uploaded onto the Russian Embassy’s in the United Kingdom Twitter profile in order to mock the British investigation by suggesting that all the accusations of Russia were simply fiction, that the British do not have and cannot have the proof and even the best literary detectives and agents could
2. The “Russophobic” card. In one of the posts the Russian Embassy has announced that the whole investigation of S. Skripal and his daughter’s poisoning is simply yet another dishonourable United Kingdom authorities’ effort to discredit Russia. In this case the whole narrative is reconstructed so that Russia is transformed into a victim whose reputation is unfairly damaged. This card can be played whenever it is intended to demonstrate that all the unfavourable facts about Russia are a premeditated action against Moscow.
3. This could have been done by anyone. In one of the posts the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom quoted the scientist Vil Mirzayanov who supposedly came up with the name for the nerve agent “Novichok”. They claim that the British could have easily produced this agent by referring to the formulas which the scientist himself revealed in 2008. Another post claims that although Russia terminated all the Soviet chemical weapon programmes in 1992, there were scientists who moved to the West to supposedly continue the research, implying that this secret agent could have been produced by the British too. By creating an impression that anyone could have had this agent, Russia attempts to present itself as in no way responsible for the usage of the poison or not being able to guard it. A simple tactic is applied where everyone could be a potential suspect and in the end it leaves no suspects at all.
4. The confidentiality of the investigation. The Russian Embassy has tried to spread the mistrust in the British investigation as it is supposedly confidential and Moscow is not being provided with the necessary information to ensure collaboration. This is an attempt to create an impression that, in case the true facts were revealed, Russia would be quickly acquitted on the charge of S. Skripal and his daughter’s poisoning. This narrative, however, has yet another subtext: the pressure from Moscow to obtain the access to the information. Russia acted in the very same manner during the investigation of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the investigation of the Kremlin’s meddling in the US election. It is well known that in order to ensure security, no information will be provided to Russia as an interested party, so the games are being played in order to show that confidentiality in this case means the desire to falsify the whole investigation.
5. Tendentious fact selection. The Embassy in their posts repeatedly stresses that S. Skripal was an M16 and not a Russian agent. In this case the goal is to create an impression that because he was a British agent, we should look for the guilty exactly among the British.
All these tactics perfectly reflect the Kremlin’s construction of the post-truth world where you can deny even the most evident facts. However, a more thorough exploration of the facts provides us with the means to detect and deconstruct the dangerous disinformation.
This text is part of the project aimed at strengthening democracy and civil society as well as fostering closer ties with the EU Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) by spreading independent information with the help of contemporary solutions. The project is implemented by Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, and is financed as part of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs‘ Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme.
This article was originally published by the Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis.