20 March 201820:40

Who is really interfering?

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We are used to our Western partners staging a dramatic show in the press before every election.  We said it would be the same this time and we were asked to cite examples. So here are just a few and they are real eye-openers.

As it often happens, the tone was set by the ruling elite in a number of states that tried to present the Russian election as not honest, transparent, fair or legitimate. At the behest of politicians, the media – so-called independent observers and other “Russia experts” – amplified the message.

Thus, on March 16 of this year official spokesman for the US Department of State Heather Nauert said that the decision of the Russian Central Election Commission to deny independent media the status of observers shows that the Kremlin is afraid of transparency in the presidential election. Let’s recall that video cameras were installed at 43,271 voting stations so that all those interested could watch the course of voting live. The election was monitored by 1,513 foreign observers from 115 countries and covered by over 15,000 journalists from 3,000 media outlets, including 99 foreign ones. The decisions were explained at the 149th session of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation on March 16 of this year.

Combining their own speculation with that of all manner of “inside sources” that flooded the Russian media on the eve of the election, a number of Western media conducted a systemic policy aimed at discrediting the election.

On March 15, the Danish newspaper Politiken published the article “Russians threatened and lured into polling stations.” According to the article, voter turnout was controlled with cutting-edge technology – from mobile applications to social media at all levels – from companies to universities and cultural centres.

On March 14, the American magazine The Nation published the opinion piece, “In Russia, everyone is tired of national politics.” Its author argues that everyone in Russia – from the President to voters – is tired of the existing situation and can only wait for “Russia’s new renaissance,” but not without making a number of factual errors, like the claim that the Sleeping-2 series was shown on the television channel NTV, not Channel One.

 As for political fatigue, with 99.84 percent of votes counted, the Central Election Commission announced that 73.37 million people voted, including about 400,000 who voted abroad, putting turnout at 67.47 percent.

On the eve of the vote, on March 17, the German tabloid Bild published a piece under the big headline “Bild congratulates President Putin on his election win,” in which it answers in its usual brief, detail-free way “the most important questions about the fourth term of Vladimir Putin.” Apparently, the author expected the readers to come away absolutely convinced that his thesis is correct: “Russia is holding an election and the winner is unknown – unthinkable in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

On March 13, the French news website published an interview with Cyril Bre, an expert on Russia, under the title “Putin’s reelection: Are Russians masochists or are we missing something?”  The expert claimed that in Russian elections the ability of governors to boost turnout is more important than the result itself. The BBC’s Russian service also expressed concern over turnout by publishing a series of reports of Russians being “coerced” into voting. A piece published on March 18 explored why Russians went to vote early in the morning. The authors were trying to figure out why the share of those voting in the morning had grown so much. They quoted the opinion of political strategist Valentin Bianki who described the high morning turnout as a “consequence of administrative mobilisation.”

On March 14, British newspaper The Guardian published a cartoon on the poisoning of Sergey Skripal. The image shows the Russian President as a blood red spider with a red star on its forehead crawling over the globe. It seems that the image was inspired by old propaganda guidelines taken by the British intelligence from the Third Reich. After all, the cartoon faithfully reproduces a poster made for a 1936 anti-Bolshevik exhibition under the title Der Bolschewismus.

It is clear that the US-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty could not stay out of this campaign. On March 20, 2018 it published an article “Russian researcher says Putin may have received 10 million fraudulent votes,” based on an interview with Sergey Shpilkin, who is presented as an expert “renowned for his studies of Russian elections.” This so-called expert Shpilkin claims that the winning candidate received several million falsified votes. Our advice for both the author and this would-be expert will be to file a complaint to this effect with the Central Election Commission, if they have any real evidence. Otherwise, all these conclusions can be viewed as outright propaganda. What this article and other publications by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have in common is their propaganda drive and the intent to instil in the Russian public a feeling that the popular vote was unfair.

One article stands out, however. It presents a cynical and sophisticated way of interfering in Russia’s election space. On March 12, Deutsche Welle’s Russian desk published an article “Five strategies of protest behaviour at Russian presidential election.” Demonstrating a total lack of respect for the Russian law, Deutsche Welle published nothing short of a guideline on ways to express disagreement with the current system of government, including election procedures. The Foreign Ministry views these articles as an outrageous violation of journalist ethics and the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs. We would like to note in this regard that Deutsche Welle received EUR 325 million from Germany’s federal budget in 2017 to finance its radio, television and online programming, as indicated on the website of the German federal government. I will leave it to you to draw the conclusions.

We cited just a few articles with misleading information about the elections in Russia. Western propaganda agencies did all they could to undermine trust in the Russian elections by skilfully juggling facts, searching for the most incredible ideas on Russian social media and giving them credit. In doing so, they demonstrated a system-wide disdain for the Russian democracy and Russian voters, denying them the ability to make a conscious choice. They also appropriated the right to designate legitimate opposition candidates. They can indulge in wishful thinking as much as their hearts desire, but on March 18, 2018 the Russian people made it quite clear that they care about the future of their country, while all the attempts to influence the situation, including those coming from abroad, are doomed to failure.

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