In the USA they are looking for a 'Russian trace' in the storming of the Capitol: what is known
Although the storming of the Capitol on January 6 is considered an act of domestic terrorism, the US Congress is still trying to find a foreign trail in it. Or rather, to find out whether Russia was involved in whipping up protest moods among ultra-right groups, which ultimately led to the storming of the Capitol. The publication told about this in more detail. Voice of America.
The answer to this question is sought through an investigation by the Senate Commission and the House Intelligence Committee in collaboration with other congressional committees. The court hearings on the cases of the participants in the assault will also play an important role.
Among the participants in the assault there were also Russian-speaking immigrants who supported the then US President Donald Trump. One of them is blogger Elena Nikitskaya, who until recently lived in Sacramento (California). She does not believe that Joe Biden actually won the election and is the legitimate president of the United States, and also opposes masks, vaccines and the very fact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she considers fake.
She is a frequent visitor to Russian state channels, where she talks about the infringement of the rights of Trump's supporters in the United States, and calls the current government "fascist."
Ruslan Gurzhiy, editor-in-chief of the online platform Slavic Sacramento, calls the local Russian-speaking religious community a radicalized movement, which until recently he himself was a member.
“My family was persecuted for their faith in Belarus, my grandfather was in prison for not wanting to take up arms and fight in the Soviet army. My father was a pastor. We moved to Sacramento. There are about 100 churches there, many of this spirit. At some point, they became very radicalized. And now the trend has started - churches are going to Washington. Believers climb political barricades, ”Gurzhiy is indignant.
Trump's Russian-speaking supporters, mostly blogging, began to step up in 2017. They could spread disinformation and conspiracy theories popular among conservative American groups. They have up to several hundred thousand subscribers. All of them often discuss the same topics, not limited to intra-American ones.
According to Xenia Kirillova, an expert at the Jamestown Foundation, the vast majority of these bloggers really believed in these conspiracy theories.
“This is what Moscow calls useful idiots. It's not me calling names, this term was introduced by Lenin, since the time of the Bolsheviks in the Russian special services it has been used. Just in relation to people who are used blindly, ”said Kirillova.
“There is also the specificity of religious emigration from Russia. Firstly, these are people who fled from communism, and Trump positions himself as the last beacon of capitalism, declares all his opponents socialists and communists, and so on. The second specificity of these people is, of course, distrust of the authorities, which is also part of our cultural specificity, because there were grounds. This mentality of a Soviet refugee is, accordingly, transferred to the United States, ”she said.
A Russian-speaking blogger from New York also took part in the protests. But he didn't break inside and was at the back of the Capitol.
“I asked people: what is happening, what will happen? I fulfilled my function, let's say, played my role. And they say: there will be a march of Jericho. I asked what the march of Jericho was. They explained: they say, we will come with posters and start shouting: “USA! USA! Trump! Trump! Trump! ”Will stand around the Congress. The phrase "March of Jericho" is a biblical reference. "Jericho Trumpet" is such a popular phrase in Russian. This is why people have come. They came so that their voice could be heard, ”Dashevsky recalls.
During the assault, Russian-speaking residents of Oregon were also arrested. Christina and Eugene Malimon came to the USA from Moldova. They were accused of illegal entry and violation of the curfew.
According to experts, Russia not only used Russian-speaking followers of conspiracy theories in its reports and broadcasts, but also spread disinformation in the United States. An investigation by Evanna Hu, chief executive of Omelas, a Washington-based company, reveals more than 6 reports of fraudulent US elections between November and February on social media pages linked to the Kremlin in one way or another. Of these, 74 directly mentioned the #StopTheSteal campaign.
“The Kremlin propagandists did not create content, but used pre-existing conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns. That is, they added fuel to the fire - and this tactic is different from what we have seen before. Quite frankly, the most effective propaganda is the one that is distributed by the target audience itself. A similar tactic was used in the dissemination of information on the eve of the storming of the Capitol, but an interesting fact is that this happened on the eve of Orthodox Christmas. So the amount of propaganda was much lower than usual, ”Hu says.
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US intelligence agencies, in a report released in March, said Russia was spreading misinformation about Biden, his family and the Democratic Party in an effort to influence the US election results. At the same time, she campaigned to influence the level of support for Trump, to undermine public trust in the voting process and exacerbate the socio-political division of American society.
Russian misinformation about the 2020 elections and pressing social issues in the United States is evidenced by the analysis of publications of four online portals, such as New Eastern Outlook, Oriental Review, News Front, Rebel Inside, conducted by the Center for Global Engagement at the US Department of State.
“The Federal Security Service provides intelligence missions to the News Front platform; New Eastern Outlook and Oriental Review are controlled by the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation; Rebel Inside controls the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. These sites vary in reach, tone, and audience, but they all spread Russian propaganda and disinformation. These platforms spread misinformation about Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as about international organizations, military conflicts and protest sentiments, ”said a spokesman for the State Department.
Evanna Hu believes that Russian disinformation and materials from these sites were used by supporters of ultra-right views in the United States.
“They shared this information on social networks. And when many of their accounts were blocked in the West, they began to open pages on Vkontakte, Parler and some other social networks. There we saw this exchange of information. It was not coordinated, but they definitely shared this misinformation, ”Hu says.
According to the expert, in most cases, the disinformation spread by Russia was in English, and this indicates that the Kremlin was targeting an American audience. And at times, disinformation promoted by Russia made it onto the airwaves of the mainstream American media and was quoted by leading American journalists.
“One of the disinformation campaigns associated with Russia used the term 'color revolution'. We know that it was initially associated in Russia with events in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries. But then he began to infiltrate ultra-right groups and got to the very popular US television company Fox News, where they began to talk about the "color revolution" in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as other political processes that, according to the ultra-right, were provoked by the so-called deep state , elite, democrats. They really believe in all this and think that it is their duty to stop these "color revolutions". They believe that the people behind the color revolutions helped steal votes in support of Donald Trump, ”explains the CEO of Omelas.
So far, experts have described what happened in Washington as domestic terrorism. At the same time, they emphasize the effectiveness of Russian disinformation campaigns and, taking into account the peculiarities of ultra-right groups, do not exclude the possibility of greater interference by foreign states.
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