Russia and Disinformation

How does Russian state disinformation operate in the Caucasus region or Ukraine? To what extent can disinformation be traced to specific actors or agents of influence?

A series of four CREST reports, as well as four executive summaries, on Russia and Disinformation have been published today:

  1. The Case of the Caucasus 
  2. The Case of Ukraine
  3. Maskirovka
  4. Institutions and Actors

Disinformation in the Russian context is often used as an umbrella term which includes other concepts such as strategic deception (maskirovka), information operations, and denial.

When considering disinformation and maskirovka, this series of CREST reports find the common factor is the use of various information tools such as media distortion, social media manipulation, and cyber-attacks to convey selected, incomplete and/or distorted messages in order to influence targeted audiences.

The goal is to create doubt, to muddy the waters of truth, and promote false narratives.

The goal is to create doubt, to muddy the waters of truth, and promote false narratives. When combined with military force, the result is known as a ‘hybrid threat’.

Russian disinformation can also be divided into two spheres:

  1. Offensive Disinformation, which seeks to influence decision makers abroad.
  2. Defensive Disinformation, which seeks to influence citizens.

Russia and Disinformation: The Case of the Caucasus

Russia and Disinformation: The Case of the Caucasus (Full Report)
Click to download this report.

The first report, The Case of the Caucasus looks at how Russian state disinformation operates in the Caucasus region. This CREST report considers three different cases of disinformation deployment in the Caucasus region:

  • The Beslan school siege.
  • The 2008 war between Georgia and Russia.
  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s disinformation on social media.

These case studies highlight the dynamics of Russian state influence, both domestically in the Russian Federation’s North Caucasus region as well as in Georgia, just across the Russian border in the South Caucasus.

You can download, read and share this report here.

You can find the Executive Summary of this report here.

 

Russia and Disinformation: The Case of Ukraine

Russia and Disinformation: The Case of Ukraine (Full Report) 19-022-01
Click to download this report.

This second report in the Russia and Disinformation series looks at how Russian state disinformation operates in Ukraine.

It considers Kremlin disinformation deployed in and surrounding Ukraine to highlight the dynamics of disinformation as used against a perceived enemy, in order to understand how Russia applies its operations abroad.

In contrast to disinformation techniques used within Russia, the goal of disinformation circulated internationally is less to consolidate support for Putin and his policies than it is to sow distrust and disbelief in an objective truth.

The report analyses two case studies in order to understand the dynamics of disinformation in and around Ukraine:

  1. The annexation of Crimea.
  2. The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

You can download, read and share this report here.

You can find the Executive Summary of this report here.

 

Russia and Disinformation: Maskirovka

19-024-01 Russia and Disinformation: Maskirovka (Full Report)
Click here to download this report.

This CREST report investigates the phenomenon of disinformation in the contemporary context as conceived and practised by actors in the Russian Federation. It considers the following questions:

  • The historical background to disinformation operations in the Soviet Union/Russia.
  • To what extent there are dominant narratives that dominate Russian disinformation, and if so whether these narratives explain Russia’s wider strategic aims.
  • How disinformation complements external diplomacy and is woven into ‘strategic narratives’ promoted by the Russian state.
  • Targets and objectives of disinformation activities (with two short case studies of disinformation campaigns).
  • Means and methods of dissemination of disinformation.
  • To what extent disinformation appears to work and the measures adopted to-date by external actors to counter its influence.

This third report in the series draws on extensive scrutiny of open-source material, including from Russian-language primary sources as well as Western academic research and policy-related documents.

You can download, read and share this report here.

You can find the Executive Summary of this report here.

 

Russia and Disinformation: Institutions and Actors

19-026-01 Russia and Disinformation: Institutions and Actors (Full Report)
Click to download this report.

This final CREST report in the series, focuses on the institutions and actors involved in Russian disinformation. It should be read in conjunction with the three other reports in the series, which examine case studies on disinformation.

The report investigates Russian institutions and actors that contribute in various ways to the promotion of Russian disinformation. It considers, among other things, the following themes:

  • Governmental and affiliated institutions involved in disinformation activities.
  • The role of state and non-state/sub-state actors and networks in disinformation.
  • To what extent disinformation can be traced to specific actors or agents of influence.

You can download, read and share this report here.

You can find the Executive Summary of this report here.


All the reports in this series can be found here.

These resources are produced from the Actors and Narratives programme, funded by CREST. To find out more information about this programme, and to see other outputs from the team, visit the Actors and Narratives programme page.

As part of CREST’s commitment to open access research, these resources are available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence. For more details on how you can use our content see here.

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