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Bellingcat Reports On Russian Military Intelligence Disinformation Project- Bonanza Media Founded By Former RT Journalist

December 13th, 2020 14:05

The inves­tiga­tive col­lec­tive known as Belling­cat has report­ed on Bonan­za Media, described as a project work­ing in coor­di­na­tion with Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence. Accord­ing to the report, the find­ings are par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant to the role of Bonan­za media with respect to the ongo­ing crim­i­nal tri­al over the down­ing of Malaysia Air­lines flight MH17, shot down over Ukraine in 2014:

Decem­ber 13, 2020 An inves­ti­ga­tion by Belling­cat and its inves­tiga­tive part­ners has dis­cov­ered evi­dence that Bonan­za Media, a self-styled inde­pen­dent inves­tiga­tive plat­form, is in fact a spe­cial dis­in­for­ma­tion project work­ing in coor­di­na­tion with Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence. While we have not yet estab­lished con­clu­sive­ly whether the Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency, best known as the GRU, was behind the ini­tial launch and fund­ing of the Bonan­za Media project, we have estab­lished that short­ly after it was launched, senior mem­bers of the GRU entered into direct and reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the project leader. The GRU received advance copies of Bonanza’s pub­li­ca­tions, pro­vid­ed its employ­ees ille­gal cross-bor­der access into east­ern Ukraine, fur­nished the project with con­fi­den­tial inter­nal doc­u­ments of the offi­cial Dutch-led MH17 Joint Inves­ti­ga­tion Team con­duct­ing the offi­cial crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into the deaths of 298 pas­sen­gers and crew mem­bers that were hacked by GRU’s cyber war­fare divi­sion, and like­ly instruct­ed Bonan­za Media to leak them. The find­ings of this inves­ti­ga­tion are of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance due to the poten­tial role of Bonan­za Media as a source of evi­dence in the ongo­ing crim­i­nal tri­al over the down­ing of flight MH17 in 2014.

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to a March 2020 BBC report:

The tri­al has opened in the Nether­lands of three Rus­sians and a Ukrain­ian — still at large — for the mur­der of 298 peo­ple aboard Malaysia Air­lines flight MH17, shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The Boe­ing 777 went down amid a con­flict in east­ern Ukraine, after Russ­ian-backed rebels seized the area. Inves­ti­ga­tors say they have proof the Buk mis­sile sys­tem that shot it down came from a mil­i­tary base in Russia.

The report goes on to iden­ti­fy the founder of Bonan­za media as a for­mer RT (fka Rus­sia Today) jour­nal­ist Yana Yerlashova:

Bonan­za Media, a spe­cial-pur­pose media project ded­i­cat­ed to pub­li­ciz­ing alter­na­tive nar­ra­tives about the caus­es of the crash of MH17, was found­ed in ear­ly 2019 by for­mer RT jour­nal­ist Yana Yer­lasho­va with the help of Dutch blog­ger Max van der Werff, who man­aged to receive Dutch press cre­den­tials in May 2019. Yana Yer­lasho­va, and even more so Max van der Werff were well-known names among con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed neti­zens prone to dis­trust­ing the find­ings of the offi­cial MH17 inves­ti­ga­tion con­duct­ed by the Joint Inves­ti­ga­tion Team (JIT). Work­ing for Russia’s state-run out­let RT, Yana Yer­lasho­va had authored doc­u­men­taries crit­i­cal of the Dutch-led inves­ti­ga­tion, and in one case had been accused of plant­i­ng wreck­age from the plane at the crash site. Max van der Werff, rou­tine­ly crit­i­cal of Ukrain­ian author­i­ties and sym­pa­thet­ic to the Rus­sia-sup­port­ed sep­a­ratists in the Don­bas Region of east­ern Ukraine, already had been a fix­ture on Russ­ian state media as well as on sep­a­ratist media in 2015 cast­ing doubt on evi­dence impli­cat­ing Rus­sia and the sep­a­ratists in the downing.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has fre­quent­ly report­ed on the activ­i­ties of RT, described by the NYT in 2012 as follows:

Ana­lysts are sharply divid­ed about the influ­ence of RT. Point­ing to its minus­cule rat­ings num­bers, many cau­tion against over­stat­ing its impact. Yet focus­ing on rat­ings may miss the point, says Peter Pomer­ant­sev, who wrote a book three years ago that described Russia’s use of tele­vi­sion for pro­pa­gan­da. “Rat­ings aren’t the main thing for them,” he said. “These are cam­paigns for finan­cial, polit­i­cal and media influ­ence.” RT and Sput­nik pro­pel those cam­paigns by help­ing cre­ate the fod­der for thou­sands of fake news prop­a­ga­tors and pro­vid­ing anoth­er out­let for hacked mate­r­i­al that can serve Russ­ian inter­ests, said Ben Nim­mo, who stud­ies RT for the Atlantic Coun­cil. What­ev­er its impact, RT is unques­tion­ably a case study in the com­plex­i­ty of mod­ern pro­pa­gan­da. It is both a slick mod­ern tele­vi­sion net­work, dressed up with great visu­als and styl­ish pre­sen­ters, and a con­tent farm that helps feed the Euro­pean far right. View­ers find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cern exact­ly what is jour­nal­ism and what is pro­pa­gan­da, what may be “fake news” and what is real but pre­sent­ed with a strong slant.