The Brookings Institution, a US think tank, has published a report examining how Russia’s information apparatus is covering the Pandora Papers, a massive leak of data on offshore finance. The report argues that Russia has used the leaks to discredit democratic governments and push conspiracies about the leak’s origins. According to the Brookings report:
October 8, 2021 Also since Sunday, Russian state media have been amplifying some of the project’s most troubling findings — including the United States’ emergence as a leading destination for sheltering dark money — while simultaneously trafficking in conspiracies about the origin of the leaks. State-controlled media have repeatedly boosted skepticism over the absence of U.S. officials in the documents, suggesting that Western leaders might have been “screened out” from the data and that “recurring peculiarities” point to “Washington’s hand behind” the disclosures. In some cases, state-controlled media outlets have gone as far as to promote the idea that the revelations are a “ political ploy” and the work of Western intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency. In its efforts to use the revelations as a means to discredit democratic governments, Moscow has also been highlighting details of wrongdoing by Latin American heads of state, including the presidents of Ecuador, Chile, and the Dominican Republic and the vice president of Colombia, among others. This focus on Latin America is in part because more than 90 of the more than 330 politicians and public officials identified in the data are from the region. But it also belies a focus on reaching a part of the world where Russia has frequently sought to advance its geopolitical interests, including, in recent months, using concerted information manipulation campaigns. […]
The Kremlin’s response highlights important facets of its evolving information strategy, which includes using Western alt-media outlets and influencers as a vector for peddling conspiracy theories that cast doubt on official versions of political events — in part to deflect blame and in part to depress trust in institutions within target societies. It also demonstrates an emphasis on amplifying factual information to promote narratives that denigrate democratic governments, using a massive state-controlled online media apparatus.
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Independent Russian media reported last week that offshore assets belonging to Russian officials and top executives at state-owned companies featured prominently in the Pandora Papers, arguing that the leaks and Russia’s response to it are evidence of the hypocrisy of the Russian elite. According to a The Bell report:
October 11, 2021 The Pandora Papers are just the latest evidence of the hypocrisy of the Russian elite, which attacks media organizations, NGOs and individuals over allegations of international funding, while taking full advantage of offshore finance. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that last week also saw three more organizations, including investigative outlet Bellingcat and nine individual journalists, added to Russia’s list of so-called ‘foreign agents’.
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