Putinist Propaganda
From Russia, with Malice

Russian state media have found a smoking gun showing that Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is at the head of a secret American cabal that’s colluding with Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatsenyuk to pull the strings on a puppet government in Kiev. And oddly, this Machiavellian mastermind doesn’t know his own title, and he has only a mediocre grasp of English grammar and syntax.

Well, it’s either that or else the Russian media will use anything at all, even a shoddy and obvious hoax, to discredit the West. Because, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, the usual Russian suspects are reporting on a letter purportedly from Durbin to Yatsenyuk from which we can draw no other conclusions:

The hoaxer wrote to Yatsenyuk on what appeared to be U.S. Senate stationery, claiming to be Senator Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and a leading American voice on Ukrainian issues who traveled to Kyiv recently to discuss Russian aggression, said Ben Marter, a spokesman for Durbin, on July 6.

Durbin’s office told the CIA and FBI about the letter after being contacted by Russian state-owned media asking for comment.

The forged letter was on paper that resembled U.S. Senate stationery, but with Durbin’s title wrong.

It suggested that Yatsenyuk “invest every effort” to keep some officials in place, including the agriculture minister and the head of the country’s nuclear monopoly. But it said the U.S. Senate feels some others do not have the qualities necessary for their jobs.

“This letter is a forgery and was obviously written by somebody with a tenuous grasp of the English language,” Marter said.

The Kyiv Post has a nice article detailing which Russian officials and media agencies ran the story before it was debunked. It’s more than a handful.

This episode is laughable because the hoax was so incompetently perpetrated, but it points to a bigger picture. Russia has invested heavily in propaganda to make sure that people in places from Belarus to Hungary to New York City are inundated with lies, counternarratives, half-truths, and whatever else the Kremlin’s “political technologists” can come up with. In places like eastern Ukraine, a Russian speaker may never get news from an outlet that isn’t in Moscow’s control. This investment, sadly, pays dividends. Russia’s misinformation campaign is global, and it’s no joke.

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