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Bellingcat Investigation: Russian “Troll Factory” Created Dutch Terror Threat Video

04.04 11:32

This is stated in the investigation published on April 3.

Azov brand has twice become a tool for information attacks on Ukraine in the Netherlands. The first attack took place in the second half of January – then unidentified persons with the symbols of the regiment threatened attacks to residents of the Netherlands.

On February 3, second video appeared in Dutch media, in which actors “confirmed their intentions”.

The Azov regiment prepared a response to the fake video and demonstrated the process of shooting the same fake video allegedly from the “residents of Novorossiia, fighters of Sparta and Somalia battalions”.

The description to this video claims that the original was taken from the Azov Battalion’s official YouTube channel, “AZOV media,” with a link to a YouTube video with the ID of MuSJMQKcX8A. Predictably, following the link to the “original” video shows that the video has been deleted by the user, giving the impression that the Azov Battalion uploaded the video and then deleted it by the time the copy (on the “Patriot” channel) was created.

There are no traces of any video posted with this URL in any search engine cache or archival site (e.g. Archive.today or Archive.org).  It is most likely that a random video was posted to a YouTube channel, quickly deleted before it could be cached or archived, and then was linked to in the video from the “Patriot” YouTube account.

At 14:16 GMT on 18 January 2016 – 46 minutes after the video upload on the “Patriot” channel – a newly registered user named “Artur 32409” posted a link to the video and a message in Ukrainian supporting Azov’s alleged actions on the website politforums.net

The “troll network” of Artur 32409 frequently uses pohnews.org to spread disinformation. This site shares its administrator with whoswhos.org, which has been confirmed to be under the umbrella of the Internet Research Agency and its sister news organization, FAN.

Leaked e-mail correspondences from 2014 courtesy of the hacker collective Anonymous International (aka “Shaltai Boltai”) confirm that these organizations do not act independently and, at the time of the leaks, received instructions from the Kremlin.

Starting four minutes later (14:20 GMT), two newly-registered accounts on the Russian social networking site VKontakte (VK) shared the video 30 times over a period of 24 minutes.

During these 30 shares on VK (at 14:38 GMT), an exact copy-paste of the text written by Artur 32409 from politforums.net is published by a blogger on Korrrespondent.net. The author represents him/herself as a pro-Azov Ukrainian woman named “Solomiya Yaremchuk.” This user did not cite Artur as the source for the content.

There is a strong possibility, if not certainty, that “Artur 32409,” the Korrespondent.net blogger Solomiya Yaremchuk, and the various VK users are either the same person, or part of the same group propagating the fake video. Further evidence provided later in this post reveals that “Solomiya Yarumchuk” is a fake account and has strong links to the “St. Petersburg Troll Factory.”

The Azov Battalion video was not the only piece of fabricated evidence created with this disinformation campaign. Following the video’s spread, a screenshot was created to supposedly verify the existence of the video on the Azov Battalion’s official YouTube channel (“AZOV media”).

The creation and propagation of the fake Azov Battalion video was almost certainly not the work of a few lone pranksters, but instead a concerted effort with connections to the infamous Internet Research Agency, widely known as the organization based in St. Petersburg that pays young Russians to write pro-Russian/anti-Western messages in internet comment sections and blog posts.

It should be recalled that Bellingcat criticized calculations presented by Russian manufacturer of Buk which supposedly was used to down MH17.

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