Deception - the Case of latvia

A series of articles by the Centre for Eastern European Studies

CEEPS: Deception – The Case of Latvia #22

By Arnis Latišenko, Researcher of the Centre for Eastern European Policy Studies

Russia’s policy in relation to compatriots living in foreign countries (hereinafter – compatriots’ policy) fundamentally differs from the diaspora policy of numerous democratic countries, where its legitimate aim is to help their compatriots abroad to preserve the ethnic and cultural identity and keep in touch with their homeland. In turn, the compatriots’ policy, implemented by the Kremlin, Russia’s Foreign Ministry, various foundations and large municipalities (St. Petersburg and Moscow), to a large extent is focused on splitting societies abroad and creating tension.

An important role in the destructive section of Russia’s compatriots’ policy belongs to biased interpretation of history, which purposefully conceals the ‘black pages’ and exaggerates, sometimes even falsifies Russia’s (and Soviet) achievements. Russia’s compatriots’ rights being discriminated is another equally popular content of Kremlin’s disinformation. The ‘compatriot living abroad’ concept on its own is partly fictitious, because the concept purposefully is applied to unrealistically wide range of people abroad, although a great part of these people do not even refer to themselves as ‘compatriots’ as interpreted by the Russia’s foreign policy makers. Summarizing the above written, you can say that Russia’s compatriots’ policy messages serve the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns as substantively deceiving material or the ammunition for the information war.

This article was created for the Centre for East European Policy Studies (CEEPS) as a part of analytical material series with the goal to detect deception examples in the online content, disprove them and explain the misleading methods that are being used.

Deception: On February 1, 2019, the Russian news agency tass.ru reported that another ban on the retransmission of Russian TV channel Rossia RTR in Latvia is an expression of unfair competition in the media business and a restriction of freedom of speech.1

Refutation: The National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) found offenses in the Rossia RTR TV channel’s broadcast ‘Evening with Vladimir Solovyov’, that propagated hate speech. Solovyov proposed for the ‘banderovtsi’ to be killed. The term ‘banderovtsi’ is used in Russia to refer to a part of population of modern Ukraine – depending on the speaker’s beliefs or the goals of the specific propaganda campaign it could be referred to any of the following – the Western Ukraine population, as well as Ukraine’s soldiers and both Ukrainian nationalists and patriots. This means that the well-known Russian television anchor-person calls to kill a part of Ukraine’s population. Based on this fact, the NEPLP (Latvian national authority for mass media), within their competence, made the decision to prohibit the rebroadcasting (and propagating) the program Rossia RTR for three months.2 It is by no means a limitation of media work, because the Rossia RTR, instead of enriching the media freedom with ‘alternative views’, is undermining it with anti-democratic and deceptive messages. Purposefully prepared and disseminated disinformation weakens democracy and undermines security. Furthermore, in this particular case, the reason for closing the channel is hate speech, to which the NEPLP has not only the right but also the duty to respond.

Deception: On February 6, 2019, web site sputniknewslv.com published an article ‘It’ll be worse for Russian children, but who cares: the Parliament discussed the education reform’. According to the article, the Latvia’s ruling officials absolutely do not care about the Russian children’s fate and the Russian children’s opportunities to gain quality education. It shows in the Parliament’s decision to continue the previous parliamentary term’s transition into studies in Latvian language in schools, even though the educational quality of Russian schools deteriorates.

Refutation: Studies4 show that the decline in the quality of education in minority schools is due to the fact that studies are not in the official state language. Language of studies is not the only factor influencing quality; however, it is clear that for those young people, who do not know the state language at an appropriate level, it is frustrating to study at institutions of higher education and work in the state institutions. The national reform in school education, that provides for a significant increase of the national language in the education system, promotes the career opportunities for young people, and also serves as the social cohesion tool. The propaganda web site Sputnik, funded by Russia’s government, used in the article such words as ‘it’ll be worse for the Russian children’, that are deceiving and actually focused on resistance against the Latvia’s reform in education.

Deception: On February 6, 2019, web site sputniknewslv.com published an article ‘First resorted Russian schools, now it’s Ushakov: Dombrovski calls for a rally’, which quoted Saskaņa politician Vyacheslav Dombrovski: “[..] it is no longer sufficient with the ‘red lines’ against the parties, that are supported by the Russian-speaking voters. And it turns out, even with the commitment to fully eliminate education in Russian language, it is no longer enough. It looks like that the time has come to resort to present the Riga’s mayor”.5

Refutation: The messages of Sputnik publication are aligned with the myth, that has been maintained for many years, of the discrimination and persecution against Russians residing in Latvia. The exclusion of Saskaņa from the ruling coalition is intentionally unrelated to its pro-Moscow position on numerous issues. Similarly, the broad public dissatisfaction with Nils Ushakov’s work in the Riga municipality management is not associated in the article with the large numbers of corruption and fraud cases, but, instead, the ethnicity of the city’s mayor. Such a narrowing of the issue and focus on the wrong reasons is a typical Russia’s ‘media’ tactics, that is used against Latvia. In addition, Sputnik’s support for Saskaņa and its certain representatives is significant, taking into account that the main aim of Sputnik, as part of the agency Rossia Segodnya, (according to ordinance by Vladimir Putin on December 9, 2013) is to clarify the Russia’s policy abroad.6 Sputnik’s messages are not the result of amateur journalists, but, instead, Russia’s official position, which is supportive for the party Saskaņa and deceiving in respect to the decisions made by Latvia’s government.

Deception: On February 11, 2019, web site riafan.ru published an article ‘MEP Miroslav Mitrofanov: disregard to the Russian interests in Latvia can only be stopped by active protests.’7 The article explaines that the story of the Soviet occupation was the basis for justifying the establishment of the non-citizen institute in Latvia and for not allowing the Russians to participate in the state administration, and ‘repel them from a variety of material benefits distribution’. The article is particularly in favour of Union of Russians in Latvia which is supposedly giving a helping hand to the ‘the lost son’ – the party Saskaņa.

Refutation: While the issue of Soviet occupation is clear to Latvian historians and the general public, it is not a matter of peace for Russian propagandists. Neighbouring politicians, diplomats and journalists are reviewing it over and over again. Once more the Russia should be reminded that the Latvia’s non-citizens are those former USSR citizens, who, for various reasons, have not wished to obtain Latvia’s or any other national citizenship, although both these options were available and still are. It is also important to note that the social and economic rights of non-citizens and citizens of Latvia are the same.

Russian disinformation distributors are accustomed to accusing opponents of the sins that are done by themselves. Rewriting of history (rather, publishing lies about the Soviet times) takes place, to request automatic Latvia’s citizenship to all immigrants from other Soviet republics. If the occupation had not happened, then an option zero of citizenship should be introduced, in order to influence the Latvia’s domestic policy in line of Moscow’s purposes. It is one of the reasons, why the Kremlin does not allow their historians to speak the truth about the year 1940.

1 Посольство РФ в Латвии назвало запрет в отношении “России РТР” “пощечиной свободе слова”. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/6066961?utm_source=smi2.ru&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=gift

2 NEPLP aizliedz retranslēt “Rossija RTR” Latvijas teritorijā. https://neplpadome.lv/lv/sakums/padome/padomes-sedes/sedes-sadalas/neplp-aizliedz-retranslet-“rossija-rtr”-latvijas-teritorija.html

3 Krievu bērniem būs sliktāk, taču kam tas rūp: Saeimā apsprieda izglītības reformu. Sputniknewslv.com, 06.02.2019., https://sputniknewslv.com/Latvia/20190206/10862051/krievu-berni-izglitiba-saeima.html

4 Rīgas mikrorajonu skolās ir gaužām zema izglītības kvalitāte, secina ministrija. Delfi.lv, 11.04.2017., https://www.delfi.lv/news/national/politics/rigas-mikrorajonu-skolas-ir-gauzam-zema-izglitibas-kvalitate-secina-ministrija.d?id=48721093, un Inga Spriņģe. No 10 nesekmīgākajām Rīgas skolām tikai viena ir latviešu. Kāpēc? 10.12.2018., Re:Baltica, https://rebaltica.lv/2018/12/no-10-nesekmigakajam-rigas-skolam-tikai-viena-ir-latviesu-kapec/

5 Sākumā ķērās klāt krievu skolām, tagad Ušakovam: Dombrovskis aicina uz mītiņu. Sputnik, 06.02.2019., https://sputniknewslv.com/politics/20190206/10859830/Skuma-keras-klat-krievu-skolam-tagad-Usakovam-Dombrovskis-aicina-uz-mitinu.html

6 О некоторых мерах по повышению эффективности деятельности государственных средств массовой информации. http://docs.cntd.ru/document/499062793

7 Евродепутат Мирослав Митрофанов: Сломить игнорирование интересов русских Латвии можно лишь активными протестами. https://riafan.ru/1149970-evrodeputat-miroslav-mitrofanov-slomit-ignorirovanie-interesov-russkikh-v-latvii-mozhno-lish-aktivnymi-protestami