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DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN AIMED AT LITHUANIAN CITIZENS AND RUSSIA ACCUSING THE US OF DENYING VISAS

April 20-26, 2023 | Issue 11 - EUCOM and Counter Threat Strategic Communications

Dan Flanagan, Jack Seay, Jayde Dorland

Steven Jones, Editor; Julie Jones, Senior Editor

LITPOLUKRBRIG Unit[1]


Date: April 21, 2023

Location: Lithuania

Parties involved: Poland; Ukraine; Lithuania; Lithuanian Ministry of Defense (KAM); Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania; Grand Hetman Kostiantyn Ostrogski Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG); Lithuanian Armed Forces; Lithuanian Citizens; Russia; Russian propaganda websites; internet service providers (ISPs); social media companies Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube; unidentified threat actors; cyber-criminals

The event: KAM alerted citizens of disinformation scams operated by cyber-criminals posing as military recruiters from the Ministry of the Interior. Criminals have created a domain name to deceive recipients into believing LITPOLUKRBRIG conscripted them. KAM informed citizens that the e-mails are not authentic, as LITPOLUKRBRIG is not part of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Citizens are encouraged to only check the official Lithuanian Armed Forces and KAM accounts for verified information. This campaign follows the recent disinformation narrative concerning LITPOLUKRBRIG’s operational plans spread by Russian propaganda websites.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • There is a roughly even chance Russia is not behind the LITPOLUKRBRIG disinformation campaign as increased recruitment would counter Russia’s efforts in the Ukrainian conflict. There is a roughly even chance the campaign was orchestrated by LITPOLUKRBRIG to increase recruits and bolster support for Ukraine. Russian-backed disinformation would very likely seek to discredit the brigade, rather than produce campaigns to increase recruitment.

  • KAM will likely collaborate with the Lithuanian government to increase counter-disinformation campaigns and build awareness of false narratives. The campaigns will likely utilize various broadcasting and online mediums to ensure their message reaches a broad audience. These initiatives will almost certainly include the use of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, very likely in tandem with localized community outreach. This will very likely decrease future threat actors’ narratives, very likely increasing Lithuanian citizens’ resilience to disinformation.

  • Lithuanian cybersecurity providers will very likely adopt heightened measures towards disinformation and will likely cooperate with foreign authorities and organizations to reduce the spread of propaganda. Lithuanian ISPs will very likely implement tougher anti-disinformation measures to reduce the influence of targeted criminal campaigns. Lithuanian ISPs will almost certainly be forced to cooperate with authorities in adjacent countries, likely decreasing the overall occurrence of regional disinformation. Domain registrars and internet compliance companies will likely increase collaboration to limit the use of domains created to spread disinformation.


Date: April 23, 2023

Location: Moscow, Russia

Parties involved: US; US State Department; UN Security Council (UNSC); Russia; Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov; Russian Press

The event: Lavrov stated that Russia “will not forgive” the US for denying visas to Russian journalists set to accompany him to the UNSC meeting in New York.[3] He continued to criticize the action, believing that the US contradicted its valued freedom of expression. Lavrov proposed Russian retaliation against the US, with Ryabkov emphasizing their response would serve as a long-term reminder of the US decision.[4] The US State Department refrains from disclosing information regarding specific cases but has stated the US takes its obligation as a UN host country seriously, including the issuing of visas.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • There is a roughly even chance that Russia has falsified claims regarding the denial of Russian journalist visas as an anti-US propaganda dissemination method. The US State Department visa application process will likely reinforce pro-Kremlin narratives implicating the US as a hostile party to Russian interests. Anti-US propaganda will likely solidify disinformation that the US is increasingly targeting Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

  • Russian retaliation will likely involve the continued arrest of US journalists, with measures likely expanding to other Western journalists in Russia. The US and Western nations’ alliance with Ukraine in the ongoing conflict will likely increase the threat to journalist safety and press freedoms in Russia. Russian authorities will likely view this procedure as an effective method to compel Western nations into negotiations concerning Russian interests.

 

[1]LITPOLUKRBRIG starts a realistic training near Nowa Dęba” by Ministry of Defense of Ukraine licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

[2] Be alert: Disinformation is being spread on behalf of the Ministry of National Defense, LRT, April 2023, https://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/2/1967828/bukite-budrus-krasto-apsaugos-ministerijos-vardu-skleidziama-dezinformacija (translated by Dan Flanagan)

[3] Russia ‘will not forgive’ U.S. denial of journalist visas, Politico, April 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/23/russia-lavrov-visas-united-nations-gershkovich-00093407

[4] Ibid

[5] Moscow Slams US After Russian Journalists Denied Visas For UN Visit, Barron’s, April 2023, https://www.barrons.com/news/moscow-slams-us-after-russian-journalists-denied-visas-for-un-visit-16d50327

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