Photo: Freepik/@ fidaolga
The private news agency News Front, which operates from the territory of Crimea, is a frequent propagator of pro-Russian disinformation in our area since it also publishes content in the Serbian language.
The News Front web portal operates in several languages in which it publishes pro-Russian content, and there is also an edition in Serbian. This media shares and translates disinformation from other Russian, often state media, such as TASS and RIA Novosti, as well as Russian officials. Thus, it is often among the first, and sometimes the only media, to publish disinformation originally from Russian sources in our language.
Raskrinkavanje wrote about the misinformation published on this media in several analyses, which you can read here.
News agency News Front
In the “About us” section on the News Front page, it is stated that they are “volunteer soldiers of the information front” who lead the fight against Western disinformation:
We, the news agency News Front – volunteer soldiers of the information front, are waging an unequal fight against cynical lies, fraud, manipulation and disinformation – that is, against the weapons of mass destruction with which the West is waging a new type of predatory-colonial war against us.
As stated in the “Contact” section on the News Front page, it is a news agency registered with the Federal Service for Supervision in the Field of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Communications in Russia since June 2015. News Front operates from Crimea, and Konstantin Knirik is listed as the head of the agency.
In March 2014, during the Russian military occupation of Crimea, Konstantin Knirik led a paramilitary group that broke into the premises of the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism. Then, in the premises of this centre, which was moved to Kyiv, an initially small propaganda media was established. Over time, it grew into a much larger media that now operates in nine languages, including Serbian.
Since 2020, sanctions have been imposed on Knirik by Ukraine, the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, the United States of America, Australia and the United Kingdom, according to the Open Sanctions page.
The EU vs Disinfo page states that from November 2015 to mid-October 2022, News Front published more than 830 pieces of disinformation.
In the report “Pillars of the Russian Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem”, issued in August 2020 by the Global Engagement Center (GEC) of the US Department of State, News Front was described as “one of the most obvious Russian disinformation sites”. At the beginning of 2020, it was stated that News Front’s actions resulted in almost completely removing its presence on social networks. So, Facebook removed a network of accounts, including News Front’s, for violating its policy against foreign interference, according to Facebook’s April 2020 report on coordinated inauthentic behaviour.
The following is an analysis of some more recent examples of pro-Russian disinformation that News Front has placed in the domestic speaking area.
What did Der Tagesspiegel write about sabotage on the Nord Stream gas pipeline?
One of the misinformation, originally published in Russian, which News Front published in Serbian, is the claim that the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published that Ukraine is allegedly suspected of sabotage on the Nord Stream gas pipeline. In the article published on September 27, 2022, the News Front stated the following:
Ukraine is suspected of possible sabotage on the Nord Stream gas pipeline – Der Tagesspiegel
Targeted sabotage could cause a drop in pressure on both lines of the Nord Stream gas pipeline and on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. This was reported by Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, citing sources.
According to the German newspaper, Ukrainian forces may be responsible for the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.
On September 30, the Ukrainian fact-checking platform StopFake wrote about the publication of this claim in Russian in an analysis that you can read here.
Two gas pipeline lines connecting Russia and Germany, Nord Stream 1 and 2, were damaged in September 2022, thus jeopardising the possibility of gas inflow to Germany. The investigation into the cause of these damages is still ongoing, but some believe it was sabotage.
In its article, the News Front web portal does not provide a link to the Der Tagesspiegel article in which this claim was allegedly published. Searching for the quote featured in the article leads to the text published on September 27, 2022, on Der Tagesspiegel Background page. This article does state that Ukraine could be responsible for the sabotage but points out that these speculations are not verifiable and that there is an equal probability that the second scenario in which Russia is the alleged culprit is at stake.
Regarding responsibility for the alleged attacks, two main options are currently being discussed. According to the first, but by no means verifiable speculations, Ukrainian forces or forces associated with Ukraine could be responsible.
Another, the same scenario, but as a so-called “false flag” operation by Russia, is a possible explanation for the pipeline leak.
The author of the Der Tagesspiegel article, therefore, places an equal possibility for the alleged sabotage of the gas pipeline on Russia. That information was completely omitted from the News Front article. The article of this web portal also completely omitted the part in which it is pointed out that the accusations that the Ukrainian forces are responsible for the sabotage are called “speculations”, which are not verifiable in any way.
Therefore, we assess the News Front article as a manipulation of facts.
Is the USA recruiting mercenaries to fight in Ukraine?
On September 30, 2022, the News Front web portal published an article claiming that the United States of America is massively recruiting mercenaries to participate in the fighting in Ukraine.
The United States is massively recruiting militants to fight in Ukraine. Average daily earnings are offered to mercenaries in the amount of 1-2 thousand dollars. The corresponding notice was published on the specialized website
Mercenaries to be sent to Ukraine are recruited in the United States at the double the rate. On September 27, a relevant announcement was found on the home page of SilentProfessionals.org, an American security forces and “adventurer” recruitment agency. The announcement of the recruitment of military specialists with military experience to participate in the conflict in Ukraine was placed both on the site’s main page and in the section “External jobs for military contractors”.
On September 30, StopFake wrote about examples of the publication of this claim in Russian.
In the articles in which they make this claim, the media refer to the publication on the Silent Professionals page. This site is described as “a specialised service provider for employers in all industries and sectors seeking assistance in identifying and vetting combat veterans for employment in private security, executive protection and crisis management roles across the US and the world”.
This site is recommended by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the US state of Indiana. However, this is not an official website run by an American government agency.
On the Silent Professionals page, a job ad for a position in Ukraine was really posted on March 1, 2022. The ad is not looking for mercenaries to participate in the fighting in Ukraine, as claimed in the News Front article. As stated in the ad, the employer is a corporation based in the US. So, it is not true that the US is recruiting mercenaries, but it is a matter of a private corporation based in this country.
Furthermore, the ad states that agents and teams are wanted to carry out “secret operations for the extraction/evacuation of individuals and families throughout the villages and major cities of Ukraine”. The section describing duties and responsibilities does not state that the recruits should participate in the fighting in Ukraine. Therefore, nowhere in this job advertisement is it stated that someone who would fight in Ukraine is wanted, but someone who would work to evacuate people from Ukraine.
Given all the facts, we assess the claim that “the United States is mass recruiting militants to participate in the fighting in Ukraine” as fake news since the US is neither recruiting nor looking for individuals who would fight in Ukraine.
(Marija Ćosić i Ismar Milak, Raskrinkavanje.ba)