Although not an established reporter in the country, Todorovski managed to get invited three times to the “press-tours” organized by Russia to Ukraine. From there his views and stories ended up in the Macedonian and Bulgarian media. Through his reports from various conferences with anti-Western narratives, positions in favour of Kremlin were subtly transmitted, and all that in the name of journalism and political science. In other words, persons interviewed by Todorovski or whose opinions are communicated do not differ much from the voice of Kremlin
Author: Miroslava Simonovska
The Macedonian citizen from Delcevo, Darko Todorovski is a PhD candidate of the Presidential Academy in Moscow. He denies the claims of the Bulgarian journalist Hristo Grozev from Bellingcat that he was the channel for pouring money into Bulgarian portals for publishing fake news created by the special Kremlin services. Grozev came out with such an accusation during the session of the Parliamentary Commission on Surveillance of Bulgarian Secret Services in Sofia. He said that Todorovski was selling fake news produced in Russia for 250 Euros, and that Bulgarian portals were publishing the news. The Russian Federation has issued a warrant for the journalist Grozev, while his employers, the investigative network Bellingcat, is proclaimed a foreign agent in Russia.
I can say that one of the channels for spreading disinformation in Bulgarian media for the purpose of intimidation, goes through the Macedonian citizen Darko Todorovic (ski), who presents himself as a correspondent and expert on Russian-Ukrainian topics. A simple check will show you that many Bulgarian media quote his reports and you can draw your own conclusion about where that is leading, stated Grozev.
In a statement for Truthmeter, Todorovski denied the accusations that he apparently paid money for spreading fake news. It is true – he said – that he cooperates with different portals, sites, media, companies in Macedonia and in Bulgaria, as well as in Serbia and in Russia. He has his Telegram channel for military issues. He said that he published reports about the war in Ukraine on the Bulgarian site Pogled (View), upon the invitation of the Russian Ministry of Defence.
I am prepared to reveal all documents related to Moscow where I study and live, including my banking transactions. Why am I involved? Most probably because of my articles in Pogled. All of my article in Pogled are signed with my name and surname. Pogled has published my articles and reports from two press-tours in the military zones in Ukraine, including stories from other events and conferences in Russia. I had fruitful cooperation with Pogled until the Summer 2022. Due to the fact that a global war is ongoing, and because of the laws and censorship prevailing in Europe (Bulgaria) and Russia, we concluded our cooperation. Nowadays, both Russia and the West are blaming each other for spreading fake news and propaganda. Under the circumstances, the easiest thing to do is to blame somebody, especially if he/she is a foreign citizen and if he/she has different opinions and attitudes, says Todorovski for Truthmeter.
How did Todorovski see bombed Mariupol?
Truthmeter found Todorovski’s articles in Bulgarian Pogled. One of them was published 8th May 2022 after the Russian Army took over Mariupol. Todorovski published a report from the period when he visited the bombed and devastated Mariupol titled ”What does life look like in the city and what is really happening in Mariupol”.
He writes in the report:
Some citizens (in Mariupol, our note) say that they are Russian and that they speak Russian language. They are happy that the Russian and the Donetsk Army are in Mariupol. A large number of Donetsk inhabitants are fighting for the Donetsk Army. Other citizens, however, say that they expected Russia to do this back in 2014 and that they would have fallen then without any fighting unlike now when it is practically destroyed. And many people do not understand why the city is devastated. They blame everything on Ukraine, Russia, and NATO.
Important moments are omitted from his report, for example, not a word is mentioned about the mass graves full of Ukrainian casualties in Mariupol. Instead, Todorovski – who went on three press-tours in Ukraine organized by the Russian Ministry of Defence – tells a story about a young mother with a one-year-old child waiting in line for humanitarian aid. When the woman’s turn came to talk to the new city mayor, she told him that she did not know what to do and how to feed her baby because her husband was killed by a mine, and that she had to bury him herself in the backyard. To bury her husband in the City Cemetery in the region where she lived, she had to pay 10 to 15 thousand Hryvnias. Todorvski reported that ”the new mayor of the region said that that was illegal and that every person killed in the battle for Mariupol will be buried free of charge in the City Cemetery”.
They promised that those who demanded money will be punished. Together with her baby the woman went to the military headquarters to solve the problem, writes Todorovski for Bulgarian Pogled.
So, in the city with mass graves piled up with Ukrainian casualties, the new mayor in the story of Todorovski becomes a problem-solver. Todorovski’s report was written a fortnight after Ukrainian authorities revealed that close to Mariupol mass graves were found together with trenches in the village Manush in Donetsk for which Vadym Boichenko (former mayor of Mariupol) claimed that Russian forces were collecting the bodies in trucks and throwing them there to hide their atrocities. But not a word about this is mentioned in Todorovski’s reporting from Mariupol.
Prior to that, in February 2022, Todorovski interviewed Tit Turnsek, former Defence Minister of Slovenia, and the interview ended up in some Macedonian portals.
Turnsek apparently told Todorovski that “Russia was forced into the operation in Ukraine because for eight whole months Ukraine did not want to comply with the Minsk Agreements”.
All that incited Russia to intervene with military forces and protect its Russian population. Russia wanted to resolve the conflict amicably, but Ukraine – supported by the USA and NATO – did not want to hear about Russia’s concerns. Thus, Russia decided to put an end to it and went to war. Let’s not forget that Ukraine was fighting a civil war against Donetsk and Lugansk for eight years using many para-military groups with Nazi ideology, says Turnsek in the interview.
He assesses that the USA benefits from the war the most and therefore they ”were provoking Russia to go into this war on purpose all the time and eventually they were successful”.
What do the facts say?
Contrary to these opinions and attempts to justify Russia’s military aggression, there was no organized persecution of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine. Two Minsk Agreements exist. The first one is the one that Ukraine and the separatists supported by Russia agreed to in 2014. Prisoners needed to be exchanged, humanitarian aid delivered, and heavy artillery withdrawn five months after the beginning of the conflict with 2,600 casualties (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claims 15 thousand casualties). This Agreement dissolved within a short period, with violations made by both sides. The second Agreement was concluded between representatives from Russia, Ukraine, OSCE and leaders of both pro-Russian separatist regions. It was signed in February 2015 and consisted of 13 points. This Agreement established military and political steps that were not implemented. The greatest obstacle was due to the fact that Russia insisted that it was not party to the conflict and therefore “was not obliged to comply with the Agreement”. Point number ten of the Agreement, for example, demands the retrieval of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from Donetsk and Lugansk. Ukraine believes that those are Russian forces, while Moscow denies the existence of any such Russian forces whatsoever.
Russia is party to the Minsk Agreements and those are the latest formal agreements where Russia affirmed Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Nevertheless, Russia did not comply with the Minsk Agreements. The Russian side and its proxies did not deliver ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy artillery, exchange of political prisoners or delivery of humanitarian aid on the basis of international mechanisms. Instead of that, Russia was strengthening illegal armed formations in East Ukraine. In addition, Russia did not permit OSCE to monitor, including the Ukrainian-Russian border where the limited OSCE mission was interrupted due to the Russian veto in the Summer of 2021. Without full implementation of ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy artillery and permission for full access to all territories for the OSCE, the political aspects of Minsk 2 can hardly be discussed. Ukraine, on the other side, implemented as much as it could of the Minsk Agreements although it did not control the territory. Ukraine adopted legislation on special status and amnesty and drafted legislation for the local elections 2014. Ukraine adopted Constitutional amendments to grant greater autonomy to the territories.
In reality, the Russian-speaking population or the ethnic Russians in East Ukraine were not the target of any kind of persecution, not to mention genocide in the hands of the Ukrainian authorities, this was confirmed by the reports published by the Council of Europe, and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and OSCE.
Many times, the American President Joe Biden stressed that he is not causing a war between NATO and Russia and until the USA or any of its allies are not attacked, the USA will not directly intervene in the conflict, neither by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine, nor by attacking Russian forces.
We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia. My principle throughout the crisis has been “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine itself”. I will not pressure the Ukrainian government – in private or public – to make any territorial concessions. Ukraine’s talks with Russia are not stalled because Ukraine has turned its back on diplomacy. They are stalled because Russia continues to wage a war to take control of as much of Ukraine as it can. The United States will continue to work to strengthen Ukraine and support its efforts to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict. Unprovoked aggression, the bombing maternity hospitals and centers of culture and the forced displacement of millions of people make the war in Ukraine a profound moral issue, said Biden.
By continuing to violate international law and other agreements by illegally annexing Crimea and acting with armed aggression in Ukraine, Russia has already infringed 12 international or bilateral agreements.
To put it differently, Russia’s actions to undermine and threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine are illegal, reports EU Delegation in China.
Todorovski also reported from an international conference in Moscow
Just before Russia attacked Ukraine, Darko Todorovski informed the Macedonian public about the international conference titled “Geo-political War of the West against Russia – Ukrainian Case” that took place in the Social Palace of the Russian Federation in Moscow. As he wrote in his report, he was the only invited journalist from the Balkans on the conference with a deeply suggestive title. The conference was solemnly opened by Maxim Grigoriev, a member of the Social Palace of the Russian Federation with the following speech:
The hidden agenda of the West is to blame Russia for attacking Ukraine and to create fake news about that. Russia is subject to mass propaganda and a serious information war is fought against Russia.
The Director of the Centre for Geo-political Expertise, Valery Korovin, on the same conference said that:
The West is encouraging war in Ukraine because it needs it. Ukraine is a consumable. The USA implements several tasks immediately to eliminate Russia as a geopolitical enemy and to turn Russian financial elites against Putin. The USA need this war to push Russia out of Europe.
This insulting attitude for Ukraine is completely opposite to that of Zelenskyy who says that Ukraine respects international law and the sovereignty of every country. Exactly because of that, Ukraine is fighting for its sovereignty against the Russian aggression. It is up to Ukraine to determine how much it will fight and will it negotiate. The West and the USA do not interfere in those issues, they just extend their support.
We are not interested in the territory of other countries. We are only interested in the de-occupation of our country and our territories, he said.
In addition, the State Department has published several facts about the disinformation of Kremlin, including that about “the West encouraging war in Ukraine” – although this was exactly the tone and the “song sung” by all participants on the conference reported by Todorovski.
Facts pinpoint that Moscow instigated the crisis by placing more than 100 thousand troops on the Ukrainian border, with no similar military activity on the Ukrainian side of the border.
Russia blames others for its own aggression, but it is Moscow’s responsibility to end the crisis peacefully through de-escalation and diplomacy. Moscow invaded Ukraine in 2014, and occupies Crimea, and continues to fuel conflict in Eastern Ukraine. This follows a pattern of Russian behaviour of undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries in the region – invading and occupying parts of Georgia in 2008 and failing to honour its 1999 commitment to withdraw its troops and munition from Moldova where they remain without the government’s consent, published the State Department, 20th January 2022.
The State Department also mentioned the narrative frequently used in Russian propaganda that Russia, alleged is defending ethnic Russians in Ukraine.
As previously mentioned, there are no credible reports on any ethnic Russians or Russian speakers under threat from the Ukrainian government. There are, however, credible reports that in Russia-occupied Crimea and in the Donbas, Ukrainians face suppression of their culture and national identity and live in an environment of severe repression and fear. In Crimea, Russia forces Ukrainians to assume Russian citizenship or lose their property, their access to healthcare and their jobs. Those who peacefully express opposition to Russia’s occupation or control face imprisonment on baseless grounds, police raids on their homes, officially sanctioned discrimination and in some cases torture and other abuses. Religious and ethnic minorities are investigated and prosecuted as “extremists” and “terrorists”, reports State Department.
According to the article written by Todorovski, all conference participants agreed that the escalation of the situation with the inevitable invasion of Ukraine is “the biggest American special information operation against Russia designed to mobilize NATO countries, to consolidate the Alliance and the West and to demonize Russia in from of the whole World”.
This, however, is contradictory. There is no such thing as “inevitable invasion”, especially under the circumstance when Russia was not attacked by Ukraine, nor was it in any way threatened, in terms of territory.
Exactly for these conferences, the State Department wrote that it was one of the ways that Russia injected disinformation in the media sphere.
The first narrative that Russia uses is that it is an innocent victim. Russian government officials falsely portray Russia as a perpetual victim, and its aggressive actions as a forced response to the alleged actions of the United States and our democratic allies and partners. To further these claims, Russia turns to one of its favourite labels to attempt to hit back: “Russophobia”. After invading Ukraine in 2014, the Russian government and state-controlled disinformation outlets began to accuse anyone who questioned Russia’s actions of being xenophobic Russophobes. For example, Russia claims that the international community’s negative reaction to its invasion of an independent country was simply because people feared and hated Russia. According to the chart below, Russophobia was not an issue of major concern to the Russian Foreign Ministry or state-funded disinformation outlets until Russian military invaded Ukraine. Claims of “Russophobia” persist across a range of topics and are employed whenever the Russian government wants to play victim, when it is actually the aggressor, states the State Department.
Relativization of evil
Todorovski published articles for Infomax and Antropol, but he stated for Truthmeter that he never received honoraria from them. He says that ”this war looks like a civil war, while in regions with mixed population, the Russians are in favour of Russia, and Ukrainians for Ukraine”. According to him, fake news is also relative, in other words, it very much depended who was judging them.
Just like you, I have also read a great deal of propaganda and fake news from both sides. Evan Hristo Grozev himself in his accusations says he does not have evidence for money transfers, although he mentions astronomic sums. The articles in Pogled are mine, they bear my name and surname, but I have not been paying, nor have I made any money transfers in Bulgaria in the last few years. I am not responsible for any kind of propaganda in Bulgaria or on the Balkans. That can be easily checked and proved. Regarding Infomax, I had an online presentation twice. I had several articles published there, plus they are taking over some of my stories from the Telegram channel or FB page. Other portals also do the same provided they have permission. I have no working arrangement with Infomax, nor honorarium and that also can be checked. It was voluntary cooperation. They were interested in my opinion and views as someone who is living in Russia and who has visited the war zones in Ukraine. For me, it was interesting to share my viewpoint and what I saw in the war zones, says Todorovski.
He denies working in the Presidential administration in Russia, nor for any non-governmental organization in Moscow related to Russian Railways. He is just a student at the Presidential Academy in Moscow, main subject – political science.
I study war conflicts and the work of military companies. I am also writing my doctoral thesis on the same subject. For years now I write about these topics on my Facebook profile. Three times as a journalist, together with a group of 40 foreign reporters, I was part of the press-tours organized by the Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation that visited the war zone in Ukraine once the war started. My articles have been published in Macedonia, Serbia and in Bulgaria. I have signed my name and surname on all of my articles and analyses published throughout the years, including video presentations. I have written hundreds of articles and studies on various topics. That can be easily checked. For many of those works and presentations I have received honoraria, says Todorovski for Truthmeter.
Although not an established reporter in the country, Todorovski managed to be invited three times to “press tours” by Russia to Ukraine. From there his views and stories ended up in the Macedonian and Bulgarian media. Through his reports from various conferences with anti-Western narratives, positions in favour of Kremlin were subtly transmitted, and all that in the name of journalism and political science. In other words, persons interviewed by Todorovski or whose opinions are communicated do not differ much from the voice of Kremlin.
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