According to the latest report from the US State Department's Global Engagement Centre, Russia has meddled in Bosnia's elections as well as media acquisitions in Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia through its propaganda centres like the “quasi-thinktank” Katehon and associated proxies and media outlets.
According to the State Department, the main goal of the report titled “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” is to expose Russia's propaganda and disinformation tactics.
“Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem is the collection of official, proxy, and unattributed communication channels and platforms that Russia uses to create and amplify false narratives,” the report states.
According to the GEC “the Kremlin bears direct responsibility for cultivating these tactics and platforms as part of its approach to using information as a weapon.”
They claim that Russia invests massively in its propaganda channels, intelligence services as well as proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, leveraging outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives.
The most prominent proxies which the report names are: The Strategic Culture Foundation, Global Research, New Eastern Outlook, News Front, SouthFront, SouthFront, Geopolitica.ru and Katehon – which is said to be linked to elections in Bosnia.
“Katehon is a Moscow-based quasi-think-tank that is a proliferator of virulent anti-Western disinformation and propaganda via its website, which is active in five languages. It is led by individuals with clear links to the Russian state and the Russian intelligence services,” the report states.
The “think-tank” was established by Konstantin Malofeyev who is, among other things, the head of the “pro-Putin monarchist society” the Double-Headed Eagle. The United States sanctioned Malofeyev as “one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea” and bankrolling “separatist activities in eastern Ukraine,” the report said.
The GEC recalled media reports stating that Malofeyev served as a proxy for Kremlin priorities in Europe.
“Malofeyev was involved in the purported annexation of Crimea, support for the Russian military-backed separatist militancy in Donbas, election meddling in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and media acquisition in Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia.”
His "think-tank" Katehon promotes these same overarching goals through its disinformation and propaganda activities on its website which is frequently sourced by Russian media outlets.
The report also names Serbia as one of the countries from the region for is in the focus of many of these proxies.
Namely, proxies such as Geopolitica.ru, News Front, SouthFront and Katehon all publish their content in the Serbian language, among other languages. The exception is Katehon which had removed the Serbian language section from its website.
All the proxies which the report focused on also run accounts on all major social media platforms, running profiles on English and several other languages, including the Serbian language.
The report concluded that these disinformation attempts are not unchallenged and that a counter-disinformation community comprised of governments, civil society, academia, the press, the private sector, and citizens around the world who refuse to tolerate these tactics is pushing back.