On October 25, 2019, Georgian-language website of pro-Kremlin online media outlet News Front released an article headlined “The Armenian lobby in the United States is lobbying for the resettlement of Armenians from Syria to Javakheti.” The article reads that Nersi Nazari, the Armenian lobby in the United States and co-founder of the company Vital Connect, offered Luke Coffey, expert at Heritage Foundation, an idea about deployment of U.S. troops leaving Syria in Akhalkalaki. News Front claims that it is planned to resettle thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria to Javakheti.
News Front: “Nersi Nazari (Nerses Nazaryan), co-founder of Vital Connect and financially powerful representative of the Armenian diaspora in the United States, is one of the leading figures at Heritage Foundation. Nazari’s Vital Connect is a Silicon Valley company. Apparently, it was just him who offered Luke Coffey an idea about deployment of American base in Akhalkalaki with far-reaching plans.”
The material went viral a day after Luke Coffey tweeted his proposal about deployment of U.S. troops withdrawn from Syria in Samtskhe-Javakheti. News Front’s version was picked up by pro-Russian political party Alliance of Patriots of Georgia and Facebook page Stalin. Moreover, News Front’s material was simultaneously shared by several Facebook groups and pages, among them pro-government (Kakha Kaladze Tbilisi Mayor, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Friends on Facebook) and other groups.
News Front’s information as if Luke Coffey, expert at Heritage Foundation, voices ideas of the Armenian lobby in the United States and Syrian Armenians will be resettled to Javakheti, is a conspiracy theory, which is not based on any sources and evidence, except for the fact that Nersi Nazari is Heritage Trustee since 2006. By spreading such unjustified reports, News Front is fomenting artificial fears and xenophobia.
In fact, Coffey’s proposal is about the deployment of U.S. troops in Georgia, rather than resettlement of Syrian Armenians. Luke Coffey said that “US troops leaving Syria could be sent to Georgia and become an “over the horizon” force to respond quickly if ISIS reconstitutes.” He also added that USA could use old Russian base at Akhalkalaki. Information as if the U.S. base will be accompanied by “civilian auxiliaries” composed of ethnic Armenians is a conspiracy theory and has no grounds.
Coffey is the Director of Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at Heritage Foundation, and Nersi Nazari mentioned by News Front is the chairman and co-founder of Vital Connect; simultaneously, he is Heritage Trustee since 2006. This is the only argument used by News Front to strengthen its conspiracy theory and not to indicate the source of information in the article.
The Alliance of Patriots party also voiced the conspiracy theory identical to that of News Front.
In the interview with Obieqtivi TV’s program “Gamis Studia” on October 26, 2019, a day after News Front released the article, Gigi Maglakelidze of the Alliance of Patriots party spoke about a threat of resettlement of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria in case of deployment of the U.S. military base in Javakheti.
Gigi Maglakelidze, Alliance of Patriots of Georgia: “If such base, a military base is deployed in Samtskhe-Javakheti, I suppose that it may become a stronghold and let me say bluntly that a lot of Armenians live in Syria, hundreds of thousands or even over one million… so, if they have a guarantee, if a stronghold is created under the U.S. flag or its military flag or military army... it may be followed by a migration flow, after the deployment of this American military contingent in Samtskhe-Javakheti.”
Who shared News Front’s article in social network
News Front’s article was published on the online edition’s Facebook page on October 25 as a sponsored post and it was shared by about 300 users.
News Front’s article was shared by pro-Russian Facebook pages Stalin, Georgian and World’s and News Front’s satellite page “Kidobani News” - ახალი ამბების კიდობანი სოციალური ქსელებიდან”, as well as hate group’s Facebook page ქართული იდეა (Georgian Idea). In addition, the post was shared by Facebook users in pro-government public groups, as well as in the spaces, where trolls frequently publish their materials:
News Front’s article was also shared by the following Facebook pages:
- Pro-Russian page Stalin
- Hate group’s page Georgian Idea
- Georgia and World’s and News Front’s satellite page “Kidobani News” - ახალი ამბების კიდობანი სოციალური ქსელებიდან”.
About News Front
The news agency News Front got registered on Russian web hosting server reg.ru in November 2014. The website’s IP address is located in the Russian town of Rostov. News Front recognizes the independence of Ukrainian territories – Donbas, Luhansk and Crimea and its editorial policy is identical to the Kremlin’s agenda. News Front Georgia’s Facebook page is administered by Konstantine Chikviladze, who simultaneously is the author of articles published by Georgia and World as well as the admin of its Facebook page. Simultaneously, News Front’s Facebook page administers a public group “Россия и Грузия- дружба навеки!” (Russia and Georgia – Friendship Forever) and Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, head of the Eurasian Institute, is one of its admins.
News Front’s Georgian-language materials are shared by openly pro-Russian web portal Georgia and World, Sakinform and Facebook page “Stalin.” This circumstance creates an impression that these pages are administered by one group.
See detailed information about News Front at the following link: News Front Georgia – Kremlin’s New Information Front in Georgia
Prepared by Lusine Pichikyan
Regional Network of Myth Detector Lab