The Ukrainian Front of Georgian Pro-Governmental Trolls

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The Story of a Georgian Troll who Gives Interviews Using a Picture of a Russian Social Media User

Since the initiation of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, the West has imposed a number of sanctions to stop its aggression. However, the Georgian government decided against joining the sanctions. According to the incumbent Georgian Dream party, sanctions are not an effective tool to stop the war, and the “radical opposition” intends to drag Georgia into the war. In addition, Tbilisi did not allow volunteer fighters to travel to Ukraine. Due to the non-release of volunteers and the position related to sanctions, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, summoned the Ambassador of Ukraine from Tbilisi. According to Zelenskyy, official Ukraine does not understand the stance of the Georgian authorities, who refused to impose sanctions on Russia.

In parallel, the Georgian social media saw the emergence of a campaign to discredit Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian authorities, which involved pro-governmental and anti-opposition Facebook pages and fake accounts. On the one hand, these actors criticized Zelenskyy and his team, accusing them of collaborating with the United National Movement, claiming that they wanted to drag Georgia into the conflict, and on the other hand, writing that Gharibashvili and the Georgian government had saved the country from war. Notably, discrediting posts published by the Georgian Dream-affiliated and anti-opposition Facebook pages that criticized the Ukrainian government and emphasized their affiliation with the United National Movement and their desire to engage in the Georgian war were sponsored.

Between February 27th and April 27th, the following messages aimed at discrediting the Ukrainian government have been identified:

  • Zelenskyy has no moral right to recall the Ambassador because Ukraine did not assist Georgia during the war;
  • Zelenskyy did not recall ambassadors from other countries;
  • Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian authorities want to drag Georgia into the war;
  • Arestovych acknowledged that the UNM and the Ukrainian authorities want to open a second front in Georgia;
  • The Ukrainian government is acting in agreement with the ‘United National Movement.’

“Myth Detector” identified 22 fake accounts and 8 Facebook pages involved in the discreditation campaign ((მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი [Mikheil Ukrainologi], სიმართლის დროა [Time for Truth], პოლიტიკური აბსურდი [Political Absurd], პოლიტიკური სატირა [Political Satire], მიხეილ განუბაჟებელი [Mikheil Ganubajebeli], 2012-იანლები {2012-ianelebi], ლიდერი 41 [Leader 41], ტერენტი გლდანელი[Terenti Gldaneli]). Apart from the above-listed pages, Fake Facebook accounts have been leaving comments under the Facebook pages of Mtavari Arkhi, Interpresnews and Palitravideo.ge.

Fake Accounts

  • Out of 22 fake accounts, 12 steal the identity of other social media users, while the remaining 10 conceals their identity;
  • Two fake accounts (Nikoloz Ghlonti, Davit Gelashvili) manage the Facebook group “Irakli Gharibashvili-Georgian Dream;”
  • The fake account ‘Nikoloz Ghlonti’ poses as a political scientist and his post has been disseminated by media outlets with pro-governmental editorial policy;
  • 15 out of 22 accounts like Facebook pages affiliated with the Georgian Dream; seven of them directly share posts of the Facebook pages of Irakli Gharibashvili and the Georgian Government.
  • 13 out of 22 fake accounts like the Facebook pages that often discredit the opposition;
  • 6 out of 22 fake accounts indicate a different name in the URL link;
  • 3 fake accounts have been involved in other campaigns as well;
  • 3 fake accounts are newly-created.

Trolls that steal other peoples’ identities

1.    Nikoloz Ghlonti  

Steals the identity of the OK.ru user Артем Степанов. Together with David Gelashvili manages the Facebook group Irakli Gharibashvili-Georgian Dream. Poses as a political expert and his post was published by the informational agency Kvira.ge. An Azerbaijani agency has also recorded an interview with him as a political scientist. Likes pages: Supporters of Irakli Garibashvili, Misha’s Archive, Mikheil Ukrainologi.

2.    Davit Gelashvili

Steals the identity of a Hungarian ballet dancer Vladyslav Melnyk. Likes pages supportive of the Georgian Dream and critical of the UNM. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili. Manages the Facebook group Irakli Gharibashvili-Georgian Dream. The troll was involved in a discreditation campaign against Mikheil Saakashvili.
3.    Nini Lomjaria

Steals the identity of an Italian composer and politician Aisha Ruggeri. Likes the pages  Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili, Supporters of Irakli Gharibashvili. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili and the Georgian government.
4.    Tinatin Asanidze

Steals the identity of an American publisher Beth DaughertyLikes pages: POSTV – News, POSTV News.
5.    Nino Maisuradze
Steals the identity of an Odesa resident Екатерина Ткаченко. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili and the Georgian government. Publishes posts critical of the Ukrainian authorities, namely Davit Arkhamia and blames him for collaboration with the UNM.

6.    Tamta Tsanava
Steals the identity of a Sardinian guide, Marta Staffa. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili. Likes pages: Irakli, POSTV – Analytics, POSTV – News, Irakli Gharibashvili’s supporters, Misha’s Archive.

7.    Shota Rukhadze
Steals the identity of an Italian winemaker  Leonardo Zerilli. Likes pages: Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili, Irakli Gharibashvili’s supporters.

8.    Madona Kuprashvili
Steals the identity of Mariela Matute, CFO of California-based company Calavo Growers. Likes Irakli Gharibashvili support page Irakli. The profile is newly-created.

9.    Luka Natroshvili
Steals the identity of Vkonktakte user Садриддин Сафаров. Publishes posts in support for Irakli Gharibashvili’s and against the President and Government of Ukraine. Likes the page ‘Misha’s Archive’ and news agency pages.

10.  ია მაისურაძე [Ia Maisuradze]
Steals the identity of the Turkish doctor Gül Dağlar. Like Facebook pages: Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili. Shares posts of  “Misha’s Archive” – a Facebook page created to discredit Saakashvili. The profile is newly-created.
11.   Zaza Svanidze
Steals the identity of an instagram user Дмитрий Деревнин. Publishes posts in support for Irakli Gharibashvili.  Likes pages supportive of the GD party (Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili) and the anti-opposition page “Time for Truth.” The troll was involved in a discreditation campaign against Mikheil Saakashvili.
12.  ნინი ამირეჯიბი [Nini Amirejibi]
Steals the identity of Vkonktakte user Ангелина Лебединская. Has 24 friends. Likes pages supportive of the “Georgian Dream.” The account was involved in the discreditation campaigns against Londa Toloraia and Nino Lomjaria and the electon protest.

Trolls that conceal the identity

13.   Neli Beni

Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates ‘natali.yurashvili.’  Left a comment on a news published by INP.
14.  Giorgi Nino
Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates ‘gigaqartveli.’ Left a comment on a news published by INP.
15.  ქე თი [ Qe Ti]
Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates ‘giorgi.gobiani.‘
16.  Goderdzi Makharashvili
Uses the picture of the American singer Gwen Stefani as the profile photo. Has only two friends. Likes pages:  POSTV – Analytics, POSTV – News, Misha’s Archive.

.

17.  თომა თომა [Toma Toma]
Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates ‘username.tete.’ Likes pages suppoortive of the government and critical towards the media: Mikheil Ganubajebeli, Media Free of Conscience, Corridor of Shame.
18.  ალუდა გვარიაული [Aluda Gvariauli]
Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates: ‘charli.gvari.’
Likes pages POSTV – Analytics, POSTV – Entertainment, Mikheil Ganubajebeli, Mikheil Ukrainologi, Journalists, Samni & Co.
19.  Mariko Mari
Conceals the identity Left a comment on the post of “Mikheil Ganubajebeli.” პოსტზე. Likes pages: წევიდა თქვენი დრო.

წალენჯიხის არმიმდინარე პროექტები,ქართული ჟურნალისტიკის მარგალიტები / journalist fails, ქართული ოცნება” ბაღდათის ახალგაზრდული ორგანიზაცია, ტერენტი გლდანელი, სირცხვილის კორიდორი, პოლიტიკური სატირა / Political Satire, პოლიტიკური ჟურნალი • ბეჰემოთი, პოლიტიკური აბსურდი, პოლიტიკოსები 1 ლარიდან, მიხეილ განუბაჟებელი, მეხუთე კოლონა / 5kolona, Shalva Ramishvili, POSTV – ანალიტიკა, POSTV.

20.  ბასილაძე ქრისტა [Basiladze Qrsita]
Conceals the identity. Has only 7 friends. Likes pages:
Media Free of Conscience, Journalists, Mikleil Ukrainologi, არქივი – Archive, POSTV – ანალიტიკა
21.  Nin Ni
Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates: ‘vaxo.merabi.’ Likes InfoPostalioni.com and other informational agencies.
22.  ქართველი ქართველი [Georgian Georgian]
Conceals the identity. Profile link indicates: amanda.pierce. Like the Facebook page Mikheil Ganubajebeli.

Fake Accounts

Notably, two fake accounts (Nikoloz Ghlonti, Davit Gelashvili) manage the Facebook group “Irakli Gharibashvili-Georgian Dream.”

The Facebook group “Irakli Gharibashvili-Georgian Dream” was created on April 27th, 2022 and according to the description, contains information about the activities of Irakli Gharibashvili. Also, group members, if necessary, should help each other: “e.g. someone from ours needs help, someone whose Facebook is being bombarded by the UNM supporters, or someone coming to Budapest where I live and need help finding an apartment. In short, as one big family, a group of people who have common interests.”

In addition to criticizing the President and the government of Ukraine, the administrators of the group also share posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili on their personal profiles.

In addition, both profiles that steal other people’s identity publish identical, pro-government and anti-opposition content simultaneously.

It should be noted that both accounts published the video uploaded by the Facebook page ‘Misha’s Archive’ on May 2nd at 4:20 against the former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili on the same day (4:31 and 4:33).

Nikoloz Ghlonti, one of the administrators of Gharibashvili support group, is positioning himself as a political scientist. On his Facebook profile, he indicates Warsaw as his place of residence and BNL BNP PARIBAS GROUP, a financial company based in Rome, as his place of work. “Myth Detector” contacted the Italian company, whose representative said that the company B.N.L has branches only in Italy and they do not operate in Poland. Davit Gelashvili indicates Budapest as his place of residence. During the day, both profiles often publish posts supporting the Prime Minister and discrediting the opposition.

On April 25th, the fake account gave an interview to the Azerbaijani outlet caliber.az and apart from the relations between Azerbaijan and Georgia, discussed the situation in the region.

By looking up the name of ‘Nikoloz Glonti’ in the Google search engine, we see that a number of news agencies with pro-governmental editorial policy use him as a source. Online media outlets such as kvira.ge, reportiori.geNSP.ge, For.ge, Lid.ge, infopostalioni.com, mpn.ge published the March 31st post by Nikoloz Ghlonti in which he wrote that members of the “United National Movement” are asking the members of the Sejm to prevent Georgia from joining the European Union and block the international aid.

It should be noted that both the interview with the Azerbaijani media and the comment of Nikoloz Ghlonti published in Georgian agencies are accompanied by a photo of Artyom Stefanov stolen by Nikoloz Ghlonti and used on his personal profile.

Artyom Stefanov’s photo was also featured on sponsored Facebook post by the pro-governmental page ‘News Blog,’ which claimed that Ghlonti has lived in Poland for 15 years and has witnessed how the members of the United National Movement are arriving there to prevent Georgia joining the EU before the change of the government.

The Facebook user ‘Nikoloz Ghlonti’ steals the identity of OK.ru and Facebook user Artyom Stefanov. “Myth Detector” contacted Artyom Stefanov via “Messenger” video call to verify that he is a real person and his picture is used by a Georgian Facebook account. Artyom Stefanov noted that he is originally from Siberia and has been living in Warsaw, Poland for about 5 years. “We came to Poland precisely because of Putin’s rule, it became clear that the country (Russia) was going in a completely different direction. “It was very amazing (laughs) that I turned out to be Georgian, because I also had a photo with Saakashvili, I met him when he was in Wroclaw and he was holding a meeting on the Ukrainian elections.”

He also noted that his pages on social networks are not closed and according to the chronology of the photos it becomes clear when he was in which country. For example, a photo posted by Nikoloz Ghlonti on Facebook in April 2022 was uploaded by Artyom Stefanov on ok.ru in November 2021. In addition, Stefanov checks in the spots he visits and indicates the location while traveling in different countries. Also, Artyom Stefanov has posted travel albums of different countries on Odnoklassniku.ru by years.

As for the photo published by Nikoloz Ghlonti as his profile picture on October 7th, 2021, Artyom Stefanov uploaded it on the social network Odnoklassniki.ru in 2019 in the album titled “Spring Trip 2019“. In the same album we find other photos of Artyom Stefanov.


A case when media outlets with the governmental editorial policy quoted a person with a false identity was revealed by the “Myth Detector” in the past as well, when a blogger generated by artificial intelligence was used as a source against Mamuka Khazaradze:

Comments Left by Fake Accounts

Fake accounts criticized Volodymyr Zelenskyy for recalling the ambassador from Georgia, calling him a clown, writing that the President of Ukraine is ungrateful and could not appreciate the support Ukraine has received from Georgia. In addition, fake accounts expressed support for Irakli Gharibashvili for avoiding war in Georgia and accused the United National Movement of attempting to drag Georgian into the military conflict.



Facebook pages

Eight pro-governmental and anti-opposition Facebook pages involved in the discrediting campaign have been identified, mainly appealing to issues that the Ukrainian government has excessive demands on Georgia and wants to involve the country in the war.

According to the Facebook page Mikheil Ukrainologi, Zelenskyy has no moral right to blame the Georgian government, since he has been after the 2008 war he has been “joking about Georgia” with the Georgian flag in hand. At the same time, the page claims that the Ukrainian authorities admit that they wanted to involve Georgia in the war, with which Mikheil Saakashvili should have helped them.

The same narrative is being disseminated by the Facebook page “Political Absurdity,” according to which, Arestovych who, together with the representatives of the “War Party”, was committed to Georgia’s involvement in the war and the opening of the second front, could not hide his satisfaction with the ongoing escalation in Moldova.” The author of the post writes that “Saakashvili’s ‘War Party’ and their lobbyists from Ukraine could not involve Georgia in the war!”

Leader 41” – a page supportive of the Georgian Dream party also published a post claiming that amid the war, with the encouragement of the UNM, Zelenskyy and his entourage still find time for Georgia, criticizing the country for not opening a second front. 

The Facebook page “2012-ianelebi” has published a number of posts aimed to discredit the Ukrainian President and authorities, as well as the United National Movement. According to posts published by the Facebook page, Ukraine did not open a second front during the Russo-Georgian war. Therefore, the “clown president” of Ukraine cannot have any pretensions against Georgia.

The Facebook page “Time for Truth” called Zelenskyy a swindler hired to destroy Ukraine and criticized him for recalling an ambassador from Georgia.

Facebook accounts “Mikheil Ganubajebeli” and “Terenti Gldaneli” have been writing that Ukraine is already going too far and, in fact, is dragging Georgia into the war by force.

Sponsored Discreditation Campaign

The post of “Political Absurdity” against the adviser to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovych is sponsored. The payer is Natela Kiladze. Georgian PM Shalva Papuashvili’s comment on Arestovych statement is sponsored by the Facebook page “News Blog”.

The same page features a sponsored post against the leader of Ukraine’s incumbent “Servant of the People” party, Davit Arkhamia. The interview of Arkhamia for the opposition media “Mtavari Arkhi” was being published with the comment “Devil’s Advocate.”

The Facebook page “Political Satire” also features a sponsored post against the representatives of the Ukrainian government. The commentary attached to the photo collage says that the Ukrainian government is constituted by the enemies of Georgia, who want a war and no matter how hard they try, a second front will not be opened in Georgia.

Sponsored posts against Arkhamia can also be found on the official websites of the ruling party leader Irakli Kobakhidze and the Georgian Dream party, as well as on the Facebook page of the pro-governmental Post TV.

Another post by Irakli Kobakhidze and the Georgian Dream was also sponsored, according to which, after the UNM’s visit to Ukraine, “senior Ukrainian officials have begun to speak openly about opening a second front in Georgia and transferring the ongoing war from Ukraine to Georgia.”

Posts of similar content were sponsored in the case of the Chairman of the Georgian Dream, Mamuka Mdinaradze.

After Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the Ukrainian president, issued a Twitter response to Transparency International-Georgia’s study of Russian-related businesses by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream, writing that all pro-Russian oligarchs were subject to de-oligarchization, one additional sponsored post appeared against Podolyak himself and the director of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri.

Post against various representatives of the Ukrainian government with photos and the caption “Georgia’s enemies in the Ukrainian government! People who want war in Georgia” is sponsored by the page ‘Political Satire.’ This page often publishes content discrediting the opposition and shares the posts of IMEDI TV, a media with a pro-governmental editorial policy. The page has also sponsored a story by Imedi TV, which explains how the Russian links of the former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Alexander Gogilashvili, threatens the national security of Georgia and Ukraine. The page also sponsored a video address by a Ukrainian blogger, who talks about the threats of the Azov Battalion against Oleksiy Arestovych.

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