To legitimize anti-western messages, the Kremlin propaganda uses not only the brand names of western media outlets, but also frequently refers to foreign experts. The recipient of a message has a perception that he/she gets this message not from Russia, but from independent western experts. This is clearly illustrated by conspiracy theories and black propaganda against the Lugar Laboratory with Russia citing not only Russian politicians and Russian pro-governmental media, but also American expert, Jeffrey Silverman and Bulgarian journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva. In addition, Russian propaganda cites Georgia’s ex-security chief, Igor Giorgadze, as well as Patrioti TV founded by two pro-Russian organizations – the Eurasian Choice and the Society of Erekle II – to spread conspiracy theories about the Lugar Laboratory.
The sources of the Kremlin sources: identical respondents, identical narratives
Dilyana Gaytandzhieva and Jeffrey Silverman are both associated with Georgian pro-Russian online edition Patrioti TV. Jeffrey Silverman is one of the sources featuring in the films created by Patrioti TV, whereas the latter and its respondents are featuring in Gaytandzhieva’s investigative reports.
One of the topics used in the conspiracy theories about the Lugar Laboratory covers the death of the Filipino men working at the lab. The report was first voiced by Jeffrey Silverman in the interview with Patrioti TV on April 4, 2017. Silverman repeated the same in the film released by Patrioti TV on April 5, 2018. Respondent Eteri Gogitidze also talks about the death of the Filipino men in the same film. Later, on September 16, 2018, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva spread disinformation on the death of the Filipinos citing “locals” as a source (see the Myth Detector’s earlier publication for detailed information about the Filipino men).
Dilyana Gaytandzhieva visited Georgia in September 2018 and wrote a long article for pro-Russian web portal Zero Hedge against the Lugar Laboratory. Using the same materials, in September, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva created a documentary “Diplomatic Viruses” for Al Mayadeen TV, which is widely viewed as pro-Hezbollah. The film, which involves the same conspiracy theories about the Lugar Laboratory, was released by Georgia and World on its website on January 10, 2019.
After watching the film, it becomes clear that Patrioti TV and Gaytandzhieva have identical respondents. Besides them, Gaytandzhieva also cites Patrioti TV founder, Giorgi Iremadze as a source. According to the Public Registry of Georgia, Giorgi Iremadze is the founder and 100% owner of Patrioti TV. Simultaneously, he is the President of a pro-Russian organization Union of Young Eurasians. In August 2017, Iremadze took part in Sputnik’s video conference. In August 2018, he announced about the event marking “the 140th anniversary of liberating Batumi from Turkey” at Sputnik’s press center.
|The sources of Patrioti TV||The sources of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva|
|Founder of Patrioti TV|
The film by Dilyana Gaytandzhieva cites Nino Burjanadze, leader of pro-Russian Democratic Movement party, as its source. Burjanadze is referred to as the former President of Georgia.
Russian politicians spreading conspiracy theories
|Vladimir Putin, Russian President||“I cannot judge how reliable the documents [about the Lugar Laboratory] are. I saw the statement made by the former security chief of Georgia. It is certainly alarming; if they really carry out similar works, it is very dangerous. What I saw is that there are some medicines, which can affect humans depending on their belonging to a certain ethnic group. An initial appearance will be radically changed after two or three generations. If anybody does such things, he should know that others will also do the same. Therefore, it is necessary to sit down and develop a common rule for this extremely sensitive sphere.”|
|Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson||“We are concerned about the scales of the U.S. activities in the post-Soviet space. With the Pentagon’s funding, the United States is creating microbiological laboratories in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Opening of a BSL-3 laboratory in Alekseevka settlement of Tbilisi in 2013, enabling to conduct experiments with especially dangerous irritants, is a clear example of it. Today it is the Richard Lugar Research Center.”|
|Grigory Karasin, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister||“We are still waiting for explanations from Washington and Tbilisi about real activities carried out at the lab. Don’t forget that geographically it is located near our border.”|
|Igor Kirillov, Head of the Russian military’s radiation, biological and chemical protection troops||“Citing medical treatment, the Lugar Center was evaluating highly toxic chemicals or biological agents with high lethality risks.”|
|Gennadiy Onishchenko, Russian MP and former chief sanitary doctor||“They [the labs similar to the Lugar Center located on the territory of former Soviet republics] are located close to our border. Why are they located here? They are here to study the landscape of natural-focal diseases, to model these viruses and microbes and then to strengthen their natural exposures. These labs have been created for offensive purposes – creating and using military-biological prescriptions.”|
About Jeffrey Silverma
Jeffrey Silverman is one of the sources frequently referred to by Russian pro-governmental media outlets against the Lugar Laboratory. Russia’s Channel One calls him a military expert and Russia 24 refers to him as Georgia-based American journalist, who accused the Lugar Laboratory of testing biological weapon that led to his beating in Tbilisi and later questioning by Georgian intelligence.
Presently, Silverman is Georgian Bureau Chief for Russia-affiliated Veterans Today. In 2013, Veterans Today established cooperation with Russian geopolitical journal New Eastern Outlook (NEO). The journal is releasedby the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. On the one hand, Veterans Today posts the journal materials on its website, and on the other, its Chief Editor, Jim W. Dean writes articles for the journal headlined “Ukraine’s Ku Klux Klan – NATO’s New Ally”, “Western Coup in Ukraine an Ongoing Disaster,” etc.
Jeffrey Silverman lives in Georgia since 1991. In the interview with Human Rights Center, Silverman notes that his American passport and nationality were revoked in 2004. Speaking with New Eastern Outlook, Silverman notes that only when Donald Trump became President, he managed to become a full-fledged U.S. citizen again.
About Dilyana Gaytandzhieva
Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is a Bulgarian journalist who released an investigative material titled “The Pentagon Bio-Weapons” on an English-language portal South Front on January 16, 2018. The portal is administered from Russia and it is registered on Russian domain, which frequently publishes conspiracy theories about military issues and intelligence. The same material in Russian was published by a web portal Новостной Фронт (News Front), which recognizes the independence of Donbass and notes that the purpose of the edition is to defend the interests of Russian civilization.