Kremlin efforts to covertly spread disinformation in Latin America

Kremlin efforts to covertly spread disinformation in Latin America
Kremlin efforts to covertly spread disinformation in Latin America

United States Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
November 7, 2023

The Russian government is currently funding an ongoing, well-funded disinformation campaign across Latin America. The Kremlin’s campaign plans to take advantage of contacts with press outlets in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, among other countries in the region, in order to carry out a information manipulation campaign aimed at surreptitiously exploiting the openness of the press and information environment in Latin America. The Kremlin’s main goal appears to be to disguise the source of its propaganda and disinformation through local news outlets in a way that appears organic to Latin American audiences, and thus undermine support for Ukraine and propagate anti-U.S. sentiment and anti-NATO.

What we know:

The Social Design Agency (SDA), the Institute for Internet Development and Structura coordinated the development of an information manipulation campaign targeting Latin America that aims to advance Russia’s strategic interests in the region at the expense of other countries by co-opting openly or covertly the interests of the press and local influencers to spread disinformation and propaganda. These are “influence-for-hire” companies with deep technical capabilities, experience in exploiting open information environments, and a history of proliferating disinformation and propaganda in order to advance Russia’s external influence goals.

As this year’s U.S. Intelligence Community Annual Threat Assessment makes clear, Russia’s agents of influence have adapted their efforts to increasingly hide and replicate their preferred messages across a vast ecosystem of individuals, organizations, and websites. Russian intermediaries who appear to be independent news sources. Moscow seeds original stories or amplifies pre-existing popular or divisive discourses, utilizing a network of state media operatives, intermediaries and social media influencers, and then intensifies this content in order to further penetrate the Western information environment. These activities may include disseminating false content and amplifying information considered beneficial to Russian influence efforts or conspiracy theories.

Agents involved:

  • Ilya Gambashidze, director of the Russian public relations company known as Social Design Agency, leads an evil group of influencers made up of members of the SDA and Structura aiming to conduct an information manipulation campaign against Latin American countries.
  • In addition to Gambashidze, individuals involved include, among others, SDA project director Andrey Perla, Structura CEO Nikolay Tupikin and pro-Kremlin journalist Oleg Yasinskiy (alternative name: Yasinsky).

Campaign mechanics:

  • A group of editors would be organized in a Latin American country, most likely Chile, with several local individuals and representatives—journalists and public opinion leaders—from several countries in the region.
  • A team in Russia would then create the content and send the material to the editorial team in Latin America for review, editing, and ultimately publication in local mass media. In effect, this information laundering process would result in pro-Kremlin content created in Russia being “localized” by the Latin American curated team and published in local media to appear organic.
  • The Translator: The role of language editors based in Moscow and proficient in the Spanish language is an integral part of the campaign. Publishers often use pseudonyms to obfuscate their true identities and ensure information is disguised in a way that feels organic to the target audience.
  • Yasinskiy maintains and influences a vast network of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking journalists and media outlets to propagate pro-Russian messages without compromising his efforts to more naturally assimilate content from Latin American media for the benefit of the SDA and Structura.
  • While the network’s operations are primarily carried out in conjunction with the Spanish-language press outlets Pressenza and El Ciudadano, a wider network of press sources is at the group’s disposal to further expand information.

The Kremlin’s hidden hand:

  • The campaigns’ themes and success metrics were developed jointly and under the guidance of the Russian government, with Gambashidze, Perla and Tupikin taking a leading role in their development.
  • Controlling the pro-Kremlin narrative is an important aspect in building the influence campaign focused on Latin America. To this end, Structura CEO Tupikin ensures that the topics remain priority issues for the Kremlin.
  • The themes of the operations focus primarily on trying to persuade the Latin American public that Russia’s war against Ukraine is just and that they can join with Russia to defeat neocolonialism.
  • These themes align with Russia’s broader false narrative that it is a champion against neocolonialization, when in reality it is involved in neocolonialism and neoimperialism in its war against Ukraine and its extraction of resources in Africa.
  • There are coordinated efforts between Russian embassies in Latin America and state-funded media outlets to increase pro-Kremlin messaging, spread anti-US narratives, and develop partnerships between Russian state media outlets, local news outlets and radio stations, embassies from other countries considered pro-Moscow in the region and local journalists.

From US Mission Brazil | November 8, 2023 | Categories: Press releases, Democracy and Human Rights, Embassy, ​​USA and Brazil

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Kremlin efforts covertly spread disinformation Latin America



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