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Investigative Stories from Ukraine: Where does Russian disinformation incubate in the US?

by Anna Myroniuk December 20, 2022 8:05 PM 4 min read
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This is the second edition of the Investigative Stories from Ukraine newsletter, brought to you by the Kyiv Independent.

We will walk you through the biggest stories Ukrainian journalists broke over the past week.

If you are fond of in-depth journalism that exposes war crimes, corruption, and abuse of power across state organizations in Ukraine and beyond, subscribe to our investigative newsletter.

The Kyiv Independent’s exclusive

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Where does Russian disinformation incubate in the US?

This story is a detailed look into some of the ways Russia cultivates disinformation in the United States. We mapped Russia’s propaganda network to show the connections between commentators, organizations and media outlets that spread disinformation.

This network is far-reaching and well-developed. Its backbone consists of people and groups with direct links to the Kremlin. These include diaspora organizations, whose ostensible job is to promote Russian culture and unite the expats. Instead, they are used for spying, spreading disinformation, asset recruitment, and political lobby.

Western experts and commentators spread most Russian propaganda — some of them are co-opted, but many others appear to be true believers.

Russia makes sure these people get plenty of air time on Kremlin-owned media. Their work regularly appears on the websites of “think tanks” controlled by Kremlin-linked oligarchs and political operatives. Many commentators are regularly welcomed to events, panels, boards of pro-Russia organizations, and Moscow.

Read the full story here.

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Other top investigative stories

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Ukrainska Pravda finds high-profile Russians living in Vienna

While Russian missiles hit Ukrainian cities, rich Russians enjoy a luxurious life in Vienna. A new video report by Ukrainska Pravda follows some high-profile Russians as they are flooding the Austrian capital with the Kremlin regime’s money.

Among them is Suleyman Kerimov, one of the oligarchs closest to the Kremlin. In September, Ukrainska Pravda spotted his private jet arriving in Vienna from Dubai. (Earlier, Ukrainska Pravda reported that Kerimov appears to be the only Russian oligarch whose jet keeps flying to the EU despite Western sanctions.)

Among other high-profile Russians living in Vienna are two top managers of Lukoil, the largest Russian oil extraction company: Vyacheslav Verkhov, the company’s chief accountant and shareholder, and Oleg Pashaev, board member and senior vice president for sales and supplies.

Watch the full story with English subtitles here.

Bihus.Info uncovers controversial rulings by corrupt Kyiv District Administrative Court

Before the parliament liquidated the infamously corrupt Kyiv District Administrative Court on Dec. 13, its most notorious judges managed to issue highly dubious rulings amid Russia’s war, investigative team Bihus.Info revealed, having analyzed a few thousand court rulings.

In August, judge Volodymyr Keleberda ruled to reinstate Serhiy Kiz in his position as deputy head of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Kiz had been fired from the job in 2019 for failing to participate in the mandatory attestation of prosecutors. Just a month later, Keleberda issued the opposite ruling in an identical case, Bihus.Info revealed, suggesting that Keleberda might have been biased in the Kiz case.

Since the all-out war broke out in February and the controversial court’s work hasn’t been in the focus of the public’s attention, the court has also ruled to reinstall a number of lustrated officials and ordered that they be paid Hr 7 million in compensation in total.

Judges in question have been charged with usurpation of power, obstruction of justice, organized crime, and abuse of authority.

Watch the full story with English subtitles here.

RFE/RL: Russian oligarch Fridman sells his EU assets to avoid sanctions

Mikhail Fridman, a Russian oligarch and one of the co-founders of Alfa Group, got rid of some of his assets in the European Union to bypass Western sanctions, according to a report by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian investigative unit, Schemes.

Fridman sold his IT business in Denmark and a food company in Poland, companies he had invested in over half a billion euros in the past two years. The sale allowed him to avoid the potential confiscation of his assets in favor of Ukraine.

On Dec. 1, Fridman got detained in London for an alleged breach of U.K.-imposed sanctions, which froze his assets and accounts. He was soon released on bail.

The full story is available in Ukrainian here.

Russia buys components for drones from Western companies despite sanctions

Russian manufacturer of the Orlan-10 drone buys critical Western-produced components through Russian, Chinese, and American intermediaries bypassing sanctions, reveals a joint investigation by Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Reuters, and iStories.

These components are critical to Russia’s plans to expand production of Orlan-10, the drone it widely uses in its war against Ukraine.

Having analyzed Russian customs filings and bank records, researchers and journalists found that Orlan's manufacturer, the Special Technology Center in St. Petersburg, Russia, uses a chain of intermediaries to supply vital American, European, and Japanese components for their killer drones.

Read the full report here.

Impact

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Corruption probe launched into former lawmaker Korolevska following journalists' findings

Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention investigates the alleged illegal enrichment of Natalia Korolevska, a lawmaker with the Opposition Platform - For Life, a pro-Russian political force that is currently banned in Ukraine.

The anti-corruption agency believes Korolevska might be implicated in illegal enrichment amounting to Hr 50 million and forgetting to include Hr 3.8 million worth of assets in her 2020 declaration, including a land plot she owns near Moscow. Ukrainian journalists discovered this land plot in November.

The National Agency on Corruption Prevention will now pass its findings to the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

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