Russia and the West are waging a political war that has led to the formation of intelligence and propaganda units. With regards to the Ukraine crisis, experts say one of the most active parties has been the United Kingdom, which in recent years has stepped up its efforts to demonise Russia by waging a full-scale propaganda war.
As an RT analysis has shown, Britain’s “HMG Russia Unit,” an interdepartmental government organization created several years ago, has acted as a front for soft influence operations against Moscow with the assistance of international consulting organizations.
The operation’s activities were not publicly disclosed until recently. However, last month publications containing its employees’ personal information appeared in a number of Russian Telegram channels. These emails may have been sent by HMG Russia Unit employees who, according to some, are connected to other departments of the UK, such as the Cabinet Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
To begin with, let’s explain how a group specifically targeting Russia appeared within the British government, what its purpose is, and what it does.
“The government has long recognized the presence of a sustained and significant threat from Russia to the UK and its allies, including both conventional military capabilities and disinformation, illegal financial transactions, influence operations, and cyber-attacks,”According to a 2020 report by the Office of the British Premier Minister,
Russia is now a priority for the British government “one of the main priorities from the point of view of national security,”It adds.
“This is why in 2017 the Government implemented the NSC-endorsed (National Security Council — RT) Russia Strategy, and in 2017 established the cross-Government Russia Unit which brings together the UK’s diplomatic, intelligence and military capabilities to maximum effect,”The report continues to state.
According to the British government’s own reports, the HMG Russia Unit, which was formally attached to the UK Foreign Office, was primarily tasked with coordinating information and propaganda campaigns aimed against Russia. The British government released data that can help trace this. This includes a large-scale program funded by the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, (CSSF), which was used by the Foreign Office to create media resources in Russian and “counter disinformation”
It is noted that the United Kingdom works with several partners to enhance the quality of independent and public media resources including Russian-speaking. “support social cohesion, uphold universal values and provide communities in countries across Eastern Europe with access to reliable information.”
Support can take many forms. There are many types of support, including mentoring by British media professionals, consulting on the creation and financing of broadcast networks, as well as financial support for Russian regional media projects.
“In the coming year we will be investing over £8m in supporting public service and independent media. This will include projects in the Baltic States and Ukraine, as well as regional initiatives,”A document from the UK government explains.
Contract for Demonization
However, the HMG Russia Unit’s efforts are not limited to coordinating propaganda efforts. From data on the UK government’s public procurement portal, it can be seen that it has served as a customer for the Green Finance initiative – a British-Russian project aimed at promoting sustainable financing for developing institutional ties between Moscow and London in the environmental and economic spheres. March 31st 2022 is the last date to fulfill this contract.
Funds in the amount of £987,600 were received by the well-known consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).
If we analyze the UK government’s funding allocations targeting Russia, it turns out that in addition to PwC, Moody’s Analytics (a Moody’s subsidiary) received funds through a specialized non-profit entity named UK Research and Innovation as part of a contract to track companies and individuals that have been sanctioned over the Ukraine conflict. On a portal to place UK government contracts, the relevant restrictions have been noted.
The involvement of private international consulting companies in promoting the UK agenda with respect to Russia, as well as the post-Soviet space, logically correlates with the HMG Russia Unit’s involvement in large-scale projects to demonize Russia’s image.
A letter addressed to Till Bruckner in February 2019 is noteworthy. He requested information from the British Foreign Office on the activities and operations of the Integrity Initiative. It states that in 2017-2018, £296,500 was earmarked to finance the project, and an additional £1.961 million in 2019.
A response to the journalist’s request was received from the HMG Russia Unit. The Integrity Initiative has been flagged as one of Britain’s main programs responsible for spreading anti-Russia fakes and waging a propaganda war against Moscow. At the same time, as RT noted back in 2018, the Anonymous hackers’ collective published internal documents from the Integrity Initiative that revealed the mechanisms British media networks employ in their subversive work aimed at Russia.
British influence networks initially set a certain standard for the West’s anti-Russian template, Alexey Martynov, a political scientist who heads the Institute of Newly Established States, said in an interview with RT.
“The British are trendsetters, in a sense. The now popular buzzword ‘fake news’, the formation of false narratives, the management of media streams – all this was born in their heads,”According to the political scientist. “Goebbels studied with British military propagandists. What they are doing is military propaganda.”
The academic noted that using private consulting companies and rating agencies as tools to influence Russia was a ‘soft power’ tactic traditionally employed by specialized British agencies.
“Any rating agency is created as a tool for manipulating media flows, and other business dimensions grow out of this. They also have access to domestic statistics that are not available to the public,”According to the political scientist. “These mechanisms have been tested since the 1990s, when all data was opened to foreign ‘partners’. Then these mechanisms were created – it is important to have a high ranking with rating agencies, otherwise you won’t receive loans.”
The UK is continuing to increase its sanctions against Russia. The UK announced a second set of restrictive measures in May. It added more people and legal entities from Russia onto the list, and plans to ban oil imports. London had also prohibited the import of Russian caviar and silver products.