Fake news campaign in Ukraine uses Trump brand to smear state agency

A look inside a $50,000 disinformation campaign

Ukraine boasts some of the most valuable oil, gas and mineral deposits in Europe
WSCHODNIK.PL — December 21, 2017
Paris Guardian — December 21, 2017
Економические Известия — December 22, 2017
Капитал — December 22, 2017

Observations

The PR campaign using “fake news” and the Trump brand can be distinguished from dozens of similar ones based on the following:

  1. Budget. The fee for article placement in the French edition of the Paris Guardian starts at EUR 5,000, not including the fee charged by the intermediary PR agency. Total expenses, including charges informing Ukrainians about corruption at Gosgeonadra in Ukrainian media (read: article placement) are an estimated $50,000 spent over three days. The size of the budget indicates whoever ordered the PR campaign has unlimited financial resources.
  2. References to Trump. The content of the fake news indicates the customer/author is at least familiar with the workings of the U.S. political system, i.e. Congressional oversight. Because they violated the time-honored principle, “The U.S. president can be criticized, but he can never be used,” we can narrow the list of potential PR campaign organizers to individuals with contacts in the United States, but who are inexperienced playing political games. That European media declined to include U.S. interest in the alleged shenanigans at Gosgeonadra (although it’s reasonable to assume they were offered to include it) is also a clue. All mentions of Trump in media are carefully monitored, but not by Ukrainian government agencies. The decision to invoke Trump in the battle for control over one of Ukraine’s state agencies is peculiar. It raises questions about the PR campaign organizer’s competence.
  3. Most likely, the organizers of the PR campaign assumed they would remain incognito by using several media agency intermediaries. But I have bad news for them: the number of cutouts matters little when U.S. intelligence agencies begin digging. Secondly, even without being privy to proprietary information, informal chit chats with Ukraine’s incestuous media bosses and PR marketeers make it easy to to draw up a list of possible candidates. There is almost always someone unknown on the list. As for the New Year PR campaign against Gosgeonadra, however, the list of suspects is one name long: Andriy Kobolev, head of NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy.

Conclusions:

Gosgeonadra is currently engaged auditing licenses handed out during the previous 25 years. The task is not simple, because according to Ukrainian tradition, each new government tries to distribute as many licenses as possible to its supporters, regardless of their lack of experience in the industry and/or available capital to actually develop these deposits. There have been many governments in Ukraine over the last quarter of a century and the most attractive deposits of mineral resources have wound up in the pockets of persons close to country’s rulers.

Naftogaz Ukrayiny Chief Andriy Kobolev

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а рассеянный journalist who spends his free time collecting ideas, running and learning new technologies.