The Kremlin’s information wars occupy a special place in the Putin era among all the hacker attacks, contract poisonings, terrorism, digital asset-grabbing, financial support for left-wing radical movement, and political marginals. Behind Russia’s multibillion-dollar “promotion of Russia in the Western world” is nothing more than the creation of deceitful media outlets and NGOs that misinform, disseminate fakes, and propagate separatism.
Today, we are talking about such a propaganda centre as GLOBAL RIGHTS OF PEACEFUL PEOPLE or GRPP – an international platform that is registered as a non-governmental organisation in six European countries (Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany). The platform was created immediately after Maidan, but was most active in 2019-2020. The organisation has no official websites in the countries where it operates. Information about the organisation in social media is scarce. There are also no reports on sources of financing. The Russian embassies in the countries of registration are the most profitable source of their propaganda campaigns, speeches, and videos.
GRPP was established at the Hungarian Left Forum on Horány island in 2014. The declared “lofty” goals were the following: “support for the civilians of Donbas and Odesa in their struggle against the Ukrainian government” (meaning: support for separatists), “destruction of the information blockade on the real state of affairs in Ukraine” (meaning: spread of false stories and propaganda), “peaceful substitution of anti-national power in Ukraine for the rule of left forces” (meaning: pro-Russian leftist campaign). Serhiy Markhel from Odesa, who was actively funded by the Russians and toured Europe with stories about his unproved participation in the bloody events in Odesa, was elected as the platform coordinator (and stayed in the post to his death).
The activity of branches of this platform in a particular country is most noticeable in connection with Ukraine. In the Netherlands, this is a link with the disinformation special project Bonanza Media, created in 2019, which spread the version of Russia’s non-involvement in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and tried to present itself as a source of reliable case files for the corresponding trial. The online media outlet Bonanza Media was created by former Russia Today journalist Yana Yerlashova with the support of Dutch blogger and conspiracy theorist Max van der Werff (a frequent guest on Russian TV channels airing narratives about support for “DPR” and “LPR” separatists). Bonanza Media managed to raise more than $23,000 in donations from allegedly “unknown” sponsors to shoot its propaganda documentaries. And GRPP platform organised screening of Bonanza Media’s hybrid war masterpieces for the interested audience. At one of the platform events in The Hague in 2019, the film “MH17 – Call for justice” was shown, according to which the Malaysia Airlines flight with 298 people on board had been shot down by a Ukrainian military aircraft, not a Russian anti-aircraft system. The fact that Bonanza Media (as well as GRPP, whose connection to the online media outlet is proven) receives “exclusive documents” on the MH17 case and is funded by Russian military intelligence is substantiated by numerous journalistic investigations of European mainstream media (for example, German Bild).
In August 2020, there was a leak of correspondence and telephone conversations between Russian Bonanza Media mastermind Yerlashova and the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU), including GRU Colonel Chebanov. Yerlashova also agreed on texts of articles and media materials for the outlet’s website with the GRU. She received announcements of events, in particular announcements of screenings of fake documentaries, from Olena Plotnikova, a Ukrainian pro-Kremlin activist from the Netherlands and a member of GRPP.
After evidence of collaboration with Russia’s intelligence services was exposed by the Bellingcat investigation in August 2020, Bonanza Media ceased to exist under the pretext of a lack of funding.
GRPP organised numerous screenings and showed Bonanza Media’s documentaries three times on a mobile screen in front of the court where the MH17 case was heard and when journalists and relatives of the victims were present in the courtroom. Global Rights for Peaceful People also illegally used the logo of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights at the invitation to one of the screenings in 2019 to give the event “official” semblance.
GRPP’s key coordinator, also known as Russian propagandist Serhiy Markhel, was actively campaigning against Ukraine’s association with the EU on the eve of the Dutch advisory referendum on EU-Ukraine association. Many Russian propaganda theses could be heard at the events with his participation, in particular that Ukraine was being integrated into the EU against its will, about the “coup d’etat” on the Maidan, about the need to respect Russia’s interests. Another of Markhel’s propaganda mantras was “the Netherlands will save the EU from Putin’s anger if the Dutch people suspend the Association Agreement with Ukraine.” The results of this referendum are well known to us.
It should be noted that the German office of GRPP plays the key role in the platform activities. It is headed by Oleh Muzyka, a former resident of Odesa, an activist of the Prymorsk branch of the pro-Russian Rodina party and the pro-Russian Kulikovo Pole movement at the time of the 2 May 2014 events in Odesa. Muzyka, a supporter of creation of the “Odesa People’s Republic,” was detained on 2 May. A few days after a police station had been stormed by anti-Maidan activists, he was released and left Ukraine.
A propaganda “baptism” for Muzyka as a Russian propagandist was an exhibition of horrific photographs of charred victims of the Trade Unions House fire in Odesa, which was used virtually for the first time as an information attack on Ukraine. The “victim of Ukrainian junta,” well-funded by Russia, travelled with this photo exhibition to almost all European countries in 2014-2015 and settled in Germany. As a propagandist of separatism and an exposer of “Kyiv junta,” Muzyka made his debut during public hearings on the tragic events in Odesa at the European Parliament in 2014. He often appeared in the Russian media with fables about “atrocities of nationalists” in Odesa. He was spotted in close ties with right-wing extremist and Kremlin-linked forces, including the Night Wolves.
A fan of Putin Team Online and other Russian nationalist organisations on social media, Muzyka often shoots right-wing demonstrations as an outside observer and then shows them on Russian TV as alleged evidence of European movements against the United States. Muzyka often visits Moscow, ostensibly as a tourist, but according to Bild data, he is kept on the hook by both German and Western intelligence services. According to security officials, Muzyka acts on behalf of and is financed by Moscow, and his task is espionage and destabilisation of Germany and Europe.