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Russian Media Dines Out on Trump's "Zombie Voters" Claim

November 12, 2020
Emil Filtenborg and Stefan Weichert
5 min read
"1.5 million dead people who voted," declared the presenters of Russia 24. "It is a stated fact."
"1.5 million dead people who voted," declared the presenters of Russia 24. "It is a stated fact."

Emil Filtenborg and Stefan Weichert are independent journalists based in Ukraine. In a weekly series for IranWire, they examine the landscape of disinformation in Russia and some of the false information that has emanated from the country since the outbreak of coronavirus.

 

Those who have heard about the outcome of the United States presidential election can’t fail to have also heard about President Trump’s accusation that the Democrats somehow “rigged” the vote in favour of President-elect Joe Biden. This argument, as yet unproven, that Trump would have won the election had only the “legal” votes been counted, has been seized on by some Kremlin-controlled news outlets in the last week. On Russia Today, the Georgian-born Russian TV Presenter Tina Kandelaki claimed that there had been “no control” over mail-in ballots, that overseers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has not been allowed to observe the count, and that votes had falsely been cast under the names of dead voters – allegations for which, so far, no concrete evidence has been put forward.

Kandelaki framed these arguments as part of a broader-reaching polemic on “anarchy” in the US. “Even if the American people choose between two evils, they deserve that evil be chosen honestly,” she wrote. “American consultants will, as before, advise vassal states on transparent elections... But let us smile broadly when US politicians teach us their wisdom.”

The claim that dead voters’ names were fraudulently used in the US election has also been echoed – with additional flair – by the Russian state-owned TV channel Russia 24. A broadcast on Friday, November 6 opened with a horde of 3D-animated zombies shambling across the studio floor, with their arms outstretched toward the anchor, who then stated: "1.5 million dead people who voted. It is a stated fact. It is in America. Of course, for Biden. Falsifications during the elections which Democrats don't see."

None of these statements are true. The OSCE had in fact been observing the US election after being invited to do so by the authorities. In its preliminary report, the team declared: “The November 3 general elections were competitive and well managed despite legal uncertainties and logistical challenges.“ Election officials from across the States have also insisted that no fraud or irregularities had played a role in determining the outcome of the presidential race.

 

 

Pressure on the Armenian Premier Plays into Russia’s Hands

The editor-in-chief of Russia Today has also waded in on the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, castigating the Armenian prime minister – and the Armenian people – after he signed a peace deal brokered by Moscow that brought an end to the bloody six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Before the deal was signed Azeri forces had slowly been gaining ground, largely due to the superior airpower provided to them by Turkey, and losses on both sides had been mounting. But as fighting drew closer to the city of Shushi, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan found himself cornered and signed a deal that would give most of the disputed land to Azerbaijan.

The agreement sparked riots among Armenians, with attacks on government buildings, accusations of Pashinyan being a traitor and calls for him to resign. This was the very same prime minister who, it so happens, was a leading figure in the 2018 revolution, which deposed a pro-Russian government – and although Russia has been the only military ally of Armenia, his government had kept pushing for a more pro-Western foreign policy.

After the deal was signed, Margarita Simonyan, the head of RT, wrote on Twitter: “Any Armenian who now dares to criticize Russia should go and cut off his dirty tongue... The citizens of Armenia can only criticize themselves. Bringing to power a national traitor who, having quarreled with the only historical defender of the Armenian people, created the preconditions for this war. Where is his Soros, the State Department, the Pentagon, Macron, and whoever else?”

The first missile in the conflict was fired by Azerbaijan, and the preconditions for the war in the South Caucasus weree not set in 2018, but decades ago. This particular border conflict dates back at least to the beginning of the last century, with two wars following the Russian empire in 1918 and subsequently the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

The rhetorical question about where Soros and the Pentagon are, however, hits close to home as Armenians had been crying out for the help from the international community. They hadn’t specifically been asking for George Soros, of course, whose name is often co-opted into global conspiracy theories amplified in Russian media.

 

All in the Headline

Though the US election took up the brunt of world news coverage over the course of last week, other democratic exercises have been taking place elsewhere. One of them was the presidential election in Moldova, in Russia’s backyard. State-controlled Russian news outlets have approached this event in much the same way as they did the revolution in Ukraine, and recently the ongoing protests in Belarus.

A “color revolution” backed by the West, some outlets wrote, was on the way in Moldova – insinuating that the EU and the West were interfering in the electoral process to ensure a favorable outcome. The Russian news site EA Daily erroneously reported in a headline that the US deputy secretary of state for political affairs, David Hale, “took personal control of elections in Moldova” – when all Hale had in fact done was issue a public statement on October 9 emphasizing the importance of a free and fair election. The article was picked up verbatim by Moldovan outlets with a pro-Kremlin editorial policy and subsequently debunked by the Moldovan fact-checking group StopFals.md. In Moldova, too, the OSCE – of which Russia is among the 57 member states – observed the election and found it was “organized professionally”.

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