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The issue of ISIS terrorist presence in Ukraine was one of the most favorite ones for Russian propaganda over the past few years.
Through affiliated, so-called “independent” journalists and public figures, the Kremlin has been spinning a narrative that ISIS militants are fighting as part of volunteer battalions, while Ukraine is a transshipment base and a haven for terrorists, providing them with an opportunity to get to the European Union thanks to visa-free travel.
Such narratives had at least two objectives. The first was to hinder at an early stage the granting of EU visa free travel for Ukrainians, which would be a painful political blow to the previous Ukrainian government. Another one was to portray Ukraine as a terrorist state, which would discredit the country in the eyes of Western partners who would start treating it at least with some caution.
At the forefront of such tarring campaign operated a Russian native with a Ukrainian passport Kateryna Sergatskova and “opposition” journalist from Russia Anna Nemtsova, who has been regularly visiting Ukraine, totally unhindered.
Both resurfaced in my memory as Anna Nemtsova on December 29 published on The Daily Beast an article entitled “War and Corruption Made Ukraine a Terrorist Twilight Zone”, which claims it is for ISIS terrorists in Ukraine to get a national passport and settle, only to later get to Europe, as Russian propaganda has long been alleging.
A cherry on the cake was that in this piece, Anna Nemtsova finally echoed with another “transponder” of terrorism-related topics, Kateryna Sergatskova.
In my opinion, absolutely everything is important is important in this article, including the authors, the timing, and the platform. So let me explain.
The thing is that it’s by no accident that Sergatskova and Nemtsova, both playing key roles in discrediting Ukraine in the international arena as a country that allegedly was an exporter and is now becoming a haven for ISIS militants, have become more pro-active just recently.
Indeed, ISIS has now lost its former prowess as a result of the efforts by a U.S.-led coalition in the Middle East, although the very topic of fighting terrorism is a favorite leitmotif of almost all speeches by the leadership of Russia, the country that deployed the largest number of militants in the ranks of this terrorist organization.
Moreover, the transshipment base was the FSB-controlled Dagestan, while terrorists were even issued medical insurance by the Dagestan Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund before their deployment.
However, the unraveling conflict in Libya, which might as well grow into a major war, could provide fertile ground for nurturing new myths about ISIS.
At least, this is precisely of what Russian propaganda is already accusing the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord, thus justifying the offensive on Tripoli by the Kremlin-backed army of an unrecognized Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
So, what we have is another military escalation in Libya, the spread of propaganda tirades about ISIS terrorists defending Tripoli, and another story about a terrorist Ukraine by “truth-seeking” journalists on the website of a respected publication … But is it “respected” though, really?
It should be noted that that the rather popular platform chosen to publish the piece by the Nemtsova-Sergatskova duo has long been raising certain questions.
For example, not so long ago Sergatskova published an initially low-profile article at Ukraine’s Hromadske.ua, also dedicated to ISIS in Ukraine. More specifically, it covered the arrest by the SBU security service of Al-Bar Shishani, a Georgian national who was the deputy of one of the leaders of the terrorist organization, the so-called “Minister of War” Umar Shishani.
But since Katerina Sergatskova is not a widely known figure, her debut piece on Hromadske.ua of November 19 sent no shockwaves across the information space, so someone added some “nitrous oxide” to it via a repost by the Russian Novaya Gazeta, the publication that has patrons in Russian security agencies.
This piece alone is enough raises unambiguous questions to platforms that have published it, namely, Hromadske.ua and Novaya Gazeta. Another outlet raising similar questions is The Daily Beast, which Anna Nemtsova used to try to tie ISIS to Ukraine – with no evidence base whatsoever – and equate the Ukrainian Army with, as the author put it, “pro-Russian rebels” in Donbas. At the same time, she chose to turn a blind eye to the presence of Russian troops in the conflict.
In 2015, caring little about facts, a so-called “opposition” journalist from Russia Anna Nemtsova published in the same U.S.-based The Daily Beast a piece claiming that Chechens who had previously trained at ISIS camps were fighting in Donbas alongside Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
At the same time, stopping short of the actual fact-checking work, the “journalist” limited herself to simply citing a militant identified as “Muslim”.
In a while, Nemtsova delivers another piece “Ukraine’s Out of Control Arms Bazaar in Europe’s Backyard”, also for The Daily Beast. Here she once again manipulates the issue of war, distorts and fuels the theme of uncontrolled arms trade in a warring country and reflects on threats to EU.
The Daily Beast has actually long turned into an English-language platform for campaigns, including to discredit Ukraine, although, subjectivity and excessive manipulation made many readers turn their backs on the outlet and sparked criticism among experts.
The Young Turks journalist Michael Tracy directly blamed The Daily Beast for disinformation, which used to be inherent in Russian media, and ridiculed the publication’s journalists over self-aggrandizing and sloppy reporting.
So the general outline is visible to the naked eye, and the content is more than obvious. The Libyan conflict, which the Russian media have already associated with ISIS and branded Haftar’s joint campaign with the Russian PMC “Wagner” mercenaries and the Russian spec-ops troops to take over Tripoli a “Crusade” on ISIS, is reviving a “good old song” about a global terror threat.
The conflict itself will cause another huge wav e of refugees pouring into Europe again. Besides, Libya is really close to EU, namely, Italy, so another humanitarian crisis would be a great pretext for deploying terrorists among “illegal migrants”.
However, “independent journalists” are already fertilizing the soil for further spinning narratives of Ukraine “again becoming transit base for terrorists”.
So far, these are only indirect and unobtrusive hints – just a mention of the arrest by the SBU security service of Al-Bar Shishani. In fact, it was a single incident over a long period of time, while dozens of arrests have been carried out in Europe, the U.S., and beyond of former militants affiliated with the terrorist organization, while Russia goes as far as extracting former ISIS operatives and their families from Syria by air.
Another point is interesting here. The piece by the Nemtsova-Sergatskaya tandem came not only amid Libyan aggravation and the revival of the ISIS story, but also against the background of a foiled terror attack in St. Petersburg.
Moreover, it was the United States that tipped Russian security officials about the impending terrorist attack.
In fact, the Americans made a preemptive move, hindering Russia’s plans to tailor an attack only to claim afterwards that “ISIS attacks us, too, and again”, which would entitle Moscow, say, to officially deploy their troops at Haftar’s request (as they did in Syria back in 2015), and also provide for an alibi for the upcoming terror attacks in Europe.
Let me remind you that just two weeks ago, Austrian police detained two Chechen immigrants in Vienna on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack. The two men, 25 and 31, were arrested and placed under custody in the prison of Wiener Neustadt. No details of the case have been disclosed to ensure quality investigation. It was only reported that the Chechens had planned to perform their attack in the Austrian capital in the period between Christmas and New Year.
It is also worth noting that had the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg worked out, it would’ve created a very “appropriate” picture for the Kremlin on New Year’s eve, with the widest horizon of opportunities opening up in 2020.
Meanwhile, having foiled the attack, American professionals also humiliated the FSB, showing that they are better aware of the situation in Russia from across the pond than the local security agencies.
By the way, it is precisely this factor of a fairly good situational awareness of both European and American intelligence that prevents fake news by Sergatskova and Nemtsova from growing into anything bigger than sorry bleating on websites of ambiguous publications.
Indeed, these agencies know perfectly well, which country is in fact a transshipment base, a haven, and a financial donor for global terrorism, and who many of those Russian “opposition” journalists really work for. That’s including those who settled in Ukraine and the West or still remain in Moscow, where, by the way, other Russian citizens are immediately thrown behind bars for a mere “share” on social networks.