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Propastop examines Russian media's dissemination of Viacheslav Morozov case

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Screenshot from last week's edition of 'Ringvaade,' which dealt with the Viacheslav Morozov case.
Screenshot from last week's edition of 'Ringvaade,' which dealt with the Viacheslav Morozov case. Source: ERR

The recent detention of a University of Tartu professor suspected of engaging in intelligence activity detrimental to Estonia has not gone unnoticed by the state-controlled Russian media, anti-misinformation site Propastop reports.

Propaganda sites exploiting the detention of Viacheslav Morozov, first reported last week, aim to achieve multiple objectives.

First among these is to amplify perceptions of anti-Russian sentiment, sometimes known as Russophobia, inside Estonia and the other two Baltic states, and portraying these countries as hostile to Russian nationals or to those of Russian ethnicity, regardless of their views on the Vladimir Putin regime or the invasion of Ukraine.

The next step, following this logic, is the implication that Estonia is not a fully democratic state, with the use of the state security apparatus against any Russian citizens that apparatus deems as undesirables.

On the other hand, some prominent Russian propaganda outlets have been fairly neutral in tone on the Morozov case, Propastop reports, suggesting a reluctance to alter the narrative and signaling potential reservations within these media channels.

This relative neutrality can as often as not find expression via brevity (for instance, English-language Russian site RT had not reported the case as of the time of writing, though a related site had done – ed.).

Of those publications which have stuck their necks out more, Propastop reports that online paper Delovaya Gazeta Vzglyad  says that that Morozov does not fit the stereotypical image of a "Russian spy," that he made regular trips to St. Petersburg only to visit his parents, and that Estonia is of insufficient interest to Russian intelligence services to merit investing much in in the way of espionage.

Baltnews, a Russian-language media outlet sponsored by RT, has stated that the Estonian leadership is utilizing its security apparatus to combat individuals it deems undesirable, particularly if they are Russian citizens, possibly in an attempt to divert public attention from domestic policy failures and the ongoing economic downturn in Estonia.

Propastop reports that Professor Nikolay Mezhevich, President of the Association for Baltic Studies and a member of think tank the Valdai Discussion Club says that Morozov's arrest amounts to discrimination and also the result of a false denunciation issued by an academic rival.

Another overarching aim underlying the above efforts is to undermine confidence in the Estonian security services, questioning their capacity to detect and counter foreign secret service activities and casting in doubt the Baltic states' ability to manage security challenges independently – and thus tacitly calling into question the viability of their own sovereignty.

In other words, the Russian propaganda machine wants to both have its cake and not eat it – Estonia is not of any interest to foreign intelligence agencies and yet is incapable of dealing with security breaches by those same agencies.

Viacheslav Morozov, a professor of international political theory at the University of Tartu, was last week, for suspected actions against the Republic of Estonia.

ISS Director Margo Palloson had disclosed Morozov's detention on January 3, citing suspicions of intelligence activities which were favorable to the Russian Federation, while the infiltration of such activities into academia in particular continues to be of interest to the ISS.

While Morozov is only a suspect at this stage, over 20 individuals have been convicted for intelligence activities on behalf of Russia, with a further two on behalf of the People's Republic of China

The highest profile cases include those concerning Herman Simm and Deniss Metsavas, while the most recent cases relate to Aivo Peterson and Dmitri Rootsi, currently facing charges of treason against the Republic of Estonia, and Russian citizen Andrey Andronov, charged with non-violent activities detrimental to the Republic of Estonia.

The original Propastop piece is here.

The article was amended to remove a paragraph where Propastop erroneously claimed Morozov had leaked some three thousand classified documents.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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