5 reasons why pro-Russian German “journalists” operate in Russia

The “journalist” Alina Lipp’s Telegram channel has more than 180,000 followers. Alina positions herself as a German who went to live in Russia. Every day she publishes dozens of news items in Russian and German.
However, almost every post of hers is a quintessence of Russian propaganda and lies. How do such agents of influence work? Read a brief analysis below.

“Europe will freeze without Russian gas,” “Germans are tired of living in Europe and want to move to Russia,” “Europe is tired of Ukrainian refugees,” “Europe is losing unity,” “LGBT propaganda in Europe is destroying families” – these and not only narratives are spread by Russia for subversive information operations. 

These messages are disseminated by a network of Russian agents of influence. Among others, there are a separate caste of such agents – European “journalists” who moved to Russia and conduct their work from there. They receive direct Russian funding, they have the resources to develop and promote their channels, and they constantly appear on Russian television.

They are people from different countries (Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Great Britain, the USA, etc.), with different education and different life experiences. But all of them are aggressively pushing the Russian information agenda.

What is their political nature? Why does Russia need such agents? Below are five reasons, using the example of German-born Russian propagandist Alina Lipp.

1. “The Voice of Europe. Reinforcing Russian propaganda.

For most Russian newsagents, the most important task is to work for a domestic Russian audience. These people, like Alina Lipp, are better known in Russia than in Germany. The statistics of her Telegram channel show that almost 34 percent of her audience of 180,000 subscribers is Russian. That is why Alina runs a bilingual channel. 

Source: TGStat.com

Often, these Russian agents of influence may have been very mediocre journalists in their countries or may not even have had a journalistic education. They could be ordinary losers who have not received decent recognition in society or simply were not meant for the profession. But that is exactly what Russia needs – the fewer principles a person has, the easier it is for him to promote outright lies.

In addition, European “journalists” are more effective in influencing the psychology of the target audience. Even though Russian propaganda declares that Russia is surrounded by enemies, the inferiority complex remains. A European who comments on the news for Russians is an a priori credible source. He is an eyewitness, a direct viewer. It is positioned that if a person has lived or lives in Europe, then he has a sufficient level of expertise. 

Therefore, if Russian propaganda promotes the narrative that “Germans are disappointed and want to move to Russia,” then the “German journalist” Alina Lipp amplifies this narrative with her comments. It makes sense – she is German, and she confirms this thesis. And she takes comments from similarly pro-Russian Germans in Russia. 

Regularly, Alina has similar messages. Recently, she published a post entitled “Germans in Moscow address the German-speaking population with an important message.”  The message is very simple: 

“Come to Russia and feel the Russian soul, then you will understand what we are talking about. Germany and Russia share a common history. Catherine the Great, for example, was German. We have so much in common, but that is what many in Germany do not want to understand because Americans have infiltrated us.”

Thus, such agents of influence are an integral element of the Russian propaganda infrastructure. The Russian media produces a narrative, and the agents of influence reinforce and amplify it.

2. Propaganda of Russia in accessible and understandable language abroad.

For their national audiences, such as the Germans, the agents of influence work in the same way as in the previous point. Only in reverse. In this case, the agent of influence is the credible one for the national audience because he is broadcasting from Russia. This again gives the false impression that this person has the expertise because he lives in Russia and feels it.

In this case, Alina Lipp has a very simple task: to explain to the Germans in accessible and understandable language that Russia is a victim. Russia’s actions are “correct and necessary,” and everything is “the fault of the greedy West and America.” 

The standard toolkit of Russian propaganda: conspiracy theories, discrediting national power, falsifying documents, disinformation, and fakes. 

For example, after the Davos forum, Alina publishes a post with the headline: “Germany’s Economic Minister Habeck Wants to Shut Down and Disband Germany: An Incredible Self-Disclosure at the Davos Economic Forum.” 

Russia’s agents of influence in Germany are thus a full-fledged channel for communicating and spreading Russian fakes. In light of the sanctions and the blocking of Russian state media in Europe, the agents of influence remain one of Russia’s main access to the minds of European citizens. They work through messengers and social networks, where they are extremely difficult to be blocked.

3. Undermining the trust in the national media

From the previous point, we can form the following. 

“Journalists”-agents of influence-are supposed to undermine the credibility of local news. Pro-Russian journalists produce total lies. These lies construct a parallel information reality. Obviously, their narratives are radically different from local European news. It differs not only in principle and professionalism but also in subject matter, style, emotionality, etc.

Accordingly, the agents of influence exploit this difference, using contrast. Therefore, the Russian agents of influence start to use the thesis that they are the only ones who tell the truth. That only they cover uncomfortable topics, that only they are not afraid to speak and criticize. 

They talk about the corruption of the local media and their dependence on the authorities. They reinforce these theses with a simple but effective argument – the Russian media are inconvenient for the European authorities, they are blocked and suppressed. Accordingly, the authorities are afraid of the Russian media. Why is it afraid? Because they are the only ones who tell the truth. 

This is the very logic and reasoning of Russian propaganda, which is designed to undermine the credibility of the national media. For example, the same post by Alina Lipp with the comments of Germans in Russia that we mentioned earlier quoted: “Don’t believe the German media. We should help Russia more.”

4. Legitimization of occupation and annexation.

Russia also needs foreign journalists to legitimize the occupation of Ukrainian territories. There is a simple logic here too. Ukraine and the world do not recognize the violent and illegal seizure of Crimea, Donbas, and other regions by Russia. Russia’s goal is to attract as many people as possible to the annexed territory. Each such case becomes a newsbreak for Russia. As a result, headlines such as “German came to Donbas” or “Italians visited Crimea” help Russia further construct a parallel reality. A reality in which “ordinary people” support Russia’s actions and only the “insidious West” prevents everyone from living happily ever after.

Alina Lipp was no exception. On her YouTube channel “A German in Russia,” she stated: 

“I was born and raised in Germany, got a higher education there, and moved to Russia in 2021. My mother is German, my father is Russian. So I strongly resent the fact that relations between Germany and Russia are in very bad shape. I’m trying to fix that. Sometimes I live in St. Petersburg, in Crimea or Donetsk, and I report from there.” 

Obviously, Alina entered Crimea or Donetsk illegally, bypassing Ukrainian checkpoints, thus violating Ukrainian law.

5. The image of a victim or a punching bag

Violation of the laws of not only Ukraine but also of their national states by agents of influence is strictly welcomed by Russia. And it can be not only active actions but also the use of hate speech in their work, propaganda for war, incitement of interethnic hatred – etc. 

It is simple and logical. Russia needs the image of the victim. As soon as an agent of influence becomes interested in law enforcement agencies, the Russian propaganda machine has a limitless field for manipulation. It is possible to claim the oppression of dissenters, to claim the fight against freedom of speech, to use the traditional narrative of “Russophobia in Europe” and once again show that Europe is infringing on “the only truthful news.

As a result, we get a wonderful picture of the “evil West” oppressing Russia again

This is what happened to Alina Lipp. This summer the Russian state-run media and pro-Russian “trash” websites in Europe were full of headlines about the harassment of Alina Lipp. The German prosecutor’s office began prosecuting Ms. Lipp for, among other things, supporting Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.

Just look at what the Russian state television channel First Channel reported in a story titled “Family of German journalist Alina Lipp harassed and persecuted.”

“An unsightly story in Germany related to freedom of speech, or rather the lack thereof. Famous journalist Alina Lipp and her family are in a difficult situation. The reporter and her parents, who do not shoot any materials and have nothing to do with journalism, were denied access to their daughter’s bank accounts because of her professional activities. The family is harassed, persecuted, and threatened. 
And all because Alina shows viewers what is really happening in Donbas. But the journalist was criminally prosecuted for reporting from the people’s republics, and the girl’s mother was forced to leave Germany”.

This is exactly the kind of rhetoric we talked about earlier: Russians telling the truth, evil Europe fighting the truth.

And this rhetoric is designed to serve the purposes we discussed in the previous paragraphs:

  1. working for the Russian audience, 
  2. working for the national audience, 
  3. undermining trust in the authorities and the media, and 
  4. all of this is seasoned with a hyperbolized image of the victim. 

It’s always the same – it’s not Russia’s fault, it’s not Russia that started the biggest war in Europe since World War II, it’s not Russia that kills thousands of people and sends hundreds of thousands of its soldiers into a foreign country… It’s the West, it’s Ukraine, and it’s all around, just not Putin and Russia.

The vicious circle of Russian propaganda has closed

Therefore, foreign pro-Russian journalists are very important to Russia. Just as American journalist Walter Duranty denied Stalin’s Holodomor crime 90 years ago, today’s Alina Lipp is doing her best to justify Russia’s crimes.

And Alina Lipp is not alone. Another German Thomas RoperGraham Phillips from Britain, the American Patrick Lancaster, the Italian Vittorio Rangeloni, and dozens of others – they all work on the same principles and without principles.

And these people are more dangerous than the Russian soldier because worse than a war crime there are only attempts to justify this crime.

More on this topic: Why Alina Lipp is spreading lies, evidence, and case studies – read here.

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