In December 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed members of American PMCs had allegedly arrived in Ukraine to carry out a chemical attack in one of the temporarily occupied settlements in eastern Ukraine.
The statement pulled from the fringe to the official level a sham allegation of a “chemical attack” plot by Ukraine’s army, spun since 2014 by Russian propaganda pundits and their minions in the occupied areas. These fake stories were repeatedly refuted – very swiftly and efficiently, since many of such reports involved photos and videos shot in other conflicts, thus compromising the allegations instead of backing them. For example, one of those videos was the one showing the fallout from the use of phosphorus munitions in Syria – which the Russians portrayed as “attacks” by the Ukrainian forces in Donbas.
The very fact that the latest fake spin was taken to such a high level suggests that Russia intends to use the “chemical” line as one of the main scenarios for an act of provocation in Donbas, to create a casus belli for further military incursion into Ukraine.
For the past month, Russian propaganda pundits, a variety of their “journalists,” “experts,” and officials echoed the idea that the “chemical attack” option was viable. In the latest development, this effort involved foreign “journalists” who had long been deeply affiliated with the Russians.
One of these is Dilyana Gaitandjieva of Bulgaria, who refers to herself as an “independent journalist.” She published documents allegedly confirming that the Americans pursue in their labs some experiments on Georgians and Ukrainians, involving biological weapons. As a result of these experiments, she claims, some 4,400 Ukrainian soldiers and 1,000 Georgian forces were allegedly killed.
For those who don’t follow this journalist’s work, the report might be a shocker, but for those who do – is shocking, but for those who do – it only sparks a smile… And it’s not even about the strikingly accurate, round numbers of “victims” of experiments, or the fact that the fake story about bioarms labs has been circulated by Russian intelligence since the 1990s as an element of their psyops to discredit the West among the audiences of the former Soviet space. It’s just that Dilyana is for some reason still in demand in the Russian information space despite being long compromised as a Russian asset.
For example, it was this woman who in 2017 posted a fake story of the Azerbaijani Silk Way Airline allegedly supplying weapons from Eastern European nations to “hot spots” around the world. Then the Bulgarian journalist claimed she had received documents backing this allegation from the Anonymous Bulgaria hacker group. That episode was both rise and fall for Dilyana.
The thing is that almost all the documents presented by Dilyana as “evidence” were part of a scheme traditionally applied by Russian intelligence, which is inserting fake materials into an otherwise legit bulk of data. Taking into account the fact that Dilyana was provided these documents by a certain hacker group, it can be argued that the stolen array of data was supplemented with doctored documents, aiming to compromise Azerbaijan.
Then, in 2017, Dilyana came under fire of the Bulgarian National Security Agency as her investigation was recognized as fabricated. But this fact was left largely unnoticed as this isn’t something fast food info consumers care about. This is the principle behind such type of spins…
In August 2017, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva was fired from the Trud newspaper on the eve of her next trip to Syria, where she was supposed to continue her scandalous “research” with a tint of Photoshop. Quite reasonably, this fact was immediately picked up by a number of outlets and microblogs, known for their close connection with Russian security apparatus, including military intelligence.
The Russians were outraged that a Bulgarian journalist succumbed to “repressions” for her inconvenient “truth”. What they didn’t specify, however, was that almost all of her pieces were full of manipulative tricks.
Meanwhile, immediately after Dilyana was sacked from the Trud, she took off for Georgia where she published a report alleging that new types of biological weapons were being manufactured and tested on Georgians in the Lugar Center under the guise of medical research!
Despite this “investigation” being a low-grade falsification, it was swiftly picked up by Russia’s federal media, including RIA FAN, while none of the acclaimed Bulgarian news agencies chose to share the report.
Dilyana Gaitanjieva went on to work under the cover of an “independent journalist,” while receiving funding from Russia and remaining in demand exclusively in the Russian information space, largely due to the fact that her reputation had been compromised elsewhere.
This “independent journalist” is periodically exploited as a source of fake reports in the already familiar format of fake doc insertions. It is obvious that now, in order to boost the “chemical arms” scenario against Ukraine, Dilyana Gaitanjieva was used precisely to bring into the media space a package of “documents.”
The thing is though that there’s nothing new in applying such tactics and involving this particular individual. In fact, they are a clear marker of any such report being fake. But, again, this might do for domestic audiences as the Kremlin doesn’t need to try too hard to convince Russia’s population of anything it thinks fit.