The huge parades and processions scheduled for May 9 in Russia were canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. The Kremlin tried to make up for them with online actions. For example, during the virtual March of the Immortal Regiment, people were invited to upload pictures and biographies of their loved ones who had taken part in the war to the website.
However, the trolling of the enterprise received more attention in the Western media – together with pictures of the Red Army, photos of Nazi German leaders Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Heinrich Müller and Joseph Goebbels were uploaded, as well as a picture of Andrei Vlassov, the leader of the Russian Liberation Army fighting on the German side.
Is Estonia to blame?
Last Saturday, May 16, a series of news items appeared in the Kremlin’s media, announcing the detention of four people behind the trolling. These are the inhabitants of the Russian cities of Samara, Volgograd, Perm and Ulyanovsk. (Links to all stories can be found on the monitoring robot Propamon webpage)
Estonia was also mentioned in the news. “Those involved in the rehabilitation of Nazism also include citizens of foreign countries, especially Ukraine and Estonia,” Svetlana Petrenko, an official representative of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation, is quoted as saying. Estonia’s connection then was in the headlines of several portals.
It is not clear why Estonia was mentioned. Petrenko’s statement refers only indirectly to the connections between Estonia and the uploaded pictures. Rather, her words can be understood in the sense that the rehabilitators of Nazism also live in Estonia and Ukraine. It is not possible to read unequivocally from the quote that Estonian citizens are being investigated in connection with uploading pictures. However, this is exactly how the Estonian press has covered the case; for example, Postimees’ news headline “Estonians are being investigated in connection with the spread of Nazism on Russian portals” directly amplifies the Kremlin’s propagandistic message.
During the past week, new facts of the case reached the Russian media. Another resident of Kazan was taken into custody, now all together five. Videos of the detention were published, in which the men confessed their actions and tried to justify it by saying it was just a joke, a little bit of fun. In the more recent news stories, Estonia is no longer talked about. Instead, the attempt is made to blame the Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalnõi. The arrested individuals are portrayed as his supporters.
Hacker attack on May 09
In addition to the trolling, Russian portals are writing about another campaign against the Immortal Regiment website. On the morning of May 9, a DDoS hacker attack was carried out, during which the webpage was overloaded and access was lost. According to the Kremlin media, servers from European countries, North America and Asia participated in the attack. Such information about the location of attackers is quite arbitrary, as the VPN service allows an attacker to hide the location of the server or show it in any country.
No connection with Estonia has been revealed in the course of this case either.
Conclusion: the accusation is unfounded
The Kremlin press has not provided any evidence to link the Estonian state or citizens to the case. The only basis is the vague sentence of one authority figure. If there were any facts about Estonia’s participation, it would be logical to point it out and open it more clearly in the follow-up stories. However, as Estonia’s connection disappears in further discussions, Petrenko’s original statement cannot be taken seriously.
Behind the accusation, one can suspect a propagandistic desire to show Estonia as an “offensive little Nazi state” that tries to falsify history and revive fascism. Why this propaganda narrative is constantly repeated in new connections can be read in this article by Mythbusters.
Images: screenshots from related web pages.