We’re Liz Wahl and Jessikka Aro. We’ve been on the front lines of the information war for nearly a decade. In the courtroom, on the air, online, and at venues around the world, we’ve been exposing conspiracy, extremist, and disinformation movements mobilized by Russia and other authoritarians to break down democracy. This podcast tracks and exposes Russian influence operations against Ukraine and the world's democracies. Understanding Russian disinformation as it wages a full scale war on Ukraine and information war globally is essential to countering it.
What it Means for Ukraine to Get EU Candidate Status and Russia's Long-Running Obsession With Preventing it
23:39As Russia focuses its brutal war in the Eastern region of Ukraine, the European Parliament has recommend that EU leaders grant Ukraine candidate status. Liz and Jessikka speak with Dmytro Naumenko, Co-founder and Senior Analyst at the Ukrainian Centre for European Policy. Naumenko has worked to promote Ukraine’s European Union candidacy as well as countering Russian disinformation campaigns. They discuss Russia's long obsession with preventing Ukraine from forming ties with European democracies.
Russia is Using Food and Energy as a Weapon Against the World
17:39A former member of Ukrainian Parliament and expert in energy security discusses how Russia is using food as a weapon. Ukraine grows enough food to feed 400 million people worldwide. Because of the war, crops won’t be planted and Russia has disrupted supply chains, possibly setting the conditions for a global food crisis. Liz and Jessikka speak to former member of Ukrainian Parliament, Ukrainian energy expert and environmental activist Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska about the war’s significance in the global battle between democracies and autocracies.
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Finland and Sweden Apply for NATO membership, How Russia Uses Threats to Manipulate Western Leaders, and How the Kremlin Weaponizes Western Academics
30:16Liz and Jessikka speak with author and expert on Russian Armed Forces, Keir Giles. As Finland and Sweden formally submit applications to join NATO, they discuss how Russia uses threats to manipulate Western leaders' proclivity for conflict aversion. They also uncover how Russia weaponizes Western academics, such as John Mearsheimer. Preorder Keir Giles' book Russia's War on Everybody: And What it Means for You here: https://www.amazon.com/Russias-War-Everybody-What-Means/dp/1350255084
Ukrainian Journalist on their Pulitzer Prize, Russia's Increasingly Nazi-like Rhetoric and War Crimes, and Disinformation Efforts to Influence Upcoming Elections
40:14Liz and Jessikka speak to Ukrainian journalist Olga Tokariuk about the Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalists of Ukraine that continue to risk their lives despite being targeted for reporting the truth. As Ukraine officials say that Russia is forcibly deporting people from Mariupol and other areas in the country’s eastern region, they discuss how Russia is increasingly resembling Nazi-like behavior as it weaponizes the word Nazi to justify its war of aggression - from filtration camps to its rhetoric and accounts of a range of war crimes targeting civilians, women, and children. Also, Tokariuk uncovers how Russian disinformation infiltrates Western media sources and attempts underway to influence future elections in democracies.
Russia's False Flag Operations Targeting Finland, Chomsky Echoes Trump Putin Propaganda
32:34As new evidence reveals more than 600 people died in the Mariupol theater airstrike, Liz and Jessikka discuss a newly uncovered Russian false flag operation targeting Finland. Also, propaganda campaigns targeting Sweden as both countries plan to join NATO after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They also discuss the underreported sources that have long been weaponized by Russia's information war - "anti-war" figures and academics that often support the foreign policy stances of autocrats, such as Noam Chomsky who recently echoed Trump Putin propaganda on NATO and Russia's war in Ukraine. Cited: AP evidence points to 600 dead in Mariupol theater airstrike https://apnews.com/article/Russia-ukraine-war-mariupol-theater-c321a196fbd568899841b506afcac7a1 False news spreads in Russia over the massive transfer of Finnish tanks to the “border with Russia” https://www.is.fi/ulkomaat/art-2000008792920.html
Renowned Finnish Intelligence Colonel on the KGB Information Warfare Playbook Russia is Using on Ukraine and the West
31:05Liz and Jessikka speak to a renowned former Finnish intelligence Colonel about the KGB-style psychological tactics of Russia's information warfare currently used against Ukraine and the West. They discuss how culture and language differences can help explain why Russia and the West have completely different world views when it comes to democracy and truth. Martti J. Kari is a former intelligence Colonel in the Finnish Defense Forces and teaches at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Watch Kari's popular lecture on Russian strategic culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF9KretXqJw&t=193s For more on the harrowing stories of those that have become targets of Putin's information war, buy Jessikka's book Putin's Trolls: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09TR5RZJH/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_YPBRM9A4REN05YNTK0E5
Russia Sanctions Canadians as Kremlin Propagandists Muse Over New Intercontinental Missiles Hitting the U.S.
36:12Russia test-launches a new intercontinental missile that it says could carry nuclear warheads, sending a warning to the U.S. and Europe. Propagandists on Russian TV reacted by musing over such a weapon wiping out Western cities. Meanwhile, Estonia’s Parliament accuses Russia of genocide and Russia sanctions Canadian journalists and politicians. Liz and Jessikka speak with Canadian journalist Marcus Kolga about being among those newly sanctioned by Russia and the Kremlin’s information war as Putin grows isolated and reckless.
Finnish Author and Journalist Jessikka Aro on the Pro-Democracy Targets of Putin’s Trolls and Finland Joining NATO
36:43As President Biden calls Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a genocide, Russia repeats the lies and distortions that have become signature of its information war - calling the atrocities “fake” and “staged” and ordinary Ukrainian citizens "nazis." Putin’s lies and his systematic method of spreading them online, on television and through various proxies, has upended the lives of people daring to tell truths the autocrat wants to suppress. Finnish author and journalist Jessikka Aro uncovers the pro-Democracy targets of Putin's trolls and discusses Finland fast-tracking NATO membership. For more on the harrowing stories of those that have become targets of Putin's information war, buy Jessikka's book Putin's Trolls: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09TR5RZJH/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_YPBRM9A4REN05YNTK0E5
Russia Weaponizes Conspiracy Theories in its War Crimes in Bucha, and the Surprising Western Audiences Persuaded by Russian Propaganda
28:08As civilians and journalists recount stories and evidence of war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha - systematic, execution-style killing of civilians and mass graves, Russia has responded with denials and lies. The Russian Foreign Ministry has called the atrocities “staged” and claimed the bodies were “fake dead bodies.” Liz and Jessikka discuss Russia’s war crimes and the conspiracy theories used to deny the atrocities with Jakub Kalensky, a former journalist and expert on Russian hybrid warfare. Beyond Ukraine’s borders, they discuss alarming statistics that shed light on how Western audiences are persuaded by Russian disinformation.
Information War: Ukraine’s Volunteer Intelligence Community, Patriotic Hackers, and Documenting Russian War Crimes
36:32Liz and Jessikka speak with Artem Velichko, a Ukrainian editor at InformNapalm English. InformNapalm is a volunteer open source intelligence community, founded by Ukrainian journalists in 2014 to counter disinformation and uncover the truth about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. In today’s full scale war, Velichko discusses how the focus has shifted to full scale information warfare - providing intelligence to Ukrainians fighting the war on the ground. Support information warrior Jessikka Aro by buying her book, Putin's Trolls, here: https://www.amazon.com/Putins-Trolls-Frontlines-Russias-Information/dp/1632461293 Subscribe and listen to Liz's podcast "Radicalized" which uncovers the roots and rise of disinformation, extremist, and conspiracy movements aimed at breaking down democracy: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/radicalized/id1549466558