For decades the Kremlin has maintained its position as one of the world’s most prolific generators of conspiracy theories regarding the deaths of foreign leaders: from blaming JFK’s assassination on the CIA (rather than the inconvenient one-time Soviet resident Lee Harvey Oswald) to even recent leaders’ demises. Russia is keen to foster doubts, inducing larger disbeliefs about all “official” explanations for how world-altering events transpire.

The Kremlin is a firm believer that the West – confused, disunited, and overwhelmed with conflicting reports – is an adversary that will find it more difficult to challenge Russia’s doublespeak and lies.

When a Slovakian gunman, enraged by domestic political policies, recently sought to murder Slovakian PM Roberto Fico, Russia Today’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan “explained” that, like other historical assassinations, it was a professionally orchestrated operation. This line of reasoning paired well with what Russian journalists, such as Yegor Kholmogorov and Armen Gasparyan, were also arguing: The conniving West used its top-secret agents to “liquidate” Fico.

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Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergey Naryshkin is doing his part to stoke doubts and discord about the attempted hit, arguing that it was the befallen Prime Minister’s advocacy of the Slovakian “country and people’s” “national interests” that motivated the attacker. He further cautioned that other pro-Russian-oriented leaders, particularly Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, were also targets of the “global, totalitarian liberal elite.”  

Russia Denies Jailed Campaigner Orlov's Plea For Freedom
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Russia Denies Jailed Campaigner Orlov's Plea For Freedom

Orlov, 71, appealed a two-and-a-half-year term he was handed after calling Russia a "fascist" state and criticising its Ukraine campaign.

Russia’s weaponization of conspiracy theories demonstrates their intended purpose: to pollute the information space…

Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin television commentator and professor, endorsed the “conspiration of global elites.” State Duma member Amir Khamitov further echoed that it was the stricken leader’s “bold and decisive statements” that had put him in harm’s way, while another State Duma member, Konstantin Zatulin, reminded all who would listen that the official narrative of the events was false.

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Russia’s weaponization of conspiracy theories demonstrates their intended purpose: to pollute the information space, convince people that there is “always another side of the story,” and that the West is not “the good guy” people think it is. 

Slovakia provided an exciting moment for Moscow’s shills to flex their professional skills, but the helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi sent Moscow into overdrive. Some, such as Russian military blogger Kotenok Yuri, speculated that the West had clandestinely had a hand in the crash. 

Markov reprised his role from the Fico incident, saying that the “powerful globalists” had been seeking to eliminate their rival. He added that the US intelligence services were the orchestrators in killing another foreign leader and are now likely planning to strike and kill Orbán in the immediate future. 

Seeking to heat global tensions by introducing more baseless fearmongering, Leonid Slutsky, a chairman of the Kremlin-rubber-stamping-right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, concocted a theory, tying the Iranian’s demise to an attack on the Saudi Crown Prince.

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Russia has decades of experience in playing the role of agent provocateur, spurring radical ideas and rogue actions to damage Western leaders.

Moscow’s mouthpieces’ “talking points” can be thought of as general guidelines: Do and say what is needed to create pandemonium so that citizens of “enemy countries” become confused and open to believing the multitude of false narratives emanating from Moscow, and less prone to believing “the official narrative” of Western governments.

With election interference or attempts to provoke divisions in European or American society, it is less about what people believe and more about how people perceive reality that strikes the Kremlin’s fancy.

Russia has decades of experience in playing the role of agent provocateur, spurring radical ideas and rogue actions to damage Western leaders both nationally and internationally. The good news is that we know how they play their part – now we must take action to prevent them from taking their circus of fears and disinformation on another world tour. 

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