The Russian government discreetly funded a group of seemingly independent news websites in Eastern Europe to pump out stories dictated to them by the Kremlin, reported BuzzFeed News.
The scheme has only come to light through Skype chats and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, Estonian newspaper Postimees, and investigative journalism outlet Re:Baltica via freedom of information laws, as part of a criminal probe into the individual who was Moscow’s man on the ground in Estonia.
Russian state media created secret companies (SPN Media Solutions, Media Capital Holding, Barsolina Ventures Ltd) in order to bankroll websites in the Baltic States and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Serbian SPN Media Solutions, that was financing Baltnews, does not just have interest in Estonia. A Ukrainian court order from July quotes the Ukrainian security service (SBU) as saying the same company was secretly financing the Ukrainian branch of RIA Novosti.
Earlier the deputy head of the SBU, Viktor Kononenko, explained that each month the Serbian company was transferring 53,000 euros “of Russian origin” to Ukrainian companies that funneled the money to the Russian state news agency’s branch in the country.