"Your man in Donbas" for two hundred euros. Who is Laurent Brayard?

"Your man in Donbas" for two hundred euros. Who is Laurent Brayard?

17 Вересня 2022

"Your man in Donbas" for two hundred euros. Who is Laurent Brayard?

17 Вересня 2022
"Your man in Donbas" for two hundred euros. Who is Laurent Brayard?
"Your man in Donbas" for two hundred euros. Who is Laurent Brayard?
Russia uses loopholes to push its propaganda to the Western audience. One of these is the "French" edition of Donbas Insider.

Українською текст читайте тут.

In the summer of 2016, a strange tweet appeared on the Twitter account of Tetyana Yehorova, an employee of the so-called Ministry of Information of the DPR: she wrote that she was an employee of the "MGB of the DPR," and she was tired of lying. She could not allow it to other people. She also blocked the SSU account and posted a link to a mailbox dump that contained two years' worth of correspondence, thousands of letters, and the data of 6,000 journalists who tried to come and work in the occupied territories of the Donetsk region.

Since her account was probably hacked, neither Twitter nor other pages in Yehorova's social networks have been updated. The tweet is still available, but the link to the dump itself has since been deactivated. But many journalists downloaded it. From it, for example, "Detektor Media" learned about the approval by the "Inter" channel of materials about the events which took place in the occupied territory with the employees of the "MGB DNR." There were other materials with an analysis of this dump, particularly an article by two investigators of the French publication Street Press, Mathieu Molard and Paul Gogo. Street Press has a distinct political left-wing bias, and the journalists' interest in this dump was explained by the fact that they wrote about the participation of the French right-wing in the war in Donbas. They found something among the correspondence that they did not expect - a Frenchman is engaged in the "filtering" of journalists, their distribution into "Banderivites," "Russophobes," and "supporters" in the "MGB of the DPR." His name is Laurent Brayard. 

Initially, the "checking" of journalists who wanted to come to the occupied territories of Donetsk (as of 2014-15) was carried out by the "MGB of the DPR,” the investigators wrote. However, it quickly turned out that the local ones were not working very efficiently, and the "filtering" was outsourced to Moscow. There the quickly created "international information agency DONI," headed by the Finnish pro-Russian propagandist Janus Putkonen, was engaged in searching for "proper" journalists. The media resource was financed, as the media reported, by Russian businessman Andriy Stepanenko. The agency's task was to "track and prevent the arrival of foreign agents, propagandists and enemies hiding under the guise of international journalism, and to stop their activities in the conditions of information warfare" - this is the quote from Putkonen's letter, according to the investigators. Laurent Brayard was engaged in this kind of identification of "enemies" among French journalists. Investigators believe that he was "recruited" by Donetsk resident Svitlana Kysylyova, who, after 15 years of living in France, decided to return to her historical homeland. Investigators believe that she met Brayard in Moscow, where he lived then, and invited him to go to the "anti-fascist congress" in Donetsk in mid-May 2015. It is unknown whether Kysylyova has a relationship with the Russian special services. Propaganda resources write that she is a French translator by profession, lived in France from the early 2000s until 2015, then returned to the Donetsk region. Now she is presented as a photographer and "independent" journalist who cooperates with Russia's "Zvezda" channel and other state resources. She has been living in Donetsk since 2015, but she started "helping the occupiers on the information front" (of course, purely on a volunteer basis) in 2014. For example, she was the "president of Novopole" - a pro-Russian organization in France, which included marginal right-wing French activists who organized the "anti-Maidan" in France. Novopole was the self-proclaimed "representation of Free Novorossiya" in France, but its work did not last long. Subsequently, she and Laurent Brayard began working in the publication's editorial office, Novorossia.today, and its division NovorossiaTV.

In this video of Brayard's visit to Donetsk, Svitlana Kysylyova is presented as Brayard's translator. However, as you can see from the video, he did it without translation. Moreover, in the video, he says that he does not know anything about Russians, but at the same time, he says that in France, everyone is in the grip of stereotypes that Russians are drunkards and savages. Actually, this man was well informed about life in Russia by May 2015 because he had lived in Moscow at least since 2010. There is still an advertisement for him on the Internet, where he is looking for a job in the capital of Russia as a French language tutor. His documents can also be found on the site. From them and his interview, we can conclude that he is a historian by profession, born in 1972 in Clermont-Ferrand, worked for a wine company, and later taught at a college. In 2010, he emigrated to Russia and lived in Moscow because he married a Russian woman. Within two years, he became a translator and copy editor of the French version of the Russian state-owned foreign radio station "Voice of Russia," where he worked until its official closure in 2013. Since then, he began to call himself a journalist, and in his resume, it is indicated that he moderated the website of foreign broadcasting and wrote articles. It is impossible to verify these statements now because the website no longer exists. 

At the end of 2013, by order of Putin, the resources of "Golos Rossiyi" were transferred to the newly formed MIA "Rossiya Segodnya," and later, instead of "Voice of Russia," the agency and radio "Sputnik" started working. Their editor-in-chief is Margarita Simonyan, and Dmytro Kiselyov heads the structure together with RT and other divisions of Rossiya Segodnya. Therefore, Laurent Brayard is not wholly unfamiliar with Russians and the Russian state media.

Therefore, as it turned out, he also heard a lot about Ukraine. That is why his 275-page book, published in May 2015 and still available on Amazon, is called "Ukraine, the Tsarina of Disinformation." The book's description says it was written in 2014, and the author had been living in Russia for several years and "traveling through Ukraine from east to west in 2009", so he knew a lot about "Ukrainians and their Russian brothers." Brayard is also presented as the author of "several books on history" (Google finds the only other book by this author - a fictional novel about a Soviet family during the war) and "the editor of a large Russian public mass media."

This is more or less clear: in 2015, propagandists in the Donetsk region began to label him as the editor of Novorossia.today. Although, of course, they call this edition "French." The conclusions about the book's content can be drawn from his interview in September 2015, where he said that "Ukraine is a non-existent country," and in fact, Ukrainians are "malorosy," and that is what they should be called. And, of course, this “treacherous NATO is using a non-existent state against Russia.”

In addition to writing a book, in 2014, Brayard even appeared in a documentary film. He appeared in a film about a Russian who was a member of the French Resistance, and again in the role of a "journalist," already a "military historian" and “the head of the French editorial office of "Voice of Russia," which did not exist then.

Then this multifaceted personality asked for "citizenship of the DPR." Unfortunately, it is unknown whether he received it. Afterward, he began working with like-minded people on Novorossia.today. At the same time, he explained his arrival to Donetsk as "the impossibility of fulfilling his professional duties in France due to the harassment of people with different views on the events in Donbas." However, he never worked in France as a journalist. But here, he expanded to the full: he wrote articles about "Nazis in Ukraine," about "phosphorus bombs" that kill the "peaceful population of Donbas," and organized "telebridges between schools in France and Donbas.” However, as often happens with enthusiasts, he later had difficulties: instead of the 200 euros per month that Kysylyova had promised Brayard, he received less; he had a conflict with the local curator of Novorossia.today, "DPR deputy" Vladyslav Berdychevsky, as well as colleagues who removed him from managing social networks, declared him a "spy" and accused him of embezzling donations. It is unknown for sure what exactly happened in this "afterlife," but French investigators also wrote about Brayard's penchant for conspiracy theories. He was a member of a fringe French right-wing party that promoted the idea of ​​a "deep state" and a "puppet French government" supposedly run by the US. That is why they call him a "mediator" between the French right-wing and the "administration" of occupied Donetsk. Still, judging by the correspondence, he does not give the impression of an important figure.

After the conflict in Donetsk, Brayard started working in the DONI press center, where he selected "correct" French journalists and sent reports about the “incorrect” ones to some Moscow "officer" (this can be seen from the correspondence of Yehorova's hacked mail). But even here, he was not lucky. The project was closed, so the last updates of the DONI pages on social networks took place in August 2017, and the site disappeared altogether. Likewise, the Novorossia.today website stopped working, and pages on social networks are barely active. But in 2018, a new resource, Donbas Insider (in French), was registered in Moscow, where Brayard went to work. This resource was not very popular at the beginning of its existence, but after February 24, 2022, it became necessary.

Donbas Insider is now fully operational. The Telegram channel has 30,000 subscribers, which is not bad for a French-language channel. Almost forty thousand have a YouTube channel, but it stopped being updated in the last two months. Despite Google's numerous promises to block Russian propaganda, the YouTube channel quietly exists as well as a Twitter account with 13,000 followers, which talks about "sighing Ukrainian children" and "happy Mariupol children" who went to Russian schools. And Brayard is in demand again: he is now the "voice" of this publication and hosts podcasts. There he says that the Ukrainians shell Donetsk 600 (six hundred!) times a day. He goes to Mariupol to talk about the "crimes of the Nazis" and, of course, plans to write another book about it. Russian and pro-Russian media, of course, represent him as a "French journalist." After his trip to Mariupol, another propagandist in the service of Putin, the British Graham Phillips, called Brayard a colleague. It turned out that they communicated.

The publication Donbas Insider has three language versions: English, French, and Russian, but the latter is not very necessary: ​​materials appear in it occasionally, and the news is not updated for a long time. Recently, all the forces of the Russian-language version have been thrown into promoting the story of Faina Savenkova, a thirteen-year-old girl from Luhansk who considers herself a writer. She writes everywhere about Ukrainian fascists and similar Russian propaganda, which is why her data was entered on the "Myrotvorets" website and which, of course, caused quite an uproar from propagandists and numerous appeals on behalf of the girl to all international organizations — from UNESCO to Amnesty International — with the demand to bring to justice the "Nazis who oppress a peaceful child from Luhansk." On the Donbas Insider website, there are dozens of her appeals, interviews, and conversations with adult propagandists; except for Faina, there is almost nothing in the Russian-language version. But the French version of the site, like Telegram, is active. In particular, Brayard is an enthusiastic “worker” - recently, he wrote about Ukrainian divisions, for example, "Kyivska Rus," "Zbrush," and "Harpoon." These "dobrobats," Brayard writes, allegedly consist of either declassified elements or Nazis. He also writes about historical figures about Bandera, the "neo-Nazi with ties to ISIS" Yarosh, and the torture that the peaceful residents of the Donetsk region suffered from the SSU and the "Nazis." He tells these stories now, but they always refer to 2014-2015. There are also portraits of brave and selfless people from Donetsk, who sometimes volunteers, protect, and build. It seems that Brayard grew up not in France but the editorial office of a Soviet district.

This propaganda is of mediocre quality, permanently reduced to promises of "the death of the Nazis, who will receive heavenly punishment for raising a hand against the people of Donbas" or criticism of "Ukrainian ideology, full of fantastic and painful fictions that the non-existent Ukraine gave rise to the culture of Russia." At the same time, his articles, paradoxically, appear quite often on left-wing resources - for example, the American socialist Monthly Review, which has existed since 1949. Obviously, the American left-wing hate "capitalist imperialism," so they do not skimp on anything, even low-grade Russian propaganda, in their struggle.

Brayard also participates as an "expert from Donbas" in the programs of RT France, which, although it was banned in France on March 1, has not stopped producing programs for francophones with its logo. For example, Brayard talks about the "crimes of the Kyiv regime," supported by statements from the infamous Amnesty International report. The program was filmed in Moscow because the presenter Xavier Moreau lives there and has Russian citizenship.

Brayard is not the most influential propagandist, but the problem is that the influence of Russian propaganda on English- and German-speaking audiences are quite well-tracked. Attempts to push the same Kremlin theses to the French audience attract less attention from analysts and do not receive an adequate response from the administration of social networks. Meanwhile, the old and new Kremlin projects in which Brayard works are active on social platforms and spreading their fakes in a country that almost elected Marine Le Pen in the last election.

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