14 July 2021. Rossiyskaya Gazeta – Capital Issue No. 158 (8509)
Written by Mikhail Falaleev
Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova
Police officers in many countries faced a very common problem – large-scale disinformation. It would seem that this phenomenon is normal and familiar for detectives – crime always resorts to lies, the investigation of a crime is always the exposure of deception. But this time the deception comes not from criminals or terrorists but from politicians. And it undermines trust between police officers from different countries, makes it difficult and even impossible for them to cooperate with each other.
President of the International Police Association Russian Section, Lieutenant General, Doctor of Law, Professor, Honoured Lawyer of the Russian Federation Yury Zhdanov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta about the dangerous trends of political fakes, including for Russian law enforcement officers.
RG: Yury, since when has politics become such a strong influence on the fight against crime? We have Interpol, Europol, various interstate cooperation agreements. After all, no one argues that a criminal has no nationality, no citizenship, no party affiliation. Yes, there are disagreements about the extradition of a particular suspect. But these are rather exceptions to the general rules. What happened?
Mr Yury Zhdanov: The world has changed. Rather, it was changed by global digitalisation. The virtual space was filled with fakes, deepfakes, false resolutions and pseudo-studies. There was such a thing as ‘destabilising behaviour’ and other trash. And individual criminal investigations suddenly dissolved into a political, ideological or economic struggle between states. Which the police become unwittingly involved in.
RG: It is time to throw the slogan ‘Policemen of all countries, unite!’
Mr Yury Zhdanov: And in fact it turns out that way. The International Police Association, which includes half a million people from seventy countries on all continents, is sounding the alarm about this. If this trend continues, the police will only have to catch pickpockets, small-time cheaters, street robbers or, say, expose marriage scammers. There can no longer be any joint, international confrontation against transnational crime and the mafia.
RG: And big politics is to blame for all this, so to speak?
Mr Yury Zhdanov: Rather, it is a big lie in big politics. Even analysts at the World Economic Forum have sounded the alarm about disinformation as a political phenomenon that is becoming more direct. The attackers use hatred, distrust and political differences in the form of disinformation. They have colonised our digital spaces to negotiate and defend their own social values, creating new forms of harm.
RG: What is the main danger?
Mr Yury Zhdanov: Regardless of whether this damage is the result of fake videos, defamatory content or inaccurate information spread as a result of an administrative error, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fix its consequences. Because there are currently a very limited number of ways to achieve justice in a globally digitised world. It is almost impossible for the public to see who is hiding behind the intentionally malicious digital behaviour.
RG: How does this specifically affect the international cooperation of police officers, including those from Russia?
Mr Yury Zhdanov: First of all, we can recall the disinformation about Russian hackers who sometimes plunge America into darkness and some other times take away the meat from the Americans. Or – about the Russian ‘fifth column’ in the United States preparing almost an American revolution. Also – about Russians who, instead of Belarusians, land a plane with an oppositionist, and about other excited delirium.
Here is a very recent example. Fictitious unemployed people, behind whose appearance was organised crime, received up to half of the unemployment benefits distributed by the United States during the coronavirus epidemic. This is more than 400 billion dollars. This was stated on 12 June by Blake Hall, CEO of identification verification company ID.me, in an interview with the Axios news site.
According to Axios, a significant part of the remaining money was stolen by American street gangs, which have increased their share of fraud cases in recent months. However, according to the agency, 70 percent of the stolen unemployment benefits were withdrawn outside the United States. These funds went into the hands of crime organisations. However, the competent US authorities themselves say that it was American street gangs who stole the bulk of the money.
Yes, modern organised crime is transnational. Of course, there are Russian members of organised criminal groups there. And our police could deal with them in a specific context. But what kind of cooperation in the investigation of this international, in fact, crime can we talk about if the whole stream of disinformation screams that it was done by Russian hackers under the leadership of Russian intelligence and security services? They have already decided everything there and appointed the perpetrators. The door was initially slammed in the face of the Russian police.
RG: Apparently, they did not really need our help.
Mr Yury Zhdanov: Moreover, they use disinformation to interfere in our internal affairs and encourage our offenders.
The Group of Seven leaders at the end of the summit in Cornwall, England, on 13 June published a joint communiqué in which they called on the Russian authorities to stop its ‘destabilising behaviour’ and ‘malicious activities’ – is this new international slang in official documents? You can take any country from the Group of Seven and synthesise for it a very real history of ‘destabilising behaviour’ and ‘malicious activity.’
The leaders of the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan urged Russia to stop interfering in the democratic systems of other countries – when, where, give the facts? We are called upon to fulfill our obligations in the field of human rights – did Russia withdraw from the relevant conventions or did we clearly not officially comply with international requirements somewhere? And what does the requirement to investigate and explain ‘the use of chemical weapons on its territory’ mean? Apparently, this refers to the poisoning of the ‘Berlin Patient.’
Now, pay attention – the requirement to bring to justice those who commit cyber attacks from the territory of Russia. But isn’t Russia now increasing its efforts in the fight against cybercrime? And isn’t Russia the initiator of the development of a new modern UN Convention in this direction? Well, this passage makes it very problematic, almost impossible, for Russian police officers to participate in international investigations of cybercrime.
Disinformers-politicians have managed to disperse the police in some US cities altogether and replace it with detachments of armed organised crime groups.
And MEPs propose to strengthen support for organisations banned in Russia and give them the opportunity to work from the territory of the EU. The European Parliament explicitly calls on EU delegations and national diplomatic missions to provide any support to offenders in Russia and ‘work together to ensure their speedy release.’
RG: But I think they will protest very much if someone supports their own violators.
Mr Yury Zhdanov: It seems that they have already finished playing and outsmarted themselves. Through disinformation, they managed to do even completely unthinkable things – to turn the bandit, repeat offender and drug addict Floyd into a new symbol of sacrifice and liberation from slavery and apartheid! And this is just to blow up Trump’s America with protests.
Disinformers-politicians managed to turn the rioters from the BLM and Antifa movements into a stronghold of ‘the most democratic state in the world.’ And the icing on the cake – they have managed to disperse the police in some US cities altogether and replace it with armed organised crime groups. The main thing is that their skin colour is correct – the black one. I sincerely sympathise with my overseas colleagues.
RG: But do they understand what they’ve got into?
Mr Yury Zhdanov: I am afraid that not all of them. So, on the website of the White House on 15 June, the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism was published. A careful reading of this lengthy document gives the impression that the goal of this Strategy is not to really strengthen the fight against all types of domestic terrorism in modern America but part of a ‘cover operation’ to strengthen the fight against the Democratic Party’s opponents. Moreover, there is a clear desire to preserve the combat core of movements and organisations of real internal terrorists who are ready to defend ‘democratic values’ in the United States of the XXI century. Perhaps captivating events are waiting for us.