“Influencing Election Results”: State Duma Discussed the Interference of US Media in Russian Politics

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The United Russia party came to the conclusion that the US-financed media interferes in the domestic politics of the Russian Federation. Such a point of view was sounded by the first Deputy Head of the “United Russia” faction Andrey Isaev, referring to the report of the State Duma Committee on information policy. The main claims of parliamentarians are connected with the activity of three media outlets — “Radio Svoboda”, “Voice of America”, and CNN. Experts don’t exclude that this may concern attempts to influence the results of 2018 presidential elections.

The fears of the State Duma are based on the report that the chairman of the committee on information policy Leonid Levin made. The document contains the results of a verification of the media working in Russia regarding compliance with the legislation.

Media that receives financing from foreign sources came into the field of view of the committee. The central focus of the report is given to the activity of the CNN TV channel and the US government agency — “Broadcasting Board of Governors” (BBG), which supports “Radio Svoboda” and “Voice of America”.

The letter of the law

Levin reported that “the American government itself is actively engaged in propaganda under the guise of journalism”.

According to Levin, Washington “tries to influence the results of elections in the Russian Federation”. Nevertheless, the Deputy doesn’t consider it necessary to introduce any restrictions on media under the US’ control.

“This position is not only my own, but also the country’s as a whole, the President spoke about it more than once that we don’t limit the work of media. Freedom of speech under the Constitution is sacred. The fact is that the media — not only Russian, but also foreign, working on our territory — must observe Russian legislation,” said Levin.

Thus, the head of committee noted: The State Duma reserves the right for mirror measures if the US Congress continues its attempts at the legislative level to limit the work of RT and Sputnik.

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Before Levin’s presentation, the first deputy head of the “United Russia” faction Andrey Isaev confirmed that some media outlets in 2016 tried to call into question the legitimacy of State Duma elections.

“These mass outlets discredited the political parties represented in parliament and, on the contrary, supported and advertized those political parties that on September 16th (2016) didn’t receive the support of Russian voters,” explained Isaev.

According to him, “United Russia” is interested in verifying information that some Russian media outlets signed contracts with the BBG on the publication of materials prepared by the State foreign publications.

“Cooperation agreements were concluded between VOA (Voice of America) and Russian national media — such as RBC, ‘Echo of Moscow’, and ‘Dozhd’ — for work with a Russian audience,” it is specified in the official documents of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Leonid Levin

The initiative to verify “Radio Svoboda”, “Voice of America”, and CNN belongs to the Deputy of the State Duma Konstantin Zatulin (United Russia).

Levin held an enlarged meeting on April 18th about this with the participation of experts. The head of committee stated that the US created a large-scale system of pressure on the internal affairs of the Russian Federation, using a “range of tools”.

The chairman of the Centre for Political Information Aleksey Mukhin confirmed Levin’s fears. The political scientist stated that the curators of pressure on Russia are departments of power in the US (the Pentagon, CIA, NSA), the State Department, the Soros fund, and the East StratCom Task Force.

Mukhin believes that these institutes “are inter-connected organizationally, technically, and financially”, and the functions of the coordinator is assigned to the BBG. According to the expert, the US has leverage on approximately 30% of Russian media structures.

In the report of May 19th Levin reminded that in recent years in the Russian Federation two laws were adopted: the first reduces the share of foreign shareholders in authorized capital of Russian media to 20%, the second obliges publications to report financing from foreign sources.

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Levin noted that currently “about 1000 companies changed their structure of ownership”. Also he mentioned about 30 media agencies working in Russia that quarterly inform Roskomnadzor about receiving foreign grants.

Aleksandr Mukhin

“The last lie”

The BBG corporation formally finances NGOs and media that is engaged in supporting the development of civil society. In reality the activity of the structures receiving financing from American agencies is reduced to the reproduction of negative information concerning the authorities.

In the recent BBG report it is said that “Radio Svoboda” and “Voice of America” increased their popularity thanks to publicizing the unauthorized gathering that took place in Moscow on March 26th of this year. The experts who gathered on April 18 in the State Duma pointed to the reading off scale negative to authorities and lack of a hint on imperfection of opposition forces.

“Radio Svoboda” and “Voice of America” are widely represented in social media. As of March, 2017, “Radio Svoboda” won first place among radio stations in the ranking of citations on social networks of the “Medialogia” company, and the “Voice of America” radio station is located on the third line.

Both media agencies remain a priority in the financial plans of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

In 2017 the budget of BBG grew to $777 million. For comparison: the budget of RT is 2.5 times less.

In the middle of January, 2017, the former representative of the US to the UN Samantha Power in a farewell speech stated that financing “propaganda media — such as RT” costs between $600 million and $1 billion. The editor-in-chief of RT Margarita Simonyan hoped that it was “the last lie of the Obama administration”.

“We must act today”

Professor, head of the Department of Theory of Law and Comparative Law of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, and doctor of jurisprudence Aleksandr Domrin in a conversation with RT noted that attempts to intervene in the internal affairs of other States is a typical line of US policy.

“America always pursued a policy in its own interests. That’s why I am not surprised by the conclusions that were announced in the State Duma. Anyway, what Washington does is absolutely inadmissible. And we won’t violate freedom of speech if after all we adopt counter-measures. It is not possible to be idle,” said the professor.

Thus, the expert called to give very accurate justification of the facts of the violation of the law: “It can be extremism, violation of the regime of silence, and others. It is important to collect all materials that concern the interference of the western media and their Moscow offices. Without specifics, the accusations will be unfounded”.

“It is necessary to act today. It may seem that I speak too categorically, but I don’t doubt that the US will make all efforts to discredit the presidential elections in 2018. We observed it earlier, and next year there will be the same,” said Domrin.

Thus, the expert believes that the extent of influence of “Radio Svoboda” and “Voice of America” shouldn’t be overestimated: “Yes, they are injected with very good money, but their audience is a rather narrow layer of society. I don’t think that an imaginary danger emanates from ‘Radio Svoboda’ and ‘Voice of America’. It is about the observance of the law and defending the sovereignty of Russia”.

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