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Kremlin bot network churns out anti-Semitic content “warning” of attack on Jews at 2024 Paris Olympics

The Doppelgänger bot network, known for spreading Kremlin propaganda targeting Western audiences, has been exposed for disseminating anti-Semitic content. Masquerading under the guise of expressing “deep concern,” hundreds of bots are sharing a video allegedly from the Turkish nationalist group Grey Wolves (Bozkurtlar). In the video, terrorists threaten to replicate an attack on Jews at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, reminiscent of the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics where 17 people, including 11 members of the Israeli national team, were killed.

The Doppelgänger network, known for disseminating pro-Russian propaganda to Western audiences on behalf of the Kremlin, has launched a new campaign. Numerous accounts are sharing a video on the social network X (formerly Twitter), drawing parallels between the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris and the 1972 Munich Olympics. The latter was marred by a terrorist attack carried out by members of the Palestinian organization Black September, which resulted in the death of 11 members of the Israeli national team. On September 8, 1972, in response to the attack, the Israeli Air Force bombed ten Palestine Liberation Organization bases in Syria and Lebanon, causing over two hundred casualties.

The 1972 terrorist attack, widely known as the “Munich massacre,” played a significant role in shaping the anti-terror policies of Germany and Israel. In response to the mishandling of the Olympic tragedy, the West German government established the GSG 9 (Border Guard Group 9), a special unit aimed at responding effectively and professionally to similar situations in the future.

A similar unit was also created in the Soviet Union. On July 29, 1974, under the directive of KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, Group A was formed within the KGB’s Seventh Department of the KGB, also known as the special unit “Alpha.” The group was tasked with operations to free hostages and neutralize criminals.

The Kremlin has now chosen to instill fear among Western audiences by claiming that history may repeat itself in 2024. Analysts from the Bot Blocker / antibot4navalny project informed The Insider that they had identified 593 tweets from 558 accounts sharing a disturbing video clip. The content is being spread under the pretext of expressing concern, accompanied by the message “this should not happen!”

DE:

  • AmerieRage49210
  • AllanMccon65450
  • alfiwadow1985
  • AlejandroN11816
  • Alcahestrpr8

FR:

  • Esperjhc2
  • Epeolatrycbe9
  • Enoughgm8
  • Embalewa31
  • Elaphinegz3

EN:

  • RangelJens74154
  • ramdehatlust198
  • Racemeazs73
  • SloaneNixo28849

The tweets are posted in German, French and English.

DE:

  • AmerieRage49210
  • AllanMccon65450
  • alfiwadow1985
  • AlejandroN11816
  • Alcahestrpr8

FR:

  • Esperjhc2
  • Epeolatrycbe9
  • Enoughgm8
  • Embalewa31
  • Elaphinegz3

EN:

  • RangelJens74154
  • ramdehatlust198
  • Racemeazs73
  • SloaneNixo28849
Number of accounts and tweets posting the video, sorted by language
Number of accounts and tweets posting the video, sorted by language
Figures provided by the Bot Blocker project

On X (formerly Twitter), bots are circulating a photo of graffiti depicting a hand from 1972 passing a machine gun to a hand from 2024. Accompanying the image are a few sentences conveying sentiments such as “The perpetrators must be found and punished” and “This is an unacceptable threat. We must not be intimidated.” All of these accounts were created recently, having been set up in November 2023. In both instances, involving both the video and the graffiti, these accounts are also responsible for spreading Kremlin propaganda that criticizes the West and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. To accomplish this, they use pseudo-journalistic articles on clones of well-known Western media outlets' websites and utilize fake publications that have previously been associated with the Doppelgänger network.

DE:

  • AmerieRage49210
  • AllanMccon65450
  • alfiwadow1985
  • AlejandroN11816
  • Alcahestrpr8

FR:

  • Esperjhc2
  • Epeolatrycbe9
  • Enoughgm8
  • Embalewa31
  • Elaphinegz3

EN:

  • RangelJens74154
  • ramdehatlust198
  • Racemeazs73
  • SloaneNixo28849
One of over 500 accounts publishing anti-Semitic and pro-Kremlin propaganda
One of over 500 accounts publishing anti-Semitic and pro-Kremlin propaganda

The video itself was published in early November by journalist Paul Antonopoulos from the Greek City Times. As reported by the media outlet, the video has been attributed to the Turkish ultra-nationalist group Gray Wolves (“Bozkurt” in Turkish), identifiable by their emblem featured in the video. The piece itself is titled “Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves threaten Israeli athletes participating at the Paris 2024 Olympics.”

The organization's militants have been accused of a number of murders and terrorist attacks, including an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Since the 1990s, they have switched to fighting the Kurdish separatist movement and ethno-religious minorities. Since 2015, the organization has been a close ally of Turkey's ruling AKP party. The Grey Wolves are headed by Devlet Bahceli, a Turkish far-right nationalist politician who has led the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) since 1997. In the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections, the HDP again supported Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and stood in alliance with his AKP party.

What is Doppelgänger?

Operation Doppelgänger began in 2021, notes Reset, an analytical project that studies digital media manipulation. The Russia-based media clone network was originally named “Doppelgänger” (a “doppelgänger” is an evil twin in European folklore) by the EU Disinfo Lab in a September 2022 report.

The project is made up of a network of accounts spreading propaganda videos, caricatures featuring Western leaders, and links to seemingly “journalistic” articles. The content notably aims to sway public opinion, evident from the range of languages used in the publications, including German, French, and Ukrainian.

When clicking on these links, users are redirected to a cloned site resembling a well-known Western or Ukrainian media outlet. Realizing these sites are fake may be difficult for readers, as the websites look identical to those of the original, differing only in the domain name. This deceptive tactic is known as typosquatting (or URL hijacking). Social networks have a hard time blocking these fake sites, as they are adept at redirecting users to the final cloned site via mirrors.

Who is behind Doppelgänger?

According to the VIGINUM report, the campaign to spread Russian disinformation “involved state or Russian state-affiliated structures.” Notably, fake statements from the French Foreign Ministry were circulated, falsely claiming the imminent introduction of a tax on all commercial transactions in France to support Ukraine. Similar deceptive sites mimicking the German Interior Ministry, Polish Foreign Ministry, and NATO were also promoted.

In December 2022, Meta revealed that Structura National Technologies, an IT firm, and Social Design Agency (Агентство Социального Проектирования), a marketing and political consulting firm, both subject to European sanctions, were identified as the culprits behind the Russian spam attack. The EU then imposed sanctions on both these companies.

The ultimate owner of National Technologies is Rostec — Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate headed by former KGB agent Sergey Chemezov, a close friend of Vladimir Putin. The Social Design Agency, as stated on its website, specializes in pre-election PR campaigns, information research, the creation of unique corporate styles, and the production of image films. Additionally, the agency provides services such as “preparation of platforms for capturing the online space: establishment of proprietary websites or implementation, engagement of the audience in the client's initiatives, and the creation of a network of 'brand advocates.’”

As reported in the EU's decision to impose sanctions against the organization, the “Social Design Agency has been identified as a key actor of the campaign, responsible for the creation of fake websites impersonating government organisations and legitimate media in Europe (primarily Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine and the United Kingdom)” and part of the “digital disinformation campaign” launched after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

DE:

  • AmerieRage49210
  • AllanMccon65450
  • alfiwadow1985
  • AlejandroN11816
  • Alcahestrpr8

FR:

  • Esperjhc2
  • Epeolatrycbe9
  • Enoughgm8
  • Embalewa31
  • Elaphinegz3

EN:

  • RangelJens74154
  • ramdehatlust198
  • Racemeazs73
  • SloaneNixo28849
The company has its client list out in the open — the first four on the list are Russia's State Duma, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Government of Moscow
The company has its client list out in the open — the first four on the list are Russia's State Duma, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Government of Moscow

The European Council also identified Structura National Technologies as a “key actor” of the disinformation campaign. The organization is registered at the same address as the Social Design Agency, which is also behind Doppelgänger.

The organizers are still the same

The recurrence of the Doppelgänger network's involvement and its organizers in the recent surge of disinformation is evident from the addresses of the promoted websites, according to the Bot Blocker project. Notable examples include:

  • tribunalukraine info
  • La Virgule
  • notrepays today
  • candidat news
  • franceeteu today
  • ukraine inc.

The project further highlighted a consistent pattern in the creation of account names, organized alphabetically, akin to previous waves of disinformation. All of these accounts publish — in addition to the videos and graffiti about Munich '72 — the same links to pro-Kremlin propaganda, such as pseudo-journalistic articles, anti-Western cartoons and images.

Custom-made anti-Semitic graffiti for Russian propaganda

The Doppelgänger network began posting anti-Semitic propaganda to Western audiences in late October — shortly after Hamas attacked southern Israel.

On October 28, multiple Twitter accounts began posting images depicting buildings in France adorned with the Stars of David — a symbol historically used to mark Jewish homes as a warning of potential pogroms. The Insider, referring to findings from the Bot Blocker project, had earlier reported that these accounts were also disseminating pro-Russian content, suggesting a link to the Doppelgänger network responsible for distributing the photos.

The French newspaper Le Monde noted that, aside from the Doppelgänger network's platforms, the photos had not been shared by any independent media outlets, and alternative accounts not affiliated with Doppelgänger did not feature the images. The Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti, however, released a video depicting a building adorned with the Star of David, accompanied by the caption “In general, the number of manifestations of anti-Semitism is growing in France.”

The Radio Sputnik website, owned and operated by government-run Rossiya Segodnya, followed the report with a column headlined “France can't (and won't) fight anti-Semitism.” The author of the column claims: “Buildings in Paris districts and suburbs are painted with six-pointed stars, and for those who remember the country's history, this has become a sign of great misfortune to come. Threats to French people with Jewish blood are the beginning of an ethnically divided society.”

Le Monde reported that two people have been arrested for spraying some of the graffiti. The actions were allegedly sponsored by Anatoly Prizenko — a Moldovan businessman and internet marketer who ran in local elections in Moldova for the pro-Russian PSRM party (Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova) in 2015.

DE:

  • AmerieRage49210
  • AllanMccon65450
  • alfiwadow1985
  • AlejandroN11816
  • Alcahestrpr8

FR:

  • Esperjhc2
  • Epeolatrycbe9
  • Enoughgm8
  • Embalewa31
  • Elaphinegz3

EN:

  • RangelJens74154
  • ramdehatlust198
  • Racemeazs73
  • SloaneNixo28849

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