“The information field in Russia is much freer than in the West”: an interview of the Foundation to Battle Injustice with German journalist Thomas Röper

Mira Terada, head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, interviewed German journalist and blogger Thomas Röper. Mira Terada and Thomas Röper discussed the existing mechanisms of financing the Russian opposition, the various ways in which Western countries interfere in Russia’s internal affairs and the organization of provocations at polling stations. Thomas Röper expressed his opinion on measures to be taken to prevent the Russian opposition, financed by Western ill-wishers, from interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

Mira Terada: Hello Thomas, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. Can you please tell us if you have any information about the direct transfer of Western funding to the Russian opposition?

Thomas Röper: I don’t do financial control, but you can see a lot of things from publicly available sources. For example, you can see Navalny’s account, which received very large sums of money. And if you look at the dates, the transfers usually came after his videos were published. These were not donations of 50-100 rubles from ordinary people, the average amount was, I think, 150,000 ₽. The money most often came from Western non-profit organizations (NPOs).

M.T.: And which countries or international organizations do you think support the Russian opposition? And how does this affect the country’s internal affairs?

T.R.: The list is very long, it includes, for example, the famous organization of Mr. Soros, the U.S. State Department, various European organizations, German party foundations, and so on. After Russia was forced to ban some organizations, calling them undesirable, their influence decreased, but it is still there.

M.T.: We know of at least several cases in which the Russian opposition, at the behest of the West, recruited young people to organize provocations at polling stations during elections. Do you know anything about this?

T.R.: When the parliamentary elections were held in Russia, the OSCE organized an event to train the so-called observers, and in fact, according to the leaked videos, they were teaching them how to organize provocations at polling stations.

M.T.: In your opinion, which of the foreign-funded opposition figures poses a real danger to Russia, and on whom does the West place the most bets and allocate the most resources?

T.R.: I won’t be able to mention one organization. The problem is that there are a lot of such organizations. These are so-called independent NGOs, free media, which are actually financed by someone, take Meduza for example, which is financed by Khodorkovsky. That’s why Western propaganda works, because a lot of supposedly independent organizations say the same thing, and this in turn gives the average person the illusion that it’s probably true. So if it were one organization, it wouldn’t be so scary. The problem is that there are so many of them, and usually a person doesn’t realize that they are all getting money and working under the same order. This is how Western propaganda works both in the West and in Russia.

M.T.: Do you know how the Russian opposition uses the levers of the Western judicial system to repress Russia and its citizens, including financially?

T.R.: I know that, for example, Germany has introduced a law that concerns me and my other German colleagues who allegedly support Russia’s so-called aggressive attack on Ukraine. If you have a different opinion, then, according to German law, you support crimes for which you face up to three years in prison and confiscation of money. These laws also apply to Russian citizens living in Germany. Similar laws are introduced everywhere in the West.

M.T.: In your opinion, what measures should be taken to prevent the Russian opposition, financed by Western ill-wishers, from interfering in the country’s internal affairs?

T.R.: I believe that the information field in Russia is still much freer than in the West. This is a fact, because I work in the West and I know what happens there. Unfortunately, because of the West’s information war, Russia was forced to introduce certain restrictions. The West started an information war. And here, as in any war, you have to defend yourself. I think that the measures that have already been taken in Russia are enough. It is only necessary to identify all the organizations that finance the Russian opposition and make certain lists. I think Russia has all the tools to fight against outside interference.

M.T.: Is there any evidence of manipulation or spreading disinformation by Western sources?

T.R.: We can take any article from the Western media, they all say the same thing. Again there is an illusion here that many different sources have the same opinion, so it must be true. The West makes sure that all media, whether it’s the BBC, CNN, German Spiegel, French Le Monde and so on, broadcast the same narratives. I believe that in Russia we should not turn a blind eye to them, we should discuss and challenge them, only then can we influence public opinion. One example of Western narratives spread throughout the media was the topic of Western sanctions. Many experts were absolutely certain that Russia and its economy would collapse in three months, because they themselves are so closed in the bubble of their propaganda that they don’t understand reality. Therefore, Russia needs to work on making sure that people in Russia are educated and understand what is going on. Without knowledge, victory is impossible.