Bellingcat Filled With Ex-Spooks, Created to Pressure Countries, Russian Foreign Intel Service Says
09:19 GMT 02.08.2021 (Updated: 10:08 GMT 02.08.2021)
The self-styled online 'independent investigation' group, well known for its inquiries into a range of geopolitical hot topics, from alleged chemical attacks in Syria to the downing of a civilian airliner in civil war-hit eastern Ukraine, has long been accused by independent media of serving as a mere front for Western intelligence agencies.
Bellingcat was created to put pressure on certain countries, entities and individuals, and is filled with 'former' members of Western intelligence services, Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), has said.
Commenting on the scandals involving Proekt and The Insider - the pair of self-styled independent Russian media projects which were recently added to Russia's list of foreign agents and banned, Naryshkin said these services are linked to one network alongside Bellingcat.
"These components are interconnected. There is a complex stage direction there which demands great skills and great effort. But there is a connection between them. We feel it and see it," Naryshkin said, speaking to Russian media.
Proekt was banned by Russian authorities in mid-July, with five of its journalists labeled as 'foreign agents'. Among its investigations are Buzzfeed-style stories about 'the Russian regime's struggle' against opposition vlogger Alexei Navalny, alleged Trump-Russia collusion claims long abandoned by most Western mainstream media, the recent attempted colour revolution in Belarus, etc. The Insider was added to the 'foreign agents' list on 23 July, and is more focused various social problems, again from a pro-Western liberal perspective.
21 June, 12:53 GMT
Commenting on the work of Bellingcat, Naryshkin suggested that the 'independent' investigative group "uses dishonest methods," and that "the information used in such cases is false, unverified, and has its own purposes...They are ready to carry out any task, because they're doing it for money, not disinterestedly".
Created in 2014 as a self-styled 'intelligence agency for the people', Bellingcat has been at the forefront of pushing a pro-Western media narrative in dozens of explosive stories, from the 2014 shootdown of a passenger airliner over Ukraine (which Bellingcat blames on Russia), to the alleged gas attacks in Syria (which Bellingcat blames on the Syrian government), to debunked claims about Russian meddling in foreign elections, to allegations that Russian agents blew up a Czech arms depot. Last year, Bellingcat and a consortium of US and European media outlets also released a report on Navalny's alleged poisoning, blaming the Kremlin for the suspected assassination plot. Moscow dismissed these allegations as a pre-planned provocation, with the Federal Security Service (FSB) saying the 'investigation' would not have been possible without the organisational and technical support of foreign intelligence services.