Following an investigative report by BuzzFeed and others, a network of pro-Kremlin news outlets in the Baltic states suddenly admits to being run by the Russian state
Either immediately before or shortly after the publication on August 29 of an investigative report by BuzzFeed News, Re:Baltica, and Postimees, the news outlet BaltNews finally admitted to being owned and operated by the Russian state through the Rossiya Segodnya media agency. “Skype logs and other documents offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine,” the investigative story begins, laying out the breadcrumbs in a byzantine evidence trail that connects three pro-Russian news websites to Moscow's state-run media.
The report catalogs how staff at Rossiya Segodnya dictated approved topics and pushed certain materials for publication. Current and former editors from BaltNews’ outlets in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania generally refused to speak to BuzzFeed News, Re:Baltica, and Postimees, saying only that there were “information-sharing” agreements in place with the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti. BaltNews.lv chief editor Andrejs Jakovlevs, however, denied directly that any money was ever exchanged, and said he was never told what to write.
But money is certainly changing hands now. “The information agency BALTNEWS is registered with [Russia’s] Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technologies, and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) as of August 17, 2018,” Jakovlevs’s website says today. “The owner of the site Baltnews.lv is the international news agency Rossiya Segodnya.”
The website for the Estonian branch of BaltNews now says the same thing, but this message nonetheless was absent from the site as of August 25, eight days after its registration with Roskomnadzor, but still four days before the investigative report, according to records available on the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine.” It was only just before or shortly after the August 29 investigative report that BaltNews revealed that its owners are in Moscow.