Kremlin-linked Estonian disinfo op and the surrounding social network
2016 August 21
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[Update 2016-09-05: See this about Kornilov's post-arrest adventures.]

On Tuesday of this past week (16 August 2016) police in Estonia arrested Aleksandr Kornilov. The charges revolve around the passage through Kornilov's alternative news NGO of 50,000 Euros. Kornilov is the front man in Estonia for the Kremlin's Baltnews active measures/disinfo operation. It is a virtual certainty that other Kremlin-aligned NGOs and alternative media operations are similarly playing it fast and loose with the cash flows. Enquiring minds might want to take a look at Russia Insider and South Front, to name two.

People like Kornilov get involved in these sorts of activities because of who they know. They are enabled by their associations, and their actions are a reflection of their milieux. The following is a look at Kornilov's social network.

The network was grown by cross-referencing Kornilov's friends as publicly displayed on Facebook with the friends of an assortment of known Kremlin-linked activists and operatives. The latter were selected in order to capture a range of types of people who are involved in active measures to varying degrees. The resulting network included 22,348 individuals and 38,603 relationships between those individuals. Whether the target of the investigation is involved in terrorism, organized crime, or hostile intelligence activity, one thing you can be sure of is that almost no one in their social network is of any interest. The key to exploiting social network data is not in collecting more of it, but in being able to get rid of almost all of it, to get down to the core network of people who are likely also involved in the activity that is of concern.

The blue are Kornilov and those friends of his who are also friends with an assortment of known entities. The Orange are those assorted known entities. Prominent individuals in the network include Modest Kolerov, who has a long history of involvement in running active measures ops for the Kremlin; Vladimir Lepekhin, Director General of the Eurasian Economic Union Institute and believed by Estonian security to be in charge of coordinating Kremlin propaganda efforts targeting neighboring states; Fyodor Biryukov and Stepan Zotov of the Rodina Party; one member of the Night Wolves motorcycle gang and two people with connections to the Night Wolves; a couple of officials from the "People's Republics" set up by GRU in Donbas; and others.


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© 2015-2016 Andrew Aaron Weisburd