BIRN Doc Lifts Lid on Russian Disinformation in Balkans

A documentary produced in Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro explores the scale of Kremlin-backed disinformation in these countries and its dangerous influence on the public.

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A Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, documentary, launched on Friday, shows how Western Balkan countries audiences have become vulnerable to disinformation from Russian-backed channels, especially since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The 63-minute documentary “Putin Calling: Russia’s Disinformation Flows Unchecked Through Balkans” shows how Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his propaganda against NATO and the European Union have found fertile ground among Balkan audiences and how powerful politicians, businesses, influential media and groups of supporters of Putin have built their havens in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo.

The documentary concludes that across the region, disinformation peddlers have sought to spread the Kremlin’s narrative to draw parallels between NATO’s bombing of former Yugoslavia in spring 1999 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It also explores how in the early days of Russia’s invasion, most Balkan countries attempted to cut off the Kremlin’s influence on the media and the public at large by disrupting main Russian information channels.

As part of pre-production phase, BIRN has mobilized a team of three investigative journalists within each country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro, who delved into the ground realities, conducting comprehensive interviews with a diverse group of more than 20 individuals, spanning experts, officials and media stakeholders. Their on-ground insights, collected from the heart of the affected regions, served as a foundation for the documentary, ensuring it is rooted in first-hand experiences and facts

The documentary highlights the challenge of disinformation in the Western Balkans originating from Kremlin-backed sources and showcases these disinformation campaigns.

BIRN’s approach prioritised depth and authenticity, both in understanding the issue and communicating it to the audience. The documentary evidences that Kremlin disinformation has influenced some groups in Montenegro and Kosovo with individuals who are sanctioned by the US becoming supporters of Putin in acts of violence and protests in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The documentary is in English and is subtitled in Albanian and Serbian.

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