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The evidence of the extent to which Russia is engaging in psychological warfare against the West is now available in black and white. ZDF’s Frontal21and DIE ZEIT gained access to more than 10,000 emails from the "Information Ministry" of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The leaders of the "People’s Republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are not recognized internationally, want to join the Russian Federation. So far, the Russian president has consistently denied that the rebels have taken their orders from Moscow. But the email leak from the ministry in Donetsk reveals actual command structures between Russian advisers and the rebels.

The emails, which took several months to analyze, expose the high-level organization and systematic manner in which Moscow is spreading an image of the West as the enemy in eastern Ukraine.

The Battle Plan

Two authors, one using the pseudonym "Artem" and the other using his presumed real name, Andrey Godnev, wrote an extensive paper in August 2015. The document, titled "Internal Information Policy Strategy in the Luhansk People’s Republic," (German translation here) was intended to serve as a manual for the rebels in control of portions of eastern Ukraine. According to the cover page, the 41-page document was written in "Luhansk-Moscow." In it, the authors use many examples to explain how the separatists should control reporting in newspaper editorial offices and at TV and radio stations.

According to the document, all reporting should follow the underlying narrative that the allegedly pro-fascist United States is the root of all evil: "After the Maidan [uprising], power in Ukraine fell into the hands of an oligarchic, pro-American junta – murderers and thieves, villainous, unprincipled people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. (…) In reality, power in the Ukraine lies in the hands of the Americans. They (…) control the situation through their agents, which include all important politicians in Ukraine, such as the president and the prime minister." This is how the document describes what happens in the media in eastern Ukraine: "Experts analyze the situation in Ukraine on television, evaluate the Poroshenko regime, and draw parallels to known radical right-wing regimes, including fascist and puppet dictatorships controlled by the United States."

At the end of the document, there is a three-page list showing the email addresses and telephone numbers of experts who can be consulted: nationalist politicians and thinkers in Moscow. They include neo-imperialist Alexander Dugin, who once said: "liberalism is an absolute evil," the chairman of the foreign policy committee of the Russian parliament, Alexsey Pushkov, and Sergey Glazyev, one of President Vladimir Putin's presumed advisers during the Ukraine crisis.

The strategists behind the "Internal Information Policy" devote special attention to the climate of opinion in social networks, and they note that changing moods on Facebook and its Russian counterpart VK, as well as on Twitter, should be carefully monitored. The strategy document also points out the need to react, if necessary. "A commentary group for the Internet will be established from within the ranks of young activists," the document reads.