Journalist Zaimi: Russian propaganda is trying to undermine Albania’s European path
Russian propaganda, unlike other countries, is seeking to undermine the European path and American policies in Albania.
This is what the journalist and expert on security issues, Gerta Zaimi, told The Geopost, adding that the main channels for propaganda in this country are the media, businesses, nostalgics of the former USSR and those who are paid to infiltrate networks.
In this interview, Zaimi emphasizes that Russian propaganda messages are easy to be perceived by the Albanian public.
According to her, the case of the Gramsci Military Plant, where two Russian and one Ukrainian spies were caught, is classic espionage.
The Geopost: How is Russian propaganda in Albania?
Gerta Zaimi: In Albania it is different from other countries which are the countries of former Yugoslavia. Russia’s interventions when Albania joined NATO in 2009 were completely different from the campaign it did with Montenegro and North Macedonia.
The way Russian propaganda intervened in Albania is that it does not have a population that is so loyal to them, but still, Russian propaganda is very active in Albania, similar to other countries, that is, with a few special changes.
Let’s say that the main channels are the media, where not often the income is undeclared, they cannot sustain themselves with advertisements. Not all media, of which 800 are registered, manage to survive with their income. It is not known where this income comes from or not, there are offshore media, so we have hundreds or thousands of messages that are given by these portals, which are in different categories, media is the main tool.
The other comes from business, which holds a part of the media, which have a strong connection with the supply points, with the raw materials, with the grains, and are mainly taken from Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. Crude oil, for example, is imported from Russia, despite the fact that Albania produces unrefined crude oil. Another part comes from old nostalgics who belong to a generation that has been in the army with ranks, that is former USSR nostalgics. There is another part, who are paid, stimulated in various ways to be recruited and to do Russian propaganda on the networks.
So, Russian propaganda is very simple, there are messages that are very easy for the public to perceive. The two main catalysts have been the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, starting in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea. Of course, the last 6 months have been the most powerful. From 2014 until the war broke out 6 months ago, it was completely unknown to the Albanian public, let’s say the Russian aggression, the Russian invasion. There was hardly any news. Another is COVID-19, COVID-19 is another catalyst. Conspiracy theories of all kinds were spread throughout the pandemic. The undermining was mainly of EU policies regarding the Balkans. The attack of the whole West in general on how the pandemic and vaccination were being managed, and then there are all the conspiracy theories that you find on the networks from the most different, that are related to NATO, for example about the war in Ukraine. One of the theories floating around is that after all, NATO made all of this happen, if it hadn’t been for America it wouldn’t have happened. This is something that you find quite widely spread on the networks and in cafes talking to people of all ages, because after all, Ukraine was a zone of influence of Russia, Russia does not have to accept NATO close to itself, and this is one of the most widely spread theories. There is no counter-information for all these data, then also conspiracy theories related to Soros, to the great powers of the world, to the way the pandemic was managed by the great powers.
The Russians, through propaganda in Albania, seek to undermine, unlike other countries where there is a loyal population with other problems, will it penetrate in such a way as to undermine the policies of the EU and the USA.
Albania is undoubtedly the most pro-European country, Kosovo is also included here, where in all polls 85% are pro-Western, pro-entry into the EU, over 70% are pro-NATO, so of course Albania belongs to the category of very pro-Western populations.
In politics, unlike in other countries, there are no politicians who openly take the side of Russia, it does not exist openly, then there is in the underground. It is most obvious that there will be, like all the countries of the world, it means that Russian espionage also works in the recruitment of politicians in order to then infiltrate people if there are protests and so on.
The Geopost: The last case in the military plant of Gramsci, what really happened there?
Gerta Zaimi: This is a classic case of espionage, the simplest and most open case of espionage. Without speculating politically, espionage exists everywhere.
They came at different times and come to take pictures.
The big question mark is why in the Gramsh factory, when this factory is inactive, which has not been in operation for a long time. This is the only question that arises very spontaneously, at the first moment.
This blogger has traveled to many countries of the world for the same actions, she has been called by the police several times. Now the Russian Embassy is looking for them because they want her back, but it seems to me a classic case of espionage. The question is, why Gramsci? Is it related to the hydropower plant that is nearby, is it due to the fact that those images will be used for another event somewhere else, as happened for example in the case of using the license plate of the Albanian car, randomly obtained on Google, and used to simulate as if Ukrainian weapons were being smuggled. This is unknown, this is to be clarified and only the competent bodies can say this later, if they want to say it.
Similar to this example of Gramsci, there was another case in 2021, where 2 Russians were caught at the same time, one was filming when the joint exercises with the United States for “Defender 21” were taking place, and the other entered from Muriqani border-crossing with a drone he was followed and deported immediately after 3-4 days.
The Geopost: What are Albania doing to prevent Russian propaganda?
Gerta Zaimi: Almost nothing. I see very little movement, there is no real debate among intellectuals in think-tanks, in universities, there is no preparation for students. So I don’t see such a strong argument about it.
The war in Ukraine has certainly opened the debate, but regarding the influence on all fronts of how Russia acts, I honestly do not see any strong organization as a counter-response. /The Geopost/