A trio of journalists from independent Canadian media outlets were offered cash by a pro-Ukraine account on Twitter in exchange for using their sway to push rhetoric hostile towards the Russian Federation.
The journalists in question were Jeremy Loffredo, an American correspondent for Canada’s Rebel News, Avi Yemini, an Australian correspondent for the same, and Keean Bexte, a Canadian journalist who is a Rebel News alumni and now runs his own publication The Counter Signal, which reported on the story on Oct. 18.
The trio were all approached, either in Twitter private messages or through email, via one account that went by the name Volodymyr Kuzma. The name was accompanied by the Ukrainian flag emoji in the Twitter DMs.
All three were hit with the boilerplate message, “Hello! Would you consider posting links to human rights articles on your Twitter page? These articles are published in well-known publications such as Amnesty, Reuters, DW, etc.”
“I am also willing to pay for each post published,” Kuzma added.
In a second article, Bexte says he led Kuzma on to a certain extent and the man revealed he was willing to pay $200 for each “tweet in support of Ukraine.”
The impact may have been well worth the money. Loffredo boasts 19,400 subscribers, Yemini has more than 326,000, and Bexte more than 220,000, all of which could be reasonably classified as having a conservative political bias and as consumers of alternative media.
Bexte stated, “Facial recognition technology revealed that Kuzma is a Ukrainian journalist” who belongs to an organization called “Humans Virtue,” but was instructed to make sure not to credit or mention the group in his tweets.
He also quoted Kuzma as directly stating, “I am Ukrainian, I live in Ukraine at the moment” in conversation.
“I will be given a list with links in a few days. The articles are ready, you will need to choose one from the list and publish it,” Kuzma added.
Loffredo told The Counter Signal that his own basic research found that many Twitter accounts shared the name Volodymyr Kuzma and most were created in 2022.
Although Bexte believed Kuzma’s Twitter accounts appear to have been deleted, it seems he may have just changed his call sign to @vr_kuzma.
Curiously, of the 253 people the account follows, several dozen either feature the Scottish flag emojicon or are pro-Scottish independence themed.
A person with the same name and profile picture appears to have a Quora account active since August of 2021.
“Hi! I develop and manage digital advertising using Google Adwords, Facebook and Instagram,” reads Kuzma’s profile.
Bexte posed the question to his readers of whether or not the billions of dollars donated to Ukraine by both Canada and the United States in the form of aid and weapons packages were merely being recycled to pay for a propaganda campaign.
There may be a concrete answer to his question.
In March, shortly after the war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine as a proxy of NATO first began, indie media website Mint Press News author Dan Cohen published a piece titled Ukraine’s Propaganda War: International PR Firms, DC Lobbyists and CIA Cutouts that chronicled the story of the sophisticated online presence of pro-Ukraine accounts.
“Behind Ukraine’s public relations effort is an army of foreign political strategists, Washington DC lobbyists, and a network of intelligence-linked media outlets,” Cohen stated.
The article elaborated, “The international effort is spearheaded by public relations firm PR Network co-founder Nicky Regazzoni and Francis Ingham, a top public relations consultant with close ties to the UK’s government. Ingraham previously worked for Britain’s Conservative Party, sits on the UK Government Communication Service Strategy and Evaluation Council, is Chief Executive of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, and leads the membership body for UK local government communicators, LG Comms.”
Cohen exposed further, “With an anonymous Ukrainian figure joining two of the top public relations figures in the Kiev government’s propaganda blitz, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs distributed a dossier folder (archived) with materials instructing public relations agencies on ‘key messages,’ approved language, content for debunked propaganda constructs, far-right and Neo-Nazi propaganda.”