Bogus 'thinktank' unmasked after Latgale warning

A supposedly pro-Western thinktank that warned last week of plans for Russian agents to provoke unrest in eastern Latvia next year was exposed Monday as a crude fake - but left questions unanswered about who was really behind it.

The self-styled Center For Eurasian Strategic Intelligence (CESI) published a report Friday saying "Moscow is likely to stage a destabilizing operation in Latvia in spring 2015."

"The operation is not aimed at annexation of territories, but pursues a goal of creating temporary trouble spots, triggering Latvian authorities’ tough actions on suppressing secessionism in these territories. As a result, Moscow expects the operation to give an impetus to Latvia’s authorities to revise the Russian-speaking population policy, introduce zero-citizenship, lift the existing restrictions on Russian language use, thus enabling to enlarge the number of pro-Russian forces in power," CESI claimed.

The report was picked up by some Latvian and international media who did not question what CESI was, believing without question that anything published by a 'Western thinktank' was reliable.

However, on social media several people noticed that something was not quite right with CESI.

For a start the organization used a bizarre form of non-native-speaker English in all its reports. Despite claiming to be based in London, even its title spells "center" in American fashion rather than British "centre".

Moreover, its thin selection of reports date back just a few months and many appear to be little more than rehashed work produced by other sources.

It also apparently has the power to produce analysis from the future with one of the videos on its website dated December 17th.

Then on Monday morning, blogger Anton Shekhovtsov blew the lid on CESI in a damning series of revelations. His research shows that CESI is at best a scam and at worst a clear attempt at stirring ethnic unrest in the eastern Latgale region of Latvia.

Shekhovtsov's impressive detective work shows that CESI is not a real academic institute of any kind. In fact it is an 'offshore' type business with fake staff and no real headquarters.

But several key questions remain unanswered: who stands to gain from the sort of stories CESI is pumping out, plus who paid for the story about planned civil unrest in Latgale and why?

LSM has obtained a statement from CESI's Alex Kraus defending his organization.

He said CESI founder William Fowler was currently unavailable as he is in Paris.

"CESI is think tank that was created in response on Russian policy in Europe. Our staff are former officers of military analytic structures from former Eastern European countries," Kraus said.

Asked how his Latvia analysis was obtained, Krause explained: "Latvia analysis is made by our analysts based on information of our sources in UK, social network analysis and publication about work of pro-Russian forces in November in Latgalia." (sic)

"Unfortunately they do not speak Latvian," he added.

Asked where CESI's money came from, Kraus replied that it was "funded as from donations of our founders, as from commercial orders of several business companies in Europe that buy CESI's analysis and forecast of Russian policy and Moscow's reaction on sanctions." 

Criticism of CESI was "boosted by Russian special services" he claimed.

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