Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Is this Canadian sniper still alive?The truth is shrouded in Ukraine’s ‘fog of war’ and Russia’s propaganda machine

Torch and Sword It was Olivier Lavigne-Ortiz who went to write about where he crossed the border into Ukraine as a foreign volunteer soldier and shared pictures of the weapons he got on the other side.

That means “torch and sword,” online blogs and the Facebook community have been containers for years of the former Canadian Army sniper’s thoughts and observations about his time in conflict zones, as he told The Star in 2016 As stated in the interview, he considers himself both a soldier and a storyteller.

That is, until the account goes black this week, which is a departure from his roughly once-a-day postings since late February. Meanwhile, Russian social media accounts began spreading rumours about Lavigne-Ortiz’s death.

No official source has confirmed whether Lavigne-Ortiz is dead or alive. Relatives posted online that they fully believed he was alive. But he was in a war zone, and the truth remained elusive. Meanwhile, experts say his so-called death story fits Russia’s long history of misinformation playbook and information warfare.

Ravigne-Ortiz, known to his 40,000 Facebook followers as “Wali”, has fought and documented his time in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and now Ukraine, always portraying Out of pictures of glory from knocking down enemies and fighting back, he said, images of invaders spreading through war.

This purpose, and the fame Vali has gained, may be why Russian troll farms want to spread the news of his alleged death.

On Monday, Valli shared a post on his blog telling his followers not to worry about his safety after the deadly attack in Russia.

“I have moved away from the base that was hit yesterday,” he wrote, referring to the Russian missile strike near Lviv. “Those who died probably didn’t see the Russian soldiers. This is modern warfare. Still just as dirty, but impersonal.”

It was far from Lviv, he said, but he did not say where he was. This was Wali’s last post before his channel went down. As of Friday, he hadn’t done it again.

But less than 24 hours after Valli’s last post, the explanation for his silence went viral on Russian social media networks such as VKontakt.

“Canadian sniper, advertised as ‘world’s deadliest sniper’…killed by Russian special forces in Mariupol 20 minutes after landing,” the administrator of the Russian nationalist group wrote in a post road.

The post was “liked” over 12,000 times and will continue to appear on countless other channels.

Varley’s internet followers weren’t so quick to take the news, which has yet to be confirmed by independent news or government sources.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said it had not been informed of any Canadian volunteer fighters killed in Ukraine.

“Think about it,” one Wally fan said in French in a video he made for the rumor. “How could Vali be in Mariupol the day after crossing the border into Ukraine? … Valli is still alive.”

Wally said a Facebook post by the Norman Brigade, the group he traveled with, did not confirm whether he was alive or dead, but said he was not near Mariupol on the day the Russian post claimed he was killed.

Whether or not Wally is still alive, it’s clear why Russia is spreading the news of his death, said Thomas Holt, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice who specializes in internet hacking.

“This is a classic model of potential psychological warfare using information warfare. So saying you killed an enemy combatant very quickly…before he can do anything, this might not only make people who might see him as Low sentiment among Ukrainians of potential assets … that will definitely affect Canadian personal opposition to possible involvement in the conflict itself.”

For Yevgeniy Golovchenko, a social media disinformation researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Wali has been drawn into a larger “fog of war” — the truth, distortion and falsehood that Russia spreads during the war A barrage of information to sow support for the Russians, frustration for the Ukrainian army and confusion for everyone else.

“If you look at the classic disinformation tactics…you almost always go for stories and narratives that grab people’s attention – those are viral. Writing stories or narratives or falsehoods about things no one reads. Information is meaningless,” Golovchenko said.

“There’s no point in telling this person’s story if the person isn’t already famous.”

But Wally was famous, and known for his art of war.

By March 3, he had arrived in Ukraine and had posted about the crossing with three other Quebec volunteers and some Britons. He blogged that he joined the Norman Brigade, a group of Canadian and British volunteer fighters working together in Ukraine.

His arrival in Ukraine was covered breathlessly by a handful of international media and other sites that declared him a talent who could single-handedly weaken the Russian military. He is often described as the world’s deadliest sniper, but his exact achievements are difficult to prove given the secrecy of sniper operations.

He told the CBC earlier this month that he was traveling with three other former Canadian soldiers who were greeted with hugs and handshakes as they crossed the border.

“They’re happy to have us,” he told the CBC. “It’s like we became friends right away.”

Holt said Valli’s reputation must have contributed to why Russia was amplifying news of his alleged death. But, he said, the post about Wally was part of a bigger picture and a long tradition of spreading information during wartime.

“It’s important to note that this is just another tool in a broader information warfare suite,” Holt said. “In traditional information warfare, going back decades and even back to World War II and Vietnam, the use of printed material to strike or stabilize the population of an occupied country or the conflict itself is common.”

Russia’s use of disinformation, misinformation and propaganda has been well documented by the international community, especially since the country’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. A U.S. intelligence report released last year said Russia is at the center of a controlled information ecosystem that includes state media, agricultural internet trolls and friendly third-party websites that support it.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has not made any comment to Valli through its official communication channels.

There are examples of propaganda on both sides of the war.

In Russia, state-controlled news outlets have amplified videos that apparently show Nazi flags being seized by Russian troops in Ukraine (Russia is using Ukraine’s Nazism as a justification for the invasion). In Ukraine, government sources circulated a story of Russian troops occupying Serpent Island, saying that only 13 soldiers defending the island refused to surrender and were killed (Ukrainian sources later suggested that they may have been captured, rather than being killed).

Holt said the vast amount of information out there — some real, some fake — makes it nearly impossible to verify whether someone like Valli is really alive.

After all, Holt said, Valley would be wise to keep quiet in this situation.

“So, in the meantime, it’s probably wisest to take everything with a grain of salt and check the source. If it’s just troll farms (spreading this information), then it’s probably not real,” Holt said. “But it’s very difficult. I would say it’s like the information fog of war, and without good information, it’s hard to get accuracy until third parties, new sources, etc. can verify it.”

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{“@context”:”http://schema.org”,”@type”:”NewsArticle”,”dateCreated”:”2022-03-19T12:12:25-04:00″,”datePublished”:”2022-03-19T12:12:25-04:00″,”dateModified”:”2022-03-19T12:12:25-04:00″,”headline”:”Is this Canadian sniper alive? The truth is caught up in Ukraineu2019s u2018fog of waru2019 u2014 and the Russian propaganda machine”,”name”:”Is this Canadian sniper alive? The truth is caught up in Ukraineu2019s u2018fog of waru2019 u2014 and the Russian propaganda machine”,”keywords”:”canada,Canada News Now,Canada Today,Canadian sniper,coast2coast,InHouseArticle_thestar,Latest Breaking News,Latest News,News,News Online,Ontario Canada News,Russia,smg_canada,smg2_news,Toronto News,ukraine,WALI,War In Ukraine,World News”,”url”:”https://todaynewspost.com/news/world/canada-news/is-this-canadian-sniper-alive-the-truth-is-caught-up-in-ukraines-fog-of-war-and-the-russian-propaganda-machine/”,”description”:”News Today || Canada News | La Torche et lu2019u00c9pu00e9e is the place Olivier Lavigne-Ortiz went to write about crossing the border into Ukraine as a foreign volunteer fighter, and to share pictures of the wea”,”copyrightYear”:”2022″,”articleSection”:”Canada”,”articleBody”:”rnNews Today || Canada News |rnrnLa Torche et lu2019u00c9pu00e9e is the place Olivier Lavigne-Ortiz went to write about crossing the border into Ukraine as a foreign volunteer fighter, and to share pictures of the weapons he got on the other side.It means u201cThe torch and the sword,u201d and for years the online blog and Facebook community has been the container for the former Canadian Forces sniperu2019s thoughts and observations about his time in conflict zones, where, as he told the Star in a 2016 interview, he views himself in a dual role as both soldier and storyteller. That is, until the account went dark this week, a change from his approximately once daily posting since late February. At the same time, Russian social media accounts started spreading a now-viral rumour that Lavigne-Ortiz has died.No official source has yet confirmed if Lavigne-Ortiz is dead or alive. Loved ones have posted online that they fully believe he is still alive. But he is in a war zone, and the truth remains elusive. Experts, meanwhile, say stories of his supposed death fit Russiau2019s misinformation playbook and the long history of information warfare.Known by his 40,000-person Facebook following as u201cWali,u201d Lavigne-Ortiz has fought and documented his time in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and now Ukraine, always painting a picture of glory that comes from taking down enemies, and countering, he says, the images spread by the aggressors in war.That purpose, and the fame Wali has garnered, may be why Russian troll farms want to spread word of his purported demise.On Monday, Wali had shared a post on the blog telling his followers not to worry for his safety following a deadly Russian attack.u201cI am already far from the base that was hit yesterday,u201d he wrote, referring to Russian missile strikes near Lviv. u201cThose who died probably did not see the Russian soldiers. Such is modern warfare. Still just as dirty, but impersonal.u201dFar from Lviv, he said, but he gave no indication of where he was. That was the last post Wali made before his channel went dark. As of Friday, he hadnu2019t made another. But less than 24 hours after Waliu2019s last post, explanations for his silence were going viral on Russian social media networks such as VKontakt.u201cCanadian sniper, which propaganda called the u2018deadliest sniper in the worldu2019… killed by Russian special forces in Mariupol 20 minutes after landing,u201d read one post by the administrator of a Russian nationalist group.The post was u201clikedu201d more than 12,000 times, and would go on to appear on countless other channels.Waliu2019s internet following was not so quick to accept this news, which has not been verified by independent news or government sources. A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said it hadnu2019t been informed of any Canadian volunteer fighters dying in Ukraine.u201cThink about it,u201d one Wali fan said in French in a video he made about the rumours. u201cHow could Wali have been in Mariupol the day after crossing the border into Ukraine? … Wali is alive.u201d A Facebook post by the Norman Brigade, the group with which Wali said he was travelling, did not confirm whether he was alive or dead, but said he was not near Mariupol on the day the Russian posts claimed he was killed.Thomas Holt, a professor in the school of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University who specializes in internet hacking, said that whether or not Wali is still alive, itu2019s clear why Russia would want to spread the story of his death.u201cThatu2019s kind of a classic model of potential psychological operations using information warfare. So by saying that youu2019ve killed an enemy combatant very quickly … before he could do anything has the potential to be not only demoralizing for those of Ukraine who might have seen him as a potential asset … it certainly may affect individuals in Canada who are opposed to perhaps engaging in the conflict itself.u201dTo Yevgeniy Golovchenko, a University of Copenhagen researcher on social media disinformation, Wali has been swept up in a larger u201cfog of waru201d u2014 the barrage of true, twisted, and false information propagated by Russia in its war to sow support among Russians, despondency among Ukrainian forces, and confusion among everyone else. u201cIf you look at the classical disinformation strategies … you will almost always go for the stories, narratives that captivate people that capture attention u2014 that are viral. There is no point in writing stories or narratives or a disinformation about something that nobody reads,u201d Golovchenko said. u201cIt wouldnu2019t make sense to make stories about this person if he was not already famous.u201dBut Wali is famous, and famous for the art of war.By March 3, he had arrived in Ukraine, and posted about crossing the border with three other Quebec volunteers and some Britons. He wrote on his blog that he joined the Norman Brigade, a group of Canadian and British volunteer fighters working together in Ukraine.His arrival in Ukraine was covered breathlessly by a smattering of international media and other websites that heralded him as a talent capable of single-handedly weakening Russian forces. He is often described as the worldu2019s deadliest sniper, though, given the secrecy with which snipers operate, his exact achievements are difficult to confirm. He told CBC earlier this month that heu2019d made the journey with three other former Canadian soldiers and they were greeted with hugs and handshakes when they crossed the border.u201cThey were so happy to have us,u201d he told CBC. u201cItu2019s like we were friends right away.u201dHolt said Waliu2019s fame certainly contributes to why Russia would want to amplify news of his supposed death. But, he said, the posts about Wali are part of a bigger picture, and a long tradition of spreading information during times of war.u201cIt is important to note that this is just another tool in the broader suite of information warfare,u201d Holt said. u201cIn traditional information warfare, going back to the last couple of decades even to World War Two and Vietnam, the use of printed materials in order to demoralize or stabilize the population of an occupied country, or conflict itself, is quite common.u201dRussiau2019s use of disinformation, misinformation and propaganda has been well documented by the international community, especially since the countryu2019s invasion of Crimea in 2014. A U.S. intelligence report released last year described the Russian state being at the centre of a controlled information ecosystem, which includes state media, farming internet trolls and propped-up friendly third party sites.Ukraine, meanwhile, has not said anything about Wali through its official communications channels. There are examples of propaganda being used on both sides of the war. In Russia, state-controlled news outlets have amplified videos apparently showing a Nazi flag captured by Russian forces in Ukraine (Nazism in Ukraine is being used by Russia as justification for the invasion). In Ukraine, government sources spread a story about the capture of the tiny Snake Island by Russian forces, saying a mere 13 soldiers defending the island refused to surrender and therefore were killed (Ukrainian sources later said they may have been captured, not killed).Holt said the barrage of information out there u2014 some true and some false u2014 makes it all but impossible to verify whether a person like Wali may actually be alive.After all, Holt said, the smart thing for Wali to do in the circumstance is to stay quiet.u201cSo in the interim, the smartest thing to probably do is take everything with a grain of salt and check the source. If it is just troll farms (spreading this information) then itu2019s probably not truthful,u201d Holt said. u201cBut itu2019s very hard. I would say, itu2019s like an informational fog of war where thereu2019s no good information and itu2019s hard to necessarily get accuracy until third parties, new sources, etc., can validate.u201dJOIN THE CONVERSATION Anyone can read Conversations, but to contribute, you should be registered Torstar account holder. If you do not yet have a Torstar account, you can create one now (it is free)Sign InRegisterConversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.n !function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s){if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod?n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)};if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n;n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version=’2.0′;n.queue=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0;t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window,document,’script’,’//connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’);nrnLatest Canadian News Today & Breaking Headlines – Check More rnrnToday News || News Now || World News || US Headlines || Health || Technology News || Education NewsrnrnSource”,”publisher”:{“@id”:”#Publisher”,”@type”:”Organization”,”name”:”Today News Post”,”logo”:{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”url”:”https://todaynewspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Today-News-Post.png”},”sameAs”:[“https://todaynewspost.com/feed/”,”https://www.facebook.com/thetodaynewspost/”,”https://twitter.com/TodayNewsPost”,”https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMz_8Co5qsVku95ifhJlsHA/”,”https://www.instagram.com/todaynewsgroup/”]},”sourceOrganization”:{“@id”:”#Publisher”},”copyrightHolder”:{“@id”:”#Publisher”},”mainEntityOfPage”:{“@type”:”WebPage”,”@id”:”https://todaynewspost.com/news/world/canada-news/is-this-canadian-sniper-alive-the-truth-is-caught-up-in-ukraines-fog-of-war-and-the-russian-propaganda-machine/”,”breadcrumb”:{“@id”:”#Breadcrumb”}},”author”:{“@type”:”Person”,”name”:”Page Widely”,”url”:”https://todaynewspost.com/author/page/”},”image”:{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”url”:”https://images.thestar.com/me6a1cKNxNCdSjWaM8sW24zSYEA=/1200×675/smart/filters:cb(1647707650361)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/canada/2022/03/15/is-this-canadian-sniper-alive-the-truth-is-caught-up-in-ukraines-fog-of-war-and-the-russian-propaganda-machine/wali_2_.jpg”,”width”:1920,”height”:0}}

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