fbpx

Network of social media groups spreading disinformation about green energy, war in Ukraine

Bulgaria must continue to generate electricity from coal   without coal-fired power plants, we will not have enough electricity to supply the country, or so claim hundreds of posts on social media. In the same groups spreading these claims, others can be found — for example, that green energy actually creates more pollution, or that the transition is going to kill our energy sector.

Where are these claims being spread most actively, and is there any connection between the groups on social media where they are published?

Against wind turbines and for “neutrality”

In 2022, the municipality of Vetrino near Varna announced a moratorium on the installation of wind turbines in its territory. Several months later, the decision was declared null and void, but hostility towards green energy has continued in Vetrino and the environs in other ways.

To put it plainly, it has been launched against a specific project in the village of Neofit Rilski, Vetrino Municipality, to build dozens of wind turbines. Leading this campaign is the founder of the Varna-area attraction Historical Park, Ivelin Mihaylov, who has spread claims that wind turbines are harmful to people’s health. Fighting the wind turbines in Vetrino is gradually becoming a battle against green energy altogether, to preserve coal-fired power plants, and against military aid for Ukraine.

The jury is still out on the evidence regarding the impact of wind turbine noise on people’s sleep and moods   some studies have identified effects, while others have not. However, recent studies have found no evidence that wind turbine noise increases the risk of heart attack or stroke, congenital defects, high blood pressure, or diabetes. When it comes to suggestions that people’s proximity to wind turbines can provoke oncological diseases, such claims have been repeatedly refuted.

In addition to serving on the board of directors of the Historical Park Association, a search in the Commercial Register reveals that Ivelin Mihaylov is also involved in the management of several other companies and enterprises. One of them is Blazhenstvo [Bliss] Ltd., where Mihaylov is the manager and sole proprietor. Blazhenstvo is also listed as the publisher of the newspaper Beautiful Vetrino. On the print edition’s website, dozens of publications with false claims regarding renewable energy can be found. Ivelin Mihaylov is also the author of many of website’s articles.

In another article on the Beautiful Vetrino site, Mihaylov describes a network of “revolutionary media”, of which his newspaper is a part. Following the same model, newspapers such as Beautiful Provadia, Beautiful Vulchi Dol, Beautiful Varna, and Beautiful Velingrad have appeared, as well as the website Svoboden Glas [Free Voice]. Also part of the group, the website Suprotivata [The Resistance] defines itself in its “About Us” section as “the immune system in the battle against the infectious diseases brought in with Sodom and Gomorrah, packaged under the guise of neoliberalism, transhumanism, and the new world order”. The same site also has a section called “Green Poison”, where the authors focus on how wind energy harms people’s health.

After the start of the Russian war against Ukraine, publications calling for “neutrality”, against sending military aid to Kyiv, and repeating Russian propaganda narratives about “Nazism in Ukraine” began popping up on the websites associated with Ivelin Mihaylov. The Svoboden Glas YouTube channel features interviews with a number of public figures defending pro-Russian positions. Among them are former National Security Service (NSS) officer Nikolay Markov, Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) host Petar Volgin, and analyst Boyan Chukov. Suprotivata has also been spreading false claims about Ukraine which have been debunked by Factcheck.bg in the past, like those about elevated radiation levels following an explosion at an arms depot in Khmelnytsky.

Beautiful Vetrino exchanges content with the pro-Russian Telegram group ZaPravda, where Russian propaganda is actively shared and articles with the Russian symbol of the war against Ukraine, “Z”, are even sold. The claims shared across both channels have also been debunked by Factcheck.bg before.

Referendums and the fight against the green transition 

Ivelin Mihaylov is also part of the Community Council of Free and Peaceful Bulgaria. This organization is collecting signatures to hold a referendum on Bulgaria’s “peace and sovereignty”. It also stands behind recent “March for Peace” demonstrations, where a number of Russian slogans about the war have been repeated, and Russian flags were even displayed at some of the events.

Free and Peaceful Bulgaria maintains a Facebook following with a group of over 30,000 members. It has a total of 20 administrators. In addition to Surnela Vodenicharovа, who is part of the organization’s committee for initiatives and one of its most active members, a profile by the name of Ivelin Lyudmilov Mihaylov also partly manages this group. Some admin profiles associated with Mihaylov’s various websites and companies. Among them are Detelina Parusheva, who is part of the Beautiful Vetrintsi team, as noted in their profile, and Ivelin Asenov Alexandrov, who has stated in his social media profile that he works as a journalist at Svoboden Glas. Rumen Yankov has stated on his Facebook profile that he is an activist in the Vuzdigane [Rising Up] Foundation, where Ivelin Mihaylov also plays a managing role. Four other admin profiles indicate that they work for Together   an insurance broker  Ivelin Mihaylov is on its board of directors. The Together logo is also displayed in the videos on the Svoboden Glas YouTube channel.

The Free and Peaceful Bulgaria Facebook group frequently spreads a range of false claims about the “threats” and “harm” of the green energy transition. Some of these have been debunked previously by Factcheck.bg — including one that wind turbines use diesel fuel to produce energy and another that Germany will keep its coal-fired power plants open, unlike Bulgaria.

During the protests by miners and energy workers to preserve the Mini Maritsa Iztok plant, the Free and Peaceful Bulgaria group and its associated “Referendums” page declared themselves to be among the protest organizers.

Another Facebook page spreading disinformation about renewable energy sources is the Human–Nature–Life Association. A fact-check by Bulgarian National Television (BNT) in February this year debunked one of the claims published on the association’s social media page — that life is incompatible with wind turbines.

A search in the Commercial Register reveals that the association’s spokesperson is Krasimira Katinchаrova. This name appears alongside articles on the Beautiful Vetrino website, and the profile of a man with the same surname (Rumen Katinchаrov) is one of the administrators of the Free and Peaceful Bulgaria Facebook group. The association also participated in the farmers’ protests against the import of Ukrainian grain which took place at the end of 2023. The Human–Nature–Life Association organized a press conference in April 2023, announcing opposition to the construction of wind farms in the country.

Paid ads against green energy

Another page called “Bulgaria”, also among the admins of the Free and Peaceful Bulgaria group, has over 170,000 followers on Facebook. The page shares posts on important topics of the day in the country, information about Historical Park, and advocacy to attract signatures for the Free and Peaceful Bulgaria referendum campaign. Facebook’s Ad Library advertising infrastructure shows that the “Bulgaria” page has been using paid social media advertising to call for protests and gather signatures for organizing the referendum.

Another Facebook page spreading disinformation about the green transition through paid advertising is “The Robbed Energy Sector — Why Do Bulgarians Pay the Most?” Dozens of posts with false or unsubstantiated claims, including that there will be no electricity in Bulgaria without coal-fired power plants and that pollution is decreased through active thermal power plants, are being spread on Facebook with paid advertising, as shown by a search of the AdLibrary.

The page “The Robbed Energy Sector — Why Do Bulgarians Pay the Most?” is also an admin for a Facebook group with a similar name: Why Do Bulgarians Pay the Most? The group has just over 100 members and is currently inactive, but among its recent posts there is an invitation for members to join a new group with the same name. It already has nearly 7,000 members and changed from its former name, Russia, to Why Do Bulgarians Pay the Most? on June 15, 2023.

Disinformation about green energy is spreading through various channels on social media and online spaces in Bulgaria. This investigation reveals the connections between several of the most popular such channels on Bulgarian social media and their connection to the pro-Russian messages also circulating in the country. Factcheck.bg investigations have repeatedly demonstrated that a significant portion of Russian propaganda narratives includes messages against the West and its policies. One of the most targeted policies of the European Union is the Green Deal and the associated establishment of renewable energy sources in EU countries. Through online disinformation methods, these messages are actively spread in the Bulgarian online environment.

Vasilena Dotkova contributed to this piece.

The material was created with the support of SCIENCE+.

Sources:

Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), “Supreme Administrative Court reverses moratorium by Vetrino Municipal Council on the construction of a wind farm in the environs” [in Bulgarian’]: https://bnr.bg/varna/post/101835592/vas-otmeni-moratoriuma-na-obs-vetrino-za-izgrajdane-na-vetroenergien-park-v-raiona

Yoan Zapryanov, “Why ‘Historical Park’ is stopping a wind power project worth 1.2 billion leva” [in Bulgarian], Capital: https://www.capital.bg/biznes/kompanii/2022/08/12/4378181_chuma_ot_viaturna_energiia_zashto_istoricheski_park/

Alice Freiberg, Christiane Schefter, Maria Girbig, Vanise C. Murta & Andreas Seidler, “Health effects of wind turbines on humans in residential settings: Results of a scoping review”, ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0013935118306145

CleanPower.org, “Wind Turbines and Public Health”: https://cleanpower.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/ACP_Wind-Turbines-and-Health-Fact-Sheet.pdf

USA Today, “Do wind farms cause cancer? Some claims Trump made about the industry are just hot air”: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/04/03/cancer-causing-wind-turbines-president-donald-trump-claim-blown-away/3352175002/

State Register [in Bulgarian]: https://portal.registryagency.bg/CR/Reports/VerificationPersonOrg?count=2&includeHistory=false&name=%D0%98%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BD%20%D0%9B%D1%8E%D0%B4%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%20%D0%9C%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2&page=1&pageSize=25&selectedSearchFilter=0

Profile of Blazhenstvo Ltd., State Register [in Bulgarian]:
https://portal.registryagency.bg/CR/Reports/ActiveConditionTabResult?uic=206566797

Vassilena Dotkova, “No elevated radiation levels after missile strikes on weapons depot in Ukraine” [in Bulgarian], Factcheck.bg: https://factcheck.bg/nyama-zavisheni-niva-na-radiaciya-sled-raketni-udari-po-orazheen-sklad-v-ukrajna/

Vassilena Dotkova, “‘Removing turbine blades to mine coal’ — who is spreading misleading claims about German energy?” [in Bulgarian], Factcheck.bg: https://factcheck.bg/premahvat-perki-za-da-kopayat-vaglishta-koj-razprostranyava-podvezhdashti-tvardeniya-za-germanskata-energetika/

“‘Would you like for this earth to be paradise?’ What the All-Bulgarian march for peace and neutrality wants” [in Bulgarian], Mediapool.bg: https://www.mediapool.bg/zhelaete-li-tazi-zemya-da-bade-rai-kakvo-iska-obshtobalgarski-pohod-za-mir-i-neutralitet-news347069.html

Profile of Vuzdigane Foundation, State Register [in Bulgarian]:
https://portal.registryagency.bg/CR/Reports/ActiveConditionTabResult?uic=176779434

“Board of Directors”, Together.bg: https://www.together.bg/1187/za-nas-bord-na-direktorite

Vassilena Dotkova, “No, Scotland’s wind turbines aren’t producing green electricity via diesel” [in Bulgarian], Factcheck.bg: https://factcheck.bg/ne-vyatarni-turbini-v-shotlandiya-ne-proizvezhdat-zelen-tok-chrez-dizel/

Vassilena Dotkova, “When coal plants are closing in the European Union by country” [in Bulgarian], Factcheck.bg: https://factcheck.bg/koga-zatvaryat-vaglishtnite-centrali-v-evropejskiya-sajuz-po-darzhavi/

Maya Dimitrova, “Post with picture of wind turbine park claims turbines as reason for no life in the area — there are no animals, no people, no birds, no plants” [in Bulgarian], Provereno, Bulgarian National Television: https://bntnews.bg/proverka-na-fakti-umira-li-zhivotat-sled-vyatarnite-turbini-i-koi-stoi-zad-tezi-tvardeniya-1266647newscheck.html

Profile of Human–Nature–Life Association, State Register [in Bulgarian]: https://portal.registryagency.bg/CR/Reports/ActiveConditionTabResult?uic=207113102

“Authors” [in Bulgarian], Beautiful Vetrino: https://krasivovetrino.bg/bg-BG/News/Home/List?authorid=19

Siyana Spiridonova, “Farmers’ protest in Vetrino Municipality” [in Bulgarian], Bulgarian National Radio (BNR): https://bnr.bg/post/101799755/protest-na-zemedelci-i-v-obshtina-vetrino

Nikoleta Vassileva, “Wind generators do harm when located near people, according to Krasimira Katincharova from environmentalist Human–Nature–Life Association” [in Bulgarian], Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA): https://www.bta.bg/bg/news/bulgaria/446410-kogato-vetrogeneratorite-se-namirat-blizo-do-horata-vredyat-spored-krasimira-k

Facebook Ad Library:  https://www.facebook.com/ads/library/?active_status=all&ad_type=all&country=ALL&view_all_page_id=1881493428742977&search_type=page&media_type=all

Facebook Ad Library:  https://www.facebook.com/ads/library/?active_status=all&ad_type=political_and_issue_ads&country=BG&q=%D0%BE%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B0%20%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B3%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0&sort_data[direction]=desc&sort_data[mode]=relevancy_monthly_grouped&search_type=keyword_unordered&media_type=all

Ralitsa Kovacheva, “Russophobia — “the new fascism” [in Bulgarian], Factcheck.bg: https://factcheck.bg/rusofobiyata-noviyat-fashizam/

Mina Kirkova, “The Green Pact” [in Bulgarian], Factcheck.bg: https://factcheck.bg/zeleniyat-pakt/

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The responsibility for the content lies entirely with Factcheck.bg.

Публикацията е създадена с подкрепата на Европейския съюз. Отговорността за съдържанието е изцяло на Factcheck.bg.

Mina Kirkova
Mina Kirkova
Mina Kirkova received her education at the Classical High School (National High School for Ancient Languages ​​and Cultures) in Sofia and the University of Glasgow in Great Britain with a degree in Cinema and Television. Her professional career began at BiT TV, where she worked as an international editor. After the channel ceased to exist, she began working in the field of entertainment television as an editor in many of the most successful reality formats in the country. In December 2020, in a team with Georgi Marchev and Simona Kostadinova, she investigated the fake news about the PCR tests for coronavirus. The investigation won a prize from the Health on Target hackathon, organized by AEJ.

More on this topic

Categories

More from this category