- The claim of the American journalist Patrick Lancaster that Western media turned a blind eye to the rocket attacks on the Russian city of Belgorod does not correspond to the truth.
- Patrick Lancaster cannot be described as an independent journalist.
A report on the shelling in the Russian city of Belgorod in mid-October was actively shared on Facebook. The piece was written by Patrick Lancaster, who introduced himself as a freelance journalist. In the video, uploaded to his personal YouTube channel, Lancaster argues that Western media deliberately turned a blind eye to the shelling of the Russian city. Factcheck.bg verified the report after receiving a tip from our reader Stanimir Gabrovski.
On October 13, a missile strike caused damage to the facade of an apartment building in Belgorod. The governor of Belgorod Province blamed Ukraine for the attack, which officially denied any involvement. Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on his Twitter account that Russia had fired a missile at the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv but ‘something went wrong, and it hit an apartment building’.
In a video published a few days after the attack, Patrick Lancaster filmed the destruction and commented that no Western media would report on the incident:
‘Mainstream media will not show what is happening in Russia. They won’t cover the attacks on Russian cities by Ukraine. They will only show the side that is advantageous to Ukraine,’ Lancaster stated on 17 October. To date, the video on his YouTube channel has had 117 thousand views and over 2.5 thousand comments.
What Patrick Lancaster said is untrue. On the day of the attack, 13 October, the incident in Belgorod was covered by major international media, including Reuters, CNN and DW.
All of them published information about the missile strike, presenting both Kiev’s and Moscow’s versions with clarification that none of them could be confirmed by independent sources.
Who is Patrick Lancaster
Patrick Lancaster was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Between 2001 and 2006 he served as an U.S. Naval Intelligence officer. According to his LinkedIn profile, he then worked briefly as a real estate broker and at a construction company.
Lancaster has been freelancing as a video journalist since 2011. He justifies his decision to become a journalist by the lack of alternative and credible sources of information. On LinkedIn, Patrick Lancaster even claims to have had a working relationship with Reuters at certain times. A spokesperson for the agency denied this claim before the website Grid. The agency denied Lancaster was ever its staff member or working for it as an international correspondent.
Patrick Lancaster first visited Ukraine in 2014 in connection with the unrecognized referendum on Crimea’s accession to Russia. Since then, Lancaster has been based in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian territories to the east, from where he has reported with eyewitness accounts reflecting the Russian perspective.
He is one of the few, and often the only, foreign journalist with access to the occupied Ukrainian territories. While filming, Lancaster is regularly accompanied by Russian servicemen. In April this year, he posted a video on his Telegram channel explaining that he wears white bands on his arm and leg on the recommendation of the Russian army. Otherwise, the American explained, he could be mistaken for a Ukrainian serviceman and shot.
At the end of September this year, Lancaster went to Mariupol to observe how the referendum on joining Russia, then under way, was going. The video begins with Lancaster telling how Russia repaired war-destroyed homes to give them to people for free. It is a well-known Kremlin talking point that the destruction in Mariupol was caused by the Ukrainian side (which was also responsible for the war in general).
Patrick Lancaster’s reports cover the war from the Russian side of the front line, which them one-sided. In the video from Mariupol, for example, he speaks only to people who self-identify as Russians, and unreservedly support Russia’s actions. Lancaster fails to include voices that are critical of Kremlin’s actions. Therefore, one cannot claim that the American is the ‘independent journalist’ he portrays himself as.
Lancaster’s pro-Russian position and the manipulative approach he takes in his coverage have also been exposed by the Polish fact-checking organisation Demagog.
An interesting fact: Lancaster always ends up in the right place at the right time. Shortly before the Russian invasion earlier this year, the American was reporting on an alleged bombing near the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. In a video account from the scene, he claimed that three civilians had been killed. Following an investigation by Bellingcat, however, it became clear that the incident was staged, as the skull of one of the ‘victims’ of the explosion showed traces of an autopsy.
Speaking to Task & Purpose, Bellingcat founder Elliot Higgins said it was “not possible to know with 100 % certainty whether he (Patrick Lancaster – editor’s note) knew and knowingly participated in the staging of this propaganda, but going back in time there are many examples of his biased coverage of the actions of Russia and pro-Russian separatists.”
Lancaster’s YouTube channel features an entire playlist created in 2018, containing videos about the socio-economic situation in Crimea four years after its annexation by Russia. In these, Lancaster presents Crimea as a stable and economically developing region. However, according to the UN an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity on the part of the local authorities has been prevalent in Crimea. The human rights organisation Freedom House notes in a report that civil liberties in Crimea are radically restricted and the policy of mass displacement is used as an instrument of governance in the province. It also sounds an alert that the situation in Crimea is worrying.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Patrick Lancaster’s YouTube audio library has grown more than tenfold — from 50,000 subscribers in February this year to 528,000 at the moment. The Grid website describes him as one of Russia’s ‘favourite propagandists’, who is also a frequently invited speaker on the Russian state news channels Russia Today (RT), Russia 1 and Russia 24. His name also appears in Bulgarian media, which portray him as an ‘American journalist’.
The Kremlin’s Western influencers
The Kremlin’s practice of using Western journalists, experts, and other popular figures to spread its propaganda is well known. These figures are used as sources of ‘truth’ about the war that the major Western media allegedly suppress. They are presented as ‘independent’ because they do not work for the established media and show what is happening in Ukraine impartially — Patrick Lancaster’s analysis clearly shows that this is not the case.
A recent report by the international NGO Institute for Strategic Dialogue, quoted by VICE News, named a total of 12 influential figures from eight Western countries as conduits of pro-Russian propaganda. In addition to Patrick Lancaster, the list includes German journalist Alina Lipp, about whom Factcheck.bg has previously written. The 12 influencers have increased their popularity tremendously as a result of the shutdown of Russian State-controlled channels in Western countries and the restriction of Kremlin-linked social media accounts — they have a total of 1.57 million subscribers on YouTube, and their videos have been viewed there 187.6 million times.
It is not true that the Western media is covering up the missile attacks in Belgorod, Western Russia — the attacks were covered by all major international media and agencies. The author of the claim, Patrick Lancaster, is not an ‘independent journalist’ as he portrays himself — he has been based in Donbass since 2014 and has been covering events there from a Russian perspective.