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From the Lancaster Family: The Story of an American Reporter Who Settled in the DNR, Was a Friend of Givi, and Uses Morgue Bodies for Fake News

From the Lancaster Family: The Story of an American Reporter Who Settled in the DNR, Was a Friend of Givi, and Uses Morgue Bodies for Fake News

Oleksandr Humeniuk

Patrick Lancaster is an American propagandist who came to Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity and settled here in the so-called ‘DNR’. Lancaster has become one of the Kremlin’s most notorious foreign mouthpieces in the occupied territories: he claims a Malaysian Boeing was shot down by Ukrainians, filmed a report from Mariupol, where the Azov Battalion allegedly tortured a woman by carving a bloody swastika on her body, and shows the corpses of civilians killed by the Banderites, which he actually takes from the morgue. He is also one of the guests of the most famous pro-Trump podcast on conspiracy theories. Together with analysts from the Molfar OSINT company, which specializes in competitive intelligence and cyber warfare against the Russian aggressor, Zaborona investigated the life and work of one of Russia’s most popular propagandists and sought to find out who could fund Lancaster and why he supported the war.


Who is this?

Patrick Lancaster, a US citizen and now a DNR resident is a blogger with more than half a million YouTube followers and thousands of Telegram and VKontakte subscribers. His videos are gaining hundreds of thousands of views, and YouTube channel traffic reaches 45 million. Almost all the covers of his videos are signed in aggressive red. Here are a few of them: “Ukraine surrendered Mariupol”, “Russian Army master class in Kherson”, “Phosphorus bombs against civilians”. Lancaster is not so often seen on the front line: he shoots reports in hot spots, but only after the occupation of the territories by Russians. He is almost always accompanied by the Russian military during the filming of the scenes.

In the English-language segment of YouTube, Lancaster has taken the niche of a journalist who allegedly opposes the fake news spread by the liberal channel CNN and agencies such as Thomson Reuters. Lancaster believes that there is no personal opinion in his reports, but only facts and testimonies of injured Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who are ‘bombed by their own authorities.’ There is also no one among the heroes of the Lancaster video who would express a pro-Ukrainian position.

Lancaster says he saw with his own eyes how the Armed Forces hit the civilian population with Tochka-U. He claims that the Malaysian plane MH17, shot down by DNR militants, was hit by Ukrainians – this outraged the relatives of the victims. Lancaster also claims that the Azov Battalion kills civilians with machine guns and fires from tanks at houses. He was also the author of a well-known report about a tortured woman from Mariupol, to whom the ‘Ukrainian Nazis’ painted a bloody swastika on her chest and abdomen – proof of this was the uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine ‘found’ on the spot.

Lancaster’s stories are often shown on Russia’s federal channels Russia-1, Russia-24, RT, and Zvezda, the latter owned by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The blogger is also very popular in the separatist media of the so-called LDNR. Moreover, it was in occupied Donetsk that Lancaster found his new home, converted to Orthodoxy, got married, and is raising children.

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Patrick John Lancaster is 40 years old. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Along with 14 other states, Missouri is part of the so-called ‘Bible Belt’ of the country, where Americans of conservative views predominantly live. He graduated from a Catholic school and college in his hometown, and in 2001 joined the US Navy, where he served for 5 years.

That year, the country was trying to recover from the September 11 tragedy. In response to the terrorist attacks, a month later, the United States launched the Enduring Freedom military operation, which lasted for the next 14 years. In 2003, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk CV-63 took part in a sub-operation in the Persian Gulf. At the time, Patrick Lancaster served as a cryptologic technician on the ship – he had the rank of sergeant and led a team of 25 people.

Stringer who was everywhere (but wasn’t really anywhere)

Lancaster has been working as a freelance video journalist since 2011. He said in several interviews that he lacked alternative, truthful sources of information – which is why he decided to become a reporter. Lancaster claims that his materials can be seen in the Guardian, Reuters and the Associated Press. We could not find any in the mentioned media; a Reuters spokesman said Lancaster had never been a staff member or agency stringer.

According to Patrick, during his journalistic career as a war correspondent, he managed to visit Moldova and Kosovo – countries in relative military danger – and dozens of EU countries (we could not confirm his stay, and even more so his work as a journalist). However, we found several pro-Russian video reports from the Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In these videos, Lancaster glorifies the Armenian military, and also shows Russian volunteer combatants (as they call themselves) who fought on the side of Armenia. But most of the videos on his YouTube channel are reports from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Lancaster’s first visit to Ukraine was dedicated to a “referendum” on Crimea’s accession to Russia. In an interview with the Donetsk newspaper, Lancaster said that he became interested in Ukraine in 2014 during the Revolution of Dignity. At the time, Patrick was filming protests in Greece, but events in Ukraine forced him to change his plans. He first arrived in the Crimea, where he observed the ‘referendum’ on March 16, and then moved to Donetsk and settled there.

It was at this time that Lancaster’s name began to appear on RT, Russia-1, Russia-24, and Zvezda. It is known that from 2014 to 2017 Patrick was a freelance journalist at RT. Articles about him were published in Russian-language newspapers in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, such as Donetsk Vecherniy. Thus, according to the BBC, Lancaster’s video was published by British media such as The Telegraph and Sky News.

Patrick Lancaster works on two fronts at once. First, he creates for the Russian audience the image of an American anti-Americanist who sees Russia as the last island not yet corrupted by capitalism and liberal values. Secondly, it works for American viewers. Prior to the full-scale war in Ukraine and the blocking of Russian propaganda media by Western countries, the RT English-language YouTube channel had 1.9 million subscribers and 1.8 billion views per year, which is more than CNN’s YouTube channel. Too many right-wing Americans are looking for an alternative to CNN and find it in the aggressive rhetoric of RT channels.

“Useful idiot”

Two days before the full-scale invasion, at about 5 a.m. on February 22, 2022, two cars exploded on the Horlivka-Donetsk highway, killing three people as a result of the detonation of an improvised explosive device. According to the DNR People’s Militia, ‘Ukrainian militants’ were behind the attack, they planned to blow up the car of one of the high-ranking officials of the unrecognized republic, but innocent people died as a result. The report from the scene was conducted by Lancaster, who shot a high-quality video with corpses and two damaged cars.

The video immediately aroused distrust among media experts – the highest quality and close-ups, with which Lancaster filmed corpses and cars, showed its fakeness. First of all, the bodies of the victims testified to the artificiality of the incident. GRID investigative reporters showed the video to forensic pathologist Victor Weedn, who specializes in the study of victims of explosions. The close-up shows a noticeable incision on the top of the skull of one of the passengers, which could only be left by a bone saw. Often pathologists cut off the top of the skull to get to the brain at autopsy. Also from the side of the skull, you can see a small hole from a bullet. Weedn assures that the victims did not die from explosives: they died for other reasons even before the incident, and their bodies were taken from the morgue and set on fire in cars.

A similar investigation was conducted by Bellingcat: doctor Lawrence Owens from the University of Winchester noticed signs of an autopsy on the body of another “victim”. On the ribs of the deceased, there were visible incisions from surgical scissors, which can not resemble injuries from the explosion. In addition, Bellingcat reporters asked the explosion expert to analyze the condition of damaged cars. The nature of the damage indicates that the cars were static during the detonation, the windshield collapsed in the direction of the explosion (although it should have fallen in the opposite direction – in the car), and the dents resemble bullet holes.

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins called Lancaster a ‘useful idiot’: thanks to people like him, investigators can discredit Russian propagandists and show the world the artificiality of their reporting.

Motivation and conspiracy theories

Patrick Lancaster can hardly be called a multidisciplinary journalist: almost all of his materials are devoted to the Russian-Ukrainian war and discrediting the Ukrainian authorities – only a few videos related to the Karabakh conflict. We looked at dozens of reports and interviews by Lancaster – in none of them did he directly express his views on the policies of the United States, China, the European Union, or any particular country. All the rhetoric of the propagandist is based on the anti-Ukrainian narrative.

Zaborona tried to contact Lancaster but received no response (Bellingcat and GRID investigations also show that Lancaster refuses to communicate with non-pro-Russian journalists). However, we managed to talk to GRID investigative journalist Jason Paladino, who wrote an article about Lancaster and his fake report about three people allegedly killed by a Ukrainian explosive in the DNR.

“I’m not sure about his motivation,” Paladino told Zaborona. “My colleagues and I talked to his old friends and fellow reporters, and they all said that he lacked objective prudence, and was always sympathetic to Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine.”

Paladino emphasizes that Lancaster’s motivation can only be speculated on. But the journalist believes that propaganda is profitable due to the fundraising platforms used by Lancaster. Paladino points out that Lancaster’s audience has grown significantly since the full-scale invasion of Russia, so we can assume that many viewers support the channel financially. Paladino also knows that freelance journalists in eastern Ukraine are contacted by Russians and offered cash, making it very difficult to track the funding sources of specific propagandists.

One can also only speculate about the propagandist’s political views on something other than Russia and Ukraine. Lancaster is known to be a frequent guest on the Infowar podcast, hosted by perhaps the most famous and odious American conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Jones has many conspiracy theories: US intelligence is turning the elderly into bio compost to fertilize the agricultural sector, and the government has a weapon that controls the weather. Jones is also a supporter of Pizzagate, a theory saying that members of Hillary Clinton’s staff raped children in pizzeria basements (it is also known that Russian trolls were noticed in promoting conspiracy theories during the Clinton-Trump elections; in general, the Russian presence during the 2016 elections significantly influenced the spread of fake news about the US Democratic Party).

The podcaster is known for its pro-Trump and isolationist sentiments and invites people of similar alt-right views. We can’t say for sure that Lancaster also supports Trump, but it seems possible (by the way, there are two complimentary videos on the Lancaster channel about Trump’s anti-covid policy – eventually failed – and these are the only videos about the American establishment). Trump is the first US president in many years to turn to pure propaganda and has been able to shake the institution of free speech by abusing it. He discredited the news of well-known media outlets, preferring marginalized, disinformation media, and began to use the term ‘fake news’ to refer to all news that criticized him – all this cannot but resemble the Russian style of propaganda.

Trump called Alex Jones a man with an “impeccable reputation.” Jones assured that Lancaster’s reports were almost the only true materials about the war in Ukraine.

Connection with the FSB?

In addition to his journalistic activities, Lancaster notes on his LinkedIn account that since 2015 he has been raising funds to help the war-affected residents of Donbas. In December 2018, Patrick posted a photo on his Facebook page showing him in front of bags and boxes of humanitarian aid in occupied Donetsk. But something else is interesting here: in the post, Lancaster claims that humanitarian aid was bought with donations collected by him and money from sponsors that French citizen Eric Kraus helped to attract. As we found out, Eric Kraus has connections among Russian elites. He worked for a company whose owner was close to Nikolai Patrushev, the former head of the FSB and now secretary of the Russian National Security Council.

In an interview, Eric Kraus called himself an ‘outright and enthusiastic Putin fan’ and said that Russia had become his home. Until 2001, Kraus worked as a chief strategist at the Russian NIKoil Investment Banking Group, which belonged to the Russian banker from the Forbes list, Nikolai Tsvetkov. Kraus was subsequently fired. The reason was that he called the representatives of the Russian oil company, owned by Roman Abramovich, ‘bandits.’ After that, Kraus took a similar position as a strategist at the Russian company Sovlink. At the time, Sovlink was a subsidiary of the Russian commercial bank Alba Alliance, which was owned by Viktor Vekselberg. The latter is known for his close ties with the Russian authorities and – especially – with Nikolai Patrushev. Novaya Gazeta wrote about the friendly relations between Vekselberg and Patrushev.

Lancaster’s connections and life in the DNR

Lancaster spends most of his time in the so-called ‘DNR’, where, according to open sources, he has already settled down and become almost ‘local’. Moreover, his father, Timothy, has moved to Donetsk to his son – on his page you can see the ‘Z’ mark and complimentary posts on the policies of Trump and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (the same isolationist politician who tried to slow down the process of providing military support to Ukraine by the Joe Biden administration ).

In February 2018, Lancaster posted a photo on the Russian social network VKontakte, where he is standing next to his wife and one of the late commanders of pro-Russian separatists in Donbas, Mikhail Tolstykh, better known as ‘Givi’. The photo was posted on the anniversary of the militant’s death.

As for his wife, her origin and real name are unknown. We found about 10 of her profiles on social networks, where her name is Olga or Nadezhda. It is known that the couple met in Donetsk in 2014: Lancaster tells about it in a wedding video.

Nadezhda (or Olga) also does not hide her pro-Russian views. On one of her Facebook pages, she constantly reposted materials by Lancaster and another propagandist Graham Phillips. In 2019, she published her photo from Red Square in Moscow.

It is also known that Patrick is a friend of the Russian singer Yulia Chicherina, who has been actively promoting the war against Ukraine since 2014 and often visits the occupied territories. A few days before the start of Russia’s large-scale war against Ukraine, Lancaster posted on VKontakte a photo from a closed concert by Chicherina, which took place in Donetsk on February 11, 2022.

Lancaster is also a friend of British propagandist Graham Phillips. The latter is known for his work on RT and numerous provocative videos, where he has a conversation on the street with residents of European cities, telling them that Ukrainians are Nazis.

In November 2014, Lancaster published an interview with Phillips from a Donetsk hospital that was allegedly shelled by Ukrainian troops. We also found a photo of Lancaster’s wife Nadezhda and Phillips, dated April 2015. In the next photo from the same album, there is Lancaster himself.

In 2020, Lancaster announced that he had a son: “He is the second person in history to be a citizen of three states: Russia, the United States, and the Donetsk People’s Republic,” the American wrote. Lancaster calls his eldest son the first such person.

It is known that since the beginning of the large-scale war, Lancaster’s wife and children left Donetsk for Russia. Lancaster stayed to film his disinformation reports.

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