A derelict, crumbling old mill.. and HQ for shadowy charity on a mission to fight Putin’s propaganda machine
Think tank given Government cash
For the tiny number of people aware of its existence, Gateside Mills is a derelict building in rural Fife without any obvious signs of life.
Anyone curious enough to carry out further investigation might find a seemingly small Scottish charity is registered there.
But the Sunday Mail can reveal the crumbling Victorian mill is actually the official headquarters of the controversial Institute for Statecraft (IFS) – a shadowy “think tank” whose Integrity Initiative programme has been set up to combat Russian propaganda.
Leaked documents prove the organisation received hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding from the British Government via the Foreign Office.
Spokesman Stephen Dalziel said: “The Institute is registered in Scotland because one of its founders is Scottish.
“It was set up 14 years ago and the Integrity Initiative programme was started three years ago to look at disinformation and malign influence on democratic societies and it just so happens it’s the Russians who are doing most of that at the moment.
“It’s the lies they put out about the Skripal poisoning and so on.
“What we have done is to set up this network across Europe of people who understand what the problem is.
“There’s talk about this being secretive but that’s nonsense. We go around Europe giving talks and speaking to people.
“Yes, this year we’ve got some funding from the Foreign Office as many organisations do because our aims fit in with their aims.
“The IFS is not funded by the Foreign Office but the Integrity Initiative, which is part of the IFS, is. These documents that were leaked have been stolen. Any organisation has internal documents and that’s what they have published.”
A message on the institute’s website added: “For its first two years, the Integrity Initiative was funded by private individuals.
“Funding for 2017 and 2018 was provided by a grant from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). It is inevitable that a programme tackling disinformation in Europe finds itself spending much of its time addressing the activities of the Russian State, including those carried out through its intelligence services.”
But David Miller, a professor of Political Sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, believes serious questions need to be answered. He said: “It seems extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which, for example, ends up soft- pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine because they happen to oppose Putin.
“It must raise questions with OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, about breaching charitable rules. It would appear this organisation could have received almost £2million from the FCO, so people have a right to know what’s happening with their money.”
The IFS states in its filed accounts they are a registered charity based at the Fife address. Its financial statement to Companies House mentions the Integrity Initiative as one of its charitable activities along with running Duke of Edinburgh programmes.
The manager of the Integrity Initiative appears to be Christopher Donnelly.
A website biography states he is a graduate of Manchester University and reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps who previously headed the British Army’s Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst.
Between 1989 and 2003, he was a special adviser to Nato Secretaries General and was involved in dealing with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reform of newly emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe.
He left NATO in 2003 to set up and run the UK Defence Academy’s Advanced Research and Assessment Group. In 2010, he became a director of IFS.
The FCO did not respond to our request for a comment.
TROUBLE AT MILL Derelict building is base of organisation combatting Russian disinformation
BASE Think tank HQ, Sergei Skripal, right, and Putin, inset