U.S. intelligence officials have accused the libertarian-leaning financial website Zero Hedge of spreading Russian propaganda, though the website vigorously denies the accusation.
Anonymous officials who spoke with the Associated Press on Tuesday alleged that Zero Hedge, which has 1.2 million readers, published articles created by Moscow-controlled media. The officials pointed to multiple articles that criticized U.S. warnings about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Some of those articles were authored by people affiliated with the Strategic Culture Foundation, a group sanctioned by the Biden administration last year for allegedly participating in Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. election, according to the AP. The officials said the foundation's leadership takes direction from the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service.
Recent Zero Hedge articles cited by the AP include the headlines: “NATO Sliding Towards War Against Russia In Ukraine,” “Americans Need A Conspiracy Theory They Can All Agree On,” and “Theater Of Absurd... Pentagon Demands Russia Explain Troops On Russian Soil.”
In a written response published Tuesday, Zero Hedge called the AP article a "hit piece" and said it has "been singled out for pursuing non-establishment groupthink."
"Well, now we've done it — we've angered the CIA, and for what? For publishing views that challenge the conventional narrative," Zero Hedge wrote.
The post noted that there is "no actual accusation that Zero Hedge works directly with anyone tied to Russia or its intelligence apparatus." The officials quoted by the AP did not say whether they believed Zero Hedge knew of any alleged links to spy agencies and they did not allege a direct link between the website and Russia.
Zero Hedge told the AP it seeks to “publish a wide spectrum of views that cover both sides of a given story.”
"[T]his website has never worked, collaborated or cooperated with Russia, nor are there any links to spy (or any other) agencies," Zero Hedge emphasized in its response.
Zero Hedge said that the Strategic Culture Foundation "periodically guest posts on its website along with hundreds of other sources of alternative information." The website added that one of the main writers for the foundation, Alastair Crooke, is "a former high ranking MI6 figure and UK diplomat, i.e., a former British spook."
"Perhaps he is now a double agent working for Putin after spending decades spying for the UK?” Zero Hedge wrote.
Zero Hedge told the AP the Strategic Culture Foundation is "one of our hundreds of contributors — unlike Mainstream Media, we try to publish a wide spectrum of views that cover both sides of a given story."
The intelligence officials said three other websites have ties to the FSB, Russia's federal security service.
“These sites enable the Russian government to secure support among the Russian and Ukrainian populations,” one official said. “This is the primary vector for how the Russian government will bolster support domestically for an invasion into Ukraine.”