It has been claimed that that the Daily Express has plagiarised 60% of their recent Open Skies Treaty article from RT, a Russian state broadcaster.

This information came to light after an investigation by renowned Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) expert @steffanwatkins in which he compared the article to recent publications by Sputnik and more notably, RT.

The Express article can be found here. The article claims that a Russian aircraft completed a “successful spy mission” after it had  “infiltrated US skies”.

The language used in the parts sourced from RT suggest incompetence on the part of US, appearing to suggest the idea that the aircraft had sneakily managed to undertake the mission despite US efforts when in fact, both sides cooperated with the treaty.

This is in line with what Russian studies professor Stephen F. Cohen stated in 2012; “They spend a lot of time on stories that come and go here in the US because they think they reflect badly on us”.

What actually is the Open Skies Treaty?

Signed in 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits nations to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over anothers territories to collect data on military activities.

Members include Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The treaty stipulates that aircraft used to fly the missions must be equipped with sensors that enable the observing party to identify significant military equipment.

The aircraft pictured above is a Tu-214ON, a variant of the Tu-204-200, equipped for Treaty on Open Skies missions.

The aircraft is equipped with one OSDCAM 4060 sensor capable of monitoring the visual spectrum at three different altitudes, and the infrared spectrum at one altitude, more information on the capabilities can be found here.

So, it’s pretty obvious that despite earlier claims that the aircraft had completed a “successful spy mission” after it had “infiltrated US skies”, it was in fact there with US permission and fully monitored at every stage.

Who is RT?

We’re all somewhat familiar with Russian misinformation and every now and then we come across a report from one of the many Russian state broadcasters that have more than remarkable headlines revolving around military equipment but dig a little deeper and you’ll see a pattern appearing to dismiss Western equipment and promote Russian efforts.

Even the UK Defence Journal has been contacted by various Russian based ‘news organisations’ looking for soundbites whenever we publish a story about an MoD blunder or questionable government decision.

The most effective instrument in this effort appears to be Russia Today (now called RT), the organisation has been frequently described as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government and media regulator, Ofcom, has repeatedly found RT to have breached rules on impartiality, and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.

So blatant is this effort, RT’s editor-in-chief compared the outlet to the Russian Army and Defence Ministry, and talked about it “waging the information war against the entire Western world”. The flood of inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation.

What’s the issue?

So, what does this mean when it comes to the Daily Express piece? Simply put, 60% of their article was written by a writer funded by the Russian government.

Watkins reached out to both the Express and the author of the article on noticing this, I understand neither have responded to him.

Further, Watkins goes on to explain just how serious this appears to be.

Why is this an issue?

As pointed out above the UK and northern European allies recently agreed to establish a multinational group of experts to tackle Russian disinformation.

When discussing this with Watkins, I was told:

“The seriousness of this should not be downplayed. How many people knew this story was actually penned by the Russians? How many other stories were the same? How do we know this isn’t a Russian intelligence operation done with the cooperation of the journalists or editors?

If we agree that 60% of the article is RT (per comparison with 3rd party tool), we agree that RT doesn’t publish anything against Russian interests, and we know RT is used to push any narrative a Russian intelligence operation might be trying to support, we can stretch to say there is the possibility that anything RT publishes is from the Russian intelligence services, or at least published with the approval of Russian intelligence. Whatever it is they publish, you can be darn sure it has the approval of the Russian government at the very least.

If you’re reading that from a Russian source, you expect it. If you’re reading from a British, Canadian, American, or Dutch source, you don’t. If an American newspaper republished Sputnik or RT without telling their readers, they’d be successfully bypassing any filters and barriers to entry the Russian media would otherwise have been stopped by.

I’ve been quoted in Sputnik myself multiple times, and don’t mind at all, because if you’re reading Sputnik you know they’re going to carry the story the Americans don’t want published, or at least one that offers an alternative to the American position. I’ve also been quoted in the New York Times and other national newspapers in Canada and the United States.

The message is being told by a Brit to the British people, as a British point of view – which in this case is false, 60% of the article was straight from RT, and the other 40% was sensationalist synonyms making the article less true than it started with RT. If that sort of plagiarism happened often, Russian Intelligence Services would figure it out and could leverage it to get a message into the UK media.”

The output of this organisation is now being distributed, presumably unwittingly, by the British press. This is incredibly concerning.

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Daily Express printing lies and false news? Really? I mean they are normally such an important source of factual scientific data just like the Daily Mail!

Is this really news?


That is pretty much what they do on a daily basis!


There are other sources of Russian state propaganda. Also can you 100% say that they have never done it before?

It also does not really matter if they copied word for word or not. If they are repeating the stories then they are regurgitating the propaganda. All this latest event shows is that the Daily Express has very low journalistic values which pretty much everyone is aware of already.

Geoffrey Hicking

There are elements of both left and right that have, for various reasons, become a little too eager to talk down the West. It is long past time that they are dealt with.


LOL!!! source RT thats says it all.


This should serve as a reminder to everyone that the print tabloids long ago ceased to have much to do with actual journalism. A large proportion of their content is either cribbed from elsewhere or is just pure fabrication to serve a particular agenda.


Yes. The Mail is another culprit. They and the Express regularly produced half baked articles that tell us how wonderful Russian tanks planes and missiles are and how we are thus all doomed. Never mind that all this hardware is all vapourware.

Daniele Mandelli

Interestingly, Groom Lake was one of the locations the Open Skies Tupolev flew over.

A US Open Skies aircraft flew over Ukraine in return.

To say the aircraft “infiltrated” is ridiculous, uninformed journalism at it’s very worst.

Anyone recall when the last Open Skies flight over the UK was and what was it’s route?


The Russians where extremely concerned about the effectiveness of their sensors last time they flew over the UK. They could barely find any military equipment!


Yes it’s a terrible joke I know.


All media has an agenda, be it RT, The Moscow Times, BBC, CNN or whatever, believing any off it as truth is a mistake. At best it might provide a starting point if you wish to research a topic more

Daniele Mandelli

This is correct. Just look at our own BBC.


I agree – the BBC are so scared of the control of them via the licence fee they pussyfoot over confronting the government.

Glass Half Full

Seriously Daniele? I think you’re being played mate with Ulya’s false equivalency, all reasonableness on the surface, but effectively trashing all sources, even the most reputable. The BBC may show a left-center bias but having an agenda is a bit of stretch. You do realise that one of Russia’s aims is to sow distrust in the west’s institutions including its media. Nothing they would like more than to have the BBC as a respected source of news be discredited with statements like yours.


I don’t think it shows a left of centre bias – too scared of the government. MI5 used to vet – and have the say so – on appointments in the BBC. They may not have an office there now but I’ll bet they still have huge influence. In addition the whole governing structure above the Director General ensures it doesn’t lurch leftwards – possibly rightwards too…

Glass Half Full

I was simply referencing the perspective and judgement of the linked third party source that has analysed many other media sources, so there is context for their view that others can view, rather than applying any perspective of my own that might be influenced by any bias I have. The source starts its analysis with “In review, both sides of the political spectrum have accused BBC of either having a liberal bias or conservative bias.” and ends with “Overall, we rate the BBC Left-Center biased based on story selection that slightly favors the left and High for factual reporting due… Read more »


Those on the right think the BBC is far too “Leftie” and those on the Left think the BBC is far to “Rightie”. I would say that proves that it is pretty unbiased on the whole.


Sorry, that’s too easy to say. In any case my point is that the BBC is frightened to offend the government and therefore soft pedals on things, not that it has an unherent bias.


It is easy to say because it is true.

As to the BBC being afraid of the Government… Really? I would say the exact opposite. They have many articles criticising the Government. I am not sure what you want or expect them to say?


I wonder what would have happened to Fiona Bruce if she’d treated a senior tory the way she did Diane Abbott ?


Nothing at all. Especially as Diane Abbot was not exactly treated badly… Not that I can stand her though as I think she is vile. You clearly do not watch QT very often as otherwise you would have noticed that there are a fair few Conservative MPs that are pretty much smashed by the Host and panel (normally quite rightly)


Given the rank incompetence of the tory government I’d expect nothing less. If you don’t think DA was treated badly we clearly have different ideas on fairness and courtesy – and I’m no fan, though I wouldn’t go as far as to call her vile. In my opinion the BBC is cowed because it’s beholden to the government for its income. The governing structure is also set up to keep it under control. I could go back to the 80’s and before with examples but clearly it’s best if we just disagree and leave it at that.


Again, the BBC often criticises the Government. You seem very blinkered regarding this. I would read through BBC content and watch BBC political reporting if I were you. There are lots of examples where the BBC is not kind to the Government. Chris Grayling is currently getting a roasting (quite correctly) along with lots of other articles. The BBC is separate from the Government so is not beholden to them. You can hardly think Laura Kuenssberg holds back when it comes to criticism of our Government. As to Diane Abbot, She got interrupted because she tends to babble on about… Read more »


Not blinkered in the least. It would amazing, given the current situation, if they did not criticise the government for all the calamities they are presiding over. The set up, and governance of the BBC, however, means they are careful what they cover and how they cover it


Of course they are careful they are a responsible broadcaster! They are no less careful when reporting other things. This is the BBC that uncovered the David Kelly scandal… Do you think they were controlled by the Government on that?


I agree ,your point very well made GHF as usual

Glass Half Full

Nope. Classic false equivalency at play here. Much of the media may express bias to a greater or lesser extent, but that doesn’t automatically mean they have an agenda. Bias does not equal agenda.

Then there is other media that falls into the category of Questionable Sources, RT being a good example, which definitely does seem to have an agenda.


Ulya,you just got to watch RT for 10 mins to know it reports with strong kremlin opinion and thats putting it mildly and Ive never seen its journalist give two sides of the story to be honest its a bit obviouse. Comparing RT to the BBC in terms of journalism is a bit of a insult.Keep trying though, for motherland and its great leader lol!!


Well done Dave and Glass half full, you are very good citizens


Nothing like that at all Ulya, just stating what is the obviouse with RT news.If you are saying my support of the bbc is being a good citizen and being blind patriotic this is not so and Im not the one commenting in a second language on a foreign military news website trying to push my country leaders agenda on my comments.

Daniele Mandelli

I’m curious. I’ve never actually watched RT!

Will check it out, assume it will be on my news channels on sky package same as An Jazeera, CNN.


Hi Daniele yes it is.

Daniele Mandelli

Cheers Dave. Will be interesting viewing!


RT offers a different perspective Daniele, if I remember the saying correctly, take it with a grain of salt.

Nick C

I can recommend it Daniele, but only if you are bored. After about 10 mins, as Dave 12 says, you realise what cr*p it is peddling. They employ several superannuated journalists who haven’t made it elsewhere, and also that “Great Parliamentarian” George Galloway! Nuff said.

Daniele Mandelli

Cheers Nick.

Corin Vestey

The Daily Express has been bought by the Trinity Mirror Group. I suspect we’ll see more pro-Russian stories in it from now on although they’ll probably get better at cut and paste then rewrite.

john West

Shocked! Shocked I tell you!

The DE putting no work in and publishing nonsense?

Who would have thought such a thing!