The far-right political party Britain First removed a series of pro-Putin posts from its website at some point in the last year, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The posts included one titled "GO PUTIN! Russian president’s popularity on rise in Czech Republic!" and "VIDEO: Putin backs our Brexit". The website's content is usually shared on the far-right group's Facebook page, which has more than 1.5 million followers.
Three inflammatory anti-Muslim tweets from the fringe party's deputy leader were retweeted on Wednesday morning by US President Donald Trump, bringing a renewed level of scrutiny to an otherwise ignored organisation that has no MPs or councillors.
Journalist Ben Judah noticed the site had at some stage recently removed posts tagged "Vladimir Putin" from its website after spotting they were still listed on Google – where deleted content generally vanishes the next time the site is indexed.
Anyone clicking the link in Judah's Google query receives a message stating the page is not found.
However, BuzzFeed News was able to find the page's content as of September 2016, when it listed multiple pieces of pro-Putin content. It is not possible to determine when between that point and the present day the articles were removed.
The Wayback Machine archive shows the site had 75 posts tagged "Vladimir Putin".
The posts variously described Putin as a "no-nonsense leader" whose party was updating laws "to reflect the country’s traditional values", noted that "Vladimir Putin’s popularity in the Czech Republic has surged and could now be higher than that of Angela Merkel", and said he was "getting tough on terror".
One post, which was shared on the site's Facebook page two days after the EU Referendum vote, also specifically noted Putin backed "our Brexit" because "no-one wants to feed weak economies". The Wayback Machine had not archived the content of the video.
Parliament and the Electoral Commission are currently conducting investigations on the role of Russian bots and misinformation in the EU referendum vote.
James Ball is a special correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. PGP: here
Contact James Ball at James.Ball@buzzfeed.com.
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