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Clear Channel removes illegal OOH ads 'celebrating' Russian involvement in Brexit

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By Imogen Watson | Senior reporter

November 15, 2018 | 5 min read

Clear Channel has removed a number of OOH ads that had been flyposted illegally in London last week by a group of activists who claim to be Russian GRU agents.

Rectory Road billboard

Rectory Road Billboard

The billboards celebrate the alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 EU referendum and allude to a collaboration between Russian and UK governments.

It seems the elusive group who call themselves ‘Proud Bear’ erected the billboards to secure recognition for the role that Russian military intelligence played in the referendum.

However, evidence points to a group of British volunteers and satirists as the real culprits behind the posters, calling for an official investigation into Russia’s influence on the EU referendum.

Removed billboard
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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had received a number of complaints concerning the ads which went up on Thursday. Clear Channel confirmed to The Drum that the billboards were put up illegally, but removed them as soon as practically possible.

Ex-London Mayor and politician Boris Johnson, who has been widely criticised for his handling of the leave campaign, appears in one billboard which references his infamous zip line folly. Replacing the Union Jacks with Russian flags, the billboard reads ‘Thank you! Boris’.

Thanks Boris!
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A winking Putin graces another billboard that displays a retake on the Brexit leave campaign slogan - “Let’s celebrate a red, white and blue Brexit.”

Both billboards pointed passers-by to a website associated with the campaign.

On-site, Proud Bear proclaims that it wants to “persuade the British public to focus on future trade opportunities afforded by Brexit, as opposed to recent Russophobic disinformation efforts by western governments.”

The website invites viewers to donate money to pay for 'The biggest screen billboard in soon-to-be-not-Europe'. So far, £2,837.00 has been raised on the targeted £55,000 which would allow them to take over London Waterloo train station's 40 meters wide LED screen.

However, the true message behind the seemingly pro-Brexit campaign surfaces in the website’s source code. Written secretly, in Russian, is stats: "Theresa May prefers to promote Brexit’s ridiculous plan instead of stopping for a moment and truly investigating the question of whether Russia’s influence was really decisive in the vote."

It continues: “The UK immediately needs a Muller-style investigation into Russian intervention in the Brexit campaign.”

The message references claims that Russian-language Twitter accounts posted messages against the European Union, ahead of the 2016 EU referendum. Reports show 150,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts posted ten of thousands of messages in English that urged the people of Britain to vote leave.

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