VLADIMIR Putin has been ordered to keep out of the Stoke by-election by Ukip
The Russian President – who has been accused by the White House of trying to influence the US Presidential elections – was alerted after dozens of Twitter accounts, which post pro-Russian messages about the Kremlin’s bloody intervention in Syria while praising him, started publishing critical tweets about Ukip ahead of tomorrow’s Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.
Alex King, a researcher who tracks Russian social media propaganda, uncovered how the Twitter accounts began to praise Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and made attempts to destabilise Mr Nuttall as he campaigns to become the Brexit heartland’s MP.
Mr King revealed how the network of accounts use stock images as profile pictures and tend to post in a co-ordinated pattern.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and candidate Gareth Snell
I don't think the good people of Stoke are now avidly watching Russian automated Twitter bots. Bot out Putin
They also post repetitive messages and use lots of hashtags in a bid to come to the attention of a wide audience in a tactic often used by automated accounts, or "bots”.
A Ukip spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: "I don't think people take a blind bit of notice.
"I don't think the good people of Stoke are now avidly watching Russian automated Twitter bots. Bot out Putin."
Nigel Farage and Nuttall were pelted with eggs in Stoke while on the campaign trail
— Bembé Sunshine (@Spectral_News) February 20, 2017
— MORNING NEWS (eu) (@thomasicschenk1) February 20, 2017
The accounts have highlighted Mr Nuttall's recent controversy surrounding the Hillsborough disaster and have accused him of wanting to privatise the NHS.
There is no suggestion that the Twitter accounts are linked to any political party.
Mr Nuttall has faced calls to resign as an MEP after it emerged claims that he lost close personal friends at Hillsborough, where 96 Liverpool fans died, were false.
Vladimir Putin in pictures Tue, December 13, 2016
Russin President Vladimir Putin in pictures
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A Ukip press officer has taken the blame for the remarks carried on Mr Nuttall's website for six years.
Mr Nuttall has also insisted he stands for an NHS free at the point of use after opponents highlighted that he backed its privatisation in several previous statements.
It is expected that in the early hours of Friday the results of the by-election will be announced and Mr Nuttall will find out whether he has beaten Labour's Gareth Snell, who is trying to defend the seat after the resignation of Tristram Hunt.