Topics of the Week

First victims of the first-ever EU cyber-sanctions against cybercrimes

GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

Could the international aid for Beirut cause more harm than relief, if the global leaders stick to their ultimatums?

Good Old Soviet Joke

A schoolboy wrote in his weekly essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They’re all communist.”

The following week, the boy wrote: “my cat’s kittens are all capitalist.”

The teacher called him up and asked him to explain the sudden change. “Last week, you said they were all communists!”

The boy nodded. “They were, but this week they all opened their eyes.”

Policy & Research News

First victims of the first-ever EU cyber-sanctions against cybercrimes

COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the risk of malign cyberattacks. Over the last few months, states and private companies witnessed a sheer amount of those. One of the ample instances is the recent cyber espionage orchestrated against Canadian, American, and British labs involved in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Russia was accused of this attempt of illegal intellectual property acquisition. Cyber violators have not let a single opportunity slip by, and this kind of misbehaviour requires not just a threat of sanctions, but a decisive response to protect the cyber-environment of Western democracies. 

In the recent official statement, the EU announced that it imposed first-ever cyber-sanctions to address the malicious cyber-attacks which constitute a threat to EU members and its citizens. Those measures are imposed against certain individuals and entities and presupposed the travel ban and assets freeze, as well as EU people and companies, are forbidden from sending funds to those who placed on the sanction list. 

In 2017 the EU produced the comprehensive “cyber diplomacy toolbox” which encapsulates various measures to prevent, mitigate, and respond to malign cyber activities. Only last year  EU members agreed on the legal framework to apply the sanctions. Up until this July, the EU has not attempted to enact those sanctions.

Overall, six individuals and three entities who were accused of being responsible for running ‘WannaCry’, ‘NotPetya’, ‘Operation Cloud Hopper’ and OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) cyber operations, became the primary targets of sanctions. The cyber-violations are not publicly attributed to foreign governments, however, this explicitly says that hackers and entities located in Russia, China, and North Korea were sanctioned. 

Worth noting, that the EU’s approach towards the deterrence of transnational cyber assaults certifies members’ unanimous stance on the cyber threat matter and the policy response, which is required for imposing the sanctions. Also, these measures encompass a firm geopolitical element, and will only contribute to the EU’s block cyber resilience and strategic independence. 

Twitter vs state-aligned media outlets accounts: launch of labelling campaign

In order to enhance the transparency around the political discourse Twitters rolls out the new labelling system of the government-led media outlets’ accounts and government officials accounts.

These newly introduced measures will apply to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The set of rules will be also addressed against the institutional account, thus alongside media accounts, the US Department, or the White House accounts are also marked respectively.

However, there is a clear division between pro-government media outlets, in which state interferes with the editorial process, production and dissemination; and also those media which are fuelled through the government resources, but possess a strong editorial independent, e.g. British-based BBC. The latter one will not be a subject of the new labelling rules. 

Interestingly, the new feature does not affect the timeline algorithms. if a subscriber is already following an account such as RT, there will be no alterations made to algorithms, and tweets will show up as ‘top tweets’ on the newsfeed. 

The introduction of this system should benefit the subscribers, and from now on Twitter users will be much aware of their consumer choice and can detect a government-serving account that is exploited for advancing the political agenda in their favour. 

US Developments

U.S. Intelligence: China Opposes Trump Reelection; Russia Works Against Biden

Late last week, a top American counterintelligence official, William Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre, warned of ongoing interference and influence efforts by China, Russia and Iran. His agency had found that amid a spike in foreign disinformation and propaganda, the Chinese would appear to favour Democratic challenger Joe Biden as they consider President Trump  “unpredictable.” Russia, on the other hand, favours President Trump and is actively endeavouring to undermine his challenger. Disinformation and propaganda out of Iran would appear to simply strive to undermine U.S. institutions at large in order to further divide the U.S. electorate. Evenina warned that “foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process” ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

A new report by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center has accused Russia of utilizing a variety of methods to promote and disseminate disinformation and propaganda to further Moscow’s agenda. The report identifies five main pillars in Russia’s “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem”: official government communications, state-funded global messaging, cultivation of proxy sources, weaponization of social media, and cyber-enabled disinformation. The report asserts that Russia has “operationalized the concept of perpetual adversarial competition in the information environment by encouraging the development of a disinformation and propaganda ecosystem that allows for varied and overlapping approaches that reinforce each other even when individual messages within the system appear contradictory.” Russia’s use of “varied and overlapping approaches” has allowed it to develop a robust disinformation web that provides the state with plausible deniability and creates a “media-multiplier effect” that amplifies their disinformation. The report goes on to identify seven Kremlin-affiliated proxy organizations:  The Strategic Culture Foundation, Global Research, New Eastern Outlook, News Front, SouthFront, Katehon and

Kremlin’s Current Narrative

Protests in Belarus will not escalate to a “Maidan scenario”, Belarussian government claims

Following the presidential elections that took place on August 9 in Belarus, the citizens in several cities have filled the streets to protest the preliminary victory of Alexander Lukashenko.

The government engaged law enforcement squads and units of Belorussian Internal Troops to disperse the “unsanctioned” protests, using tear gas, water cannons, concussion grenades and rubber bullets.

As a result, according to the latest updates, approximately 3000 people were detained with criminal charges for mass unrest and violence against security forces. If convicted, the detainees could face from 8 to 15 years in prison.

The Belorussian government has sworn to take action to prevent the situation from developing into a “Maidan scenario”. According to the Russian news agency RIA News, such scenario would not be likely, since the Belorussian authoritarian regime is “more than robust” and “there is no split” neither in the government nor among the people (“as in Ukraine”).

Mr Lukashenko, who has allegedly fled the country, also commented that the protests “had been orchestrated” by phone from the United Kingdom, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Both protesters and opposition, led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, claimed that the results cannot be true, considering that there was no supervision or external polls allowed to evaluate the voting process, and electoral rallies gathered a higher number of supporters than the polls show.

Moreover, “solidarity demonstrations” were planned in Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz, supporting the criticism of what Poland and other Central European nations consider “a flawed presidential election”. Germany has expressed “strong doubts” about the conduct of elections, arguing that it was not democratic enough. Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins in his tweet argued that the demonstrations indicate a clash between the preliminary results of the voting and the public opinion. Foreign minister of Sweden Ann Linde assumed an extensive “voting fraud”, calling for independent investigations. And the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has expressed congratulations for Mr Lukashenko on the re-election and called for more integration with the fraternal state, while the Russian news outlet RIA News has refuted the opposition’s concerns over Lukashenko’s “Pyrrhic victory”.

Could the international aid for Beirut cause more harm than relief, if the global leaders stick to their ultimatums?

The situation remains unstable in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut as well. Following the massive explosion in the capital’s port that occurred on August 4, protests appeared and escalated on the night of 6-7 August.

Many countries have offered their condolences and material help for the distraught nation. Some of the Gulf states, Netherlands and France, among others, directed aid workers and resources,  however, aiding governments insist on delivering help directly to the people, appealing to the Lebanese government to address the people’s call for accountability”.

On August 9 the United Nations-backed video conference aimed for reaching the agreement on donations for Lebanon was held and included 36 states and organizations, but neither Russia nor Turkey were on the “invitees list”. Nevertheless, the Russian ambassador in Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, according to, claimed that Russian side is offering help without any political implications, pointing out that the internationalization of the problems in Lebanon could cause more damage than relief. The same goes for posing conditions for receiving the aid from other countries, since it can be regarded as an “ultimatum”, and it remains to be seen how the Lebanese government will react to it.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Center for Security Policy, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against the liberal-democratic system.