Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts in Europe

Leaked telephone recordings

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office published recordings of telephone conversations which were allegedly conducted between Sergei Glazyev, a Russian presidential adviser, and his proxies in Ukraine. The recordings imply that Russia wanted to initiate riots and unrests in towns like Donetsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, and Odesa in order to justify a hypothetical Russian intervention even before the annexation of Crimea; however these efforts eventually failed. Glazyev denied the accusations and called the recordings “nonsense from Nazi criminals”. According to Business Ukraine, the tapes in their present form are still controversial for they are not full originals and some of the speakers were not identified.

Pavel Philip, the Prime Minister of Moldova asked the United States and other western countries for help with the transition into a free-market democracy. In his article for The Hill, he further asked for help with keeping the Russian propaganda at bay. He wrote that “Russia’s soft power – using its propaganda machine to flood our media with anti-Western messages – is equally dangerous and a clear effort to tarnish out pro-EU government and throw the upcoming election to its political allies”.

The Czech public broadcaster has ordered a research of media and public opinion in the Czech Republic. According to the results, 53 % of the respondents think that Russian and anti-Russian propaganda are mixed in the Czech public space and it is not possible to distinguish the truth. The dominance of Russian propaganda is mentioned slightly more by the voters of the centre-right, while the anti-Russian propaganda is more often mentioned by the voters of the communist party and the anti-immigration movement.

Swedish flood of disinformation

After the debate about a possible military partnership with NATO started in Sweden, a stream of disinformation occurred on Swedish social media and began spilling into the traditional news media as well, The New York Times reports. The aim is to dismay the Swedish population by presenting the disastrous consequences such a partnership might have, for example that “NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.” Swedish officials and many western experts and analysts believe that Russia could be the source of such disinformation, mostly because it has a clear motive.

Putinversteher of the Week

We use this weekly opportunity to award the Putinversteher of the Week to highlight the most obvious attempts, intentional or not, to go on Kremlin’s hand and assist it with spreading its view all over Europe. We believe it is necessary to appreciate in this ceremonial way that without these little helpers, Russian disinformation campaign could never reach its present lengths.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited the Czech Republic on Thursday. The Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, from the Czech Social Democratic Party agreed with her that the time to revoke sanctions against Russia has not come yet and that the lifting is connected to the progress in fulfilling the Minsk agreements. She also met the Czech President, Miloš Zeman, who contrary to the Prime Minister supports lifting the sanctions. During the visit she appreciated the good relations Germany has with the Czech Republic; which are disrupted only by the disagreement on refugee relocation quotas.

There have been several demonstrations in Prague during the Chancellor’s visit; some of them supporting the German leader and some of them disagreeing with her. Both camps had their own flags and banners. While some of the proponents of Ms. Merkel carried flags of the EU, NATO, and Germany, the opponents participating in the demonstration on the European street brought a Russian flag. We believe that a protest against the German immigration policy is legitimate and relevant; however carrying a Russian flag during those protests is absurd. Thus we decided to award those protesters our weekly price: Putinversteher of the week.

Kremlin Watch reading suggestion

Russia’s armed forces on the information war front”; by Jolanta Darczewska from The Centre for Eastern Studies

The beginning of the new century has brought several important changes into Russian defence policy. The 2000 Russian military doctrine has already mentioned the necessity to secure and control Russian-speaking cyberspace. From this moment, cybersecurity and its aspects have been included in other official secret and public documents as well.  More importantly however, the competences successfully shifted from security services towards the army which is now fully responsible for securing Russian cyberspace.

The army has been maintaining the protection of Russian cyberspace ever since, however one cannot view this only as an act of defence because of a significant difference of Russian thinking and terminology related to this issue. The main distinction is in an overall perception of the context – Russia sees its cyberspace security as an urgent consequence of the US foreign policy and as a means of how to protect itself from another “colour revolution”. As a result, the protection of cyberspace is evolving into an aggressive political means; as we were able to observe during the annexation of Crimea or in today’s Eastern Ukraine.

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

Jeffrey Lewis deals with the disinformation concerning the alleged movement of the US nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania and suggests an agreement between the United States and Russia to ban nuclear-armed missile defence interceptors in his article for the Foreign Policy.

Nick Cohen discusses the motivations and probabilities of a hypothetical Russian attack on the Baltic states and how it is necessary to take this threat seriously in his peace for The Spectator.

Ben Nimmo wrote about the role of Russian propaganda in the US election for The Atlantic Council and argues that “the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is not backing US Presidential Republican Candidate Donald Trump. It has a bigger goal: Discrediting democracy in the United States.”

Current state of pro-Kremlin scene in the Czech Republic

After the US intelligence services attributed responsibility for stealing DNC e-mails to hackers connected to the Russian government, another incident followed last week, when the DCLeaks.com published internal documents of organizations financed by George Soros, a Hungarian billionaire. The truth is that the event was not largely covered by western media, possibly because most of the revealed information is not quite that surprising.

One of the outlets got outraged because the Open Society Foundation, probably the most famous organizations led by Soros, labelled the migration crisis as an opportunity to globally influence and work upon key political leaders in order to achieve changes of rules and laws dealing with the immigration policy. Another pro-Kremlin website was offended because the same organization spent 6 million dollars to influence the elections to the European Parliament in order to put the resentment to xenophobia and racism to the centre of the pre-election campaigns. One of the Slovak outlets informed that “the leaked documents show how George Soros disrupts Europe” and stated that he supports “perverted gender ideology and feminism”.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values think-tank, which aims to unravel and confront instruments of Russian hybrid war which is focused against liberal-democratic system. Find out more at www.europeanvalues.net/kremlinwatch/.