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Kremlin Watch Monitor April 18, 2016

Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts in Europe.

  • The data leaked from the Mossack Fonseca law firm showed that a Vladimir Putin’s close friend Sergei Roldugin hid over 100 million dollars offshore. Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for the President of Russia, said that western spy agencies were behind an all-out “information attack” against him to destabilise Russia before elections.
  • A new television channel in the Crimean Tatar language has introduced satellite broadcasts from Russia-annexed Crimea where the Russia-imposed government has shut down virtually all independent Crimean Tatar news organizations. Ruslan Balbek, a deputy prime minister of the de facto government, said the aim of the Millet channel was to counter “anti-Russian propaganda”.
  • Russian channel Rossiya 1 accused the anti-corruption opposition activist Alexei Navalny of cooperation with MI6. Since Navalny started to speak out against Vladimir Putin, he was sentenced for embezzlement twice. Navalny rejects the accusations.
  • Brussels terrorist attacks, Nadiya Savchenko trial and the EU-Turkey deal on the migration crisis have been the most common topics on pro-Kremlin websites in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia in the last month, according to the Information war monitor for Central Europe published by the Central European Policy Institute.
  • Russian disinformation intercepted by the Dutch Referendum, visas for UkraineEU quotas or Crimean Tatar autonomy.

 Kremlin Watch suggestions for reading

Analysis of the Russian campaign in Syria by The Atlantic Council: Distract, deceive and destroy

An analysis of open source and social media intelligence revealed that the Russian strikes in Syria were not primarily targeting ISIS. Subsequent research also revealed evidence of the use of cluster munitions and bombs that destroyed civilian targets. The almost six months of Russian air strikes caused only peripheral damage to ISIS. The strikes also had a limited effect on the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front. In fact, the main beneficiary of the Russian air strikes was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The main losers were the more moderate rebels against Assad, including those backed by the West. The Atlantic Council exposes the false claims Kremlin made in order to cover the targets chosen and the weapons used to strike them, but also to mask the real purpose of the campaign and the achieved strategic effect. Far from being a partner in the fight against ISIS, Russia in fact acted as a party to the civil war in Syria, fighting for Assad.

Agents of the Russian World: Proxy Groups in the Contested Neighbourhood, by Chatham House

“They use a mix of covert and open measures that hardly fit the conventional understanding of soft power. Russia’s application of soft power rather more resembles a soft force, in the sense of an ability to exercise control or attain goals by non-military means. Failing to generate strong appeal for its current economic and social model, Russia linked its soft-power approach to the shared past of the post-Soviet region, its common history and Russian language,” argues Orysia Lutsevych in her research paper. She describes Kremlin’s efforts to pursue its geopolitical ambitions with the use of non-state actors with a special focus on consequences in Ukraine. The combination of factors such as pro-Kremlin groups, extensive resources of Russian state administration and security apparatus with the support of the Orthodox Church, pro-Kremlin elites, culture and media are making a serious threat for political transition and development of civil society in the region.

 Euroatlantic Experts on Disinformation Warfare

  • In The Guardian, Natalie Nougayrède argues how the Panama Papers will be used by Moscow’s propaganda machine as another illustration of western attempts to discredit and damage Russian power.
  • Anne Applebaum highlights in The Washington Post that the Dutch referendum about the Association Agreement with Ukraine shows how the Russian influence in Europe works in practice.
  • Eerik-Niiles Kross wrote for about the Gerasimov’s doctrine applied by the Russian federation and argues that “the purpose of war today is not the physical destruction of the enemy, but the internal eroding of our readiness, will and values.”
  • NATO Information and Document Centre director Natalia Nemyliwska discusses the role of strategic communication in Ukraine in an interview

 Current state of pro-Kremlin scene in the Czech Republic

  • Numerous Czech pro-Kremlin websites (123) defend the rhetoric of the Kremlin concerning the Panama Papers case and argue that the leaked documents are merely a part of anti-Russian campaign and present an attack on the Russian president.
  • A lot of space was also devoted to the US presidential candidate Donald Trump. Some of the articles either consider the fact that Donald Trump might not get the Republican nomination a conspiracy and criticize the level of democracy in the US or claim that Trump is a useful idiot” serving the interests of the “US military-industrial-banking-media mafia.
  • Russian Institute of Strategic Research, an influential Kremlin think tank, claims that the Czech media are the most anti-Russian in the world.
  • Some of the founders of blocked extremist Facebook pages are moving to the Russian social network VK, a favourite platform for conspiracy theorists and pro-Kremlin users.
  • Already the second Russian journalist lost his accreditation in the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic refused to comment on the reason of the decision.

Infographic of the week

Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov shows how the Russian media reacted to the Panama Papers case as of 12 noon on Monday 4 April. EEAS East StratCom Task Force has translated it into English.


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