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Kremlin Watch Monitor March 22, 2017

Weekly monitor of pro-Kremlin disinformation effort in Europe. We follow best European analysts, best counter-measures and trends.

Open Call to Federica Mogherini

Together with various European security experts, we have launched “Open Call to Federica Mogherini”. 

The aggressive actions of the Kremlin are unprecedented in the modern era. European societies are under massive attack of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns. Despite repetitive demands from the EU member states and the European Parliament, Mrs. Mogherini keeps downplaying this threat and refuses to reinforce the EEAS East STRATCOM Team.

With this Open Call, we are asking her to triple the capacity of the only EU specialized body for countering this threat.

Full Open Call is here:

Among signatories, you can find:

  • Andreas Umland, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation
  • Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author
  • Anton Shekhovtsov, Research Associate, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation
  • Daniel Milo, Head of STRATCOM Program, GLOBSEC Policy Institute
  • Eliot Higgins Founder and Director, Bellingcat
  • Evan O’Connell, Senior Consultant, Aspect Consulting
  • Garry KasparovChairman of the Human Rights Foundation
  • Jaroslav Nad, Director, Slovak Security Policy Institute
  • Jelena Milic, Director, Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies
  • Julian Röpcke, Political Editor, BILD
  • Justas Šireika, Director, Information Security and Analysis Centre
  • Maks Czuperski, Director, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Atlantic Council
  • Nerijus Maliukevičius, Scientific researcher at Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science
  • Nicolas Tenzer, Chairman, CERAP (Centre d’étude et de réflexion pour l’Action politique)
  • Peter Kreko, Senior Associate, Political Capital Institute
  • Thomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia (2006-2016)and Liautaud visiting fellow, at CISAC, Center for Security and Co-operation, Stanford University
  • Yevhen Fedchenko, Co-founfer, org

Perhaps Euractiv summarized it better then we could:

New Publication

Jakub Janda published a new article in The Atlantic Council. What are the six immediate steps to stop Putin’s aggression?

  • NATO should step up to defend Ukraineagainst Russian military, including supplying Ukrainians with modern weaponry and making clear that military action might follow if the Kremlin does not stop fighting in eastern Ukraine.
  • The West must seriously tackle the threat of massive disinformation, for example by establishing specialized hybrid threat centres for monitoring and analysing disinformation operations.
  • National leaders must make clear that the EU action against ongoing Russian disinformation campaigns is needed and make sure that Federica Mogherini does not keep neglecting the threat.
  • Allies of the Kremlin need to be called outand challenged, especially (but not exclusively) in the countries where important elections are coming soon, such as France or Germany.
  • Governments need to fund projects that expose disinformationand massively increase media literacy
  • Comprehensive sociological researchis necessary for understanding how the disinformation campaigns of the Kremlin are tailored, which weaknesses of different states they are abusing, and how successful they are.

Putin’s Champion Award

Our Expert Jury consisting of Jessikka Aro, Anton Shekhovtsov, John Schindler and Michael Weiss regularly vote on the dangerousness of several candidates you can nominate via e-mail or Twitter.

Since the last issue of the Kremlin Watch Monitor, we have two more Putin’s Champion Award Recipients:

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

For tirelessly copy-pasting political positions of Vladimir Putin – from mocking serious questions about Kremlin interference in U.S. election process to discarding fears of Russian pressure in the Baltic region.

Image Source: Ak169808 – Own work, Public Domain

The Expert Jury ranked his Putin-supportive job with


(out of 5) mark.


Andrew Napolitano

For disseminating the pro-Kremlin conspiracy theory that British intelligence spied on Donald Trump, based on a Russia Today story.

Image Source: Gage Skidmore, CC BY 3.0

The Expert Jury ranked his Putin-supportive job with


(out of 5) mark.

You can find more details about the award and the former recipients here.
The rating signals how much the recipient contributed to the interest of the Putin’s aggressive regime. It is calculated as an average of ratings assessed by the Expert Jury of this Award.

Weekly Update on the Kremlin Disinformation Efforts in Europe

Who was behind the pro-Kremlin demonstrations in Central Europe?

According to the e-mail correspondence extracted by hackers from the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, the person who helped organize protests in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic was Alexander Usovsky, an activist from Belarus and an author of a book about Stalin, who later confirmed the authenticity of the e-mails. In the Czech case, he was communicating with Ladislav Kašuka, a security guard from a supermarket and a member of the communist party who is often presented in Russian media as a famous journalist. The financial trail leads to Konstantin Malofeev, a former Russian investment banker. There have been speculations in the media that he might have also been one of the organizers of the attempted coup in Montenegro.

Common interests of UKIP and WikiLeaks

You might remember that our previous Putin’s Champion Award went to Julian Assange, the editor and founder of WikiLeaks.  According to Business Insider, which got its hands on a set of leaked e-mails, it seems Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks have had long-term connections to the UKIP party and its former leader Nigel Farage. Several UKIP representatives actively defended him throughout the years and sought to help him with his endeavours.

The British intelligence service GCHQ warned political parties and their representatives against potential cyber-attacks conducted by hackers connected to the Kremlin. The main target is to educate party representatives on the dangers and improve their resilience towards attempts to hack their accounts and systems.

Not everybody creates disinformation for political reasons. A native of the Czech Republic who founded the website in Germany spreads them regularly and made a solid living from it. His server is rather small but gets shared a lot on social networks. Meanwhile, Germany threatens to finecompanies like Facebook or Twitter for failing to deal with fake news. The penalties might get up to €50 million.

The number of disinformation outlets like this is multiplying in many countries. Their relevance differs, but what helps them is legitimization by political representatives. Members of the Czech communist party share stories originating on bizarre websites like Aeronet or AC24 on their websites as “alternative information”.


Bits and pieces from the 2016 NATO Annual Report

According to the NATO Secretary General’s Annual Report for 2016, NATO has been struck by an average of 500 cyber-attacks per month, which was an increase around 60 % on 2015.

It’s all about the money: In the view of the share of GDP, 16 states raised defence expenditure in 2016, while five Allies met the goal of spending at least 2 % of GDP on defence, namely The United States, Greece, Estonia, United Kingdom and Poland. Some countries continued to decrease defence spending, amongst them, for example, the Czech Republic which spent 1,01 % of GDP on defence last year.

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

The dissolution of the European Union, paralysis of NATO, spread of anti-Semitism, populist governments all over Europe, and Russian occupation of Estonia. These are only a few parts of a very dark scenario outlined by James Kirchick in his article for Foreign Policy. No need to panic just yet, but read the full article in case you need a reminder why resolute actions are needed in Europe, rather sooner than later.

One of the best examples of activism dealing with the disinformation campaign of the Kremlin is, a Ukrainian organization debunking fake stories, founded by Yevhen Fedchenko. Vijai Maheshwari focuses in Politico on how this small group of journalists became experts sought-after for their advice and help.

After meeting with President Donald Trump, Angela Merkel is going to visit Moscow in the beginning of May. Her relationship with Vladimir Putin, never too friendly and always cautious, has been very well summarized by Alison Smale and Andrew Higgins in their piece for The New York Times.

In the second half of the 26th episode of Stratfor Talks, you can listen to Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich and Europe Analyst Mark Fleming-Williams discussing potential attempts of the Kremlin to meddle in European elections with the focus on France.


Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion

How can European states respond to Russian information warfare? An analytical framework; by Maria Hellman & Charlotte Wagnsson, published by European Security

States which are being targeted by Russian disinformation and propaganda have a variety of options how to respond to it. In order to grasp them, four ideal-type models representing different strategies are proposed here. Two dimensions are to be taken into account regarding these models: that of engagement-disengagement and that of inward-outward targeting. The models themselves, sorted by their relation to both dimensions, can be seen in the table below:

  • Confronting strategy involves active production and projection of counter-narratives, often in direct response to a particular narrative. An example of this ideal type is the Estonian initiative to launch a national public broadcasting network in Russian in order to balance and counter the narratives produced by Russian-owned TV channels. This strategy is the most aggressive one.
  • Naturalising is based on projecting state’s own narrative without directly contrasting it with the narrative projected by the “other”, such as does, for example, Germany with its state-sponsored media channel Deutsche Welle. The state focuses on promoting a positive self-image.
  • Blocking strategy tries to protect state’s narrative by blocking that of the opponent without projecting a counter-narrative. This model can be illustrated by the efforts of Lithuania and Latvia to restrict broadcasting of Russian media on their soil. A significant disadvantage of this strategy is that it can be criticized as clashing with values of a free and open society.
  • The strategy of ignoring is one of not responding, but ignoring what is seen as false and manipulated narratives. This strategy might involve measures such as the active strengthening of civil society or emphasis on media literacy and independent, responsible media.

Czech Disinformation Corner

During last week, pro-Kremlin outlets in the Czech Republic tried to cope with the results of the Dutch elections. Since they widely supported Geert Wilders, the victory of Mark Rutte has been an unpleasant surprise. Aeronet, a website known for spreading disinformation, evaluated the successful campaign of Rutte’s party as a way of fulfilling the task given by the “globalists”. Since they passed the so-called “test”, they proved that they can be a part of a new European federal system and that they control their citizens. In order to win, the websites states, Mark Rutte staged the diplomatic turmoil with Turkey, so that Dutch voters would believe he was a strong leader.

Similar manipulations have been predicted by Aeronet and Protiproud in the upcoming elections in France. The “global elites” are supposed to do anything and everything to prevent “pro-nation” candidates from winning. This is why they, according to the websites, after destroying Francois Fillon, denied Marine Le Pen immunity as an MEP so that she could be charged with a crime. Media are allegedly helpful allies in that matter, manipulating with opinion polls so that it would look like Le Pen is losing with her opponent Emmanuel Macron, a so-called “French Hilary”.

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