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Kremlin Watch Monitor May 2, 2016

Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts in Europe

  • U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Chris Murphy have proposed the Counter-Disinformation Bill which should help American allies counter foreign government propaganda by leveraging existing expertise and empowering local communities do defend themselves from foreign manipulation. The upcoming months will show if it gets passed. The European expert and diplomatic community should watch it closely. You can follow the authors of the legislation discuss the bill at the Atlantic Council event here.
  • According to Der Spiegel, the youth wing of the German right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, has forged an alliance with the youth movement of Putin’s party United Russia.
  • France’s lower house of parliament adopted resolution calling for theEU to lift its economic sanctions against Russia. The resolution was brought forward by Thierry Mariani, a pro-Russian member of the centre-right Les Républicains party, and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a hard-right independent MP. Both have denounced the sanctions as being bad for the French economy. What they probably missed is the fact that Kremlin keeps killing in Ukraine. Or they don’t care.
  • TV crews from top pro-Kremlin outlets and two Russian officials – Pavel Karpov and Andrey Pavlov – came to the European Parliament to attend the premiere of a film on Sergei Magnitsky, who denounced corruption in Russia and who was subsequently killed in prison. They came despite the fact that in 2014 the EU parliament put them on the  list of 32 people  it holds responsible for Magnitsky’s murder. The film accuses Magnitsky and his former employer, Bill Browder, of stealing money and exonerates Karpov and Pavlov. The screening in the European Parliament was eventually cancelled after lawyers for the widow and a former business partner of a high-profile critic of Vladimir Putin intervened.
  • The Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic is one of the first ones to officially publish a description of modus operandi of pro-Kremlin “alternative” websites. In its Quarterly Report on State of Extremism in the Czech Republic, the Czech security forces analyse pro-Kremlin tendencies of several entities on the far-right scene. The Report argues that: “Many of these alternative media projects are intentionally using clear disinformation and conspiracy theories. Alternative media are characteristic by not publishing the sources of information they use. After their claims are proven not to be true they do not bother with further explanations. Usually only sending out the message to the public is sufficient for them.”
  • According to the latest EU East Stratcom Disinformation Review Ukraine is still the most targeted country by the pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets. The main stories from the last week are that the EU and US co-opt international law into their war against Russia and that Russia has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements

Kremlin Watch reading suggestions

Frayed Partnership: German public opinion on Russia; by Bertelsmann Stiftung(GER) and Institute of Public Affairs (PL)

The majority of Germans (64 %) does not consider Russia under Vladimir Putin an internationally credible partner. Only a minority of 18 % thinks German-Russian relations are good. The close interdependence of the Russian and German energy sector is  seen critically by 55 % of the Germans. The good news: Russia under Putin may well have lost the approval of the Germans, but not so the Russians. Their acceptance in Germany does not suffer from Russia’s image damaged mainly by Putin’s policies. But the shocking fact is:  Only 31% of the Germans would like the German army to be defending Baltics or Poland, if they got attacked by Russia.

Internet Trolling as a hybrid warfare tool: the case of Latvia; by NATO StratCom COE

Trolling, despite the direct evidence of its limited effects seen in isolation, is still a small but important part of larger machinery aimed at influencing the public in NATO member and partner countries. How can the mass media and government institutions counter hybrid-trolling activities? Among other things it is important to check facts before publishing them, enhancing general media literacy and critical thinking, development of filtering tools, identification and unmasking sources of disinformation, developing unifying narratives, making jokes rather than arguing, and last but not least, learning from other countries’ experience.

Euroatlantic Experts on Disinformation Warfare

  • You can read about the role of the disinformation campaign in the relationship between Germany and Russia in the Economist.
  • Paula Chertok argues in the Euromaidan Press that the myths about the situation in Ukraine created by Russia seep into mainstream media language.
  • Halya Coynash writes for the Atlantic Council about how Kremlin still uses its lies about the Odesa tragedy as a weapon in its war against Ukraine.

Tweet of the Week

Current state of pro-Kremlin scene in the Czech Republic

  • The Czech Television, a very decent public broadcaster, gets under attack as nearly 500-page complaint for its allegedly unbalanced reporting on Ukraine over past two years. We see this move as a part of Kremlin-sponsored disinformation campaign trying to discredit mainstream media who do not buy pro-Kremlin disinformation.
  • Moscow is going to expel two Czech journalists as retaliation for the decision of the Czech Foreign Ministry to not give accreditation to two Russian journalists for reasons provided by Czech Counter Intelligence.
  • The pro-Kremlin websites in the Czech Republic followed the US president Barack Obama’s visit to Europe and tried to prove that the EU and also British and German governments are merely Washington’s puppets. (12)
  • Czech weekly Respekt has recorded an investigative breakthrough regarding one of the leading pro-Kremlin disinformation websites. Project called Aeronet.cz is spreading pro-Kremlin conspiracy theories such as the disinformation that US Embassy was orchestrating protests against the Czech president. As usual, this project was fully non-transparent. Investigative journalists of weekly Respekt and Czech Television have revealed the identity of several leading figures of this tool for disinformation campaigns.
  • A Czech citizen asked for political asylum in Russia. He allegedly explained his decision to Russian journalists by saying that he has always loved Russia and that he doesn’t want to live in an environment where people are forced to listen to lies about Russia. Congratulations.

Infographic of the week

Below you can see a brief guide on how to identify a hybrid troll and how to deal with him/her. The infographic comes from the study conducted by the NATO StratCom COE mentioned above.

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