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Kremlin Watch Monitor October 11, 2016

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

E-mail communication of the separatists with Russia leaked

Two journalists from ZDF’s Frontal21 and DIE ZEIT acquired emails which have been exchanged between the “Information Ministry” led by the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and “advisers” from Russia. They revealed a document called “International Information Policy Strategy in the Luhansk People’s Republic” which was supposed to be a guiding manual for the rebels. According to DIE ZEIT, there is also included a long list of e-mail addresses, encouraging the separatists to consult Russian “experts”, amongst which are Alexander Dugin, Alexey Pushkov, and Sergey Glazyev.

New law to ban books with anti-Ukrainian content

Ukraine is going to introduce a new bill banning books imported from Russia with anti-Ukrainian content, which will be judged by an “expert council”. The books are going to be banned if they are going to include “popularisation or propaganda of bodies of an aggressor state and their particular actions which create a positive image of the employees of the aggressor state, employees of Soviet state security bodies, justify or declare as legitimate occupation of Ukrainian territory”. The law has been adopted by the cabinet of ministers. With this new bill, Ukraine exposes itself for a new wave of criticism accusing it from censorship.

Information War Monitor for Central Europe: September 2016; published by GLOBSEC Policy Institute

The Information War Monitor aims to provide a bi-weekly overview of disinformation and propaganda existing in the media discourse in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. The European Values Think-Tank is a proud contributor and we incorporate a shortened version of the Information War Monitor into our newsletter so that you can stay in the loop on the most important disinformation campaigns in Central Europe. The full report can be found here.

Migrants terrorizing European citizens

The migration crisis is a resilient topic that prevails in the disinformation space. The two most used narratives used by propaganda outlets in Central Europe have been that the refugees are dangerous and perverted, and that their presence in Europe is a part of a bigger plan to Islamize Europe. In September, the pro-Kremlin outlets spread information and statistics concerning criminal activities of migrants.

In general, the pro-Kremlin media are trying to appeal to the conservative readers in Central Europe by connecting the refugee crisis with the erosion of moral and traditional values. Conservative politicians in Central Europe frequently use this notion for gaining power and the votes of the conservative population. While the pro-Kremlin websites in September highly featured the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szíjjártó’s warning about dangerous no-go zones in Europe, the anti-immigration declarations of the conservative leaders were highly praised by alternative media for being the last hope for saving Europe. It is a win-win situation for the pro-Kremlin political leaders and the propaganda outlets.

The truth about 9/11

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 are entwined by conspiracy theories and propaganda. While mainstream media debated the ridiculousness of 9/11 conspiracies, alternative media revived them.

In general, the alternative media undermined the official US statements and the credibility of the US government by providing various scenarios on how the incident really happened, including one stating that the twins might have been constructed with the idea of an upcoming demolition, which would mean that the attack had been planned for ten years. Some referred to Fahrenheit 9/11 and conspired about Saudi-Arabia’s role in the attack, others claimed that the United States sacrificed 3000 people in “state terrorism.”

The pro-Kremlin outlets in Central Europe continue to disseminate the antagonistic narrative of immigration and highly praised the Hungarian referendum. The more obscure ones copied the rhetoric of anti-immigration parties. In some cases, these outlets were used by extreme right-wing parties to spread disinformation on thealternatives to the EU, to promote the alleged plan of the Netherlands to leave the EU, and to cooperate closely with Russia. Some of the most influential pro-Kremlin disinformation media outlets also spread the notions of continuous “Islamization” of Europe or “biased labelling of Russia” as an aggressor.

NATO, the US puppet endangering us

The Pro-Kremlin outlets in Central Europe point out that NATO is a tool of the United States, used to control countries. Alternative media claim that NATO is less and less united and undemocratic. A commentary by an American blogger Dave Lindorff in which he claimed that there are NATO and American units in Ukraine, was frequently broadcasted in Central Europe. The Slovak alternative media further informed that the United States is cooperating with ISIS and the Czech pro-Kremlin outlets promoted a “Petition for peace” to leave the North-Atlantic Organization issued by the Czech Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. The officially Russia-sponsored Czech version of Sputnik published an interview with the  deputy chairman of the Czech Communist Party, in which he said that NATO pushes the Czech Republic into a dangerous confrontation with Russia, while Parlamentní listy featured individual signatories of the petition.

Furthermore, the Hungarian alternative media even quoted GLOBSEC Trends’ opinion poll and pointed out that Zeman’s anti-West declarations and pro-Russian affiliations are consistent with the citizens’ lack of support towards NATO in the Czech Republic. It only forgot to mention the part of GLOBSEC Trends’ report about the influence of pro-Kremlin propaganda on the public in Central Europe.

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.

Nord Stream 2 is a controversial pipeline which is owned by Gazprom, a gas company controlled by the Kremlin. It is feared to be the Kremlin’s means to bypass states like Ukraine or the Czech Republic which are the usual transit countries, to extend its influence in Europe and make the European Union more energy dependent on Russia while its projects for access to liquid natural gas markets would be less viable. The European Commission and several European states took a sharp position against the building of the pipeline.

The reason we remind you of it is because the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, was appointed its Chairman of the Board. He has been a long-time critic of sanctions against Russia and has been defending its foreign policy. With this step, he became a first class Kremlin apologist. With that in mind, we decided to name him Putinversteher of the Week.

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

Daniel Baer describes for Medium how GONGOs infiltrate and attempt to paralyze the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, a human rights conference in Warsaw.

Alexei Sobchenko tries to explain in The Atlantic Council what are the reasons for the uncoordinated response of the Russian elites to the latest MH17 investigation results.

Alec Luhn discusses the differences in the media coverage of the events in Syria by Russian and Western channels in his article for The Guardian.

Czech Disinformation Corner

The Czech disinformation outlets focused on the crumbling ceasefire in Syria, especially on the incident which were still under investigation and the circumstances weren’t clear. They often reported that the US air strikes on the Syrian government troops were not accidental, for example because they lasted so long. They also repeated the stances of Russian officials, including the claim that the attack proves the US support to the Islamic State.

The pro-Kremlin websites also attempted to persuade the readers that the European Union and the United Nations are ruining us with their ideas, trying to establish a dictatorship, wipe out the middle class or even bring us to the collapse of the civilization. One of the servers published an open call of the so called Byzantine catholic patriarchate titled “New Europe without the EU” addressed to the government representatives of the Visegrad group. It calls for Slovakia to use its EU Presidency to play a key role during the “liquidation of the totalitarian system of the EU”.

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