Last week's events concerning the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign

NEW REPORT: Lessons learned from countering Russian disinformation in Georgia and the Czech Republic

A new report “Comparing lessons learned from countering Russian disinformation in Georgia and the Czech Republic” authored by Mariam Tsitsikashvili, Non-resident Fellow at the Kremlin Watch Program, Research Fellow at Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS) analyzes the state of play of Russia’s malign narratives, “agents of influence”, tactics and tools that the Kremlin employs for exploiting vulnerabilities in Georgia and the Czech Republic. The footprint of Russia’s malign influence in both countries is examined in 3 dimensions: political, media, and societal. Despite being exposed to Russian malign disinformation for decades, Georgia’s state policy against the threat still lags behind. The report provides recommendations for the Georgian government and the civil society based on the lessons learned from the Czech counter-disinformation measures at both governmental and non-governmental levels.

Topics of the Week

Russia and Poland Feud Over Putin Remarks on World War II

Russia tries a new tactic of targeting US war veterans

Kremlin's Current Narratives: The United States as a villain

Good Old Soviet Joke

Two border guards catch Kohn and ask him: “Hey Kohn, what are you doing here?”

“I am running to the Soviet Union!”

“But Kohn, these are the borders with West Germany.”

Kohn responds: “My love for the Soviet Union knows no borders!”

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Policy & Research News

Russia and Poland Feud Over Putin Remarks on World War II

As the Wall Street Journal reports Poland and Russia are locked in an escalating dispute over who is to blame for the outbreak of World War II. This row has been ongoing for months and in recent weeks has escalated due to Polish and Russian officials over how the conflict began and who should carry historic responsibility. The Polish government had pushed for Europe to condemn the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Poland and Vladimir Putin has responded by criticizing Poland’s role in the years before the war’s outbreak. However, Putin’s version has been widely dismissed by most historians.

The Russian President has drawn on the memory of Russian heroism during World War II to drum up support for his increasingly aggressive foreign policy and to bolster his nationalist credentials amid U.S. and EU sanctions and a lagging economy. Putin has made World War II a central part of Russian identity in recent years as he has increasingly emphasized the importance of Russia’s military following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Furthermore, In the response to sanctions triggered by the annexation in Ukraine Putin has increasingly tried to energize his nationalist base.

Has Iran built an online disinformation machine to rival Russia's?

Last week The Telegraph published a detailed article analysing the techniques used by Iran during disinformation campaigns and comparing them to Russia’s.  Iran has been pursuing its strategic goals through social media manipulation for years and according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Lab, its activity peaked as early as 2014. Since 2018 Twitter, has taken down three Iranian state-sponsored influence campaigns. Some of the main differences between Iran and Russia’s disinformation campaigns detailed in the article include the following: while Russia's Internet Research Agency created its own in-house graphics and memes and own content, Iran's disinformation warriors tended to simply adapt and repurpose images and words already created by Americans, picking them up and amplifying them beyond their original reach. Secondly, where Russia is committed to boosting both the far Left and the far-Right, Iranian disinformation tends to favour the hard Left which finds solidarity with Iran in its "anti-imperialist" struggle against the US.

Patrick Tucker, Technology Editor for Defense One, argues compared to Russia, Iran’s disinformation campaigns are less sophisticated, less well-funded, and less focused on achieving electoral political outcomes. Furthermore, he argues compared to Russia the Iranian focus is much less complex. Their goal is always a push for Iranian foreign policy objectives and turning global sentiment against the US. Tucker also concurs with the article in The Telegraph stating that Iranian disinformation can have a big impact, especially in the Middle East. With the death of General Quassim Soleimani, evidence of an Iranian disinformation campaign quickly began to appear. Accounts that were created months ago became active as part of a "coordinated" operation. After Soleimani’s death, more than 21,000 Instagram posts used a hashtag, "hard revenge" and have since been deleted by the app. Moreover, group messages on several apps that share messages in Persian, some asking for a “blood campaign” and requesting those who have joined the chat to “influence” others by sharing it with their smartphone contact book.

US Developments

Russia tries a new tactic of targeting US war veterans

Vietnam Veterans of America warned US officials that veterans are being targeted by Russian manipulation campaigns. VVA's new “trollreport” reports that because of the high social respect and status that veterans have in society, many American people follow their opinions. In the 2016 election, Russian Internet Research Agency published 118 targeted ads for veterans, but this was only a small part of the campaign. Russia has used fake veteran accounts to promote narratives, borrowed official veteran logos for illegal use in propaganda, and stolen identities of veterans, even identities of those who have died in action. Some legitimate online groups, like the “Vets for Trump” group on Facebook, have been hijacked with foreign trolls and used for spreading propaganda.

US intelligence probes whether Russia is targeting Biden in 2020 elections

In 2016 Hillary Clinton was subjected to organized leaks, propaganda and social media operations, and that is what is happening to Joe Biden in the 2020 elections. US intelligence is assessing the ways Russia is trying to undermine Biden's ongoing presidential run. In the centre of the Russian propaganda is the case of Biden´s involvement in US foreign policy towards Ukraine. By continuous disinformation campaigns around the Ukraine case, Russia is able to both sow social divisions and affect the public opinion. The difference to the 2016 situation is that Russia already has a case on its hands, which means that they do not have to use hack and leak operations like the leak of democrats' & Clinton's emails in 2016. With an already existing narrative of Biden & Ukraine, Russia is able to focus on amplifying the narrative that is already present in the US social media.     

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Kremlin's Current Narrative

The Villain of the New Decade

While the unravelling of the plane crash of a passenger aeroplane over Iran has been the main topic of discussion in the past week, Russian state media also focused extensively on a number of other issues under one common theme: the United States as a villain.

According to reports, the overly assertive presence of the US is a threat around the world. In Iran, Washington has “surpassed the red lines that distinguish barbarism from civilized rules of engagement” and it has pushed the region “to the brink of war.” When President Trump threatened to destroy cultural sites in Iran, for example, a report likened the US to the Islamic State. In Europe, the sanctions on Nord Stream are portrayed as unnecessarily aggressive hegemonic behaviour. One report labels the sanctions as “straight-up racketeering, right out of the mafia playbook.” According to a recent study cited by RT, the aggressiveness of Washington stretches as far as the Arctic. There, too, the behaviour of the Americans is unpredictable because of their belief that all rival powers including China and Russia must be “contained and suppressed.”

Needless to say, the hero in this story is the Kremlin. While the US leads aggressive policies around the world, Russia actively pursues stability, peace and cooperation, according to the narrative. The coverage on the recent meeting between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in Moscow summarizes this theme: “as Trump pushes his weight around, Russia-Germany relations defrost” due to Washington becoming “an increasingly unreliable partner for its European allies.” Similar sentiments are emphasized in regards to the Middle East among others and most recently, North Africa.

Do you like our work?

Our effort to protect liberal democracy across Europe is dependent on private donations.

Support us

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Center for Security Policy, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against the liberal-democratic system.

For comments. suggestions or media inquiries, please contact the Head of the Kremlin Watch Program Veronika Víchová at 

Facebook Twitter

European Values Center for Security Policy

Facebook Twitter Youtube

We regularly publish various specialised newsletters that can be delivered directly into your inbox. 


You can opt out at any time.