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


Opening remarks

  1. Help us crush the Russian propaganda machine

Policy & Research  

  1. Operations suspended: Visa and Mastercard 
  2. China’s walk on thin ice

U.S. Developments  

  1. Secretary Blinken’s Travel to Europe
  2. The US and Europe weigh plans for the Ukrainian government in exile

Kremlin’s Current Narrative 

  1. Kremlin states NATO has adapted war in Ukraine to suit its interests.
  2. RT reports that West “supports Nazis and Murderers"

Taipei news

  1. Taiwan Responds to Russian Invasion in Ukraine
  2. Questions about Military Preparedness at Home
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Policy & Research

Operations suspended: Visa and Mastercard

Following the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, payment networks Visa and Mastercard have decided to suspend operations in Russia, which accounts for 4 per cent of their revenue. The decision was followed by PayPal's announcement to suspend its services in Russia and then by American Express' announcement to end business operations with Belarus as well. These measures further isolate Russia financially, after a first blow last week with the rush to withdraw money from Moscow's citizens as a result of the sanctions. These new measures will not only affect cards issued in Russia, cards issued elsewhere and used in Russia will also stop working, blocking access for Russian financial institutions to these payment networks.


In response, Russian banks have tried to minimize the impact of the blockade by suggesting that Visa and Mastercard cards issued by Russian banks would be handled manually by domestic operators allowing transactions within the country. In addition, Russian banks such as Sberbank and Alfa-Bank could mimic Gazprombank and Rosselkhozbank and start issuing co-badged cards linked to Russia's Mir international payment systems and China's UnionPay. As a result, these measures have raised awareness and concerns, particularly from Mastercard, of possible retaliation from Russian hackers that could threaten the "security of the global payments ecosystem and its network."

China’s walk on thin ice

A month after the issuing of the long-term agreement between Russia and China in Beijing, which united them in the project of reshaping the world order from an anti-Western perspective, China finds itself having to re-evaluate its position based on the development of events. The invasion of Ukraine has put Beijing in an awkward position. On the one hand, trying to balance its support for Putin to avoid internal embarrassment and humiliation, and on the other trying not to be too accommodating of Russia's actions. China is Russia's largest trading partner, and they cooperate in "military exercises, regional security agreements, and technology trade." In addition, Russia is China's second-largest oil supplier and third-largest gas supplier, meeting about 5 per cent of the country's demand through a 30-year contract with the Power of Siberia pipeline that the Kremlin is now planning to expand by building a second, Power of Siberia 2, which would connect Russia to China through Mongolia.


However, supporting and partnering with a free-falling economy like Russia's erodes the trust and credibility of Chinese statecraft, in fact, it is in Beijing's interest to keep the world economy open as it depends on key Western technologies and markets. Therefore, "the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)," complying with the trend of increasing global pressure for Russia's financial isolation, has suspended all current and pending business related to Russia and Belarus to "safeguard its financial integrity." In addition, New Development Bank, a Shanghai-based lender, despite having even greater exposure to the Kremlin, has put new transactions in Russia on hold.

U.S. Developments

Secretary Blinken’s Travel to Europe

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken travelled to Belgium, Poland, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and France from March 3 to 8, 2022. The purpose of this trip was to continue the consultations and coordination with NATO allies and European Partners regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Secretary of State firstly visited Belgium where he attended the NATO Foreign Ministerial to discuss a joint response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. After Belgium, the Secretary of State visited Poland where he met Poland’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Blinken underscored the importance of Poland’s role in coping with a refugee crisis and assisting Ukraine in assuring its security. From March 6 to 8 Blinken held the meetings with his counterparts in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Moldova. During his visit to three Baltic states, the Secretary of State reaffirmed the US’s commitment to their security in the framework of NATO. 


The main goal of the trip was to convince Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia that the US is ready to defend “every inch of NATO territory if it comes under attack.” As the memories of Soviet rule are still fresh in the Baltic states, all of them underlined the importance of bolstering the efficiency of NATO. As Blinken stated, NATO and the US were discussing the creation of permanent NATO bases on the territories of Baltic States. The Secretary of State’s visit to Moldova also aimed to reassure Moldova’s leaders of the US’s readiness to respond to Russia at any time. During the meeting with the President of Moldova, Blinken stated that the US supports Moldova’s aspiration to EU and NATO and promised her to provide Moldova with 18 million $ for diversifying its energy sector.

The US and Europe weigh plans for the Ukrainian government in exile

Amid the intensification of the war in Ukraine, the US and the European officials started discussing the plans of supporting Ukraine’s government in case it needs to go into exile. The plans vary from assisting Ukraine’s government in case of their move to Lviv in the western part of Ukraine to the probability that the government will be forced to leave Ukraine and establish a new government in Poland. Another idea discussed by the officials is to send some Ukrainian government members to any country where they will be able to establish a new government if Zelenskyy is reluctant or not able to flee Ukraine. Despite Ukraine's non-membership of NATO, the US has provided Ukraine with important military, economic and humanitarian assistance. 


The US’s main aim is to maintain the independent Ukrainian government in any form to prevent the legitimization of the Russian puppet government in Ukraine. The plans regarding exile were rejected by Volodymyr Zelenskyy. As he stated, he is focused on fighting and winning the war, but in the worst case, he is ready for dying. Instead, Zelenskyy pleaded for imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine with NATO, but the idea was rejected from the US’s part. According to the US Ambassador to the UN, the US opposes the no-fly zone over Ukraine as it might escalate the war between the US and Russia. As White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, stated, the US aims at reducing tensions, while the imposition of a no-fly zone and its implementation means military intervention and thus, it is a de-facto declaration of war against Russia that objects to Biden’s promise of not sending American troops to fight against Russia.


Kremlin's Current Narrative

Kremlin states NATO has adapted war in Ukraine to suit its interests.

RT reports that NATO has adjusted the unfolding crisis in Ukraine to suit its interests.  Andrey Koshkin, a military-political scientist, head of the department of political science and sociology at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics claimed that Ukraine is used as a plausible pretext for strengthening the power of the alliance in the eastern direction. “It all started with an information and propaganda hysteria,” Koshkin claimed. Victim playing in international relations to justify its aggressive actions is not rare for Russian behaviour. Thus, the Kremlin blamed the United States and Great Britain that initially, by creating propaganda, they transferred military forces and equipment to Europe. “The alliance itself has made optimization and redeployment of its units.


Then Russia launched a special operation, and NATO, led by the United States, got the opportunity to attribute everything to confronting so-called Russian aggression,” claimed Koshkin.  Moreover, the Kremlin claims that the West has been practising such manipulation of circumstances throughout its existence. At the same time, the head of the Bureau of Military-Political Analysis Alexander Mikhailov expressed the opinion that the situation with Ukraine gave NATO a new meaning of existence. “After the Cold War, in a unipolar world, building a global military bloc was absurd and fraught with unnecessary expenses. However, Russia managed to regain its position in the international arena, and NATO regained its meaning to exist, which had to be strengthened by exposing the Russian Federation as an aggressor. And Ukraine was chosen as a tool to achieve this goal,” said Mikhailov.

RT reports that West “supports Nazis and Murderers"

RT reports that in an interview the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azarov claimed that the NATO countries, led by the United States, initially pursued the goal of pushing Kyiv and Moscow against each other. Azarov, according to RT, stated that “it is quite obvious that a provocation was conceived here. Western countries have been trying to drag the Kyiv regime into a serious military conflict for eight years. The Kyiv regime itself has been convincing its population for eight years that they are at war with Russia.” RT refers to Azarov by stating that the West's task was to incite the conflict between Russia and Ukraine without being involved in a confrontation with Russia. In addition to this, the Kremlin emphasizes that hatred or “resonate” towards Russia is now being inflated. 


Azarov claimed that Russophobia with the help of Western media has already crossed all reasonable limits and the Western countries support Nazis and murderers. Moreover, Azarov also accused Western television of creating fake information about Russia and introducing them to its citizens. Furthermore, Russian historian, Modest Kolerov frames “Rusofobia” as a reflection of the Holocaust. Kolerov claimed that now Russians are being bullied because they are Russians, and not because someone doesn't like Russia's politics. “This is a direct copy of the massive anti-Semitism in Europe that preceded the Holocaust,” said Kolerov. Moreover, Kolerov asserted that Russia and Israel are almost the only countries that keep the sacred memory of the real war against Hitler and the victims of the genocide he committed. However, the repetitive statement that there are so-called “genocide” and “hate” towards Russian people is the Kremlin’s common narrative in re-establishing Russia’s influence in the post-Soviet countries as a result of Putin’s imperialistic tendencies.


Taipei News

Taiwan Responds to Russian Invasion in Ukraine

Taiwan’s government and civil society seek to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine through different means. At the official level, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up a relief account and launched a collection drive for critical goods and medical supplies. Within five days since the start of the fundraising campaign, donations exceeded 300 million NTD (approx. 9.6 million EUR). Legislator Lo Chih-Cheng (羅致政) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party also organized a solidarity rally at the  Legislative Yuan, encouraging the public to donate to humanitarian organizations vetted by the Polish Office in Taipei.

The civil society also mobilized swiftly to build awareness about the war and solicit support from the public. Protesters continue to gather daily for peaceful demonstrations in front of the Russian representative office in Taipei, while a rally at Taipei’s Liberty Square—featuring speeches from local NGO representatives and Taiwanese politicians from across the party spectrum—attracted several hundred participants.

While the government of Taiwan spoke out against comparisons between Taiwan and war-torn Ukraine, claiming that the ‘today's Ukraine, tomorrow's Taiwan’ sentiment “disturbs people’s morale,” volatility in Europe aroused disturbance among the Taiwanese public. While some commentators agree that such talk creates unnecessary anxiety, others have pointed to what they perceive as the West’s distraction and weak response to Russia's actions as factors that could potentially enable Chinese aggression.

Questions about Military Preparedness at Home

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked conversations about the level of military preparedness in Taiwan. In a recent webinar, researchers from the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a think tank affiliated with the defence ministry, highlighted the importance of strengthening reservist training and building up territorial forces for effective deterrence and defence.

The escalation of Russian aggression in Ukraine coincided with the launch of a newly revised reservist training program. Under the new initiative, reservists will participate in two weeks of training rather than the current five to seven days. Nevertheless, questions remain as to whether the newly-launched program will provide a sufficient level of training. Additionally, with the training capacity capped at 110,000 reservists per year, the armed forces are only able to train about half of the nation's eligible reservists.

In conjunction with the debates about reservist training, a conversation about additional investment in military equipment is also ongoing. Chen Kuan-ting (陳冠廷), Chief Executive of Taiwan NextGen Foundation and former National Security Council official asserted, "We need to invest more in our own national defence, and that is the only way to deter aggression." To this end, the Legislative Yuan approved extra military spending to enhance sea and airpower, allowing 18 types of weapons and military equipment to enter mass production beginning this year. increasing the defence budget is viewed as a particularly important task in light of the recently announced increase in China’s military expenditure by 7.1% in 2022.


We have new INTERACTIVE E-LEARNING COURSE ON COUNTERING INFLUENCE OPERATIONS! The five chapters of self-teaching introductory e-learning aim to clarify the definitions related to the topic of disinformation and influence operations. E-learning is supported by NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.

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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 

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