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


Kremlin Watch Team is looking for an intern with an analytical focus on Russian influence operations in Europe!

Deadline for applications: August 30th, 2021, 23:59 CET

Find more information HERE.


Throwback to old-school Russian espionage: Germany arrested a Briton who worked at the British Embassy in Berlin on suspicion of espionage for Russia.

Recent US intelligence reports highlight Russia's evolving tactics to information warfare.

US Secretary of State discusses the crisis in Afghanistan with Russian counterpart,

New love affair: Kremlin and Taliban

Good Old Soviet Joke

A Polish tourist comes back home after visiting the USSR. He carries two very large and heavy suitcases. On his wrist is a new Soviet-made watch. He tells the customs man: "This is a new Soviet watch. It's a wonder unknown in the capitalist countries. You see, it shows time, the rate of your pulse beats, the phases of the Moon, the weather in Warsaw, Moscow, and New York, and more and more!"

"Yes, it's a wonder," the customs man agrees. "And what is it you have in these big suitcases?"

"Oh, it's just the batteries for that watch."

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Policy & Research News

Throwback to old-school Russian espionage

Germany arrested a Briton, identified as David Smith, 57, who worked at the British Embassy in Berlin on suspicion of espionage for Russia. The man is accused of passing documents obtained in the course of his professional activities to the Russian intelligence service for which he received a financial reward. German news magazine Focus Online reported that the material was related to counter-terrorism issues. According to prosecutors, he is suspected of having spied at least since November 2020. The arrest was a result of a joint investigation of German and British authorities, including the British M15 counter-intelligence service.

The British national did not have access to highly classified information. At the British Embassy, the Briton worked as a local staff member, a low-level officer without diplomatic immunity. Former British national security adviser Peter Ricketts said that the UK should not overreact, but added: “We all think now about the Russians stealing secrets by hacking and providing disinformation by social media and so on. It is a reminder that the Russians haven’t given up on the old-fashioned ways of suborning individuals through money. I think the Russian intelligence threat to all our countries has grown again.”

The spying scandal is old-style espionage. Soviet intelligence agencies would similarly target western embassy staff working in junior roles, not higher officers during the Cold War. Such undercover campaigns used to be very successful since lower-level employees could obtain sensitive information without anybody noticing them. However, a throwback to old times is not an exception, and the Berlin case is far from being the only one of its kind. Last August, France arrested a senior military officer stationed with NATO forces in Italy after meeting with Russian working for GRU military intelligence. The same month, Norway expelled a Russian trade official on suspicion of spying related to oil and gas projects. Besides, Austria jailed a retired former colonel who shared details about the country´s weapons system. Last but not least, the UK and its allies in 2018 and the Czech Republic in 2021 expelled dozens of Russian intelligence officers.

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

US Developments

Recent US intelligence reports highlight Russia’s evolving tactics to information warfare

According to US government officials, the Biden administration has received numerous intelligence reports on the Kremlin’s information operations surrounding the 2022 midterm elections in the US. While Biden made a veiled reference to the information housed in these confidential reports in late July, recent reporting sheds more light on the threat vectors the US president alluded to.

Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that Moscow’s tactics of information manipulation have evolved immensely since 2016, when Russian interference in the US presidential election consisted of easier-to-trace phenomena, such as the purchase of ads on social media. In terms of insight into the Kremlin’s topical foci, officials also revealed that evidence suggests Russian official mouthpieces are exploiting debates in the US on vaccination and mask mandates to stoke division. Lastly, experts stress that while US elections do tend to elicit an upsurge in Russian information operations, the Kremlin’s interference activities are ongoing. Therefore, the US counter-response to these threats must continue regardless of the election schedule.

US Secretary of State discusses the crisis in Afghanistan with Russian counterpart

On Monday, August 16th, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding the situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. Blinken reached out to discuss the US’s efforts to evacuate American citizens and Afghan partners amid the rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis. Analysts argue Blinken’s decision to speak with Lavrov can be interpreted as an attempt to unite prominent international powers in opposition to the Taliban, with the aim of delegitimizing the group’s authority. Although in recent months the Russian military increased its activities along the Afghan border in Tajikistan, the Kremlin has made diplomatic overtures to the Taliban since the group ousted the Western-backed Afghan government on Sunday. This was exemplified in Lavrov’s Tuesday remarks: “I consider it a positive signal that the Taliban in Kabul is declaring and in practice showing its readiness to respect the opinion of others.” 

Kremlin's Current Narrative

New love affair: Kremlin and Taliban

The questionable relationship between the Kremlin and Taliban has come under the spotlight again following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

Russian state-funded channels, as loyal as they are to Kremlin narratives, couldn’t stay intact. Besides representing the events taking place in Afghanistan as a catastrophic failure of the US and the overall global liberal order, pro-Kremlin media explicitly gives a platform to Taliban representatives & aims to convince everyone that Afghanistan is safer under their rule. These mutually beneficial exchanges are taking place despite the fact that the Taliban is an officially recognised terrorist group in Russia.

First, TASS has confirmed that the Taliban placed the Russian Embassy in Kabul under protection, as the Russian Ambassador to Kabul Dmitry Zhirnov was set to meet with the Taliban coordinator. The former rushed to praise the era of Taliban on one of the biggest radio channels in the country: he described the situation as "good, positive and business-like", and said that “Kabul now under the Taliban is better than it was under Ghani”.

Russian Presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov hinted that Russian efforts to build contacts with the Taliban movement during the last 7 years have been paying off. He also stated that while there is no rush in that regard, Russia will decide to recognise the Taliban regime solely depending on their governance and behaviour.

Pro-Kremlin TV programme 60 Minutes and others are also effectively utilising the “Americans are traitors who can never be trusted” narrative to shatter the trust and confidence of Ukrainians, while China is doing exactly the same in Hong Kong. Russian reporter from New York, Valentin Bogdanov commented on TV that the American global hegemony experiment in itself is a myth as the whole state apparatus, resources and military of the country are fully paralysed with “domestic chaos” in the US.

Another interesting narrative line of reporting refers to women: several articles have been published quoting directly Taliban leaders on their intention to respect women’s rights. Gazeta, Smotrim, Vesti and other outlets are confident in reporting that the rights of women will be respected under the Taliban rule and that women can even work on the condition that they wear hijab. Some articles even mention that women were invited to work for the Government. All these articles mostly fail to talk about the potentially dangerous and disastrous impact of Sharia Law on the lives and liberties of Afghan women.

Even though the majority of Russian state-run media experiences unhidden joy, only a few dare to talk about the facts on the ground: Taliban is a challenge not only for the Western world but also for Russia and it will be foolish to be naive about the instability they can cause to the whole Central Asia.

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
Facebook Twitter

European Values Center for Security Policy

Facebook Twitter Youtube