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

Topics of the Week

Elusive consensus: EU sanctions 44 Belarus officials & Russian Entities, Individuals Responsible For Kerch Strait Rail Bridge.

The "infodemic" emanating from the coronavirus epidemic "continues to undermine the global response and jeopardizes measures to control the pandemic."

Kremlin's Current Narrative: The latest narratives on NATO-Russia relations.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Gorbachev gives a speech to the people: "We will be doing so well that we will fly to the Moon!"

People: "Gorbachev! Gorbachev! Gorbachev!"

Gorbachev: "No, we will be doing so well that we will fly to Mars!"

People: "Gorbachev! Gorbachev! Gorbachev!

Gorbachev: "No! We will be doing so well, we will fly to the Sun!"

People: "Gorba... But how will we get there, with the extreme temperatures?"

Gorbachev: "We will fly at night!"

People: "Gorbachev! Gorbachev! Gorbachev!"

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Policy & Research News

Elusive consensus: EU sanctions 44 Belarus officials & Russian Entities, Individuals Responsible For Kerch Strait Rail Bridge

Last week the EU managed to overcome Cyprus’ veto and impose sanctions for repression and election rigging against 40 Belorusian individuals, however notably leaving Alexander Lukashenko out of the list. The restricting measures will encapsulate the travel ban and asset freeze. As noted by EU diplomats, Lukashenko might end up on the list if he refuses to negotiate with the opposition and to held new elections

Similarly, Canada and the U.K. announced sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and Belarusian officials responsible for the election fraud and ongoing violent repressions. The U.S. also joined and imposed the sanctions on Interior Minister Karaev and seven other Belarusian officials. The reciprocal sanctions against the European Union were also adopted by Belarus and Russia.

However, among other sanctions-related achievements, the EU managed to expand sanctions against Russia. The Council singled out two individuals and the asset freeze on four companies responsible for the construction of the Kerch Strait railway bridge. The railway bridge was built to connect Russia mainland and the illegally Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula and was put into operation in December 2019.

The first sanctions were introduced in 2014 and were updated right after the opening of the road bridge in 2018, which hit 6 companies involved in the road bridge construction. In total, the sanctions will target now 177 individuals and 48 entities.

As the demonstrations continue, Lukashenko’s apparatus keeps intimidating peaceful democratic protests, detaining political opponents, trying to silence the dissents by revoking the accreditation of all foreign media sources. Meanwhile, Russia keeps testing international rule of law and undermining the world order. 

When it comes to Russia, the appeasement approach should not be even on the Western’s radar. Instead, ‘sanctions against Russia should be proportional to Moscow’s violations of international law and steadily increased until it changes course’. EU’s Sanctions Policy should remain at the vanguard of the deterrence toolkit employed in response to the Kremlin’s encroachment. So far EU consensus and credibility of the bloc’s foreign policy remains to be fairly vague. Only well-coordinated actions by Western allies against malign actions of authoritarian leaders will help to safeguard democratic values, hold Belarus and Russia accountable for their actions, and usher in a just peace in Ukraine. 

Germany’s Huawei 5G retreat

Germany is about to impose new restrictions on Huawei to exclude this from the 5G rollout. The new bill should be passed shortly and this is ought to introduce new guidelines on political and technical assessment of telecoms’ ‘trustworthiness’. Such toughened security criteria will mainly target Huawei, and will likely to phase out Huawei’s 5G as the equipment provider from the German market. In such a way German joined a growing group of countries that have already imposed restrictions on Huawei. 

Huawei’s 5G omnipresence in infrastructure rollout became on the flashpoint in the Transatlantic-China relationships. China is surrounded by allegations for leveraging Huawei’s 5G capabilities to conduct various espionage on Western countries. These raised concerns and debates on 5G potential to constitute multifold threats to the national security of Western allies. 

These concerns were previously prompted by Trump’s administration, which executed an order banning Huawei from the U.S. market in May 2019. This decision has driven further confrontation over China’s 5G and forced other countries to choose their stance. The overall risk of vendor’s influence on a state’s security should not be ruled out given the rise of systematics Chinese espionage. 

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US Developments

Using Pseudo-Academic Online Journals to Amplify Fringe Voices

A recent GEC report has explored Russia's use of pseudo-academic journals "to conceal Russian state involvement in disinformation outlets and use obscure Western fringe voices and conspiracy theorists as surrogate messengers." These pseudo-academic online journals are under Russian control but are portrayed as being independent. Russia’s foreign-facing information apparatus "gives increased circulation to what would otherwise be marginal anti-Western views" and allows Russia to circumvent easy attribution for their propaganda. 

Managing the COVID-19 infodemic: Promoting healthy behaviours and mitigating the harm from misinformation and disinformation

Kremlin's Current Narrative

So, who is afraid of whom? The latest narratives on NATO – Russia relations

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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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