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


„There are specific external actors – namely Russia, and increasingly China – that are actively using disinformation and related interference tactics to undermine European democracy, and will continue doing so until we demonstrate that we will not tolerate this aggression and interference,“ said Věra Jourová, the Vice-President of the European Commission during the summit organized by the East StratCom Task Force.

Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan aimed towards fighting Russian disinformation campaigns during the 2020 elections.

What do Russian outlets think about Donald Trump's Isreali-Palestinian peace plan?

Good Old Soviet Joke

Nikita Khrushchev is visiting workers at a collective farm.

“So, my dears, how are you doing?” Nikita jokes.

“We are doing great, comrade!” the kolkhoz workers joke.

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Policy & Research News

East StratCom Task Force’s Summit on Fighting Russian Disinformation

The East StratCom Task Force, a team created within the European External Action Service to combat Russian disinformation, held its first-ever summit on hostile foreign influence last week. As the CNN reports, international experts gathered in Brussels last Thursday to discuss the disinformation challenge within the European Union, looking to map future threats and diagnosing areas of vulnerability, as well as identifying new solutions to the challenge.

At the summit, European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová said "We are not seeking one magical instrument that will solve the problem", adding that the EU was looking to come up with cross-sector strategies to counter disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia and China. "As a person who grew up in a communist regime, I know what it means to be surrounded by lies and manipulation ... this is here again with a strong intensity," Jourová, who is from the Czech Republic, said. "This is not a wakeup call; it is a call to arms."

Today, disinformation is deployed across an array of issues, she adds, from migration to health, the climate change debate and suppressing participation in the electoral process. Jourová’s speech outlined efforts the EU has taken to tackle the threat thus far, including the new Rapid Alert System, a network launched last year to notify governments about Russian interference efforts before they multiply and spread. The European Commission Vice President also said: "We are increasingly concerned by disinformation from actors in member states -- some campaigns are driven by profit and others are driven by useful idiots,".  Furthermore, Jourová called to ramp up regulation and compel social platforms to provide more transparency on political advertising. The Commission has proposed €2.5 million for a digital media observatory bringing together fact-checkers and academic researchers to fight disinformation, and €60 million over 2021-2027 to support "quality" journalism, but experts at the summit said that wasn't nearly enough.

Bulgaria Charges Three Russian Agents in Poisoning Case

In Bulgaria, three Russian men are accused of trying to kill an arms dealer, his son and one of his top executives in 2015. The New York Times details how the trio, members of a secretive group within Russia’s military intelligence agency, slipped into Bulgaria using fake passports and used an organophosphate poison in an attempt “to deliberately kill” the arms manufacturer, Emilian Gebrev, along with his son and a top executive in his company. Bulgaria had initially been reluctant to confront Russia and experts say Russian spies often use Bulgaria as a staging ground for operations throughout Europe. The Bulgarian government declined to expel any diplomats in response to the Skripal poisoning in Britain and had closed the inquiry into the Gebrev poisoning years earlier due to an apparent lack of evidence. However, after the British presented evidence of Unit 29155’s activities on Bulgarian soil, the authorities then reopened the case.

The three Russian men arrived in Bulgaria shortly before Gebrev fell ill at a dinner with business partners in late April 2015. Gebrev and the other victims survived the poisoning attempts but Gebrev states his business continues to suffer.  Though those behind the poisoning were not named by prosecutors, The New York Times was able to identify them by their aliases, Sergei Fedotov, Sergei Pavlov and Georgi Gorshkov. The operatives using two of these names were also involved in overseeing and planning of the Skripal poisoning, according to European security officials. The New York Times adds despite the charges Russia is unlikely to hand over its operatives to face prosecution in Bulgaria.

US Developments

Elizabeth Warren unveils a plan for fighting disinformation

Last week, the Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan aimed specifically towards fighting Russian disinformation campaigns during the 2020 elections. As a part of the plan, Warren makes a pledge that her campaign will not use disinformation in any way. Warren has previously used fake ads on Facebook to educate voters about how easy it is for the candidates to buy political ads to spread disinformation. Warren is specifically calling for new laws against spreading disinformation for the purpose of voter suppression. In 2016, Russia used tactics such as spreading information about changed election dates, closed polling booths in minority neighbourhoods and reduced early voting days.

The bigger focus of the Warren plan is to establish clear rules for how the government and the social media platforms use the information and what kind of responsibilities they have. Social media networks should be able to alarm the public about disinformation campaigns earlier and faster. They should also be more open about the algorithms they use and about how certain publications get amplified on the platform.  

US military plane crash in Afghanistan source for a propaganda campaign

Crashed US military plane in Afghanistan started many propaganda stories on the internet last week. The news was picked up by both Russian and Iranian new sites and turned into a propaganda story about how the head of CIA's Iran Mission Michael D'Andrea was among the victims of the plane crash. US military was not able to immediately get to the crash site, which was in the Taliban-controlled region, which is why they were not able to release information about the crash. By the time the statement on the crash was released, the CIA-fake story had already been reported by newspapers such as The Daily Mail and The Independent in the UK. Taliban also contacted many newspapers directly, claiming that they had shot down the plane and killed many US senior officers. US military spokesperson denied the claims but did not provide any details, which kept the story alive for a few days.    

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Kremlin's Current Narrative

The Empire Strikes

In the past week, President Donald Trump unveiled his highly anticipated peace plan for Palestine and Israel that is “good” for everybody and “makes a lot of sense.” Naturally, the controversial proposal attracted a lot of criticism on the international arena which, on the other hand, provided the foundation for the subsequent Russian narrative.

As with other controversial matters, Moscow’s state media outlets tend to resort to appeals to authority rather than original reporting in a veiled attempt to communicate a position. For instance, Haman’s rejection of the proposal as “aggressive […] nonsense,” Iran’s description of it as “treason of the century,” Turkey’s disapproval of “the greatest evil for all humanity” and Palestinian President’s own label of “conspiracy deal” were all mentioned extensively. In addition to political authorities, the Kremlin utilized expert opinion to convey their narrative. For illustration, former Labour MP Galloway was cited with the observation that the plan “violates international law in every possible way” and its nothing more than a “mixture of tragedy and farce” between two leaders who face charges.

However, Russian state media built on these themes even further, citing “analysts” and “experts” in their appraisal of the plan as “nothing but another colonial empire-style plan ignoring not just the interests of the Palestinians but the UN decisions.” According to RT, the said experts also concur that this is merely an illustration of “Washington’s arrogance” in their belief that they “can single-handedly decide sensitive issues of international politics.”  They elaborate on the matter further, alleging that this is manifested through “pompous [plans]” and acts of “political theatre” centred on “confusing and manipulating” – first, the American people, and now, the Palestinians.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion

Mind the Gaps: Russian Information Manipulation in the United Kingdom

By Rachel Ellehuus, Deputy Director of the Europe Program, CSIS

Democracies have societal susceptibilities exactly because of their open nature, and this is also the case in the UK. In the most recent article of the CSIS series on Russian and Chinese information campaigns, Rachel Ellehuus analyses Russian disinformation tactics in the United Kingdom. The author concludes that the country's largest vulnerabilities accrue from its political polarisation and the gaps in its regulatory regimes, which are precisely the points targeted by Russia.

Moscow's disinformation efforts in the UK are event-driven and directed at those at the fringe of mainstream society: far-right groups, the British Muslim community, and the Scottish and Northern Irish separatists. By targeting those groups, Russia aims to accentuate existing differences. On Brexit referendum day in June 2016, for example, those monitoring the UK disinformation landscape saw a significant uptick in the Russian bot-generated tweets. Russia also circulated negative stories about NATO and the EU, as well as supported Euroscepticism and the Leave campaign. The results of the investigations about Russia's direct financing of such campaign are detailed in the October 2019 `Russia Report,` which has been embargoed from the public eyes.  

Russia's zero-sum mentality means that they perceive a strong and stable United Kingdom, NATO and EU as a threat to the Kremlin. Regarding the UK specifically, Russia aims to weaken the country's internal cohesion and diminish its position in the world by introducing confusion, doubt and misinformation into public debates. Even though the United Kingdom is one of the most resilient societies in the world and its current efforts against disinformation are laudable, the country is still susceptible to disinformation attacks. As such, the UK should increase its cooperation with social media companies, proactive monitor the information space to anticipate triggers, and enhance public awareness and media literacy. Additionally, the practice of deterrence by punishment, such as applied in the Skripal case, should also play a bigger role in Westminster's efforts to counter Russia.

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.