View in browser

May 2020

Russian "humanitarian aid" to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Malign foreign actors seized the opportunity to advance their anti-democratic agendas by amplifying propagandistic disinformation around Russian aid to Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Victory Day Misused by Reactionary Influencers in North Macedonia

Different dates of Victory day celebrations were maliciously used to promote anti-Western controversy in North Macedonia.

Russian Tales of U.S. “Bio-weapon” Labs in Europe Return

Russian and pro-Russian actors in Southeast Europe recently revived a long-standing disinformation narrative alleging US “bio-weapon” laboratories active in the post-Soviet space.




The European Values Center for Security Policy is organizing an online seminar on Chinese political influence operations.  The webinar aims to share experiences and lessons learned and best practices when it comes to facing the PRC malign activities such as spreading disinformation and influence operations.

The distinguished guest and speaker of the seminar will be Charles Burton. Charles Burton is an Associate Professor at Brock University, specializing in Comparative Politics, Government and Politics of China, Canada-China Relations, and Human Rights. He also continues to work as a Non-resident Fellow at Red Watch Program at the European Values Center and Senior Fellow at the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute. He has served extensively with the Canadian government: with the Communications Security Establishment and Canadian diplomatic service, also being posted at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing twice. 

DATE: June 11, 2020

TIME: 9:00 – 10:30 (Ottawa), 15:00 – 16:30 (Prague and Sarajevo), 17:00 – 18:30 (Tbilisi)


  • I. Part: Presentation on topicChinese political influence operations in Canada“, by Charles Burton
  • II. Part: Q&A and Discussion on topics „Chinese political influence operations in Eastern Partnership countries and Western Balkans.

    ORGANIZER: European Values Center for Security Policy

    PLATFORM: Webex


    Russian "humanitarian aid" to Bosnia and Herzegovina

    During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges Bosnians faced was the lack of capacity and equipment needed for medical treatments, protection, and disinfection. The crisis triggered a lot of apolitical humanitarian support from the international community. Nonetheless, there have been instances of malign foreign actors seizing the opportunity to advance their anti-democratic agendas by amplifying propagandistic disinformation around Russian aid to Bosnia and Hercegovina.

    In early April, a Russian military sanitation team bearing a convoy of vehicles for disinfection visited Banja Luka and elsewhere in Republika Srpska (RS). Their stated purpose was to assist helped the University of Banja Luka’s clinical center, as well as several other medical facilities there. They were greeted by Milorad Dodik, a member of the Presidency of BiH, vociferously promoting his Russian benefactors. The visit was requested by the Russian embassy in BiH and was declared as medical humanitarian aid.

    A few weeks later, there was another request by the Russian embassy in BiH for the visit of a Russian humanitarian convoy with a military component to Mostar to disinfect medical facilities there. Because the Russian embassy explicitly stated the inclusion of a military element, Bosnian authorities failed to decide on this request in time, leaving the Russian mission to Mostar canceled.

    Several pro-Russian media outlets seized on the government’s refusal,  propelling a half-balked story on how “Sarajevo forbid the convoy to enter and blamed Russia“ and the like.  Sputnik Serbia joined in asking “What is Sarajevo afraid of?“. As usual, this storyline was picked up by other media, building on the narrative with new disinforming claims. The Serbian tabloid Informer used this event to argue that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a sustainable state and that it should dissolve. Several other portals used the same premises to amplify this narrative.  Tellingly, within these portals, we can find both pro-Serb and pro-Croat right-wing voices. For instance, the Happy TV portal with its strongly pro-Serbian stance claimed how “The decision made in Sarajevo has brought Croats to their feet: they are not letting the Russians help us“. Meanwhile, Poskok, a virulently pro-Croat nationalist portal asked,  “Bosniaks destroying the country? Why did they prevent Russians to help Mostar? “

    Regardless of whether the discrepancies between the two Russian embassy letters were intentional or otherwise, it is clear how these and similar events are captured in order to maliciously craft narratives designed to divide.

    Victory Day Misused by Reactionary Influencers in North Macedonia

    In May, the world celebrated the Victory Day over fascist forces in World War II’s European theater. Yet the victors have yet to agree to the precise date; Russia celebrates May 9th, while the Western allies celebrate May 8th as Victory Day in Europe. This was due to the fact that when the surrender was signed in Berlin late on the evening of May 8, 1945, it was already May 9 in Moscow. This became the celebratory date for the Victory against Fascism in the Soviet Union and other former communist states, whereas in the rest of Europe and elsewhere, May 8 prevailed as Victory Europe day.

    A seemingly innocuous difference, several high-profile, reactionary public figures in North Macedonia maliciously used the divergence to gin up needless, anti-Western controversy. Prominent right-wing influencer Mirka Velinovska, a Russian medal recipient who is known for her allegiance to opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, used May 9 to claim that Western Europe stole and sought to exclusively co-opt the victory celebration. She further asserted that 9 May was the day of the new “Euro-Atlantic fascism”, succeeding the Nazi fascism. Moreover, Velinovska mentions Bill Gates, laying blame on him and other Western notables for their alleged plan to control mankind with COVID-19.

    Todor Petrov is the Chairman of the World Macedonian Congress, an NGO advocating for ethnic Macedonians’ rights on an international level. Petrov similarly abused the occasion to claim the reincarnation of fascism in Europe led by Brussels and Strasbourg in their purported “War against liberty.” Further in the text, he equates the EU and NATO, hence the accusation of warmongering. He also accused the EU of committing an act of genocide against the Macedonian people with its support for the country’s somewhat recent name change. This narrative was also present in the opinions of various other right-wing public figures, who shamefully misused the shared victory over German and Italian fascism in order to further their own narrow, parochial political interests.

    Russian Tales of U.S. “Bio-weapon” Labs in Europe Return

    Russian and pro-Russian actors in Southeast Europe recently revived a long-standing disinformation narrative alleging  US “bio-weapon” laboratories active in the post-Soviet space. Its renewal provides a view as to how disinformation once spread throughout pro-Russian outlets in the Balkans persists within and beyond the region. Despite the top-notch research published by the European External Action Service and others, it is a well-worn myth that keeps on feeding paranoid elements through Central-Eastern European peoples. The purveyors of this and other debunked stories function in the same ecosystem, using their fellow anti-democratic travelers in the region to reinforce conspiracy theories in their own backyards. 

    The “U.S. bioweapons labs” canard is again being played out, this time in Ukraine’s parliament. Seizing the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity, two members of the parliamentary opposition faction “For Life”, Renat Kuzmin and Viktor Medvedchuk, wrote to Ukrainian President asking him to account for 15 U.S. biolabs in Ukraine. The letter suggested that their labs’ work was bio-weapon in nature and that deaths had resulted from the lab activity. (The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv issued a statement explaining that the Pentagon-financed labs serve Ukraine’s health sector via pathogen and vaccine research).

    The Balkan connection to this fabrication’s reappearance in Kyiv comes from citations made in the Kuzmin-Medvedchuk letter. Its authors specifically cite reports in foreign media about those laboratories in Ukraine. The first “proof” proposed in the letter is from a 2017 article by the Serbian magazine Pečat. It is owned by Miodrag Vučelić, a formerly prominent official and MP of Socialist Party of Serbia, who is also editor in chief of daily Večernje Novosti; both outlets are recognized for their pro-Russian bias. The letter further refers to a survey undertaken by the Kremlin-friendly Bulgarian Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.

    RS media aligned with Moscow reported that Russian “experts” plan to investigate the "Richard Lugar" laboratory in Tbilisi (Russian media refers to as “The Laboratory of Death”) to check whether biological weapons are being produced. Sputnik further published a statement by Alexander Lazarev, a Ukrainian political who bolstered the malicious claims bio-weaponry labs in his country. EUvsDisinfo assessed this latest re-tread as a conspiracy theory that has no basis.

    facebook twitter
    European Values Center for Security Policy