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


  • German Green Party and their candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock have become main targets of cyber-attacks and disinformation before the September elections
  • Pro-Kremlin outlets exploit the Tokyo Olympics to nurture their favourite narratives
  • Biden claims Russias information warriors are already spreading disinformation around the 2022 election
  • Nearly 200 employees at Russias US Embassy vacated their posts last week

Good Old Soviet Joke

An old woman wanted to speak with Gorbachev. She wouldn't leave the Kremlin for days until finally Gorbachev agreed to meet her. As she walked into his office, they exchanged greeting, and she got to her point: "Sir, was communism created by politicians or scientists?" "Why, politicians of course" he replied. "That explains it," she said "scientists would have tested it on mice first."

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Policy & Research News

Greens and Baerbock: main targets before German elections

German Green Party and their candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock have become main targets of cyber-attacks and disinformation before the September elections. Allegedly, Baerbock was identified by Kremlin as a threat due to her anti-Moscow stances. Most importantly, Green Party opposes the decision to complete Nord Stream 2 due to reasons tied to climate policy, European interests and geostrategy. Therefore, Kremlin fears that in the case of Baerbock’s victory, it would ruin the ties between Germany and Russia which would be a win for the USA, and it would be a major setback to Russia´s interests in the world.

The Greens have been a target of the increased number of cyberattacks, and although there is no proof that Kremlin is behind it, the patterns of Russian tactics are visible. Party officials have been hit by spear-phishing emails that could install spying software or malware and have observed increased activity from websites tied to Russia. Besides, Baerbock was targeted by disinformation campaigns and false news on social media. According to the analysis by Spiegel, the Greens and their candidate are by far the most affected by disinformation on social networks. For example, Facebook circulated information that Baerbock wants to abolish widow´s pension to support refugees, which Correctiv evaluated as fake.

The disinformation campaign could be one of the reasons why Baerbock has dropped in polls over the past months. Currently, the Christian Democrat Armin Laschet is leading by approximately 10 %. The foreign influence, however, did not come as a surprise. The German Ministry of Interior and German counterintelligence have monitored increased cyber-attacks and labelled them a serious threat. To fight the foreign campaigns, Germany adopted the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) which should crackdown on online hate speech and disinformation and large platforms had to explain which tools and procedures will be used to detect and delete disinformation. Furthermore, the US intelligence service reportedly has dispatched to Germany Shelby Pierson, top expert on election meddling, to help the German counterparts. On the other hand, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied all allegations against Moscow.

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US Developments

Biden claims Russia’s information warriors are already spreading disinformation around the 2022 election

"Look at what Russia's doing already about the 2022 election and misinformation,” Biden declared, making reference to classified information in his daily intelligence briefing. Without delving into specifics housed in the top-secret report, Biden expressed unease over indications the Kremlin is already manipulating information around the US midterm elections next year, claiming such malign activities amount to a "pure violation of our [US] sovereignty.”

Speaking to reporters and 100+ members of the US intelligence community at their headquarters in Virginia on July 27th, Biden expressed anxiety over the threat of hybrid war with Russia and China, citing foreign meddling in US elections as a grave concern, in tandem with the increasingly sophisticated physical weaponry developed and obtained by the two superpowers. The US president articulated his commitment to working closely with the US intelligence officials to discern and respond to threats––a commitment many analysts argue Biden emphasized to stand apart from his predecessor, Former President Donald Trump, who starkly denied the influence of Russian information warfare on the 2016 presidential election, of which he emerged the victor.

In compliance with Russian demands, US embassy in Moscow dramatically downscales its workforce

Nearly 200 employees at Russia’s US Embassy vacated their posts last week, necessitated by a hiring ban placed on the mission by the Kremlin, which forbids the Embassy from employing Russian and other non-American nationals. Originally planned to take effect in April 2021, the Russian government postponed its implementation until August 1st. The measure was introduced in the midst of worsening US-Russia bilateral relations, to the dismay of many US officials. Discussing the issue, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued the following remarks: “These unfortunate measures will severely impact the U.S. mission to Russia's operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government.” 

The ban has greatly decreased the ability of Russian citizens to travel to the US, as the Embassy announced that with such a drastic personnel cut, they will no longer be able to process non-diplomatic non-immigrant visas for Russians, in addition to providing other consular services. The Kremlin retaliated, contending that the US resolve to cut visa services wouldn’t barely shift the status quo; Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov argued that, prior to this development, it was already difficult for Russians to obtain US visas. Elaborating, Peskov claimed that "if you unravel the knot of unfriendly steps in the opposite direction, then it becomes obvious that the precursor to all of this is the unfriendly actions of the United States."

Kremlin's Current Narrative

Pro-Kremlin media & Tokyo Olympics

Despite the ban over the state-sponsored doping programme, Russian athletes are participating (and winning) in the Tokyo Summer Olympic games in unmarked uniforms and under Tchaikovsky’s music instead of their National anthem.

After years of representing the ban as a politically motivated decision and “chronic anti-Russian hysteria”, pro-Kremlin outlets couldn’t miss the chance to exploit the Tokyo Olympics in order to nurture their favourite narratives.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova published a disturbing video ahead of the Olympics in which she goes to a press briefing after aggressively punching a mannequin with a label "PRESS". In the video, “straw man” & “mockery” techniques are used: as one of the journalists asks Zakharova how she perceives “Americans’ accusation that Russia would hack the Olympics” (for reference, no such accusation has been made so far), the Spokeswoman responds that “It is an excellent excuse for American failures. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t forget to link their wins to Russian hackers as well.” She finishes by encouraging Russian athletes in Tokyo with the popular slogan “We Will R.O.C. You.”: “R.O.C.” refers to the Russian Olympic Committee, the organisation which Russian athletes officially represent in Tokyo.

Additionally, RT quotes former Olympic skater turned politician Svetlana Zhurova, who claims that  “Japan has been awarded medals at the Games as a form of gratitude for continuing as hosts despite the pandemic”, hinting that it would create hysteria if the “same” happened in Russia. In general, the anti-Japanese rhetoric has been prevalent. Pro-Kremlin online outlet Oriental Review and FSB-related online disinformation site SouthFront have both called Tokyo’s Olympics “Suicidal Games”.

The shadow of the doping scandal is going to follow Russian athletes for a while. After losing the gold medal to the Russian athlete Evgeny Rylov, American swimmer Ryan Murphy said during the press conference that he believed he had been “swimming in a race that’s probably not clean”, without directly accusing Rylov. To these (and potentially other similar) accusations, the Russian Olympic Committee responded in a sarcastic Twitter statement, saying that Russian victories are “frustrating individual colleagues” and that “not everyone knows how to lose”.

Another active line of propaganda has been the anti-trans sentiment. In two days, around ten articles have been published only on RT targeting either trans athletes or directly New Zealand trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. One article calls her “controversial”, quoting Sergei Shishkarev, the head of the Russian Handball Federation, according to whom gender reassignment and same-sex marriages “destroys civilization, humanism on the planet”. Other articles state that in a fight for “radical woke one-upmanship” big brands and global media lead to “the downfall of women’s sport in the name of social justice” and that “Bummer Woke Olympics’ may eventually be the Democratic Party’s funeral oration”.

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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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