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


Policy & Research  

  1. The race to escalation
  2. A waterfall of sanctions

U.S. Developments  

  1. The White House announces the expulsion of Russian banks from SWIFT
  2. Putin’s inner circle – a new target of Biden’s latest sanctions

Kremlin’s Current Narrative 

  1. Putin called Western countries an "empire of lies" after the introduction of new sanctions.
  2. Russian- backed outlets are spreading fake news and disinformation, accusing Ukrainian forces of explosions.

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Policy & Research

The race to escalation

Contrary to occupant expectations, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not resulting in a quick victory. Meanwhile, the Western front is uniting in a concerted mobilization of unprecedented sanctions measures. In an attempt to undermine Western support for Ukraine, Russian President "Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to put Russia's nuclear deterrent forces on high alert," a measure commented on by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as irresponsible behaviour with dangerous rhetoric. The pretext presented by Russia at the emergency session of the UN General Assembly is that, once again, the order is in response to the hostile actions of the West and aggressive statements of NATO members against the Kremlin. 

In the current situation, excluding the support of Belarus that will allow Russia to station nuclear weapons on its territory, Moscow's global isolation is increasing dramatically, starting with its inability to stop the UN emergency session itself. Furthermore, the EU has not only blocked its airspace to all Russian aircraft and banned Russian propaganda through their national news agencies, but, in a historic decision, for the first time will provide funds for arms supplies to Ukraine as a country under attack. In addition, German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz unexpectedly announced not only a substantial increase in the country's military investment but also the intention to directly send weapons and other supplies to Ukraine. As the last straw in the escalating isolation of the Kremlin, Turkey declared that it will enforce the Montreux provisions against the Russian navy, preventing it from accessing the straits connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

A waterfall of sanctions

In an unprecedented coordination effort, the Western bloc represented by the EU, UK, and the US, and some of its allies, including Japan, Canada, Australia, and South Korea, have proceeded to adopt a comprehensive package of sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Some of the measures directly target the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his entourage, first and foremost the foreign minister and defence minister, Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu, whose assets held in the EU, U.S. and U.K. have been frozen, and the latter has also been subject to a travel ban to the same countries. This measure also affects other strategic figures such as the head of the Russian Security Service and the head of the Russian Armed Forces, the Duma and the Russian Security Council, and finally Belarusian officials for their collusion in the invasion plan.

The second set of sanctions directly affects Russia's central bank, the Swift global payment system, Russia's first and second national banks, Sberbank, and VTB bank, Russian companies linked to military supplies, disinformation campaigns, and energy suppliers. The United States also sanctioned two Belarusian state-owned banks, Belinvestbank and Bank Dabrabyt. The most surprising set of sanctions, however, comes from Switzerland, which decided to uphold international law without officially breaking its traditional neutrality, freezing billions of dollars in assets crucial to the Russian economy. While this is not a ban on trade in commodities, which would account for 80% of Russian commodity trading, it is still a marked change from Switzerland's inaction in 2014 regarding the invasion of Crimea.

U.S. Developments

The White House announces the expulsion of Russian banks from SWIFT

On Saturday the US along with the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada decided to expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT. The measure aims at punishing Putin and isolating him from the rest of the world. The expulsion from SWIFT deals with disconnecting the Russian banks from the international financial system and jeopardizing their ability to operate globally. In addition, blocking access to SWIFT, which is the world’s main international payments network, will affect severely Russian trade and pose serious obstacles to Russian companies doing their business. In particular, SWIFT- "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication" is the system that is used to carry out rapid cross-border payment. It ensures that international trade flows move smoothly, and trillions of dollars are transferred each year. 

Furthermore, SWIFT represents an independent enterprise that is based in Belgium and covers more than 11,000 banks over the territories of 200 countries. Moreover, the US and its allies decided to restrict the ability of the Russian Central Bank to deploy its international reserves and subvert the effect of the sanctions. As experts say, the imposition of the sanctions on the Russian Central Bank will have a devastating impact on the Russian economy and its banking system. The sanctions might cause the collapse of the entire Russian financial system. Overall, the sanction package will create serious disruptions for the Russian banks, such as delays and extra costs that consequently will decrease significantly the revenues of the Russian government. Additionally, Joe Biden in his address to the US lawmakers on Tuesday announced closing the US airspace for Russian crafts. Besides, he stated that if Putin decides to keep moving west, the US will defend “every inch” of NATO. It means that the US forces are not going to engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine, but to defend its NATO allies. 

Putin’s inner circle – a new target of Biden’s latest sanctions

Several days ago Vladimir Putin’s inner circle became the target of the sanctions adopted by the Biden administration. The people who are considered to be Putin’s inner circle comprise the oligarchs and wealthy Russian elites. These are the people who use their closest relationships with Putin to acquire the state wealth to enrich themselves and facilitate the advancement of their family members in high political positions. In particular, the sanctions targeted the following members of Putin’s inner circle: Sergei Sergeevich Ivanov, son of Sergei Borisovich Ivanov. He holds the position of CEO in a diamond mining company and he is also a board member of Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest financial institution. Andrey Patrushev, son of Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev, who had the leading positions at Gazprom Neft and nowadays is also employed in Russia’s energy sector. Ivan Igorevich Sechin, son of Igor Ivanovich Sechin, who represents the deputy head of department at Rosneft, one of the world’s largest oil companies. His father, Igor Sechin, is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Rosneft. 

Some elites hold the positions of senior executives at state-owned backs. One of them is Alexander Aleksandrovich Vedyakhin who is the First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank. Sberbank represents Russia’s largest financial institution. Another is Andrey Sergeyevich Puchkov who holds the high-ranking executive position at VTB bank. It is the second-largest bank in Russia. Yuri Solovyev is one of them who also is a member of the board at VTB bank. Besides Solovyev, his wife, Galina Olegovna Ulyutina, is regarded to be another important representative of this elite who was involved in the “golden passport scheme”. This scheme implies gaining citizenship by the foreigner by investing in certain countries.

Kremlin's Current Narrative

Putin called Western countries an "empire of lies" after the introduction of new sanctions.

Putin claimed that the Western community is an “empire of lies” after sanctions were imposed on Russia as a result of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and aggressive military operations in Ukraine. Moreover, Dmitry Peskov called the sanctions imposed against Putin absurd and short-sighted. According to Peskov, Putin is “indifferent to personal sanctions.” Furthermore, “soon, the Russian government will present a plan to support the economy, said Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. In reality, Russia started an unprovoked war targeting not only military objects but also Ukrainian civilians, thus, the sanctions imposed on Russia will hit its economy and its citizens.  

Earlier the Kremlin expressed its readiness for sanctions and that Russia can adjust its economy. Moreover, Putin asked the business sector in Russia to work in solidarity with the government to support the economy during his meeting with representatives of the business community. “We didn’t have any chance to do otherwise. It was impossible to respond by other means because of security threats,” Putin talked to business representatives in Russia. Putin also asked business to be understanding. However, Putin is not going to change his propaganda strategy to deceive the public, in this case, business sectors. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. 

Russian- backed outlets are spreading fake news and disinformation, accusing Ukrainian forces of explosions.

Russia's controlled media claimed that "armed gangs of marauders, robbers, and nationalists are rioting". They have received weapons as a result of the "criminal decision of the authorities" to distribute them to the population. In addition to an unprovoked attack by Russia, firing Ukrainian residential areas, critical infrastructure, and civilians, Russia is actively spreading false news, accusing Ukraine of explosions in Kyiv. However, it is clear that Russia disseminates misleading images and videos taken from older conflicts. 

Moreover, on Tuesday Russian forces stroke rockets at a TV tower in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, hours after Moscow warned of strikes on other facilities relating them to Ukraine’s security agencies. Earlier on Friday, the Russian military said that Russian forces led a "successful amphibious operation" to seize the strategically important Gostomel airfield on the outskirts of Kyiv. Russian intensified propaganda and misinformation is an assault on truth attempting to justify its attacks on Ukrainian key cities, buildings, and civilians. Moreover, according to international cyber-security researchers at security company ESET, Russia began a hybrid war and prepared a long time before the invasion, involving disinformation and cyberattacks.

Taipei News

A surprising high profile visit by a former U.S. official to Taiwan took place this week. The delegation arrived at the moment when the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalates and has consequences for international relations all around the world. The visiting group consisted of five former senior officials of the U.S. defence and security community. It was headed by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, who is accompanied by Meghan O'Sullivan, a former deputy national security advisor under President George W. Bush; and Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defence under President Barack Obama. Also, taking part in the visit are former National Security Council senior directors for Asia Mike Green and Evan Medeiros. Separately, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday. 

Taiwanese president‘s office said the delegation had been appointed by U.S. President Joe Biden and the visit would permit “an in-depth exchange of views on Taiwan-U.S. cooperation issues in various fields.” The visit comes at a time when Taiwan has stepped up its alert level, wary of China taking potential advantage of a distracted West by the conflict in Ukraine to move against the island. The trip is intended to demonstrate American continued robust support for Taiwan. The delegation was greeted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu and is scheduled to meet President Tsai Ing-wen and Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng. Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the trip showed the importance both of the Taiwan-U.S. relationship and Taiwan's position as well as the staunch U.S. support for the island in the current volatile times.


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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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