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




Russia retaliates for sanctions and spy scandals with travel bans for EU officials.

The EU details coordinated Russian disinformation campaign targeting Western coronavirus vaccines in new EEAS report.

US Embassy forced to limit consular services in Moscow.

The FBI knew of Russian influence operations targeting Rudy Giuliani.

The Blame Game: Kremlin blames US for decline in relations while highlighting readiness.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Why was socialist realism invented?

So that someone doesn’t try to realistically describe socialism.

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Policy & Research News

Russia retaliates for sanctions and spy scandals with travel bans for EU officials

On Friday, Russia barred eight EU officials from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the EU. Those banned include Vera Jourová, the European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, and Jacques Maire, a Member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. Speaking on the travel ban Monday, Ms Jourová remarked, “I guess they noticed my work in Russia”, and took the opportunity to stress the need for countries to realise that “Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not a standard international partner”. She elaborated that, "in today’s Russia, everything is connected to the regime... there are no ‘just economic’ projects” – pointing to the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under construction between Russia and Germany. In a further retaliation for last week’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in the wake of Czech revelations about the 2014 Vrbetice explosion, the Kremlin has also ordered seven diplomats from Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to leave Russia.

Last week also saw a significant deterioration in Russian-Bulgarian relations, as Bulgaria announced the expulsion of a Russian diplomat following suspicion of Russian involvement in four explosions at Bulgarian arms facilities. The explosions took place between 2011 and 2020, while the warehouses and factories in question were storing munitions meant to be exported to Ukraine and Georgia. On Wednesday 28 April, Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev stated that the blasts were most likely executed by officers of the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU. In addition, prosecutors have a reasonable suspicion that the incidents were related to the near-fatal poisoning of Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, as well as the explosions at Vrbetice in the Czech Republic in 2014. Moscow dismissed the probe, and said it would respond to the expulsions.

The EU details coordinated Russian disinformation campaign targeting Western coronavirus vaccines in new EEAS report

The European External Action Service’s (EEAS) Strategic Communications and Information Analysis Division published a special report on disinformation and narratives related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on April 28. The report accuses Russia of using a whole-of-government approach including state-controlled media and government agencies as well as social media to project false or fabricated narratives that undermine trust in Western vaccines and promote Sputnik V – following a “zero-sum game” logic. So far, the EU’s EUvsDisinfo database has reportedly logged 100 unique examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation related to coronavirus vaccines in 2021. Practically, Russia tailors its influence operations to specific target countries throughout Europe and donates small quantities of the Sputnik V vaccine to foreign governments as PR-stunts. 

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets Sputnik V, responded to the allegations on April 28. It asserted that Sputnik V is subjected to “daily information attacks mostly from some EU media.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously articulated a similar narrative, denying that Russia uses disinformation tactics  and instead claiming that foreign actors target Russia with COVID-19-related fake news. Meanwhile, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stated that Russia seems to “deliberately deepen the confrontation with the West … through continuous attacks with disinformation” in a speech to the European Parliament on April 28. The European Commission has not expressed its intention to acquire the Sputnik V vaccine. However, the European Medicines Agency has Sputnik V on a rolling review since March 2021 and EU member states like Germany have expressed interest in unilateral deals, while Hungary has already administered the vaccine to its population.

Facebook Twitter

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

US Developments

US Embassy forced to limit consular services in Moscow

In Moscow, the US Embassy was forced to limit its consular services to emergency services and the issuance of immigrant visas to life-or-death emergencies due to newly imposed restrictions on hiring local staff, resulting in a 75% decrease in their workforce. These restrictions were put in place due to a law signed by President Putin, limiting the number of Russians who can work at diplomatic missions. The move, seen as part of the country’s retaliation to US sanctions, also comes as Russia is compiling a list of “unfriendly” countries, which is reportedly set to include the United States, Poland, Czechia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the UK, Canada, Ukraine and Australia.

The FBI knew of Russian influence operations targeting Rudy Giuliani

The Washington Post first reported that the FBI was aware of Russian influence operations targeting President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, in late 2019. While the Post initially reported that the FBI had warned Giuliani and conservative news network One America News, they were later forced to retract their statement, stating that the FBI had planned to issue warnings, but never delivered them. It also became known that in August of this year, the FBI gave a defensive briefing to Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to alert him that he was being targeted by a similar influence operation; Johnson, who was at the helm of an investigation into then-candidate Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, rebuffed the FBI’s warnings.

Kremlin's Current Narrative

The Blame Game: Kremlin blames US for decline in relations while highlighting readiness

Tensions between the US and Russia remain fraught, with Russia making it known that it remains in a state of heightened readiness, despite moving troops away from the Ukraine border.

In an interview with Sputnik, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, claimed that the West indulged in wishful thinking if it believed that Russia had backed down by redeploying troops away from the Ukrainian border. Lavrov also stated that Russia is prepared to retaliate to any US measures it finds displeasing: “we announced all measures, which have been taken and are ready to take more if this escalation continues,” warned the Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, declared the US approach to Russia nonsensical. 

Zakharova stated that “regrettably, the US administration’s rhetoric doesn’t match its deeds,” while claiming the US is not ready to abandon “futile efforts to use pressure and unsubstantiated allegations of Russia’s malicious activity.” The spokeswoman was joined by Russia’s Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, in blaming the US for the current situation.

Patrushev accused Washington of “building policy on the basis of rumours and gossip,” while adding that the US “forges evidence” and is ultimately “undermining the statehood of their own country.” The narrative that the US is to blame for recent tensions between the US and Russia has also been promoted by the state-backed press.

Russian media outlet Sputnik led with the headline, “Kremlin offered Biden administration ‘complete reset,’ White House turned it down.” Meanwhile, Tass quoted Zakharova, who claimed that the West is engaging in an “anti-Russian smear campaign.”  With such finger-pointing, it seems the blame game is set to continue for a little while yet.


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
Facebook Twitter

European Values Center for Security Policy

Facebook Twitter Youtube