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




Italian navy captain caught selling state secrets to Russia.

Ukraine imposes sanctions on Russian companies as bilateral tensions escalate.

The US responds to Russia's increase in military activity in the Arctic and Eastern Ukraine.

US Senators commend bravery of Alexei Navalny on the Senate floor.

Hollow diplomacy: Kremlin blames Kyiv while troops move to the border.

Good Old Soviet Joke

The Soviets decided to take Stalin's body out of the mausoleum and offered it to other countries. The only country that wanted to borrow it was Israel, but Khrushchev refused. 

- It’s better to keep him here. What if in Israel, he will rise from the dead?!

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Policy & Research News

Italian navy captain caught selling state secrets to Russia

Italy expelled two Russian diplomats on March 31 after an Italian navy captain was caught selling secret documents to Russian officials. Some of the documents reportedly relate to NATO and could have broader security implications for other members of the Alliance. Walter Biot, captain of an Italian Navy frigate and an official at the Italian Ministry of Defense, was apprehended by gendarmerie special forces units in a car park south of Rome after having given a USB drive to a Russian military attaché in exchange for €5,000. Biot’s wife later spoke to the press about her husband’s “desperate” financial situation, citing his low military salary and inability to meet his mortgage payments amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as his motivation to sell state secrets. The USB drive reportedly contained 181 photos of classified documents including 47 NATO documents. If convicted, Biot faces a minimum of 15 years in prison.

Shortly after Biot’s arrest, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio announced the expulsion of two Russian diplomats involved in the affair, which he called “a hostile act of extreme gravity”. On Friday, Russian Ambassador to Italy Sergey Razov said in an interview on Italian television that he hoped the incident would not “negatively influence the broadly constructive relations” between the two countries.

Ukraine imposes sanctions on Russian companies as bilateral tensions escalate

On April 4, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree enacting the National Security and Defence Council’s (NSDC) decision to impose personal special economic and other restrictive measures on persons and legal entities involved in smuggling. On the recommendation of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) 10 individuals and 79 entities – out of which 11 are Russian – will be subjected to sanctions in the form of asset freezes and property seizures. The President’s Office has instructed the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inform the European Union and the United States of the sanctions regime and to encourage them to take similar actions

Sanctions target both Russia-operated commercial companies such as Volga-Dnepr Airlines and the Kyiv branch of the Russian government-controlled Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo). Rossotrudnichestvo is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is tasked with the implementation of “state policy of international humanitarian cooperation” and the promotion of “an objective image of contemporary Russia” abroad. The agency is linked to Russian security services and is used to support Russia’s hybrid influence, propagate revisionist Russian narratives, and constitutes a particularly destabilising presence in post-Soviet spaces that seek rapprochement with the West.

The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Moscow could be a possible target of Russian retaliation. However, so far, Russia’s response, delivered through Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on April 5, remains foreboding but ambiguous. In Russia-Ukraine relations, Peskov suggested that there will soon be “no more room for reciprocity” and that Russia may “sever everything there is.”

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US Developments

US responds to Russia’s increase in military activity in the Arctic and Eastern Ukraine

In response to increased Russian military activity in the arctic, including new radar systems close to the Alaskan coast and military flights near Alaskan airspace, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stated “without getting into specific intelligence assessments, obviously, we’re monitoring it very closely.” This news comes as earlier this week, the US military’s top officer discussed concerns over increasing Russian military activity in eastern Ukraine. According to Kirby, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke with Russia’s top officer, Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov about “their views on issues of mutual concern.”

US Senators commend bravery of Alexei Navalny on the Senate floor

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), joined by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and with the support of Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Coons (D-DE), spoke on the Senate floor in support of Alexei Navalny. In his remarks, Senator Wicker stated that he “wanted to make it clear that on a bipartisan basis, on both sides of the aisle, the United States Senate stands for freedom-loving people in Russia and for their spokesman, Alexei Navalny. And we intend to shine the light of public opinion on the actions of the Russian kleptocracy and dictatorship with regard to prisoners and patriots like Alexei Navalny.”

Kremlin's Current Narrative

Hollow diplomacy: Kremlin blames Kyiv while troops move to border

Recent weeks have seen a deterioration of Russia-Ukraine relations, with the latest escalation being a steady build-up of Russian forces along Ukraine’s border. The EU, UK and US have pledged their support for the Ukraine government, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also expressing his commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity. As Ukraine readies territorial defence units, Kremlin officials have been busy placing the blame at Kyiv’s door.

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, claimed to be maintaining contact with the US and was quick to blame Ukraine, suggesting their Kyiv “not only dodged implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures but rejects these agreements in an ever-provoking manner.” Other senior Russian officials have been quick to support this narrative.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “provocations by the Ukrainian armed forces do take place,” adding, “there have been many of them.” Peskov also stated that the movement of Russian armed forces should not worry anyone, arguing that Russian forces are moved around as needed for military purposes. Reassurances, however, seem to have done little to quell any anxiousness on the part of Ukraine or its allies.

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has insisted that NATO membership is the only sure way of halting conflict in the Donbas region. In turn, the State Duma deputy from the Crimea region, Mikhail Sheremet, has warned that Ukraine and NATO’s plans for possible aggression against Crimea will end badly, making it clear that NATO is not welcome in the region. Russian state-backed media struck a similar tone.

One RT headline led with “Russia-Ukraine war is possible, but only if Ukraine strikes first,” while another RT article quotes the Kremlin as stating that army movements are due to a need to defend against NATO build-up. Not so long ago, it was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who spoke of how the West has ceased to make use of classical diplomacy, it seems that now, it is the Kremlin playbook from which it is missing.

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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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