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


Russian intelligence services keep undermining confidence in Western vaccines.

Ukraine accused Russia of hacking the portal of the Ukrainian Navy.

In response to growing Russian-based cyberattacks, Biden delivers the harshest warning yet to Putin.

In a new article, Putin calls Ukraine a Soviet-era invention and says modern Ukraine is built on a "divide and conquer" mechanism.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Two former schoolmates met in the street.

"Where do you work?"

"I am a school teacher. And what about you?"

"I work for the KGB."

"Oh, and what are you doing at the KGB?"

"We unearth those who are dissatisfied."

"You mean, there are also some who are satisfied?"

"Those who are satisfied are dealt with by the Division for the Fight Against the Embezzlements of the Socialist Property."

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Policy & Research News

Russian intelligence services undermine confidence in Western vaccines

Russian intelligence services have been behind the disinformation campaign spreading disinformation about the Western-made vaccines. According to the State’s Department Global Engagement Center official, four publications that served as fronts for Russian intelligence were identified. Two of these outlets are run by Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR, one is controlled by the FSB, and another one is by the military intelligence service GRU.

The websites publish false and misleading information to undermine public trust in vaccination. They question Western vaccines’ efficiency, exaggerate their side effects and claim that the approval process was dangerously expedited. Negative narratives are focused mainly on the Pfizer vaccine, but other Western vaccines are not spared as well. Pfizer is the main target due to its status as the first vaccine which poses a significant threat to the competitiveness of the Sputnik V vaccine.

Although the readership of these outlets is relatively small, they have the potential to become sources of false narratives in mainstream media. Besides, these outlets are only a part of the Russian disinformation campaign. As we informed you in the previous newsletter, there is a  network of Russian marketing companies responsible for vaccine disinformation campaigns and at least one PR agency offered money to bloggers and Youtubers to spread false claims about Western vaccines.

Ukraine accused Russia of hacking the portal of the Ukrainian Navy

Ukraine accused Russian government hackers of attacking the website of the Ukrainian Navy. According to the official statement of the Defense Ministry issued on July 9th, the main reason was to disinform about the ongoing multinational Sea Breeze military exercises in the Black Sea. Kremlin hackers published false documents and disinformation on the Navy’s website. Furthermore, Kyiv registered unsuccessful denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) on the Defense Ministry website.

Black Sea drill with dozens of warships was launched by Ukraine and the USA and they were the largest manoeuvres in decades. Sea Breeze is attended by 32 countries. Participants are Black Sea nations, NATO allies and other partners. Military exercise takes its place amid tensions due to a military incident off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula. The British warship encountered Russian forces on the route from the port of Odesa to Georgia. Both sides accused each other of giving inaccurate information about the incident.

Russia opposed the Sea Breeze military exercises and stated that it will closely monitor the situation and adequately respond if necessary. This year, Russia tested the air-defence systems and conducted large exercises in occupied Crimea. Besides, Kremlin declared parts of the Black Sea coast off Crimea off-limits to foreign vessels until October.

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US Developments

In response to growing Russian-based cyberattacks, Biden delivers the harshest warning yet to Putin

On July 9, Biden exchanged harsh words with Putin regarding suspected Russian-based cyber gangs and their mounting attacks on US businesses and infrastructure. In what the New York Times dubbed “Biden’s starkest warning yet,” the US president explained to his Russian counterpart over their Friday phone call that cyberattacks emanating from Russia would henceforth be treated as national security threats, as opposed to solely criminal acts. The White House committed to taking “any necessary action” to counter attacks, which Biden suggested could even include targeting the servers employed by the cybercriminals.

In talks with reporters after the call, Biden asserted the following: “I made it very clear to him [Putin] that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is.” The US contends that Russian security services are often aware of the operations of Russian-based hackers, even sometimes supporting their activities. 

At the last minute, Russia reverses stance and agrees to keep key Syrian-Russian border crossing open

The United Nations Security Council vote allowed a key aid crossing to remain open along Turkey’s border with Syria. A UN resolution to keep open the Bab al-Hawa border crossing was set to expire last Saturday. As a permanent member of the council, Russia possesses veto powers and had expressed defiant opposition to extending the agreement. Russia backs Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and pressure from Moscow has led to the closure of three other border crossings used for aid delivery in the past two years. 

While this context renders Russia’s recent reversed stance somewhat surprising, Pavel K. Baev, an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation, contends that Russia’s “uncharacteristic flexibility was, in fact, perfectly pragmatic.” Russia’s decision directly followed Biden’s Friday phone call with Putin, during which the Syrian aid corridor emerged as a topic of discussion. Baev points out that this timing suggests Putin may have made this concession to reduce US pressure on Russia for mounting cyber attacks. This explanation of events contrasts with the White House’s official line; when a reporter inquired about what Russia received in exchange for its vote, a senior Biden administration official refrained from attributing Russia’s decision to any agreement with the US. Moreover, the official asserted that the discussion of ransomware attacks and Syrian aid were not linked topics in the Putin-Biden phone call. 

Kremlin's Current Narrative

In a new article, Putin calls Ukraine a Soviet-era invention and says modern Ukraine is built on a "divide and conquer" mechanism

On the 12th of July, Kremlin published another article by President Vladimir Putin, "On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians". The piece published both in Russian and in Ukrainian is full of well-known propaganda tropes about the history of Ukraine and Russia and reflections on the modern state of politics. Needless to say that Russian state media feeds on such content and narratives. Hence, nearly every single state-sponsored outlet has published extensive analytical pieces and bits (example: RT) reflecting the same aggressive rhetoric.

The piece starts by saying that Russians and Ukrainians are "one nation, a unified whole". Putin calls the conflict between Russia and Ukraine "a common misfortune and tragedy". After a long journey through history not deprived of controversies, coming back to modern times, he mentions that the South-West of Ukraine is "historic Russian lands" and elaborates further that modern Ukraine "that to a large extent was created at the expense of historical Russia". He explains that Ukraine is a byproduct of the Soviet Union, and bolshevik ideology and "Ukrainians" have been created due to a "politics of division of the great Russian nation". He blames the Ukrainian elites for rewriting the history and negating the past in a way that undermined "everything that connected them with Russia".

Putin writes that in modern Ukraine, Russians are facing a de-russification, "violent assimilation", "a forced change of identity", and "are led to believe that Russia is their enemy". He states that as a result of that state-supported policy, the number of Russian people in Ukraine may decrease by millions.

Putin also blames the West for the making of Ukraine as an "Anti-Russia" project, as "Ukraine is not Russia" narrative was not enough to put a barrier between Europe and Russia. "The "right" patriot in Ukraine now", he says, "is the one who hates Russia", while people with pro-Russian views are "not allowed to raise their heads. They are intimidated, driven underground… not only persecuted but also killed."

The article also talks about how the central pre-election campaign promise of current President Zelensky, meaning the establishment of peace and ceasefire in Donbas, "turned out to be a lie".

He finishes the article by saying that "Russia has never been and will never be "anti-Ukraine". What Ukraine should be - it is up to its citizens to decide." This is Putin's peculiar way of saying that Moscow is open for a dialogue with Kyiv, but exclusively on its own terms.

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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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