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

Topics of the Week

The European Commission launched the European Democracy Action Plan.

US lawmakers agree to widen sanctions on Russian-German Nord Stream II pipeline.

Kremlin's Current Narrative: Responses to the US and EU sanctions.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Stalin was out swimming, but he began to drown.

A peasant who was passing by jumped in and pulled him safely to shore.

Stalin asked the peasant what he would like as a reward.

Realising whom he had saved, the peasant cried out:

‘Nothing! Just please don’t tell anyone I saved you!’

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Policy & Research News

The European Commission launches its European Democracy Action Plan

After few months of consultations, the European Commission released its European Democracy Action Plan, which is designed to strengthen democracy across the EU through enhancing the free and independent media ecosystem, countering disinformation, and securing the integrity of elections. 

When it comes to tackling the disinformation threat, the plan envisages more obligations and accountability for tech platforms for proliferating and amplifying disinformation.  Next spring, the European Commission will also issue guidance to enhance the Code of Practice and set up a framework for evaluating its monitoring. 

More importantly, the great breakthrough of newly adopted policy is the shift towards ‘imposing costs on perpetrators’, which implies the introduction of sanctions against hostile actors, such as Russia and China involved in misleading influence operations. Previously, the policy of countering disinformation lacked a coordinated approach towards punishing key disinformation-spreaders.

EEAS Special Report on Russian and Chinese Disinformation operations during COVID-19

European External Action Service and EUvsDisinfo presented an update of the special report on the current trends of disinformation related to COVID-19. 

The report highlights key shifts in evolving disinformation campaigns which intensified back in spring:

  • The focus of campaigns is switched to the vaccine-related disinformation, and generally, the spread of online disinformation remains to be worryingly high;
  • The health crisis driven by COVID-19 will still be exploited by various actors for amplifying the influence operations;
  • State-actors, such as China and Russia extend the ‘mask diplomacy’ to a new version, such as the ‘vaccine diplomacy’, which is used as a part of their communication efforts. This is predominantly designed to leverage diplomatic channels to fortify their positions and reputation abroad.
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US Developments

Nord Stream 2: US lawmakers agree to widen sanctions on Russian-German pipeline

As work on Nord Stream 2 is set to resume, US lawmakers have agreed to extend sanctions on companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. More firms involved in the $11.6 billion pipeline to deliver gas from Russia's Siberia region to Germany could be hit with penalties under the draft of the annual US defence policy legislation for 2021, including over 120 companies that facilitate the construction of the pipeline, or provide insurance, reinsurance, testing, inspection and certification services.

Covid disinformation sites often use tools from Google, Facebook and Apple, report finds

A new report from Oxford found that sites spreading disinformation about the pandemic are using code taken from large tech companies. Companies that block fraud and disinformation on their platforms, such as Google, Facebook or Apple, make computer code that can then be used by websites that push disinformation. In an analysis of 40 covid disinformation sites, nearly 2,000 “components” from Google, 800 from Facebook, and 360 from Apple were found. 

Kremlin's Current Narrative

Kremlin reacts to the developments of the US sanctions over Nord Stream 2

The fact that the US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 have caused concerns of some EU member states was welcomed by Russian media that have already referred to the pressure from Washington as “political aggression”  or “forcing an energy suicide.”

There is no doubt that the Nord Stream 2 project will be completed, and experts are certain that Germany in cooperation with Russia will find ways around the American sanctions. However, the continuous efforts to hinder the project are “manifestations of unfair [bad faith] competition.” On the other hand, the sanctions could in fact be directed against Germany in the first place, since the access to “cheap, stable and ecological” Russian gas would make German businesses more competitive.

Regardless of the underlying motivations, “a Russian pipe” has always caused the same reaction from the US – of political aggression and “unlawful counteraction” – notes Maria Zakharova.

Comments on the adoption of the European "Magnitsky act"

As the EU approves “its own Magnitsky Act”, Russian news outlets and public figures discuss what could it mean for Moscow.

Even though for now it’s unknown who will be “blacklisted,” does point out that the decision to approve the new legislation was largely induced by the poisoning of Alexey Navalny, and the European officials are likely to come up with new “sensational ideas” for sanctions against Russia.

Certainly, it was compared and called analogous to the original US Magnitsky law from 2012, which was considered an interference in the internal affairs of Russia due to its provision for anti-Russian sanctions in particular. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the new sanctions regime was approved “for the sake of the United States” and might earn the praise of Mike Pompeo, but the EU bodies have once again done so without consulting universal institutions such as the UN.

Overall, it is one more sign of “the destructive way of thinking of Brussels officials,” that unfortunately is not new in the internal European processes and is likely to “affect negatively the EU's foreign policy.” It also does not reflect the actual interests of citizens of Europe (source).

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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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