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


Opening remarks  

  1. Don’t miss out on INTERACTIVE E-LEARNING
  2. Soviet Joke

Policy & Research  

  1. Ukraine blames Russia for recent cyber attack
  2. Russian Deputy PM blames EU for European gas crisis

U.S. Developments  

  1. The US says Russia faces a stark choice over Ukraine
  2. The US says Russia is fabricating grounds for invasion

Kremlin’s Current Narrative 

  1. Kremlin pushes the narrative of US-German disunity on Nord Stream 2 pipeline, suggests Germany lacks “economic sovereignty” 
  2. Global Engagement Centre: Kremlin exploits primal fears to push disinformation 

Taipei News


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Good Old Soviet Joke

A Frenchman, an Englishman and a Soviet Russian are admiring a painting of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

The Frenchman says, "They must be French, they're naked and they're eating fruit."
The Englishman replies with, "Clearly they're English. Observe how politely the man is offering the woman the fruit."
The Russian then notes, "They are Russian of course. They have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and they think they are in paradise."

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Policy & Research

Ukraine blames Russia for recent cyber attack

Ukrainian authorities have said they have found substantial evidence that Russia was behind a massive cyberattack that took out many key government websites last week. Ukraine’s SBU found that the attackers targeted a total of 70 government websites in a similar way to the Russian cyberattacks on the US government in 2020. A similar instance occurred in 2017 when Russia's "NotPetya virus targeted Ukrainian networks causing global damages. Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the recent claims saying that Ukraine’s rhetoric nowadays is always to blame Russia when things go wrong. Although the Kremlin has tried to divert blame, the attacks come in the face of rising military tensions on Ukraine’s border and Russia’s unsuccessful talks with the US in Geneva. Some policy analysts have believed that the attacks could lead to the escalation of conflict in Eastern Ukraine as Moscow’s actions continue to signal intentions of invasion. The cyberattacks show Russia’s ability to wage any “hybrid system of warfare” against society while mitigating the possibility of facing international consequences by denying claims of its involvement. 

Russian Deputy PM blames EU for European gas crisis

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak blamed the EU for its “short-sighted policy regarding energy commitments as well as incorrect planning” which led to the gas crisis in Europe. For Novak, Russia has the resources and ability to supply Europe, but he pressed the need for stable contracts that stimulate investment into production. He also emphasized that Russia has always fulfilled its long-term contracts with the EU showing its so-called commitment to relations with the institution. Novak's comments hide the reality that Russia has been able to weaponize its gas supplies in countries like Moldova and Ukraine to coerce leaders to accept harsher terms. Although Russian officials have expressed their desire to work with European officials, their aggressive policies show a more negative picture.

U.S. Developments

The US says Russia faces a stark choice over Ukraine

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has warned Russia that it must choose either diplomacy or confrontation with the West after talks between NATO and Russia, one of three recent diplomatic events aimed at reducing tension over Ukraine which have left many unresolved questions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said NATO could not cherry-pick Moscow's demands. The list of demands includes Ukraine never joining NATO – however, Ukraine’s goal of admission to NATO is part of its constitution, and the US wants to maintain an open-door policy. Some 100,000 Russian troops have reportedly amassed near the Ukrainian border, prompting fears of an invasion. Sherman added that Russia may not even be sure of its goals itself:

"Russia, most of all, will have to decide whether they are about security, in which case they should engage, or whether this was all a pretext. And they may not even know yet."

The US says Russia is fabricating grounds for invasion

Echoing statements from Kyiv, officials in Washington have warned that Russia is preparing to create a pretext for a broader invasion of Ukraine and has already prepositioned operatives to conduct a “false flag operation”.

A US official commented that “Russian influence actors are already starting to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify a Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine”, whilst another added that “Moscow has already dispatched operatives trained in urban warfare who could use explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia's proxy forces in eastern Ukraine”. Tensions remain high between the US and Russia, and developments soon will be extremely significant for bilateral relations as well as wider European relations with Russia.

Kremlin's Current Narrative

Kremlin pushes the narrative of US-German disunity on Nord Stream 2 pipeline, suggests Germany lacks “economic sovereignty”

In an article to the state-controlled outlet RT, the Kremlin attempted to forge a narrative of German economic weakness, suggesting that Germany “has lost its economic sovereignty” and trying to develop a narrative of disunity between Germany and the United States. 

The article cites an interview with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to the Russian First Channel, who argued that because of the “long wait for approval and certification” for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Germany does not have “freedom to pursue its economic interests.” 

The controversial pipeline, which would bring gas from Russia to Germany was suspended by Germany’s Federal Network Agency in November over regulatory concerns. The US and its ally Ukraine are concerned that Russia will use the pipeline as a geopolitical weapon. 

The article further claims that Washington “was doing its best to halt the certification of the project,” citing a quote by US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, who said that as per an agreement between Germany and the US, the pipeline would be suspended if Russia continued its aggression against Ukraine. 

The suggestion that Germany lacks economic sovereignty because of the Americans’ opposition to the pipeline also tries to forge a narrative of disunity and suggests that Germany is “at the mercy” of the US where its energy needs are concerned. 

Global Engagement Center: Kremlin exploits primal fears to push disinformation

In the latest issue of the Global Engagement Center Dispatch (GEC), it is highlighted how disinformation can be spread by “[shaping] it around what people fear most.” Citing the research of social scientist Dan Gardner, the GEC points out that there are 18 prominent “fears” that press our “risk perception button” and make us vulnerable to disinformation campaigns. These include fear of catastrophic potential or children being harmed. 

These fear tactics have been used by the Kremlin to spread disinformation about the US and its allies. 

According to the GEC, in July 2014, Russian state media broadcasted a horrifying false story about a toddler crucified in Slovyansk by Ukrainian officials and the child’s mother tied to a tank and dragged around the city’s Lenin Square. 

The story was debunked as fake news by reporters. A Russian reporter sent to Slovyansk tweeted that no one he spoke within the city heard about the alleged brutality. The BBC reported that there was no Lenin Square in Slovyansk. 

Another “fear” that the Kremlin has used to propagate misinformation is about biological weapons. The GEC notes that the Kremlin has falsely claimed that the US’s Cooperative Threat Reduction laboratories (CTR) are biological warfare facilities. The fear is easy to play on because US efforts to reduce biological and other threats have expanded. 

However, this claim is false. The US renounced offensive biological weapons in 1969 under President Richard Nixon, who noted in his speech that biological warfare could “profoundly affect the health of future generations.” 

In fact, the CTR and the American Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) have among other things, helped destroy chemical weapons in Syria and Libya, develop a vaccine against Ebola and perform COVID-19 tests in Georgia to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

Taipei News

Earlier this week, Slovenia joined the recently increasing number of states who decided to publicly strengthen its official relations with Taiwan. Slovenian government announced that it specifically aims to upgrade the trade ties between the two nations. In particular terms, this shift is mainly represented by a plan to open trade and culture offices in each other's capital cities. The cooperation was consequently confirmed also by the foreign ministry of Taiwan.  This decision by Ljubljana comes in the period of a great dispute between China and Lithuania took the same step of opening Taiwanese office recently. The Baltic country even changed the name of the office to include the word Taiwan in a clear gesture towards China. In reaction, Beijing unleashed a fierce campaign of words and actions against Vilnius, which included an actual trade embargo. The Slovenian decision thus carries even bigger importance given these specific circumstances, and it clearly shows that the Chinese campaign of intimidation is not effective and fails to deter other democratic countries to join cooperation with Taiwan.

Taiwan has been conducting several economic actions in order to support Lithuania during its dispute with China, caused by the recent opening of the Taiwanese trade office on its territory. China consequently downgraded its relations with Vilnius and imposed punitive measures against the country, banning Lithuanian products from entering the Chinese marketTaiwan countered it with acts of solidarity comprising of buying part of exported goods which was originally intended to be sold to China. That applies both to private and public companies. For example, a state-owned firm bought 20,400 bottles of Lithuanian rum that were restrained on Chinese borders, and another Taiwanese company purchased 1,000 boxes of milk. Most importantly, the government in Taipei plans to set up a fund of 200 million USD for facilitating investments in Lithuania together with a separate $1 billion credit programme to fund projects of cooperation between both countries.

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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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