Weekly update on Kremlin disinformation efforts in Europe
- The Czech Ministry of the Interior will establish a specialized Centre for Terrorism and Hybrid Threats. According to the Czech Minister of the Interior, this new team should develop into a 30-man body, focusing on monitoring and responding to the disinformation campaigns coming from pro-Kremlin activities and also to the spread of Islamism. We have prepared a set of recommendations of what exactly those teams should do for the German Federal Academy for Security Policy. Our team also works closely with the Czech security forces on developing their capabilities. If you have any tips, please contact us.
- Czech President Miloš Zeman gave an interview to the Russian journalist who has been deprived of his accreditation after the recommendation made by the Czech Counterintelligence. The interview was published in Rossijska gazeta, Russian government daily newspaper. President Zeman called the sanctions policy towards Russia a “lost lost strategy”, questioned the need for the US anti-missile shield in Europe, and reminded that the doors of his presidential office remain closed for the US ambassador Andrew Schapiro.
- Head of our Kremlin Watch programme Jakub Janda co-authored a set of recommendations for the NATO plans after the Warsaw Summit on countering hybrid threats. The recommendations appeared in the latest issue of The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs published by leading Polish institute PISM.
- French journalists exposed a fake Russian report about Euroscepticism in France, displaying alleged protests against migration. The report was aired on Russian state television Rossia 1 on a prime-time Sunday news show. Le Petit Journal tracked down most of the people interviewed. Every one of them said they had been misquoted, some said the quotes attributed to them were invented.
- The forthcoming review of the EU sanctions against Russia and intensified attacks against NATO are among the most visible trends of the last week in pro-Kremlin disinformation media. Several articles also kept labelling Russia’s adversaries as “Nazis” or “fascists”. Read more in the latest EU East Stratcom Task Force Disinformation Review.
- You can also watch the latest StopFake News with Irena Chalupa which include claims of the Russian media that the West is losing the information war, Russian sour grapes in the aftermath of Ukraine’s Eurovision song contest victory, Italian region of Veneto wanting the EU sanctions lifted, and fake claims for the deportation of all Russians from Crimea.
Picture of the Week
Putin opens G1 Summit.
We have done a review of methodological definitions of disinformation. Out of many, the best one is by Ben Nimmo. We have operationalized his framework and we suggest the working definition of pro-Kremlin disinformation as the following three-fold check:
1. The falsehood of the information
Practical use: The view doesn’t represent reality in a significant fashion. It skips important parts of context, doesn’t provide reliable source for such information, or, for example, presents an extreme view as an objective truth.
2. The intention to mislead
Practical use: Nobody can see into heads of disinformation multipliers; therefore, we suggest using the following pattern: If a story is proved not to be true and correct, and the multiplier is reminded of that yet still does not issue a correction and explanation of the mistake, we suggest deeming that the disinformation process was intentional. A lie is not an alternative opinion.
3. The story has direct or indirect objective to support policy of political regime of the Russian Federation
Practical use: The message of this story usually says that mainstream democratic institutions of the Western states are the “bad guys”, while Russian Federation is a good one, or at least equal in morality of its actions. Reflection of the Kremlin view doesn’t need to be present. The story usually fits into the current Kremlin narrative. For example: the European institutions and leaders are the intentional cause for migration crisis, and therefore their legitimacy should be questioned.
Kremlin Watch reading suggestions
Analysis: Sweden is under attack; by Kjetil Stormark from Aldrimer.no
The intensity and frequency of cyber-attacks on Sweden have seriously increased over the course of the past months. Although it is not yet officially known whether or not those attacks originate in Russia, Swedish officials – including several respected experts in the Military Intelligence and Security Service, and the Swedish security service Säpo – believe that Russia is behind several or even all of the incidents. If the attacks keep escalating, a discussion on whether this is a military or a civilian issue could be triggered. The country is allegedly already facing what could be called “warlike” acts. Direct conflict with Russia is definitely in nobody’s interest and the Swedish government is facing a difficult balancing act, while Russia continues to try and see how far it can push..
The “Moscow Consensus”: Constructing autocracy in post-Soviet Eurasia; by David Lewis from Open Democracy
Authoritarianism became the common denominator for several post-Soviet countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Belarus. Those states and elites have influenced and learned from each other, and as a result they produced a shared and unified set of ideas about the world, the state, and about politics and society. Among the pillars of this new type of post-Soviet autocracy is a “discursive dictatorship”, which uses smart television coverage and public relations initiatives to suppress critics and produce a narrative shared by much of the population. These efforts include gaining control of the means of production, harassment and prosecution of journalists and marginalizing alternative views without resorting to violence.
Euroatlantic Experts on Disinformation Warfare
- Robert W. H. Seely describes in The Washington Post how music and culture generally become more and more important in conflict in the light of the Russian concert in Palmyra and the results of Eurovision 2016.
- The impact of the Eurovision win on Crimean Tatars is also discussed in the Economist.
- An article published by Meduza.io sums up the dismantling of 12 Russian independent newsrooms during the last 5 years.
Tweet of the week:
Current state of pro-Kremlin scene in the Czech Republic
- The biggest concern of the Czech pro-Kremlin websites last week was the presidential election in Austria. The fact that the independent candidate Alexander van der Bellen supported by the Greens defeated the populist FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer caused a wave of outrage. One of the websites warned of his pro-immigration opinions and wrote that “if his presidency is going to last for the whole six years, the next Austrian president is going to be called Ahmed.”
- Several other websites pointed out that the elections could have been manipulated, maybe even by the European Union, either because of some discrepancies in the published results, or because of establishing the correspondence voting. One of them suggested that it was all part of the “totalitarian plan for enslavement of European nations under German domination.”
- Another narrative, which was repeated by the pro-Kremlin fringe media especially often during the last week, is presenting Russia as the only successful supporter and protector of the Western European civilisation, either because it allegedly prevents the global war from escalating, or because it spreads European culture and Christianity.
Infographic of the Week
How much Russia spends on information warfare in Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine:
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