Kremlin campaigns fuelling secessionism and inter-ethnic conflict across Europe

2020-12-02

Russian disinformation and active measures are exploiting inter-ethnic and historical disputes to destabilise, fuel secessionism and escalate tensions between countries in Central and Eastern Europe, according to a new study released today.

The year-long research project, led by Hungarian think tank Political Capital, brings together researchers from across the region to reveal the modus operandi of the Kremlin’s revisionist disinformation campaigns in six countries – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

The study identifies highly coordinated networks of pro-Kremlin actors and websites executing cohesive disinformation campaigns to exploit deep-seated societal and cultural divides, sowing discord amongst EU and NATO members and furthering Russia’s geopolitical goals in the wider region.

The research found three clear strategies used by the campaigns to weaponise territorial conflicts: exploiting inter-ethnic divides, promoting pan-Slavic solidarity, and reframing territorial aggression as legitimate independence and freedom movements. The study also highlights how the campaigns are spilling over from online into the real world, with information operations mobilising extreme, far right and paramilitary groups into action, triggering attacks on minority groups and cultural centres.

Lóránt Győri, the lead researcher from Political Capital, commented “Kremlin disinformation is an issue high on the agenda, whether its interfering in elections, undermining democracies or muddying the waters around the Kremlin’s aggressive activities. But it’s often seen as an amorphous threat, difficult to pin down and dismissed as Russophobia. This study shows Russia’s clear and coordinated effort to sow discord in Europe, proving that disinformation is central to Russia’s aggressive foreign policy and hybrid war on the West”.

The research utilised a novel methodology combining social media mapping and network analysis with qualitative narrative analysis to draw out connected actors and coordinated campaigns. The report also provides a series of recommendations to Western governments and the Trans-Atlantic community to counter Russia’s revisionist narratives and information operations.

 The full report and case studies for the six countries can be found here.

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

All media inquiries and requests for interviews should be directed to Political Capital:

Mobil: +36 20 665-0383

Email: gyori@politicalcapital.hu  

Experts from Political Capital and the other groups participating in the study are available for interviews: 

Péter Krekó PhD, Director, Political Capital

Lóránt Győri, Analyst, Political Capital

Poland: Olgierd Syczewski, CEO and DisinfoHub Director, Emerging Futures Institute

Romania: Rufin Zamfir, Programmes Director, Global Focus

Slovakia: Daniel Milo J.D.

Serbia: Nikola Burazer, Programme Director, Centre for Contemporary Politics

Ukraine: Oleksandra Tsekhanovska, Senior Analyst, Ukraine Сrisis Media Center

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