“The Information Boomerang Returns”

The coronavirus crisis is a vulnerable target of disinformation. State actors have been manipulating the COVID-19 topic in traditional and social media, sowing doubt and discord. The WHO speaks of an “infodemic”

EUvsDisinfo got in touch with six Russian experts – independent journalists and commentators – to hear their take on the situation in Russia.

The experts were all asked the same question:

What is your assessment of the way the Kremlin-controlled media have so far treated the corona crisis? How do you think they will treat it in the coming weeks or months? Do you expect to see disinformation about this topic? And if so, what will be the strategy?

“Moscow’s superiority and the helplessness of the West”

Alexander Morozov, political scientist, Boris Nemtsov Academic Center, Prague:

‘Two narratives are developing simultaneously. On the one hand, we continue to see headlines such as, “The virus was brought to China by the US military”, and pro-Kremlin commentators continue to write about “the hysteria of the Western elites” and “the collapse of the European Union”. On the other hand, a narrative of “global solidarity” has begun to work in the Kremlin media, as the Russian government begins to take the same measures as the European governments.

Alexander Morozov is a Russian journalist and researcher with the Boris Nemtsov Academic Center in Prague. Read his interview with EUvsDisinfo, “They are Convinced that Russia Should Follow Guerilla Tactics.“

The Kremlin media will now create a mix of these two narratives, along the following lines: Russian authorities calmly and successfully fight the virus; but in Europe and the USA, governments create hysteria, making mistakes that cause criticism from the side of the citizens. It will be emphasized that some Western governments refuse the help of the Kremlin, while others accept it. This will be deployed to an internal audience as a holistic image of Moscow’s superiority and the helplessness of the West.

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They are Convinced that Russia Should Follow Guerrilla Tactics

Alexander Morozov is a Russian journalist, columnist and researcher with the Boris Nemtsov Academic Center at the Charles University in Prague.

Alexander Morozov’s articles have appeared in Forbes.ru, Snob.ru, New Times, Colta.ru, Republic.ru, The Insider and other independent Russian media. He has been a visiting professor at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and has worked for Deutsche Welle’s Russian service.

In this exclusive interview, Alexander Morozov discusses the political aims and objectives of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign. He also presents suggestions for how the analysis of disinformation can be improved and how the disinformation should be countered.

The disinformation swarm

Q. First a question about terminology. Which term do you prefer: propaganda, fakes, disinformation? Or another term?

A. We really need some kind of new term. In the course of the last five years, the expert community has developed an understanding of how the Kremlin’s information activity is organized: It is a field that generates fakes – these are concrete constructed messages; propaganda – these are numerous polemic statements; and disinformation – these are deliberately false messages or interpretations of events.

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A sudden farewell to the Russian constitution

Alexander Morozov on how Putin fell out of love with Russia’s 1993 Constitution

On January 15, Vladimir Putin announced his plans to strengthen Russia’s political system. More precisely, to strengthen the regime of power that he created. He proposed several amendments to the Constitution, and some of them affect its very foundations. To accept such amendments means basically adopting a new Constitution. This requires the convening of the Constitutional Assembly. But it is impossible to assemble it, as the law on the procedure for its convocation has not been adopted.

What’s on the menu

However, there is no doubt that Vladimir Putin’s legal department have thought about how to circumvent this. A constitutional lawyer, Alexei Elayev, shows here how it will be done. Amendments can be made to those articles of the Constitution which are not subject to the ban on amendments.

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If Putin were to leave us tomorrow…

Alexander Morozov describes the first 90 days after a hypothetical death of the head of state

In recent years, there have been quite a few academic studies of power transition scenarios in long-lasting personalist regimes. More than 200 post-1945 dictatorships have been analysed. The objective is to examine the role of various institutions in the transition of power. The consequences are compared: what is the nature of transition when the regime changes during the lifetime of the leader? And after his death?

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Is Propaganda Protected Speech?


Is state-sponsored disinformation a protected form of free speech? How do we define its limits and what is the available recourse when it harms people and institutions? On June 28, 2019, at The Hague, Free Russia Foundation hosts an important discussion on the dichotomy between speech rights and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.

As part of this event, we will unveil the new report by the U.S. Library of Congress “Limits on Freedom of Expression”, examining the scope of protection extended to freedom of speech in thirteen selected countries: Argentina • Brazil • Canada • China • France• Germany • Israel • Japan • Netherlands• New Zealand • Sweden • Ukraine • United Kingdom. The report focuses on the limits of protection that may apply to the right to interrupt or affect in any other way public speech. The report also addresses the availability of mechanisms to control foreign broadcasters working on behalf of foreign governments.

The conference will feature an exhibit of two prominent Russian photographers – Denis Bochkarev and Konstantin Rubakhin – taking a close look at the Russian society and youth.

Free Russia Foundation

Alexander Morozov: New Russian emigration wants to get rid of the regime’s pressure

Recent developments in Russia show two trends in relation to the Russian-speaking communities in Europe. On the one hand, a formation of a new way of the Russian emigration is taking place. On the other hand, Russian communities abroad become subjects of targeted Kremlin policies aimed at foreign compatriots. In our short interview ICELDS discusses these issues with Alexander Morozov, a well-known Russian political scientist and a co-director of the Prague-based Boris Nemtsov Academic Center for the Study of Russia established at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University.

ICELDS: Following the aggression against Ukraine, a special focus is made on how the Kremlin can take advantage of the Russian-speaking communities outside Russia. How do you assess the danger of using these tactics in the new geopolitical situation?

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How the Kremlin will influence the Ukrainian elections

The main goal of the Kremlin in relation to the elections of 2019 is not to strengthen a “party of compromise”, but to present new evidence that Ukraine is a failed-state. This is not only because the concept allows the Kremlin to avoid the Minsk settlement.

The Elections in Ukraine — Presidential (March 2019), Parliamentary (September 2019) are the single most important events in the internal politics of the Kremlin. Since 2014, the entire Russian domestic policy were strongly dedicated to Ukraine — TV news and political talk-shows discussed about issues in Ukraine day after day, the entire agenda of Russia’s relations with the world was tied to the “Minsk settlement agreement”, the participants in the campaigns on the occupation of the Crimea and the invasion of Donbass continued to play important roles in Russian domestic and International politics.

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Waiting for Constantinople’s historical decision on Church autocephaly in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has reached an important milestone. Not only is Constantinople’s promise to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church decisive for Ukraine, but it is also important for Europe as a whole.

When Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas in 2014, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the issue of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine would once again be on the agenda.

And so it is… In April, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople officially accepted the appeal to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a document that would allow a significant part of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful and churches to quit the Moscow Patriarchate and become one of the legitimate Local (Autocephalous) Churches.

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Expert comment: Toxic money from Kremlin: where is the red line?

An estimate of “toxic” economic presence from Russia in the US and EU has significantly changed in 2017. Shock of western societies from actions of Kremlin in Crimea in 2014 led to sanctions regime, halt to big deals (such as on sale of French warship Mistral) and downturn to trade volumes between European Union and Russian Federation by 50% in 2014-16. During this period some European industrial entities and politicians while criticizing annexation publicly spoke about ineffectiveness of sanctions. Most prominent voices came from Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

This led then Vice President Joe Biden to say in September 2016 that five EU countries are not firm in their stance on sanctions. But events linked to electoral campaign of Donald Trump led to a radical change of situation. Throughout 2017 a completely new background for perceptions of Kremlin on global stage was formed in the West.

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