VSQUARE SPECIAL REPORT
How Central Europe was trapped by Eastern input
Russian influencing strategies are like a swarm of bees: they consist of many small factors that don’t match one particular frame. VSquare Project report presents an analysis of Russian propaganda influencing, which turns out to be the main weapon used in a quiet information war.
The head of Budapest’s public transport was in the way of a Russian metro company’s business, with more than 200 million euros at stake. A KGB-style provokatsiya was utilized to get him fired and force the Hungarian capital to buy malfunctioning and expensive Russian metro cars.
‘Circles close to Kremlin are trying to turn the border city of Przemyśl into Polish Belfast. They are doing it through reviving long standing disagreements between Poland and Ukraine, and with help of the local radical nationalists,” says Marcin Rey, the creator of a Facebook profile „Russian 5th Column in Poland’.
Alexander Usovski was active in the Visegrad region, set up foundations, looked for EU grants, finally received money from Russia in cash, without leaving any paper trail. That’s how he started to organize a network of dutiful and useful people. And indeed, everything went just the way his sponsor wanted.
Perhaps he was a fool, a liar and a fraud, the Baron von Munchausen of Russian influence in Europe. But the case of Alexander Usovsky – even though it may seem like a farce – is actually very serious. It’s the first so thoroughly documented example of Moscow’s foreign policy. It shows sources of its financing and explains who is answering to Kremlin’s propaganda puppet masters. And how it makes use of radical nationalists.
In 2014 Béla Kovács, a notoriously russophile Hungarian member of the European Parliament, dubbed as KGBéla even by his own far-right comrades, broke the law and made illegal contacts with Russian intelligence officers. The story of Kovács is the most accurate depiction of the complicated nature of Russian influence in Hungary. And it’s not that easy to understand what happened to him and today’s political landscape of Hungary.
There’s a large tattoo on Mateusz Piskorski’s body, a remainder of his nationalist past: it depicts a snake eating its own tail. For the past year, Piskorski has been Russia’s most important man in Poland – and he has worked in the zone of soft influence for years. Now he’s under arrest, due to accusations of espionage. He is thought to have cooperated with Russian intel, accept operational tasks and manipulate society’s attitudes. What happend to former Polish MP that push him behind the bars?
Thanks to the development of the internet and new technologies, it’s now relatively easy to conduct a mass attack on entire societies – says Kamil Basaj from the Safe Cyberspace Foundation in an interview on Kremlin’s propaganda, information warfare and the new Russian doctrine.
The doctrine encapsulates a wide array of offensive capabilities – all hiding under a propaganda claim of defending Russia’s own society and information space from foreign invasion. The official pitch is a defensive one, but in practice, it opens up many paths for aggressive activities. It includes a number of clauses implying that Russia is under threat of foreign interference, which is in line with official propaganda messages presenting the country.