EU powers are warning of an increase in Russian propaganda ahead of the European elections. The reaction of the Kremlin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed European warnings about “Russian propaganda” on Tuesday, saying anything that goes against prevailing theories is now labeled “propaganda” by the West.

Peskov was asked about the meeting on Monday between the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, during which they warned of an increase in Russian propaganda in European countries before the elections for the European Parliament in June, reports Reuters, quoted by News.ro .

“It is now obvious that any sources, mass media or materials on the Internet, which do not meet the criteria, do not operate within the main information stream and try to cover the events from different angles, are immediately identified as propaganda tools,” said Kremlin spokesman. “This is absolutely contrary to the ideals of a free press and demonstrates once again the readiness of the authorities to punish the press they don’t like. This happens often in Europe now,” Peskov said.

Western countries have repeatedly accused Russian agents of using social media and the Internet to spread false or misleading information, undermine it, promote Russia or try to sway public opinion against supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

The warning of the European powers

France, Poland and Germany accused Russia on Monday of creating an elaborate network of websites to spread pro-Russian propaganda and undermine Western governments, warning of a mass spread of such content ahead of European elections in June.

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“We are in a period of vulnerability, with European elections and, as far as France is concerned, with the Olympic Games,” said French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne in a joint press conference with his Polish and German counterparts.

The ministers from the three countries announced that they have created a common mechanism to detect and respond to possible Russian attacks on the Internet. They met as part of efforts to revive the political cooperation platform “Weimar Triangle” between Germany, France and Poland, created in 1991.

In a press briefing before the meeting of the three ministers, French diplomatic sources said that VIGINUM, the French watchdog that monitors foreign digital interference, had identified 193 websites that sought to widely disseminate information from pro- Russian, as well as some Russian websites and media institutions. “The goal seems to be to cover the Russian-Ukrainian conflict by positively presenting the “special military operation” and denigrating Ukraine and its leaders,” said a French diplomat.

France has drawn particular attention to Russian activities in Africa, saying Moscow-linked actors have tried to discredit Paris in West Africa, saturating mainstream media and social media.

“Attacks on our democracies”

This led France to take multiple actions to reverse the anti-French narratives that affected its influence and interests, including establishing a unit dedicated in part to identifying and managing malicious content.

Diplomats said that unlike previous disinformation campaigns, the Internet portal Kombat, as it has been dubbed by France, aims to lure people to these sites, some with local domain names, so that the information can then be spread locally.

“These are attacks on our democracy,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, adding that the European Union cannot allow people’s trust to be undermined.

French officials said that, so far, the sites in question have made few inroads. But their concern is that with this year marking two years since the war in Ukraine, elections in Russia, the EU and the United States, plus the Olympics, the sites have been set up so that, at the right time, to be able to spread large amounts of harmful information.

“We expect an acceleration of various Russian actions and even a wide spread, so this is a reason to draw attention to this now,” said a French military official.

An example of such activity was an article published on one of the sites, entitled “Enough! France demands radical measures against Zelenski”. The article referred to a post on the X platform by a far-right French opposition politician who has pro-Russian leanings.

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