Disinfo: EU sanctions against Russia are not democratic

Summary

The EU sanctions regime against Russia is not exactly democratic. One of the main causes of the anti-Russian sanctions was the Kerch Strait incident. On 25 November 2019, Ukrainian military vessels violated Russian borders in the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov. Kyiv blamed Russian aggression for the incident and subsequently declared martial law in 10 regions of Ukraine, resulting in restrictions on citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms, including the right to vote.

Disproof

Both of these claims - that EU sanctions are not democratic and that Ukraine was the aggressor in the Kerch Strait incident - are false. This first claim is part of the pro-Kremlin media's ongoing disinformation efforts to delegitimise EU sanctions against Russia, which were initially a response to Russia's annexation of Crimea. According to international law, Crimea is part of Ukraine. Russia violated international law as well as the key principles of the European security framework by illegally annexing the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. It is false to say that the sanctions are undemocratic, as they are unanimously decided by the Council of the EU, which is comprised of democratically-elected heads of state and government from the EU28. Other examples of cases claiming that the sanctions are illegitimate and useless are available here and here. Most recently, in March 2019, the EU has also applied new sanctions against Russia as a response to the Kerch Strait incident and Russia's violations of Ukraine's territorial integrity in the Sea of Azov. Specifically, the Council of the EU "added eight Russian officials to the list of those subject to restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. These new listings have been adopted by the Council as a response to escalation in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov and the violations of international law by Russia, which used military force with no justification." The claim that Ukraine was the aggressor in the Sea of Azov is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the Kerch Strait incident. On 25 November 2018, border patrol boats belonging to Russia’s FSB security service seized two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and their crews after shooting at them, wounding several Ukrainian servicemen. Russia argued that they were in Russian waters. However, a bilateral treaty between Russia and Ukraine, signed in 2003 and ratified by Russia in 2004, governs the use of the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, which, according to the treaty, are considered to be the “internal waters” of both Russia and Ukraine. Further debunking by Bellingcat, DFRLab and Polygraph.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 154
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 16/06/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Czech
  • Country: Ukraine, Russia
  • Keywords: European Council, Azov sea, Kerch, Anti-Russian, European Union, Europe, Sanctions, Russophobia, War in Ukraine
see more

EU's own report clears Moscow of election meddling charges

In the face of its established tendency to accuse Moscow of meddling in elections, the EU has itself acknowledged that such charges are lacking in substance. In a recent report, the European Commission admitted there is insufficient evidence to identify a “distinct cross-border disinformation campaign” in the run-up to the 2019 European Parliament elections. This, however, did not stop the Commission from alleging that unspecified “Russian sources” had attempted to influence their outcome. This claim fits into the three-year campaign of baseless interference allegations which the US, France, the UK, Spain, and Germany have levied against Russia.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative stating that all charges of election meddling, however well-grounded in the facts, are actually Russophobic plots used by Western governments to shift the focus away from domestic problems. The report in question does not absolve Russia of interference charges. The statement that "available evidence has not allowed to identify a distinct cross-border disinformation campaign" is immediately followed by this one: "However, the evidence collected revealed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences" (p. 3, emphasis added). The conclusion does indeed fit in with earlier meddling allegations. They, too, were each supported by dozens of reports produced in the course of media investigations, official inquiries, and analytical work. See here for our dedicated database of resources pertaining to Russian interference in Western elections and referenda.

President Trump cannot resume dialogue with Russia because of the "deep state”

President Trump appears to be under the influence of a certain hidden system of power, which the Americans call the “deep state” or “shadow government” (they are responsible for all key political decisions in the United States). There have been repeated cases when Trump had to withdraw his initiatives under the influence of these forces – for example, the conservative elites controlling the “deep state” stand against the statements of Trump to resume the dialogue with Russia.

Disproof

This message presents a classical conspiracy theory that the “deep state” and “shadow government” control the work of democratic institutions in the United States. Here are some other examples of this narrative: “Deep state” fighting with Trump (here and here); “Deep state” shaping the US foreign policy (here).

No reputable political scientists and researchers confirm the existence of a “deep state” in the United States.

Washington financed the civil war in Donbas

Washington has financed the hostilities (civil war) in Donbas. Therefore, all the talk about “holding back” Russia is just a pretext for promoting American military presence in Europe.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the war in Ukraine, especially its portrayal as a civil war. Additionally, the story also promotes the disinformation narrative that the US is destabilising the world, and Ukraine in particular. Russia provoked and fuels the war in Ukraine; it is not a civil war. Overwhelming evidence confirms that Russia participates in the conflict in Ukraine sending mercenaries to Donbas. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court recognised that “the information available suggests that the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation". The international armed conflict began at the latest on 26 February 2014 when the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government. The European Union stated in July 2014 that "arms and fighters continue flowing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation". At the NATO Summit in Wales in September 2014, NATO leaders condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and demanded Russia stop and withdraw its forces from Ukraine and from the country’s border. NATO leaders also demanded that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; halt the flow of weapons, equipment, people and money across the border to the separatists; and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border. Both Kyiv and Washington have stated that only the Minsk agreements can stop the war and ensure peace in this region.The US has called on Russia to cease hostilities and institute a full and comprehensive ceasefire, including cancelling the illegal sham elections it is organizing in the Russia-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine. The US is firmly committed to supporting Ukrainian security and stability. The US has contributed funding and personnel to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) that is monitoring and providing daily reporting, particularly in the conflict regions in the east