Disinfo: Syrian refugees can’t return due to the Western sanctions


Illegal economic sanctions and the blockade imposed by the US regime and its allies are among the biggest obstacles that prevent the creation of adequate conditions for the return of Syrian refugees, who face strong pressure abroad for them not to come back.


Recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Syria.

Contrary to the claim, Syrian refugees don’t face any pressure to preventing them from returning. In many cases they decide not to do so out of fear of retaliation from the regime of Bashar Al Assad. Several media and civil society organisations documented cases of Syrian refugees returning to their country only to be arrested, forced into conscription in the army, and harassed by security forces.

Within the context of the Syrian conflict, EU sanctions, imposed since 9 May 2011, respond to the repression perpetrated on the Syrian people by the Syrian regime and its supporters, including through the use of live ammunition against peaceful protesters and the regime’s involvement in the proliferation and use of chemical weapons. EU sanctions against the regime were extended in May 2020 for one year, and in October 2020, seven new individual ministers were added to the list.

The goal of these measures is not to destroy Syria or wage an economic war, but to put pressure on the Syrian regime to halt its repression and negotiate a lasting political settlement of the Syrian crisis in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 under UN auspices. They are part and parcel of the EU’s wider approach to the Syria crisis, as outlined in the EU strategy on Syria. EU sanctions are designed in a way that only targets the specific individuals and entities on the sanctions list, avoiding negative impacts on the population. They comply with all obligations under international law, in particular international refugee law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law.

As for the return of Syrian refugees, UNHCR states that the conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return, as per international law, are not currently met. Eight years after the outbreak of the conflict, the situation in Syria is still critical, with millions of Syrians displaced and in need of protection and humanitarian assistance. The potential for violence remains high.

See other examples of these disinformation narratives, such as claims that sanctions on Syria are illegal and aim to destroy the country, that EU sanctions bypass the UN, that the US wants to divide Syria or that the EU supports terrorists and not the sovereignty of Syria.


  • Reported in: Issue 221
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 11/11/2020
  • Language/target audience: Spanish, Castilian
  • Country: EU, US, Syria
  • Keywords: Refugees, Syrian War, Sanctions


Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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After Nagorno Karabakh, foreign powers may try to destabilise Georgia

After the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, foreign forces may try to destabilise the situation in other countries in Transcaucasia, namely in Georgia, though this time not through military means but by attempts to exploit its internal problems. There will be attempts to organise all kind of revolutions. They succeeded in Erevan but failed in Minsk. As long as there are these kinds of forces succeeding in Erevan, Kyiv, Tblisi and other places, there won’t be calm in the Caucasus.


Conspiracy theory not backed by any evidence, promoting several recurrent pro-Kremlin narratives about popular protests as Western-led colour revolutions, foreign powers aiming to encircle Russia, and Moscow as the ultimate target of international events.

Contrary to the claim, popular protests in Armenia and Ukraine were not destabilisation attempts orchestrated from abroad, neither is the protest movement in Belarus. This disinformation article appeared amidst a series of demonstrations in Georgia against the results of the Parliamentarian election, won by the Georgian Dream Party considered friendlier to Russia than the other leading political formations but that the opposition claimed had been rigged. By framing these demonstrations as a foreign-backed colour revolution, this narrative aims to deprive those protests of any legitimacy.

Hillary Clinton published the Deep State strategy for the world

Hillary Clinton published a programmatic text in the US magazine Foreign Policy that can and must be considered a real strategy for the Deep State to restore US global hegemony. Considering the place of Clinton in the real ranking in US politics, the possibility for this strategy to be actually implemented is very high. The good news is that Clinton, the “shadow advisor” of the Biden Administration, calls to avoid if possible an “accidental” nuclear war with China and Russia, but the US establishment – talking through the voice of the former Secretary of State – is obsessed with the promotion of its geopolitical interests through missiles and (non-nuclear) bombs. A complete return of the Deep State to the control room of the US political, military and diplomatic machinery won’t turn into a global apocalypse, but certainly, there won’t be peace in the world: the US will try to return some production capability to its territory and will press actively its geopolitical rivals through diplomatic and military means.


This is a deliberate distortion of an article published by former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the magazine Foreign Affairs, not in Foreign Policy as stated (the disinformation piece is a translation into Spanish from another article in Ria Novosti, which links the article in Foreign Affairs but mistakenly affirms that it was published in Foreign Policy magazine). The RIA Novosti article and its translation promote several recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives and conspiracy theories not backed by any evidence, such as the existence of a Deep State that rules the US above elected politicians.

Contrary to the claim, Clinton’s article is not “a Deep State strategy” but merely an op-ed by a highly experienced top US official published in a prestigious publication. Clinton has also stated that she wants no role at all in a Biden Administration, so the affirmation that she is a “shadow adviser” for Biden is also false. By attempting to link her to the Biden government and calling it “the return of the Deep State to the control of the US political, military and diplomatic machinery”, and by claiming without evidence that this will mean that “there won’t be peace in the world”, the piece aims to discredit an incoming Biden Administration as part of a long-term disinformation campaign on the US 2020 election.

The US and its allies are trying to reignite the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan

The US and its allies are trying to reignite the animosity between the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The main NATO countries try to hide the fact that they are irritated by the agreement on a ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh, brokered with the active participation of Russia. The US and its allies are upset because the war was stopped through Moscow’s mediation, which neutralised their years of work aiming to expel Russia from the South Caucasus. The US and the EU don’t want to tolerate the power balance in place in the region, so in order to dismantle it they thought og nothing better than trying to reignite the conflict.


The story brings together several recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Russia as the ultimate target of international events, an ever-aggressive West and NATO always conspiring to destabilise whole regions of the world, and long-term plans to encircle Russia.

Contrary to the claim, there is nothing indicating that Western countries are irritated by the ceasefire agreement in Nagorno Karabakh nor by the role played by Russia on it, much less that they are conspiring for a return to armed clashes. On the contrary, the European Union welcomed the agreement, and the US and France issued a joint statement admitting that Russia’s actions contributed to peace in Nagorno-Karabakh while asking for more details on the agreement.