EU pledges to fight Russia’s “information war” in Europe

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union officials on Tuesday defended the 27-nation bloc’s decision to ban Russian state-controlled media outlets from broadcasting in the region as decisive steps to check a Kremlin-led “information war.”

Speaking at the European Parliament during a debate on foreign interference and disinformation, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell brushed off critics who say the EU is threatening freedom of information with the ban on Sputnik and RT/Russia Today.

“They are not independent media, they are assets, they are weapons, in the Kremlin’s manipulation ecosystem,” Borrell told lawmakers. “We are not trying to decide what is true and what is false. We don’t have ministers of the Truth. But we have to focus on foreign actors who intentionally, in a coordinated manner, try to manipulate our information environment.”

The EU has decided to suspend the broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT/Russia Today in the bloc until Russia ends its war in Ukraine and stop disinformation campaigns in member states.


Borrell said Moscow-controlled outlets are part of a well-oiled propaganda machine providing biased news about Vladimir Putin’s true intentions.

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“If the information is bad, democracy is bad,” he said, adding that information should be a protected good. “If the information is systematically contaminated by lies and twisted, citizens can’t have a clear understanding of reality and their political judgment is similarly twisted.”

Borrell insisted that Sputnik was created by a presidential decree with the aim of reporting on Russia’s sate policies abroad, and said that Russia Today is capable of conducting an “information war” against the western world.

Borrell said he will soon propose a new mechanism that will allow the EU to sanction disinformation actors. Lawmakers from the special committee on foreign interference and disinformation are also proposing to establish a sanctions regime to deal with foreign meddling.

MEP Sandra Kalniete, the author of the report, said it’s crucial for the EU to counter foreign threats in a bid to prevent third countries damaging democracies.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes have funneled more than $300 million into 33 countries to interfere in democratic processes,” she said. “Putin’s propaganda machinery wasn’t just switched on on 24 February. It has already been working in Europe for decades, attempting to poison and divide our societies.”

Kaniete said online platforms and tech companies need to suspend all social accounts engaged in “denying, glorifying and justifying Putin’s aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

She also proposed to reinforce content in Russian and Ukrainian to resist the pressure from Russia’s disinformation.


“In short, any tech platform giving space to Putin’s propaganda or complying with his censorship request is an accomplice to Putin’s aggression,” she said.

European Commission Vera Jourova said Putin wants his people to be “apathetic” and praised streaming platform Netflix’s decision to suspend its Russian services.

“Because president Putin wants the people to be entertained, not to pay attention to what is happening,” she said. “It would not be right to see Russians being entertained, and next door Ukrainians being killed.”

Both Borrell and Jourova expressed deep concerns about the imposed censorship in Russia that threatens independent journalists with jail terms and deprives citizens access to verified information about what their government is doing in Ukraine.

“It is more important than ever to reach the Russian people, and provide them with information,” Jourova said. “Every possible channel should be used.”

Around 1,000 migrants tried unsuccessfully to climb over the barrier separating Morocco from one of Spain’s African enclaves on Tuesday, authorities in Spain said.

The representative for Spain’s government in Melilla said that Moroccan border guards repelled the attempt while Spanish border guards remained positioned on the other side of the frontier.

The failed attempt to reach European Union territory came less than a week after an unprecedented 2,500 people tried to enter the city, with 491 managing to get across two 6-meter (20-foot) fences onto the Spanish side. That was followed a day later by another push by some 1,200 people, resulting in another 380 crossings.

People fleeing violence or poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa sometimes use mass border incursions to try to reach Melilla and Spain’s other city on the North Africa coast, Ceuta, as a springboard to continental Europe.

The attempts include violent clashes between those crossing and the agents charged to stop them.

Israeli troops on Tuesday demolished the homes of two Palestinians accused of carrying out a deadly shooting attack in the occupied West Bank last year, the military said.

The residences of Mohammed Jaradat and Jit Jaradat in the West Bank were demolished early Tuesday, the military said. The men are accused of shooting at a car driving near the outpost of Homesh, killing a Jewish seminary student and wounding two others. The military said earlier the demolition took place late Monday.

During the demolition, the military said armed Palestinians fired at the troops, who fired back. The military also said dozens of Palestinians threw rocks, firebombs and grenades at the troops who responded with live fire and other means. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Israeli officials say home demolitions deter future attacks, while rights groups view the tactic as a form of collective punishment.

The demolitions came hours after a Palestinian stabbed two police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City before he was shot and killed by police, the second such incident in as many days.

On Sunday, police shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian after he stabbed an officer in the Old City. The officer was lightly injured.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized by most of the international community.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank and Gaza for a future independent state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

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