Photo: Piotr Iłowiecki

By Wouter De Leeuw, intern at AEJ Belgium

Echoes of Russian propaganda are everywhere to be found.

During the last plenary session of the European Parliament, MEPs raised the alarm over the impact that narratives of Russian-controlled channels are having on a European and international level.

“The Russians are losing the war on the battlefield, but they are winning the propaganda war,” said liberal Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt last week (5 October).

Russian misinformation finds its way to everyone but president Vladimir Putin’s allies don’t go unnoticed. During the plenary debate, MEPs slammed several Polish, Bulgarian and Hungarian politicians as ‘Putin’s European cronies’ – including Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

The Russian propaganda machinery creates spectacles like the so-called referenda in Ukraine, using large volumes of disinformation to illegally annex the territories of their neighbours, said EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas.

But Moscow’s disinformation tactics are not new.

“Russian disinformation outlets aim at polarising our societies,” warned Mikuláš Bek, Czech minister of EU affairs, referring to other subjects of Russian anti-European propaganda, such as migration and anti-vaccine narratives that have already attempt to create division within Europe.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has even been forced to ban social media and foreign news outlets to keep their rhetoric intact, MEPs said.

“We must defend freedom of speech,” pointed out Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann, from the European People’s Party. “Truth will conquer, and it will win over lies”.

“The EU delegation should be more vocal in defending the truth and refuting the shameless lies that Russia spreads every day,” said Green German MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.