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Research: Russia and Eastern Europe

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> Reflections on the situation in eastern Ukraine-a 2017 perspective

By Craig Oliphant.

There are perhaps two key myths about Ukraine that need to be challenged and pushed back on:

1. Firstly, that 2013 saw a sudden turn by Ukraine towards the EU, and marked a departure from what came before. Kyiv was focused under different presidents on its EU aspirations. The catalyst for Maidan in November 2013 was the decision by President Yanukovich (under pressure) to opt not to sign the Association Agreement.

2. The second myth is that Donbas was the "powerhouse of Ukraine's economy. In fact, that role fell to Kyiv and Dnipro. Donbas had increasingly become the rustbelt of Ukraine.

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> US Elections 2016: Russia's Preferred Choice

By Samuel Rogers.

The victor of the US Presidential Elections in November 2016 will be either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump. Both candidates have views that are inconsistent with each other regarding Russia and on the institutions that influence policy towards Russia. From a Russian perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages in relation to each potential outcome. It is therefore timely to consider to what extent each candidate may benefit Russia in terms of policy objectives. This article addresses the pros and cons for each candidate in this regard.

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> Russian Pragmatism: making the right choices in 2016

By Samuel Rogers.

For the remainder of the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century, Russia has an unprecedented number of internal and external issues (addressed below), which have combined to reach a critical point, not seen since the end of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago. Taking these concerns together, they have the potential for increased internal upheaval in the form of a repeat of the street protests in 2011, high levels of capital flight (though this risk receded slightly in late 2015) and further deterioration in relations with 'partners' such as the US and European states are genuinely realistic. The list of problems that Russia faces is long and has increased, especially since the onset of the Ukraine Crisis and the annexation of Crimea in February 2014. The issues can be divided into two categories: internal and external.

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Publications

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> The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

[Cover of The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad]

Exporting Repression series

Adam Hug (Ed.)

March 2017 Hard copy: £7.95, plus £1 p+p.

Download The information battle publication (2.75 megabyte PDF)

A new Foreign Policy Centre publication examines the ways in which the governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their worldview and challenge the people, institutions and ideas that oppose them. The information battle examines the influence of Russian media content in the former Soviet Union and the wider world. This is delivered through Russian domestic TV channels reaching Russian-speaking audiences in the region, the developing role of the news agency Sputnik and the international broadcaster RT. The publication examines how these outlets are used not only to promote Russian political narratives but to challenge Western approaches and sow confusion about what is going on in the world. It offers ideas for how independent broadcasters and international outlets can provide effective alternatives.

Despite cracking down on Western-backed NGOs at home, the governments of the former Soviet Union are seeking to directly influence the European and US political debate through NGOs, think tanks and lobbying organisations. This publication looks at how to improve the transparency and accountability of such actions. Repressive regimes that use advertising and the hosting of international events to promote themselves, are increasingly being challenged by human rights defenders through the publicity such activities bring. It also looks at the way social media is used by regimes to target opposition activists and other critics. The publication argues that, in what is increasingly becoming a battle involving the use of soft power and information, Western institutions have been losing ground and must take action in order to meet the challenge.

The publication contains contributions by regional and international experts: Natalia Antelava, Coda Story; Ana Divali and Revaz Koiava, Caucasian House; Arzu Geybulla; Richard Giragosian, Regional Studies Center; Melissa Hooper, Human Rights First; Adam Hug (ed.), Foreign Policy Centre; Rasto Kuzel, Memo 98; Dr David Lewis, University of Exeter; Ben Nimmo, Atlantic Council; and Dr Justin Schlosberg, Birkbeck, University of London. Kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations as part of the FPC's Exporting Repression project.


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> No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union

[Cover of No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union]

Exporting Repression series

Adam Hug (Ed.)

November 2016 Hard copy: £7.95, plus £1 p+p.

Download No Shelter publication (2.23 megabyte PDF)

A new Foreign Policy Centre publication No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union examines the experiences of activists and other people who have had to leave their former Soviet country of origin due to the risk of persecution at home, but who are unable to escape the pressures of their country's security services. It looks at both the legal and illegal means used by the security services to put pressure on exiles from Interpol Red Notices and formal extradition procedures, to surveillance, harassment, physical attacks, kidnapping and assassination. Though the publication looks at the issue across the post-Soviet region there is a particular focus on the activities of the security services from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and on both Turkey and Russia as places where exiles are most at risk. No Shelter examines regional security service cooperation and collusion in putting pressure on activists, alongside the influence of Western activities that have helped exacerbate the situation.

The publication contains contributions from: Nadejda Ataeva, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia; Civil Rights Defenders; Dr Mark Galeotti, Institute of International Relations-Prague; Arzu Geybulla; Giorgi Gogia, Human Rights Watch; Dr John Heathershaw, Eve Bishop and Rosa Brown, University of Exeter; Adam Hug (Ed.), Foreign Policy Centre; Dr Edward Lemon, Columbia University. Kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations as part of the FPC's Exporting Repression project.


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> Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression

[Cover of Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression ]

Exporting Repression series

Adam Hug (Ed.)

May 2016 Hard copy: £7.95, plus £1 p+p.

Download Sharing worst practice (1.45 megabyte PDF)

Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression examines the ways in which authoritarian regimes learn from each other and collaborate to develop repressive practices. The publication looks at the role of regional structures in the development of repressive rules and norms of behaviour, as well as exploring the extent of bilateral influence, most notably from Russia. It examines the impact of these countries' shared Soviet heritage and the nature of their current governments in determining their desire to emulate practices from neighbouring countries that undermine human rights. The publication explores the development of copycat anti-NGO and anti-LGBTI legislation, alongside similar restrictions on freedom of assembly, media and internet use. The publication also looks at the role security concerns play in developing and excusing bad practice, exploring the sometimes negative role of Western countries as part of the 'War on Terror'.

The publication contains contributions by: Prof Thomas Ambrosio, North Dakota State University; Dr Michael Hamilton, University of East Anglia; Joanna Hoare and Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty International; Melissa Hooper, Human Rights First; Adam Hug (ed.), Foreign Policy Centre; Eka Iakobishvili; Kate Levine, EHRAC; Dr David Lewis, University of Exeter; Katie Morris, Article 19. Kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations as part of the FPC's Exporting Repression project.

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Past Events

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> The information battle: Brussels

The information battle: how governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

DATE: Wednesday 29th March 2017

TIME: 4.30pm - 6:00pm

VENUE: Open Society European Policy Institute, Rue du Trône 130,Brussels B-1050, Belgium

Speakers:

  • Rebecca Harms MEP, Chair, Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
  • Kati Piri MEP, Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • Jakub Kalensky, East StratCom Task Force, European External Action Service
  • Dr Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London

Chair: Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

This event will focus on the ways in which governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their points of view and exert pressure on those who oppose them. The event will look to build on and broaden the existing literature on Russian-backed internationally focused media outlets and pro-government media elsewhere in the region. It will explore how they operate to shape global narratives about their countries, influence thinking on international disputes, blunt criticism of their actions while challenging Western values and behaviour. It will look at similarities and differences between the operation of outlets from the FSU and Western supported global news services.

The event will examine the ways in which authoritarian regimes work to project their image abroad beyond the use of the media. This includes the use of sponsorship and advertising to shape international perceptions in addition to the way in which regimes create or support their own think tanks, pressure groups, diasporan organisations, parliamentary groups and work with others (such as public affairs agencies) to promote their policy agendas and influence the responses of international institutions and policy makers.

The event may also explore how government backed broadcasters, press and websites from the FSU run stories to attempt to discredit the work of diasporan and other activists challenging official narratives from outside the country. At the direction or encouragement of the authorities this can involve direct harassment, the production of untrue or politically distorted stories that aim to make activists' lives difficult even when abroad (as well as putting pressure on friends and family who remain in the country). The event will explore the growing fight for control of the social media space - with organized pro-government activity becoming increasingly visible both in responding to the actions of opposition and independent civil society and in directly promoting their agenda online. These methods include the use of paid-for trolling and the mobilization of 'patriotic youth movements' to target opponents and spread pro-government narratives to national, diasporan and international audiences.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and affiliation (if you have one). Free copies of the new publication will be available. The event is free and open to all.


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> The information battle: how governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

DATE: Tuesday 21 March 2017

TIME: 18:00 - 19:30

VENUE: Committee Room 9, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Speakers:

  • Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Dr Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Dr David Lewis, Senior Lecturer and Director of Education, University of Exeter
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

Chair: Maeve Shearlaw, Commissioning Editor– World Networks, The Guardian

This event will focus on the ways in which governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their points of view and exert pressure on those who oppose them. The event will look to build on and broaden the existing literature on Russian-backed internationally focused media outlets and pro-government media elsewhere in the region. It will explore how they operate to shape global narratives about their countries, influence thinking on international disputes, blunt criticism of their actions while challenging Western values and behaviour. It will look at similarities and differences between the operation of outlets from the FSU and Western supported global news services.

The event will examine the ways in which authoritarian regimes work to project their image abroad beyond the use of the media. This includes the use of sponsorship and advertising to shape international perceptions in addition to the way in which regimes create or support their own think tanks, pressure groups, diasporan organisations, parliamentary groups and work with others (such as public affairs agencies) to promote their policy agendas and influence the responses of international institutions and policy makers.

The event may also explore how government backed broadcasters, press and websites from the FSU run stories to attempt to discredit the work of diasporan and other activists challenging official narratives from outside the country. At the direction or encouragement of the authorities this can involve direct harassment, the production of untrue or politically distorted stories that aim to make activists' lives difficult even when abroad (as well as putting pressure on friends and family who remain in the country). The event will explore the growing fight for control of the social media space - with organized pro-government activity becoming increasingly visible both in responding to the actions of opposition and independent civil society and in directly promoting their agenda online. These methods include the use of paid-for trolling and the mobilization of 'patriotic youth movements' to target opponents and spread pro-government narratives to national, diasporan and international audiences.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and affiliation (if you have one). Free copies of the new publication will be available. The event is free and open to all.

Download The information battle: London, 21 March 6pm (310 kilobyte PDF)


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> No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union

Date: Tuesday November 22nd 2016

Time: 6.00pm-7.30pm

Venue: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London

Speakers:

  • Chris Bryant MP
  • Dr John Heathershaw, Associate Professor in International Relations, University of Exeter
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  • Further speakers tbc

Chair: Rt Hon. Fiona Mactaggart MP, Member of the Intelligence and Security Committee

This seminar will examine the experiences of a wide range of civil society activists, opposition politicians, religious leaders and others who have had to leave their former Soviet country of origin due to the risk of persecution at home, but who are unable to escape the pressures of their country's security services, even in exile. It will discuss the experiences of activists being monitored, followed, harassed, attacked, kidnapped or killed across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

The seminar will analyse CIS security service cooperation, when the intelligence service of the country where an activist is seeking shelter either formally collaborates with or turns a blind eye to the activities of the intelligence services of the activist's home country in tracking, harassing, attacking or kidnapping them. There will be a particular focus on the activities of the security services of Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, against whom there are strong allegations of involvement in a number of murders, attacks, kidnappings and threats against activists and opponents outside their borders. It will also look at the countries where activists in exile seem to be most at risk of harassment, noting in particular the situations in Russia and Turkey.

The No Shelter seminar will also explore issues around the monitoring of activists' emails, phone calls and other forms of communication by intelligence services and the practical challenges human rights defenders and others face in keeping their information secure from prying eyes.

The seminar may also look at the role played by Western companies in exporting technology and consultancy services that help develop the surveillance systems of authoritarian regimes, or that can be used for torture and ill-treatment. It may also explore the extent to which Western intelligence cooperates with intelligence agencies from the former Soviet Union involved in such practices.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

Download No Shelter Seminar flyer (360 kilobyte PDF)


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