Centre for Defence Strategies

Occupied Crimea becomes russia’s information warfare tool — experts

Today, on April 12, an expert discussion on russia’s information operations in Crimea and the region was held as part of the Black Sea Security Conference.

The experts at the event shared their opinions about how the aggressor uses the occupied peninsula to destabilize the situation in the Black Sea region and far beyond.

Olha Skrypnyk, Head of the Board of the Crimean Human Rights Group said that Crimea has become a platform for the occupiers to hone their information warfare methods and commit war crimes.

“The Kremlin continues using the territory of occupied Crimea as a platform for information warfare, which, unlike the direct aggression against Ukraine, is dangerous for the entire Black Sea region. In addition, it is in Crimea that international war crimes are currently taking place, which requires the reaction of the world community,” she said.

In turn, Yuliya Krylova-Hrek, an expert and a lecturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, cited examples from her own research, according to which russia had begun to influence its own population long before the occupation of the foreign territory. Ukrainians were constantly deprived of any human traits in the disinformation spread by the Kremlin: “Now we can see the results of this influence — 70% of russians support the war against Ukraine.”

Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics, pointed out that Kremlin propaganda is a murder weapon, much like traditional methods of warfare. Therefore, propagandists also deserve to be punished.

The expert cited the examples of Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and now Kiselyov, who justifies himself by saying that he “is just talking,” and that there is no punishment for words. But the connection between the words calling for murder and the action — the murder itself — is very close, Peter Pomerantsev noted.

During the discussion, Dr Rory Finnin, Associate Professor of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge, noted that russia has used disinformation methods throughout its whole history. They do it so skillfully that they find supporters of their propaganda even in the West.

He says it is important to accumulate academic knowledge not only about the methods of disinformation that russia uses in Ukraine, but also about the way it spreads around the world. We must understand why their narratives are successful. “Today, russian narratives regarding Crimea find support in the West, and this led to an insufficient response to the occupation in 2014,” he noted.

Dr. Rory Finnin pointed out that the world community should realize that the future lies with Ukraine.

As reported, the international Black Sea Security Conference started today. Over 200 experts, politicians and state leaders from different countries of the world gathered in the capital of Romania to discuss the challenges faced by the countries of the Black Sea region as a result of the aggression of the russian federation.

During the first day, experts discussed cyber threats and countering russian propaganda.