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Russia’s continuing threat to future elections and global events

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A senior Ukrainian MP has joined forces with former MEPs in calling for “much more vigilance” against potential attempts by Russia to influence future elections and other world events. Yuri Kamelchuk, a member of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine, was speaking in person at a press conference in Brussels on Monday (17 June).

His visit to Brussels is particularly timely as it comes after nearly 80 countries called on Sunday for the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine be the basis for any peace agreement to end Russia’s two-year war. The joint communique ended a two day conference in Switzerland, not attended by Russia. Many attendees expressed hope that Russia might join in on a road map to peace in the future.

Kamelchuk’s comments also coincide with a decision on Monday by EU member states to renew the sanctions introduced by the EU in response to the annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, until 23 June 2025.

The restrictive measures currently in place were first introduced in June 2014, and include prohibitions targeting the imports of products originating from Crimea or Sevastopol into the EU,

Speaking at a packed meeting in Brussels Press Club, Kamelchuk, a member of the Ukraine parliament for the past five years, said the world “lives in a special time” and that 17 June marked 845 days of “Russian aggression.”

He said that, during this time,Russia “has deprived Ukrainians of their health and  ability to live peacefully into their old age.”

He also accused Russia of trying to influence the recent EU elections saying, “They tried by any means to influence the results and investigations showed they doubled their efforts to influence the result, spread propaganda campaigns and fake news.

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“Russian influence in the US election has already begun and it tries to extend its influence literally everywhere.”

He said that at the summit this weekend in Switzerland “the whole world expressed its support for Ukraine at what is a critical juncture.

“It is now impossible to discuss anything in world affairs without reference to Russia which has also embarked on new phase to destabilise things in both EU and US. We have  used to disinformation and fake news but these efforts are growing and in a way which the free world is not yet familiar with and which can fool even respected institutions.”

He accused Russia of “daily disinformation and offensives against Ukraine and its energy infrastructure,” adding, “if we allow this Russian influence to be tolerated it will set a tone and we must not allow this to happen.”

His comments were broadly endorsed by another speaker, former German MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel who agreed that the world “lives in super difficult times.”

She condemned “sophisticated” electoral disinformation campaigns which, she said, “undermines the credibility of institutions in a severe way.”

She said that in eastern states of Germany there was now more trust in autocratic states than in Germany adding “and that is super alarming.”

 “This situation in parts of Germany is something I would not have expected to such an extent.”

She noted that, during the EU election campaign she had “realised the sub context of the anti-American and anti-capitalist messaging” that she said took place.

She added, “Russia has now twisted the narrative saying it was necessary to invade Ukraine and defend itself before Ukraine attacked Russia.”

“I just hope the EU and Germany wakes up to possible Russia attempts to undermine democracy in Europe including Germany.We need a special investigation on this and more intelligence.”

“We also need robust support for Ukraine and to build more resilient institutions. In the recent election we had lots of hate and negativity and there has been a loss of trust in our institutions and should learn from this.”

She believes the upcoming Olympics in Paris could be “another target” for disinformation.

“I am sure of this. We shall just have to see what these so called neutral Russia athletes can achieve and in how all this will be used by Vladimir Putin.”

“I just hope the French security forces are prepared well for this  but you can well imagine that this is the ultimate goal of Russia: to spread even more fear among civilians.”

Further comment came from former Danish Renew MEP Karen Melchior who believes Russian disinformation/aggression towards Ukraine started back in 2014 with the invasion of Crimea.

After this, she said support for Ukraine had slowly diminished “but we must not let this happen again.”

She noted that in the EU elections in Denmark two parties had “pro-Russian” candidates on their lists, adding, “we must be prepared to carefully check the background of candidates before they go on a list and organisations must be aware of this. That is why we  must improve our democratic resilience.”

She added, “Just this week we have had stories appearing about Vladimir Putin’s so called peace plan which involved taking over yet more of Ukraine. Yet this was repeated without any critical thinking.”

The Dane also called for “more resilience” against disinformation, adding, “we should also not allow our support for Ukraine to be diverted.”

The former deputy also demanded better security checks for staff working in the EU parliament,saying, “we need to take this seriously and keep our eye on the ball.”

The briefing, called “New Tools of Hybrid Warfare and Kremlin Propaganda in the EU,” heard that with his recent re-election as President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin may now  wish to focus his attention and resources on a new offensive in Ukraine.

It also raised the issue of nominations for the Nobel peace prize, saying people with links the Kremlin “or such regimes” should not be nominated.

The news briefing also raised the case of a Russian billionaire said to be of Armenian origin who has reportedly been nominated for a Nobel peace prize.

A letter which is said to have been signed by over 120 parliamentarians from four countries was presented at the press conference. It says it strongly objects to the nomination of Ruben Vardanyan who, according to media reports, has been put forward for the prize for his “charitable and humanitarian” activities.

Kamelchuk, in a Q&A session that followed the press conference, said a Russian news outlet had revealed the nomination of a person who, he alleges, “has links to the Kremlin.”. Backed by the two former MEPs, he described the nomination as “ludicrous”. He also distributed copies of a strongly-worded letter signed by parliamentarians which has urged the Nobel Committee, based in Norway, to reject the nomination.  

Melchior, a lawyer who served as an MEP from 2019 until last weekend’s EU elections when she did not stand for re-election, explained to reporters the formal criteria for nominating someone for a Nobel prize, saying, that anyone, in effect, can make such a nomination. 

It is understood that anyone who is nominated is free to publicise the nomination they have received. Some have argued this is a “loophole” in the nomination process. The Committee is a working body responsible for most of the work involved in selecting Nobel Prize laureates and no-one was immediately available for comment.

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