UPDATED: Latvia's MEPs split on Russian propaganda threat

A vote in the European parliament to condemn Russia's use of 'infowar' or toxic propaganda saw Latvia's cadre of MEPs split on the issue, with one government MEP voting against it.

Of Latvia's cadre of 8 MEPs, 5 backed a resolution and 3 voted against.

Propaganda pressure on the EU from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups is growing, MEPs said in the resolution voted on November 23, which objected to attempts to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU.

The resolution also suggested reinforcing the EU’s small “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy.

“As regards the Russian Federation, the situation is now clear. After its annexation of Crimea and aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine, many countries are fully aware of its disinformation and manipulation“, said rapporteur Anna Fotyga of Poland in presenting the resolution.

“This report, in the course of its preparation, was also a target of hostile propaganda”, she added

Hostile propaganda against the EU and its member states seeks to distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyse the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens, says the text.

It notes that ”the Russian government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks [...], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) [...], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighborhood.”

The resolution stressed that the “Kremlin is funding political parties and other organisations within the EU” and deplored “Russian backing of anti-EU forces” such as extreme-right parties and populist forces.

The resolution also condemned Islamist terror group Daesh for similar reasons and suggested reinforcing the EU’s 9-strong strategic communication task force and providing more support to boost media resilience in EU neighborhood countries.

You can read a recent EU report on Russian disinformation HERE.

The resolution was approved by 304 votes to 179, with 208 abstentions.

However, three Latvian MEPs voted against the resolution: pro-Kremlin politician Tatjana Zdanoka, Andrejs Mamikins of the opposition Harmony party (which has a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin's United Russia party) and Iveta Grigule, from the same Green and Farmers Union political party as Latvian prime minister Maris Kucinskis.  

Investigative journalism organization Re:Baltica also reported November 24 that Grigule and Mamikins have another cosy arrangement - each employing a member of the other's family as a parliamentary assistant.

On Friday afternoon, following the publication of LSM's story, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis issued a statement attempting to distance himself and his government from his party colleague.

Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis distanced itself from the worldwide representative of the European Parliament (EP) MEP Iveta Grigule action by voting against the resolution adopted by the EP in connection with the fight against the Russian and terrorist organizations conduct outreach.

"Mr Kucinskis underlines that regrettably EP Member Grigule does not reflect Latvia's position on strategic communications, which in recent years have become one of the most pressing issues, in both foreign as well as domestic policy," a statement from the PM's office said.

"The fight against propaganda and demagogy will be effective only if we act together with our partners in the EU and NATO," said Kucinskis. 

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