As we regularly document here, Russia is not shy about interfering in political and policy debates to sow confusion and wage “hybrid warfare” to weaken its adversaries from within. In fact, this is the Kremlin’s longstanding modus operandi.
Since its well-documented activities in the 2016 U.S. elections, Russia has continued to agitate on behalf of political protests and separatist movements, such as in Catalonia (and yes, even California) and the Yellow Vests in France.
So the seemingly spontaneous explosion of youth-led climate marches in Europe recently, some drawing as many as 35,000 participants, raised eyebrows among knowing Kremlin-watchers—chief among them, the Ukrainians, who witness Russian provocations on a daily basis.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told a group of journalists in Belgium last week that Russia is actively supporting the recent protests across the European Union calling for more urgency in combating climate change.
“It’s a point of exchange with all our partners. Russia has been supporting stirring up trouble around Europe because Russia’s goal is to weaken up the democratic institutions and to weaken the EU as such. Climate change protests: definitely yes.—Pavlo Klimkin
He was not alone. Similar accusations have recently been issued by both German chancellor Angela Merkel and a Belgian climate minister, Joke Schauvliege, a longtime fixture on the EU and U.N. climate circuit.
Merkel and Schauvliege both walked back their comments to varying degrees in the days after. But that they were made at all created a curious convergence of allegations, most plausible given the history of Russian intelligence operations and current motives.
Details of how Russia specifically was fomenting or leading or supporting the youth protests were hard to come by, but are essential to our understanding and ability to counter Russia’s unwelcome outside influence.
Klimkin had this to say:
“It’s about fake NGOs, it’s about trying to buy journalists, it’s about trying to buy media, it’s about meddling in the political class. Not the same scope as in Ukraine, but it’s so visible”
The full story here needs to be uncovered and told.