In an analysis released on Sunday, joint research by major media groups showed Russian secret services are staging or infiltrating demonstrations in major cities in Europe for propaganda purposes.

The joint research by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, German broadcasters NDR and WDR, French paper Le Monde, Swedish paper Expressen and the Scandinavian broadcasters DR (Denmark), NRK (Norway) and SVT (Sweden) is based on leaked strategy papers that have allegedly come from the Kremlin's security apparatus.

According to the news outlets, the documents were initially leaked to the Dossier Center, a research organization run by the Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. 

The aim of the staged demonstrations highlighted by the joint research is to create anti-Ukraine sentiment or to make Sweden’s NATO accession more difficult, the news outlets reported. 

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According to the strategy papers, Moscow recommends that small groups of Russian agents simulate protests or skew legitimate protests in major European cities.

Some Kremlin-directed fake protests are already believed to have taken place, including faux rallies where Russian agents or accomplices pretend to be Ukrainians who are agitating against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is apparently intended to leverage the sense of some broad anti-Islamic mood in Europe.

Another example is a demonstration by alleged members of a Ukrainian community in Paris at the beginning of March, who demonstrated against Erdogan by using a Hitler salute and balaclava, and mocked the victims of the devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria.

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According to the research, provocateurs also apparently infiltrated demonstrations in several cities that were being held on other topics, such as nursing shortages, pension reform and climate change, with the aim of spreading  propaganda directed against support for Ukraine.

A related goal, according to the reports, is to generate propaganda material for internet platforms. The Russian strategy paper lists several cities to target including Paris, The Hague, Brussels and Frankfurt.

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Photos of the fake demonstrators have circulated on social media, giving the impression of widespread anti-Ukraine sentiment in western European countries, the outlets reported.

The practice of ‘maskirovka’ (or deception) has been an official part of Russian military doctrine since World War 1. In 2017, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was quoted by TASS as stating to the Russian State Duma that “propaganda must be smart, competent and effective.”

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