(INTERVIEW) Maliukevičius: The Russian influence is trying to weaken us and make us look away from Ukraine

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In an interview for Meta.mk, the Lithuanian expert on media and crisis and strategic communication explains more precisely how the disinformation coming from the Russian side is being circulated, including fake narratives and the overall process of influence in the Western Balkans and the world

Initially, I thought that the goal of the Russian influence operations was to create a kind of sympathy for the Russian regime and Russian ideology. But their main target now is simply to create more chaos inside the neighboring countries in order to kind of make us look the other way into our internal problems and stop supporting Ukraine in the defense from the Russian aggression. So, the main goal is basically to create a certain chaos in Europe generally and make us weaker, in a sense…

This is how the Lithuanian researcher, Ph.D. Nerijus Maliukevičius, in the interview for Meta.mk, explained the goal of the ever-growing Russian influence, especially considering the fact – as he puts it – that this year is a “super-election” year, for both the European Union and the United States of America, not to mention the ongoing elections in Russia.

He explains thoroughly how disinformation from the Russian side is being circulated, including the fake narratives and the overall process of their influence in the Western Balkans and the world.

“I think we are experiencing a sophisticated information cyber-attack operation even more widely in Europe. And it is done because authoritarian regimes, especially Russia, consider this a very important year in Europe, in the European countries – an election year. And they are trying to achieve their goals to create more chaos, distrust to break the electoral processes”, says Maliukevičius.

He is an expert on media and crisis and strategic communication, and an author of two books and many publications, with special focus on the challenges arising from dealing with fake narratives, propaganda, and disinformation. His story in this field dates back to the year 2000.

“I especially got interested in the new Russian laws that were being implemented and they were called “the information security doctrine” of Putin, through which Russia would take control of its information environment to mobilize Putin’s power to fight off any foreign influence that he consider as such. And I was interested from my perspective – of how media and information policies can be abused in a time which was not so clearly authoritarian”, he explains.

Once he got deeply involved, he wrote his dissertation titled “Russian Information Geopolitics”, where he tried to explain how Russia transformed traditional politics of “divide and conquer” into media geopolitics.

“Then it is not that much important how you control the geographical territories, but how you control and fight for mental territories and people’s minds”, specifies Maliukevičius.

He was on a two-day visit of North Macedonia that included workshops, lectures, and meetings with local stakeholders, organized by the Office of the Embassy of Lithuania and the EU Delegation in North Macedonia.

Below is the entire interview with Maliukevičius in which he explains the flows of foreign influence and how disinformation narratives are disseminated.