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German Intelligence Agency Claims Russia Uses Sputnik, RT as Tools for 'Subtle' Influence

© Sputnik / Vladimir Sergeyev / Go to the mediabankSputnik
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia has been seeking to "exert subtle influence" on Germans to sway their opinion through its main state-run media outlets, including RT Deutsch and the Sputnik news agency, Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), said in its 2018 report on Thursday.

The report alleges that "apart from their espionage interests, the Russian services strive to influence political and public opinion in Germany."

BfV claims that "these activities are also intended to weaken the Federal Republic's position, for example, its support for continuing the EU's sanctions against Russia," with social networks, think tanks, influential individuals and state media being among their "important tools."

"The Russian government is expanding its media offerings in Germany in order to increase its influence. State enterprises are disguised as independent media to hide the fact that they belong to the Russian state and to exert subtle influence on the public. The most important of these are the Internet channel RT Deutsch and the Sputnik news agency," the report said, despite the fact that neither RT nor Sputnik has ever concealed the fact that they are state-funded.

The report also alleges that Russian intelligence agencies "make extensive use of cyber attacks to gain information and occasionally to spread disinformation and propaganda."

"Cyber spying by Russian intelligence services … continues to be a major threat to German security and constant challenge to counter-intelligence," it added.

Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Timur Shafir later denounced his German colleagues' statements as "a blatant and unprincipled violation of the basic principles of the profession." Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in turn, has noted that German media had intensified attempts to discredit Russian media outlets, including RT Deutsch and Sputnik Deutschland, pledging to hand over this information to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

This comes after German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and BfV President Thomas Haldenwang presented earlier in the day the 2018 Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution.

The situation with Russian media in the West, including Germany, has become increasingly difficult in recent years. In January, the German Federation of Journalists called on national regulators supervising media activities to not issue a license for RT Deutsch, claiming that the broadcaster was a "tool for Kremlin propaganda."

Previously, a number of Western politicians, including those in the United Kingdom, the United States and France, have accused RT and Sputnik of spreading propaganda, albeit without providing any evidence.

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