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Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, is engaging in a sabotage campaign across Europe in an attempt to undermine Western support for Ukraine. This includes efforts to damage railways, military bases, and sites supplying arms to Kyiv. European and British authorities have identified an alleged Russian-backed arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked warehouse in the U.K., a plot to bomb or set fire to military bases in Germany, and attempts to hack Europe’s railway signal network and disrupt GPS systems for civil aviation. Western officials and analysts note that this is part of a broader strategy that involves propaganda, disinformation, espionage, and political influence to sow doubts about Ukraine’s military prospects and create divisions within the NATO alliance.

Germany recently uncovered a hacking campaign by Russian military intelligence operatives targeting the email accounts of the country’s Social Democratic party headquarters and companies in defense and aerospace industries. Beyond Germany, Russia has conducted thousands of cyberattacks on Czech and European railways, penetrating signals and ticketing services. While there is no indication that Russia has successfully disrupted the supply of weapons or aid to Ukraine through sabotage, the attacks represent a more aggressive approach that is concerning to Western officials. Russia has denied accusations of spreading disinformation, conducting physical sabotage, or influencing European officials.

Experts and officials highlight that Russia is engaging in a form of “hybrid warfare” involving various tactics to weaken adversaries. Russian activity in Europe extends beyond sabotage to include espionage, disinformation campaigns to influence European Union elections, and sabotage attempts targeting military aid bound for Ukraine. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service has warned of mounting threats of sabotage from Russia, including cyberattacks, with high potential for damage to critical infrastructure. The German government has taken steps to address these threats, including announcing the expulsion of a Russian diplomat who was identified as a military intelligence officer.

The Biden administration and European allies are working to track, disrupt, and expose Russian operations aiming to sabotage infrastructure and manipulate public opinion. Efforts to counter Russian propaganda have been intensified, particularly in light of upcoming European Union parliamentary elections where there are concerns of far-right parties being boosted by Russian influence campaigns. E.U. officials note that the Kremlin’s primary goal in its information campaign is to undermine support for assistance to Ukraine. Belgium’s prime minister has accused Russia of attempting to bribe members of the European Parliament to reduce European support for Ukraine.

Overall, Russia’s activities in Europe reflect a broader trend of malign activity including propaganda, espionage, cyberattacks, sabotage, and disinformation campaigns. The increasing aggression of these efforts by Russia has raised concerns among Western officials and analysts about the impact on regional security and stability. Efforts to counter these activities are ongoing, with a focus on tracking and disrupting Russian operations while also addressing vulnerabilities within European countries that could be exploited by Russia in its hybrid warfare tactics.

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