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The Daily Vertical: The Kremlin's Catalonian Conundrum (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Russia has a Spanish dilemma.

The Kremlin has a Catalonian conundrum.

Because on one hand, separatism in Europe benefits Vladimir Putin's regime.

It weakens the European Union and NATO; and it divides and distracts the West.

But on the other hand, Russia needs to be very careful about alienating Madrid, as Spain has been among a handful of European countries that have called for an easing of sanctions.

So how is the Putin regime resolving its Spanish dilemma? How is it handling its Catalonian conundrum?

Simple. One Kremlin hand does one thing while another Kremlin hand does another.

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In its official statements, the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry have been very careful to describe the events in Spain as an internal matter and not to give anything that looks like support to the Catalan separatists.

But at the same time, Russian state-backed media have disseminated reports sympathetic to Catalonian independence.

And last week, Dmitry Medoyev, the self-styled foreign minister of the Georgia's Moscow-backed separatist region South Ossetia, paid a visit to Barcelona, ostensibly to meet Catalan business leaders.

According to press reports citing Spanish intelligence officials, Medoyev's real mission was to establish ties between Russia and a hypothetical independent Catalonia.

So Moscow is saying one thing officially and doing something entirely different under the table, through proxies and cutouts -- with just enough plausible deniability.

It's a classic Kremlin double game that we've all seen before.

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