WASHINGTON -- A State Department official has said U.S. efforts to counter misinformation and propaganda generated by the Kremlin will be a long-term effort that includes bolstering independent media in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
Benjamin Ziff, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that the Obama administration had proposed a 26 percent increase -- to $83 million -- in funding for the coming fiscal year for civil society groups and independent media “in countries most vulnerable to Russian pressure.”
"The free flow of reliable information is our best defense," Ziff testified in the November 3 hearing.
"We view this work against the Kremlin propaganda as not necessarily a short term effort; this is a medium- and long-term effort to make sure there is no fertile ground in Europe or Eurasia for the kind of efforts they are doing," he said.
Ziff also said the U.S. administration has not ruled out supplying lethal weaponry and military equipment to Ukraine's military.
He added that the administration was considering prolonging economic sanctions again Russia if the provisions of the Minsk cease-fire agreement aren't fully implemented in eastern Ukraine. That agreement, signed by Ukrainian and separatist officials, called for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and greater access to humanitarian aid, among other things.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has largely ebbed, though Ziff said since that, September 1, there have been 17 deaths and 50 wounded due to sporadic violence in parts of that region.
He did not specify whether the casualties were regular Ukraine soldiers, volunteer militias or Russian-backed separatists.
The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists has killed more than 7,900 people since it erupted in April 2014.