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European Union EU Parliament urges fight against Russia 'propaganda'

"I certainly hope that common sense will prevail however, and we will not see any actual restrictions," he added.

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The motion to boost the EU's strategic communication force was approved by 304 votes to 179 -- with eurosceptic parties like Britain's UKIP and France's Front National voting against -- with 208 abstentions play

The motion to boost the EU's strategic communication force was approved by 304 votes to 179 -- with eurosceptic parties like Britain's UKIP and France's Front National voting against -- with 208 abstentions

(AFP/File)

The European Parliament on Wednesday urged the EU to fight back against "hostile propaganda" by the Kremlin, prompting a swift rebuke from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

EU lawmakers approved a motion condemning outlets like television channel RT (previously Russia Today) and the news agency Sputnik for disseminating "absolutely fake" news, while accusing the Kremlin of backing anti-EU parties.

They urged the European Union to boost its "tiny" nine-strong strategic communication force set up to counter disinformation when tensions grew with Russia amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The MEPs said they were "seriously concerned by the rapid expansion of Kremlin-inspired activities in Europe, including disinformation and propaganda seeking to maintain or increase Russia's influence to weaken and split the EU".

The motion was approved by 304 votes to 179 -- with eurosceptic parties like Britain's UKIP and France's Front National voting against -- with 208 abstentions.

Putin lashed out at the European Parliament for "trying to teach us democracy" while at the same time there was a "clear degradation... of the concept of democracy in Western society".

"I certainly hope that common sense will prevail however, and we will not see any actual restrictions," he added.

"As for our journalists who promoted this influential European body to take such decisions, judging by the situation, we can congratulate them on working so actively and with such talent and results."

But in their hard-hitting resolution, the MEPs warned that the Kremlin was using a "wide range of tools and instruments" including think-tanks, television and "pseudo news agencies" to spread fake information.

The resolution said since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 the Kremlin had stepped up efforts to "challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU's eastern neighbourhood".

It added that the Russian government was also funding political parties in the EU and backing "anti-EU forces" like far-right parties and populist groups.

The parliament also warned against propaganda from the Islamic State jihadist group, Al-Qaeda and other non-state actors.

It urged EU nations to do more to counter efforts by IS and other groups to radicalise young people in Europe.

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