TIME europe

European Police Face Being Outgunned by Jihadists With Assault Rifles

Firearms seized from a gang of arms smugglers displayed at Federal Police headquarters in Brussels in 2011.
Firearms seized from a gang of arms smugglers displayed at federal police headquarters in Brussels in 2011 Thierry Roge—Reuters

Police pistols are no match for assault rifles like those carried by the Paris gunmen

When Chérif and Saïd Kouachi attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, killing 12 people, they were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and could easily outgun the police officers who tried to apprehend them with pistols. Their associate, Amedy Coulibaly, had an even greater collection of military-grade weapons.

The size of the trio’s armory has prompted an urgent inquiry into the scale of gun smuggling in Europe, where weapons are smuggled into the European Union from the countries of former Yugoslavia, Albania and elsewhere and then moved without any further border checks to where they will get the best price. Most of the smuggling is carried out by criminal gangs but many jihadists such as Coulibaly are well connected with criminal networks.

Despite the Paris attacks, it seems the weapons are still flowing freely through Europe. Brian Donald, chief of staff for Europol, which coordinates cross-border actions among police forces in the E.U.’s 28 countries, says there have been two “large seizures” of assault weapons in Europe during the past two weeks, but would not give details about where they were, since the investigations were still ongoing. In all, he says police had seized “several vanloads of 30 or 40 weapons at a time,” during the past few weeks, including “AK-47s, Scorpions, handguns and semiautomatic rifles.”

The Kouachis had rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. On Jan. 8, Coulibaly fatally shot a policewoman with a Scorpion submachine gun in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. The day after that, he used a 7.62-mm Tokarev rifle, a Soviet-designed weapon, to kill five hostages in a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. His posthumous video also showed him with a Kalashnikov AK-47. Earlier this month, a Belgian newspaper reported that Coulibaly had bought most of the weapons from a Belgian criminal for €5,000 (about $5,647). Coulibaly, a French-born Muslim with Malian parents, made the deal near the Brussels Midi train station, a major railway hub that connects Western Europe’s biggest cities, after taking out a €6,000 loan from the French financial services firm Cofidis using false information about his income, which went unchecked.

But although the police quickly traced the weapons source in the Paris attacks, stopping criminals and other jihadist cells in Europe from acquiring assault weapons for further attacks might not be so easy, according to police officials.

Many of the weapons circulating in Europe hail from southeastern Europe, where big military arsenals were left abandoned during the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Balkan wars of the 1990s. At least a million other weapons are believed to have been looted during an outbreak of anarchy in Albania in 1997. “There are stockpiles in the Balkans of 2 [million] to 3 million [weapons] left over from the 1990s, available for recycling,” says Donald.

French police believe rifles are on sale in French cities for between €1,000 and €1,500. Earlier this month, Philippe Capon, head of the French police union UNSA, told Bloomberg News, “The French black market for weapons has been inundated with eastern European war artillery and arms.” A French police source told TIME that the weapons from the Charlie Hebdo attack came from the Balkans.

That is not the only source of weaponry. Donald says he fears that the continent might be facing a fresh influx of weapons from North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts. In August, 2011, Libyan rebels looted large quantities of mortars, tank shells and other munitions when Moammar Gaddafi’s regime collapsed. Although most of those weapons are believed to have filtered across North and West Africa, some could also have made their way to Europe.

The arms traffickers have flourished in the absence of well-financed antiweapons units in Europe, where law enforcement has for years tended to plow money into stopping drug-dealing and other crimes. “We don’t fully understand the scale of the problem because we have not had specialized units,” says Donald, referring to law-enforcement agencies in different E.U. countries. “It is a question of priorities. Any police officer will tell you it [resources] is a constant struggle.”

The trade in illegal weapons can earn enormous profits for organized criminal gangs — enough to make the risk of capture worthwhile. Donald says recent investigations have found arms traffickers investing about €30,000 in a shipment of Balkan-era weapons, refurbishing them in their garages, then selling them for them for about 10 times the price. “That’s a huge mark-up,” he says.

As Europe struggles to crack down on illegal weapons, some police recruits face a new training exercise: Go buy a Kalashnikov rifle. Donald says that in “a city in Europe,” which he would not name, “very young officers with no training or experience” were recently told to go find an assault weapon on the streets from an illegal arms dealer. “One came back two hours later with an AK-47,” Donald says. “He bought it for €1,000.”

TIME europe

Watch Amal Clooney Eloquently Argue Her Case in Armenian Genocide Hearing

Clooney is representing Armenia before Europe's top human rights court

Amal Clooney laid her case before the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday against a Turkish politician who denied the 1915 Armenian genocide.

The international human rights lawyer is representing Armenia in a case against Dogu Perincek, the chairman of the Turkish Workers’ Party, who was convicted in Switzerland in 2005 for calling the Armenian genocide an “international lie.”

The Strasbourg-based ECHR later agreed with Perincek that the conviction violated his freedom of expression, and now Switzerland is appealing, with Armenia’s backing as a third party.

“The most important error” made in the earlier ECHR ruling, Clooney said, “is that it cast doubt on the reality of the Armenian genocide that the people suffered 100 years ago.” In her remarks, Clooney noted Turkey’s “disgraceful” record on freedom of expression.

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in what historians widely consider to be the first genocide of the 20th century, but Turkey has contested the numbers and refused to call it a genocide.

The case could also have wider implications for Europe, where several countries have laws prohibiting public denial of past genocides such as the Holocaust.

Clooney, now arguably the most famous human rights lawyer in the world after marrying actor George Clooney in September, previously represented Greece in its long-running bid to have a collection of classical Greek sculptures returned from the British Museum. She also defended one of three al-Jazeera journalists detained in Egypt.

Read next: Amal Clooney Begins Next Big Human Rights Case

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME europe

Auschwitz Survivors Mark 70th Anniversary of Camp’s Liberation

World leaders joined about 300 survivors at the infamous Nazi camp

Correction appended

Hundreds of survivors returned to the Holocaust’s most infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz, to mark the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation for what’s expected to be the last time.

World leaders, including the presidents of Germany and France, joined about 300 survivors at a commemorative event at the Polish site on Tuesday, the BBC reports. About 1,500 survivors returned in 2005; many of the remaining survivors, now elderly, were children and teens when they were held in Auschwitz.

French President Francois Hollande’s presence at the event comes in the wake of terror attacks in Paris, including an attack at a Jewish supermarket. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend Tuesday’s commemoration, though the Soviet army was responsible for liberating the camp in 1945.

The site opened as a museum just two years later, in 1947.

[BBC]

Correction: The original version of this story has been updated to clarify the location of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp

TIME europe

Europe Appeals to Putin’s Ego As it Seeks Peace in Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on Jan. 22, 2015 in Davos.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on Jan. 22, 2015 in Davos. Fabrice Cofrini—AFP/Getty Images

In Davos, European leaders offer to make Putin's Eurasian dreams come true — but only if the conflict in Ukraine ends

Given the amount of blood still being spilled on a daily basis in the war in eastern Ukraine, it may seem premature, if not also in bad taste, to offer one of the more stubborn belligerents in the conflict a long-term path toward integration with the West. But on Thursday, that is what Russia got from some of the European leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And it was Germany leading the charge.

During her afternoon appearance at the annual confab of investors and policymakers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel began by rattling off some of her typically harsh condemnations of Russia. With the annexation of Crimea last spring and the subsequent support for a violent rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern regions, Moscow had violated the “elementary principles of the European peaceful order,” she said. “It is a clear and flagrant violation of what has made us live and coexist peacefully together in Europe” since the end of World War II, Merkel added.

But when the moderator asked how she saw the conflict playing out in the more distant future, the Chancellor brought up the geopolitical vision (some would call it a fantasy) that Russian President Vladimir Putin has long been promulgating. “Later on, in the bigger picture,” Merkel said, “we can try to explore possibilities of cooperation, and an economic area that President Putin himself called ‘from Vladivostok to Lisbon.’”

This was a reference to the proposed free trade zone that Putin envisions stretching some 14,000 kilometers one day from the western edge of Europe to the eastern edge of Russia – and conspicuously leaving the U.S. out. For years, Putin has been seeking to lay the ground for such a project, most recently with the creation of the Eurasian Union, a political and economic bloc modeled on the European Union but with Moscow at its center of gravity. Comprised so far of only four post-Soviet countries – Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia, with the impoverished nation of Kyrgyzstan next in line to join – the Eurasian Union legally came into being as of Jan. 1.

But three weeks into its existence, it seems to have found a strategic negotiating partner in the far wealthier and more powerful union to the west. Or at least that’s what some of the E.U.’s key leaders now want Putin to believe.

Apart from Merkel, the elder statesman Jose Manuel Barroso, whose ten-year term as the E.U.’s most senior official ended in October, also brought up the idea of the Eurasian and European Unions forming a brotherly bond. “Why can’t we do it with the Eurasian Union? We want to do it,” he said in Davos on Thursday, referring to Putin’s grand plan. “Can we one day have this dream? I spoke several times with President Putin about that, from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Can it happen? I believe it can happen.”

And if Putin still believes the same, these remarks would be music to his ears. Rare is the speech these days when Putin does not slip in a pointed reference to his idea of a “united space” between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In his reasoning, not only would it give Russia’s natural resources unhindered access to a practically limitless market, but it would put Moscow in a grand constellation of European capitals – finally an equal among powerful Western friends. That, along with the prospect of squeezing the U.S. off the continent, would be Putin’s greatest geopolitical triumph.

But the reason E.U. leaders seem to have suddenly warmed to this idea is not because they believe it to be in the cards nor, for that matter, because they think it particularly attractive. (It was hard enough for the E.U. economy to absorb Eastern European members like Romania and Bulgaria in recent years. Now imagine the flows of jobs and migrants if the borders between France and, say, Kyrgyzstan were to drop.) Much more likely, the West simply needed a carrot to dangle in front of Russia, and a way to coax a change in Putin’s thinking on Ukraine.

That much seemed clear from the remarks of Merkel’s deputy and coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. During a panel discussion in Davos on Thursday, he also brought up the idea of integration with the Eurasian Union, but in a slightly different vein. “What can we offer to Russia?” he asked. “What can be an idea for a partnership after we solve the current problems?”

One answer is the fulfillment – or the chance for fulfillment – of Putin’s geopolitical pipedream. “It was Putin’s idea to have a free trade zone between Lisbon and Vladivostok. In a different world than we are in today, it would be a good idea,” Gabriel said.

The suggestion, in Gabriel’s remarks and the others’, was that Putin must first help create that different world – one in which Ukraine is restored to its previous borders and left to live in peace. Up to now, the West has used little more than sanctions to make Putin work toward that reality, but they have not been able to change the situation on the ground. On the contrary, as the slump in global oil prices multiplied the pain of those sanctions on the Russian petrostate, Moscow only increased its support to the separatist rebellion, providing a steady supply of arms, volunteers and ample political cover for the rebel militias in eastern Ukraine.

The peace deal Russia signed in September during a round of negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, has somewhat slowed the fighting but certainly not stopped it. Roughly 2,000 people have been killed in the war since then, bringing the overall death toll to some 5,000 people since April, and a new assault from the Russian-backed rebels this month gave them control of a strategic airport in the city of Donetsk. So eastern Ukraine has continued on its way, with Russia’s help, toward becoming a massive frozen conflict on the E.U.’s doorstep.

Given that context, the idea floated in Davos seems like an attempt to break the stalemate. But it relies to a large extent on Putin being naïve. For one thing, he knows that without the membership of Ukraine – the biggest and most important neighbor Russia has – his Eurasian Union is hardly an equal partner to the E.U. in any trade negotiation. It is at best a shabby incarnation of the Soviet Goliath, still with Russia at its heart but missing most of its essential limbs, not to mention its former prowess in education and technology. Even years from now, if Putin does attract (or coerce) the membership of a few other post-Soviet countries, the Eurasian Union would have a hard time competing with the E.U. even from behind a high wall of protectionist trade barriers, and it would almost certainly wither if those barriers came down between Lisbon and Vladivostok.

Underneath its idealism, then, the proposal that Merkel and her allies offered Putin in Davos on Thursday may not do much more than stoke his ego. But for the sake of peace in Ukraine, they can be forgiven for hoping he goes for it.

MONEY europe

Europe’s Version of the Fed Announces a Big New Stimulus Plan

The symbol of the Euro, the currency of the Eurozone, stands illuminated on January 21, 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany.
The symbol of the euro, the currency of the eurozone, outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. Hannelore Foerster—Getty Images

The European Central Bank just took on its own version of "quantitative easing." Get ready to feel the ripples.

On Thursday European Central Bank president Mario Draghi announced plans to implement a bond buying strategy known as quantitative easing. The ECB, which is the European equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is hoping to boost the struggling European economy. The Fed implemented a similar effort several years ago.

Under QE, the European bank will buy up tens of billions of euros worth of bonds each month. That should help keep interest rates low and help stave off a worrying trend of falling prices, or deflation.

With the U.S. economy finally humming along, you may be tempted to shrug off the news. But changes in interest rates and prices across the Atlantic quickly ripple across the globe. Here’s how the move could affect you.

It may hold down interest rates and bond yields.

Ever since the Fed cut key interest rates in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis, bond yields have been unusually low. Although many forecasters expect the Fed to begin raising rates in 2015, the ECB’s latest move could keep a lid on how far yields on Treasuries rise.

European bonds already yield considerably less than Treasuries—German government bonds maturing in 10 years pay 0.4%, compared to about 1.9% for Treasuries. If QE continues to depress European yields, more and more buyers are likely to seek out Treasuries, pushing Treasury prices upwards. Bond yields fall when prices rise.

Continued low rates would be good news for borrowers but a mixed bag for investors. Although bonds would lose value when rates begin to rise, many income oriented investors and saver have been frustrated by low payouts, forcing them to hunt for riskier alternatives.

It could further strengthen the dollar.

By buying up bonds, the ECB is essentially creating more euros. On Thursday, the value of the euro fell to $1.16, according to Blommberg. That’s its lowest level in more than a decade. In the long run that should help European companies by making it cheaper for U.S. consumers to buy their goods. But if you own foreign stocks, you’re likely to feel some pain, at least in the short run.

The European stocks you own are denominated in euros, but the value of your account is denominated in dollars. As the dollar rises, a European stock simply isn’t worth as many dollars as it was before, assuming its price in euros didn’t change. The good news is, you don’t need to worry unless you plan to sell right away. In the long run, such currency fluctuations should even out.

The U.S. stock market is happy—for now.

The Dow climbed about 117 points, or 0.7%, to 17,671 in morning trading. While it’s always tricky to interpret stock market ups and downs, it seems likely investors are applauding the ECB’s aggressive action to prevent a deep recession, just as they did over the past several years when the Federal Reserve made similar moves. With the U.S. economy finally humming, the Fed’s strategy seems to have worked. Ultimately the best thing for stock values is to get Europe, a major driver of global growth, back on the same path.

TIME europe

European Central Bank Unveils Stimulus Plan to Jolt Eurozone Back to Life

Will buy up to a total of €60 billion ($69 billion) of bonds a month through September 2016

As expected, the European Central Bank Thursday launched a massive program of bond-buying to support the Eurozone economy and stop the 19-country currency union falling into a destructive spiral of deflation.

President Mario Draghi told his regular press conference that the ECB would expand its current, limited programs of buying private-sector bonds and buy up to a total of €60 billion ($69 billion) a month through September 2016, or as long as it takes to drive away the threat of deflation.

The program “will in any case be conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation which is consistent with our aim of achieving inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term,” Draghi said. That compares with a rate of -0.2% in December.

The program breaks beyond any doubt the taboo over government bond-buying that has constrained the ECB since the Eurozone debt crisis erupted in 2010. With a maximum value of €1.26 trillion between now and September next year, it’s also much bigger than leaks over the last month had led financial markets to believe. Consequently, the euro fell over a cent to a new 12-year low against the dollar. By 0920 Eastern Time, it was trading at $1.1493.

However, the Frankfurt-based institution was forced to make some concessions to (mainly German-led) objections to the buying of government debt.

Most of the buying will be done by national central banks, and the ECB will only underwrite potential losses on bonds issued by European institutions such as the European Investment Bank or the Eurozone’s bailout vehicle. As such, if a country is forced to leave the Eurozone in the future and is unable to repay euro-denominated debt, then the losses will stay with the national central bank concerned.

Draghi also warned that the measures taken today would only be effective if Eurozone governments did their part in pushing through reforms to revive growth. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly voiced concern that too much generosity from the ECB would relieve the pressure on governments elsewhere to enact such reforms.

In addition, the ECB also scrapped the 0.10% percent premium over its main rate that it was charging for the ultra-long-term loans it has been offering for the last four months, known as TLTROs.

Draghi said there was a “large majority” to trigger the program immediately, indirectly confirming that a minority had dissented against the decision.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Ukraine

John Kerry Slams Rebels as Fighting in Ukraine Spirals Further Out of Control

US-EU-KERRY-MOGHERINI
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press after a working lunch with E.U. High Representative Federica Mogherini at the U.S. Department of State in Washington on Jan. 21, 2015 Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

Clashes between the Ukrainian military and pro-Moscow rebels have rapidly escalated this week

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned pro-Russian rebels battling the Ukrainian military for participating in a “landgrab” after occupying new territory in clear violation of a September peace accord.

After a brief lull in hostilities, fighting between forces loyal to Kiev and pro-Kremlin rebels spiked drastically this week along several fronts. Insurgents appear to be seizing larger swaths of land thanks to heavy weaponry and the alleged presence of Russian regular forces.

“This is a very blatant landgrab, and it is in direct contravention to the Minsk agreements which they signed up to,” Kerry told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

The Minsk Protocol, which was signed by representatives from rebel militias along with Ukrainian and Russian officials, called for the orderly withdrawal of foreign fighters and heavy weaponry from the battlefields in southeastern Ukraine. However, the plan continues to be consistently ignored, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of combatants amid renewed fighting.

Earlier on Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated claims that Russia continues to supply men and military hardware to insurgent militias battling the Ukrainian military.

“For several months, we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. We are also seeing a substantial increase in the number of Russian heavy equipment in eastern Ukraine,” said Stoltenberg during a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg this week. “This does not contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict.

Following a meeting at the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power lambasted the Kremlin via Twitter for their alleged role in backing the separatists and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin for overseeing an “occupation plan” rather than backing the peace accords.

During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of sending an estimated 9,000 troops across the border into his nation’s conflict-riven Donbas region.

“The country is facing the aggression not only regarding Crimea, but also regarding the significant part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. About 9,000 Russian [troops] are in the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told the assembled heads of state and economists.

However, Russia continues to deny that it is providing direct support to separatist fighters and balked at Washington’s efforts to contain the country through myriad sanctions.

“Only the people of Ukraine without any foreign interference must determine their future,” Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday. “For its part, Russia will continue to assist the creation of favorable conditions to settle Ukraine’s formidable problems in this spirit.”

TIME europe

Europe Mulls a Russian Language TV Channel to Counter Moscow Propaganda

President Nicolas Sarkozy Meets With Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Diplomats feel they are losing the information war to Russia

Latvian government officials don’t mince words when expressing their views on Russian media. The state-backed television channels beaming into European homes amount to “Goebbels-style propaganda” and are “lying 24/7”, says Viktors Makarovs, an adviser to Latvia’s Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Since the West and Russia reverted to old Cold War animosities after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year, E.U. and NATO officials have accused Russia of using state media to exploit historical grievances and spread misinformation about the war in Ukraine. The aim, they say, is to discredit the E.U. and stoke tensions among Russian-speaking communities across Europe.

Now Latvia is proposing that the E.U. fights back with its own Russian-language television station. “We cannot just prohibit it,” Makarovs told reporters in the Latvian capital recently, “but we want to create an alternative of comparable quality in technical terms.”

Creating a product of comparable quality to Russia’s slick media machine is, however, the key challenge. While the Kremlin is still sinking money into its state channels despite its recent economic woes and has developed a coherent ideological narrative, the governments of the E.U. remain beset by foreign policy splits and are unlikely to devote their shrinking budgets to a TV station that is not commercially-viable, says Matthew Bryza, a former U.S. diplomat now working for the Estonia-based International Center for Defense Studies.

“It will be very difficult to get a sustained budget and a sustained effort that provides quality programming,” he says.

Makarovs says that the idea is to launch a Russian-language channel produced by independent media experts in the E.U. that would reach Russian-speakers both within the union’s borders and in Russia. He says the plan has tentative support from Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and the U.K.. But it is the Baltic states like Latvia and Estonia — where Russian-speakers represent around a quarter of the population — that the need is most acute.

Russian stations like Channel One, Russia1 and NTV-Mir broadcast comedy shows, soap operas and action moves, as well as slick documentaries and current affairs programs that attract audiences with their high production values.

“The success or failure always boils down to whether or not you can get content that people want to watch — no one is going to flip on a TV station which seems propagandist,” says Bryza.

Makarovs insists that is not their intention: “The easy way would be to create a media financed by the E.U. that would be a Brussels mouthpiece… which would be the stupidest thing to do.”

But that is exactly how Moscow sees it. On January 12, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov accused the E.U. of being the side peddling propaganda. “We’ve always taken a positive position on the freedom of speech,” he said, “but the E.U. plans for creating a kind of counter-propaganda channel can hardly correspond to the concept of freedom of speech.”

Russian media representatives continually deny charges of misinformation, and paint Western media outlets as paranoid or equally prone to bias. But recent budget hikes for state outlets suggest the Kremlin remains committed to its media strategy. It’s flagship foreign-language station RT is getting a funding increase to expand into France and Germany. The state news agency Rossiya Segodnya has also had a budget increase, and last year launched its new English-language Sputnik news service.

The head of the BBC World Service, meanwhile, complained in an interview with The Guardian that they were being “financially outgunned” by Russian outlets. For these reasons, Bryza says he is “not optimistic” of the success of any new channel.

Privately, diplomats are sceptical that the E.U. television station will move beyond the planning phases. But there is a growing understanding that information warfare has to be a priority.

The foreign ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Britain earlier this month wrote a letter to the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, warning of the dangers of Russian propaganda. “The objectives are to discredit E.U. narratives, erode support for legitimate Governments in the region, demoralize local populations, disorient Western policy-makers, and undermine the concept of free, independent, pluralistic media,” the paper reads.

Possible counter-measures include boosting support for exiled Russian-language bloggers and existing independent Russian-language media, and challenging Russian media reports though sites like StopFake.org. David Welch, director of the Centre for the Study of War, Propaganda & Society at Britain’s University of Kent, points to the recent success in using fact-based analysis to disprove reports in Russian media of a three-year-old boy crucified in Ukraine, and allegations that a Ukrainian jet that shot down the passenger aircraft, MH17.

He argues that the E.U. should not shy away from an aggressive media campaign of its own, and seize the opportunity to highlight any cracks in the Russian narrative of strength and power. “Increasingly oppressive measures at home together with sanctions and oil prices have clearly undermined the Russian message and inevitably led to more open questioning within Russia,” he tells TIME. “It is this disaffection that offer the West a core focus for its propaganda.”

The truth is the best weapon the E.U. has, analysts say. Now it just needs to find a way to counter Moscow’s grip on the Russian-language airwaves or its target audience will never hear it.

TIME europe

E.U. Ministers Discuss Jihadist Threat in Wake of Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attacks

BELGIUM-EU-FRANCE-ATTACKS-MEDIA
European Union flags fly at half-mast at the European Parliament in Brussels on Jan. 8, 2015, following the attack against French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images

The meeting comes days after authorities foiled terrorist plots in Belgium, France and Germany

Twenty-eight Foreign Ministers are set to meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss persistent threats against the European Union from Islamist militants, as well as the renewed fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents.

However, the ministers are not scheduled to hammer out any decisions regarding how the bloc will respond to threats from potential terror cells, according to Agence France-Presse.

Last week, authorities in Belgium foiled a failed terrorist plot, resulting in the death of two armed suspects. Similar raids were also launched in Germany and France a week after three gunmen linked to Yemen- and Syria-based terrorist networks carried out a series of high-profile attacks across Paris that resulted in the deaths of 17 people, including a dozen at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Thousands of Europeans are believed to have traveled to battlefields in both Iraq and Syria to fight alongside Islamist militias, raising concerns among E.U. officials over what the battle-hardened jihadists are capable of doing if they return home.

The ministers are also slated to discuss renewed tensions between Kiev and Moscow as fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Kremlin insurgents has escalated in recent weeks.

Reports swirled on Monday that Ukrainian troops retook Donetsk airport over the weekend after launching a massive counteroffensive against Russian-backed separatists in the area.

TIME europe

How Islam Became the Fastest-Growing Religion in Europe

French colonialism and immigration policies across Europe helped fuel migration from the Muslim world

The religiously motivated terror attacks in France last week have exacerbated anti-Islamic sentiments across Europe, with a record 25,000 people joining anti-immigrant protests in Germany on Monday.

But even as polls show anti-Islamist sentiment rising, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Europe. Nearly 5 million Muslims live in France, the largest Muslim population in Europe, and some 4 million live in Germany.

In the video above, TIME foreign correspondent Simon Shuster discusses how French colonialism and immigration policies throughout Europe helped fuel migration from the Muslim world.

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