Exploring Russian Cyber Interference: A RENPET Scholar’s Journey at the University of Kent

Eugene Kondratov |

Between September and December 2023, I undertook a RENPET-funded research stay at the University of Kent’s School of Politics and International Relations. This period was integral to my PhD thesis, which examines Russia’s hybrid interference campaigns in Western democracies. My primary aim was to explore the changing dynamics of Russian disinformation and cyber interference, assessing the threats they pose and the environments in which they thrive. During my time at Kent, I concentrated on composing the third article of my dissertation. This article specifically investigates the evolving strategies of Russian disinformation, with a focus on the use of the messaging app Telegram in response to Western countermeasures.

During my stay at the University of Kent, I greatly benefited from the supportive and collaborative atmosphere at the School of Politics and International Relations. Under the guidance of my supervisor, Dr Richard Whitman, and with insights from other faculty members, I found an inspirational academic environment. I also engaged in enriching discussions with fellow PhD colleagues and presented my work to them. It was very valuable for me to have a platform where I could share my work and receive diverse and constructive feedback. The perspectives I gained from these interactions significantly contributed to the refinement and advancement of my research.

 

Subheadline suggestion: Support from established academics

In particular, Dr Whitman’s profound knowledge of European policy was pivotal in framing my research within the EU’s institutional perspective. Additionally, valuable input from other faculty members, such as Dr Rubrick Biegon, encouraged me to adopt a more critical approach to analysing disinformation. Dr.Andrew Wroe’s suggestions were instrumental in helping me focus and refine my study’s scope. Beyond the University of Kent, my research benefitted from engaging dialogues with experts from other prestigious institutions, including King’s College London, the London School of Economics, and Oxford University. Interactions with specialists like Dr Tim Stevens, head of KCL’s Cyber Security Research Group, broadened my perspective and gave me new avenues for exploration. These exchanges not only provided me with distinct viewpoints but also played a crucial role in deepening my analysis of the research topic.

My residency at the University of Kent proved to be exceptionally rewarding. It played a key role in advancing my PhD research, enabling me to complete both the empirical and conceptual sections of my article. I am deeply grateful for the warm welcome and continuous support provided by Dr. Richard Whitman, both during and in the lead-up to my stay. My appreciation extends to all members of the research group at the School of Politics and International Relations and the scholarly communities at King’s College London, Oxford University, and the LSE for their invaluable contributions to my research journey. Lastly, I would like to express my sincere thanks to UACES and RENPET for their generous sponsorship, without which this research stay would not have been possible.