Russia is trying to topple Angela Merkel, according to a Nato expert

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REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel answer journalists' questions during a joint news conference in Moscow's Kremlin November 16, 2012.

Russia is stirring up anger over immigrants in Germany to topple Angela Merkel, a senior Nato communications expert told The Observer newspaper.

Janis Sarts, director of Nato's Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, based in Riga, Latvia, said Russia is installing a communications network in Germany "that can be controlled" to stoke political unrest for German Chancellor Merkel.

Sarts told The Observer: "[Russia] is establishing a network that can be controlled. You can use it as they have tried to do in Germany, combined with the legitimate issue of refugees, to undercut political processes in a very serious way.

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He said: "Angela Merkel has been a very adamant supporter of continued sanctions against Russia If it was just punishment, that would be OK - but it is testing whether they can build on pre-existing problems and create a momentum where there is political change in Germany.

"I think they test whether they can - in such a big country, with not so many vulnerabilities in normal times - actually create a circumstance through their influence where there is a change of top leadership. They are using Russian speakers, social media, trying to build on the existing faultlines. Use the far right narrative and exploit that."

Sarts said: "In general terms, you can trace Russian funding to the extreme forces in Europe. Either left or right - as long as they are extreme, they are good to come into the Russian picture as of possible use in their tactics."

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