Russian disinformation is constantly spreading false information and fighting for the hearts and souls of social media users. The subject of the analysis in this report are individual narratives spreading in the Baltic States (in Russian), Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. The report summarises the work of several NGOs cooperating within the Open Information Partnership (including our service) in the period of July 11 through July 17, 2022.
Similarly to the previous report, a few themes can be distinguished around which the false pro-Russian narrative is centred. These are:
- Events of the War,
- Situation of Russian minorities in different countries,
- Ukrainian refugees and their status in different countries,
- Consequences of economic sanctions on Russia,
- Military threat to Eastern Europe,
- Consequences of the broadly understood military aid to Ukraine.
In case of the key false narratives, hyperlinks have been provided to point the reader to appropriate pages. The word “key” refers to articles and posts that generated a significant number of interactions (i.e. comments, likes, or shares).
Russian disinformation in the Baltic states: record high gas and oil prices and the coming recession
During the period in question, Russian propaganda channels focused on emphasizing the consequences of imposing sanctions on Russia. They presented gas and oil prices in Lithuania, Estonia and Western countries as record high. In their opinion, it is Lithuania and Estonia that will be the first European Union countries to suffer from recession. What is more, due to the allegedly continued blockade of the Kaliningrad Oblast, Germany and truck drivers are to suffer.
Narratives accusing Ukrainian soldiers of attacking civilian objects appeared in the propaganda messages with less intensity than previously. Instead, information about the imminent defeat of Ukraine and the fatigue of the defenders was provided more often. The focus was also on the alleged decreasing interest of Western states in continuing to provide aid and confrontation with Moscow.
Pro-Russian narrators also emphasised the facts of attacks on Russian culture. They accused Latvians of spending too much money on dismantling Soviet monuments and claimed that politicians in the Baltic states were deliberately fuelling Russophobic sentiments.
Attempts to discredit the Ukrainian army and refugees
In relation to all events related to the war, pro-Russian sites emphasised the participation of “mercenaries” in the fighting. In order to authenticate this narrative, they used the examples of killed volunteers from the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine, whom Russian propaganda presents as mercenaries.
Russian disinformation continued to highlight tensions between the West and Ukraine. In order to authenticate its message, accusations made against Germany by one of Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisers were quoted. Several articles accused the Ukrainian army of shelling civilian objects in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. Pro-Russian channels tried to highlight the declining interest in providing Ukraine with any kinds of aid. In order to authenticate this message, two examples were used:
- The European Union withdrew from the blockade of Kaliningrad because it did not have a good effect on the economies of the member states;
- The European Union suspends deliveries of aid to Ukraine due to the energy crisis.
To make the narrative of Ukraine’s defeat more plausible, huge personal and territorial losses on the Ukrainian side are highlighted. At the same time, Russian propaganda is attempting to portray the West as using Ukraine to fight Russia. In this context, Russia’s actions are presented as an opportunity for NATO expansion to the east, which would pose a threat to Russian security; the sanctions are said to be hitting ordinary Russians.
Russian disinformation continues its efforts to portray Ukrainians as Nazis. For this purpose, Ukrainian anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews in 1941 are recalled.
Refugees were accused of violating the stability of their host countries in the region. Lithuania and Latvia are not expected to have sufficient funds to cover the living costs of Ukrainian refugees.
Ineffective anti-Russian sanctions and incentives to remain neutral
There are narratives that emphasise the dissatisfaction of citizens caused by the anti-Russian sanctions, which have led to high oil and gas prices. Pro-Russian narrators point out that some European politicians consider the sanctions useless. They also draw attention to the alleged economic growth in Russia and the strengthening of the rouble despite the sanctions imposed on Russia.
It is worth paying attention to the narrative that encourages neutrality in order to avoid being drawn into a war. A perfect example of this is a statement by one of the Duma deputies, in which he criticised the aggressive attitude of Moldova and Lithuania.
Russian disinformation in Bulgaria: Bulgarian state will collapse without Russia and is on the wrong side of the conflict
As before, Russian propaganda tried to introduce a strong anti-Western perspective in connection with the Russo-Ukrainian war. It emphasised that Bulgaria had chosen the wrong side and agreed to be a puppet of Western countries. Following such a course by the Bulgarian authorities is expected to lead to the complete collapse of the state without the support of its former ally, Russia. This narrative has been used to criticise the government and suggest that early elections are needed in the country.
Regarding the sanctions, pro-Russian narrators emphasise the failure of attempts to isolate and stop Russia, as countries outside of Western influence support Vladimir Putin. In their opinion, the weakening of the euro indicates the failure of the sanctions, and Russia is to refuse to supply sufficient amounts of gas to Western countries this winter, which in the future will result in a high demand for new supplies of Russian gas.
Russian disinformation “informed” about alleged plans of attacking Russia by the West through Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko stated that the West is seeking a global conflict and that the armies must remain on standby.
The Russian disinformation campaign contributes to creating a negative image of the Bulgarian government. In this type of propaganda messages, the view is being pushed that the sanctions will lead to the collapse of the government in Sofia. The aim of these actions is the collapse of the currently ruling coalition and early elections. These efforts are to result in better representability of pro-Russian parties in the parliament. In addition, Russian disinformers claim that Bulgaria is ruled by “agents” at the service of the West. It is also not surprising that they try to convince the audience that Russia is winning the war.
Russian disinformation in Czechia: it was the West that provoked Russia to attack
During the period in question, pro-Russian disinformation platforms focused on the events of the Russo-Ukrainian war. They blamed the West for provoking Russia to attack the Ukrainian state. They also cited UN reports, which were used to make accusations of using civilians as human shields by Ukrainian troops. There were also typical pro-Russian narratives in which the following information was reported:
- Ukraine lost the war,
- Ukrainians are Nazis,
- Foreign ”mercenaries”, agents of intelligence services and operators of special forces of foreign powers are fighting in the Ukrainian Army.
Russian disinformation among our southern neighbours is also trying to force the thesis that Poland is trying to annex the territory of Ukraine.
An attempt of energy blackmail, building the view that Ukraine belongs to Russia
Pro-Russian channels are also trying to build a narrative around issues related to energy security. They emphasise that the consequence for Western countries for imposing sanctions will be an energy and food crisis. They are trying to highlight their devastating impact on regular citizens and their households, and build a belief in the deadly energy consequences of successive anti-Russian economic sanctions. They would have an impact on the global energy market.
Disinformation activities were carried out in connection with the Russian decree which allows Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship. The narrative built around this issue tried to create a conviction about the impending collapse of Ukrainian statehood due to massive efforts by Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship.
Military aid is prolonging the war and exacerbating the global food crisis
In the Czech information space, military aid provided to Ukraine is presented by Russian propaganda as a weakening of the military potential of its suppliers. It is worth noting here that the narratives about military and economic aid delivered to Ukraine are interconnected. What is new, however, is the link between the global food crisis and the provision of military aid by Western countries, which prolongs the war and exacerbates the problems related to food security.
Russian disinformation in Estonia: Ukrainian refugees are HIV-positive prostitutes
Limited disinformation content in Estonian has been observed in the Estonian information space. The trend of spreading disinformation in the Russian language seems to be continued. This allows the fake content to reach the Russian-speaking part of the country’s population in a much easier way. Russian disinformation focused on issues related to refugees and events related to the war. In addition, Estonian disinformation researchers have detected several minor narratives.
The Ukrainian army is attacking civilian facilities, and Ukrainian refugees pose a threat to the health of Estonians
Russian propaganda accuses the Ukrainian army of attacking civilian facilities. For this purpose, it uses a UN report which actually mentions several such incidents. Most of the report, however, points to Russian actions targeting the civilian population.
The pro-Russian message presents Ukrainian refugees as a threat to the health of Estonians. According to propagandists, the Estonian Health Chamber said that Ukrainians constitute as much as 57% of people infected with HIV in Estonia. The same article quoted the chairman of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party and agreed with his statement, in which he accused Ukrainian women of prostitution and spreading sex diseases in Estonia.
The pro-Russian disinformation message also presents Ukrainian authorities as corrupt. Propaganda portrays corruption in Ukraine as the alleged cause of the war. The pro-Kremlin message shows the Western, and especially the Estonian media as incompetent. Domestic media allegedly lie about the military operations in Ukraine, and they are also unable to correctly translate English articles.
Russian disinformation in Georgia: The West is trying to drag us into the war!
Georgia’s pro-Russian media continues to provide a space for far-right and pro-Russian politicians and activists to speak. They are trying to justify Russian aggression and prove that Western countries are tired of the war, the Ukrainian army suffers huge losses, and accuse the United States and its allies of waging war with Russia.
Liberal media allegedly lie about the losses of the Ukrainian army, and Russian propaganda tries to legitimise aggression against Ukraine
According to one of the activists of the Conservative Movement, Ukraine is to lose the war. A representative of this party stated on Alt-Info TV channel that the Ukrainian army suffered 80% of the losses, and the liberal media concealed this fact. The message is to be validated by a recording published on Telegram, in which one can see citizens being encouraged to join the army on the streets of Ukrainian cities. However, Ukrainians are to evade serving in the army.
Another member of the aforementioned organization stated in Alt-Info that it was the West that forced Russia to attack Ukraine. In his opinion, the invasion of Russia was provoked by Ukrainian attempts to join NATO. The following war-related narratives are also visible in the Georgian media space:
- The West uses Ukraine to fight its war against Russia,
- Poland will annex Ukraine,
- Ukrainians refuse to continue to fight.
As mentioned above, there are noticeable attempts to justify and legitimise Russian aggression. One of the Alt-Info presenters tried to justify the Russian aggression by saying that the media in the West had distorted the word “intervention”, and tried to portray the Russian Federation as an expansionist state. He also supported Russia’s actions, noting that it was trying to create Novorossiya from territories that were within the borders of the USSR until the 1920s.
The guest of the program, Giorgi Kiknadze, added that Russia’s actions are politically fair. Another interlocutor tried to force the narrative regarding Russia’s much greater combat capabilities. In his opinion, Russia has modern military equipment of the highest class, and the claim that it plans to win the war only with the use of outdated military equipment is not true. He also stated that Russia simply had to get rid of the equipment accumulated after World War II.
Allegedly privileged refugees and indestructible Russian economy
Pro-Russian messages still present refugees as privileged in relation to other citizens. One of the Facebook pages shared a post criticising the authorities in Tbilisi for providing financial support to refugees from Ukraine. According to the propaganda line, the city authorities should not provide such assistance due to the hostility of the authorities in Kiev towards Georgia, and many Georgian citizens live in difficult conditions.
During the broadcast of one of the programs on Kartuli TV – a station responsible for spreading disinformation regarding COVID-19 – references were made to anti-Russian sanctions as the cause of the war. If European leaders had guaranteed Moscow that they would not follow the example of the United States and impose economic sanctions on Russia, there would be no war.
There are also narratives stating that the Russian economy has strengthened as a result of the sanctions. The pro-Russian TV station repeated the claims of a celebrity known for spreading false information about the coronavirus pandemic. The Georgian celebrity claimed that Russian economy has strengthened and that the European one is struggling. She also promised to show materials about the alleged strikes and problems with meeting the daily needs of European citizens. Reports of secret trade between Western countries and Russia are still present in the Georgian information space.
The West is allegedly ready to sacrifice Georgia and Ukraine
Also, noteworthy is a post on the pro-Russian fan page presenting destroyed Tbilisi. It is accompanied by accusations against Ukraine, the West and Georgian opposition groups of attempts to drag Georgia into the war. The consent to open the second front would result in granting Georgia the status of a candidate to the European Union. One of the Alt-Info TV executives accuses the West of trying to provoke a war and involve Georgia in it. He also states that the U.S. and Western countries are ready to sacrifice Ukraine and Georgia to achieve their political goals.
The anti-Western expert said on Alt-Info TV that NATO countries are no longer capable of sending arms to Ukraine. In his opinion, the U.S. does not have weapons of strategic importance in stock, and France will take 18 months to restock its arsenal. Later in his speech, he accuses Volodymyr Zelensky of acting to the detriment of European countries. By accepting military aid from European countries, the President of Ukraine is to leave them defenceless. Russian disinformation continues to focus on tracking widespread corruption in the ranks of the Ukrainian army. Weapons supplied by the West are expected to disappear and probably end up on the black market.
The Ukrainian political leadership is allegedly lacking in competences, which is to lead to growing tensions between politicians and the brave Ukrainian army. This results in deteriorating daily relations between the political class and the military command.
Russian disinformation in Hungary: Russian army destroys Ukrainian equipment and mercenaries
In the Hungarian media space, it is noteworthy that the number of interactions significantly above average was generated by an article containing false information about the ongoing armed conflict. This trend has started two weeks ago. Significantly higher numbers of comments, likes and reactions are difficult to explain. It should be assumed that pro-Russian channels use bots to artificially promote selected articles.
Russian disinformation claims that the West is losing interest in helping
The most popular topic covered by Russian disinformation channels was events related to military actions. Three articles focused on the West’s alleged loss of interest in helping Ukraine. The goal of this narrative was to confirm the reluctance and hostility of citizens of Western countries (Czechia and Poland in particular). Attempts were also made to convey false information about the alleged suspension by the Italian government of arms supplies to the fighting Ukrainians. More articles served as a propaganda tube through which Russian dignitaries could spread false information about military successes and the destruction of Western weapons.
Narratives presenting Western volunteers fighting in the International Legion of Territorial Defence as mercenaries are still present. As are articles promoting the pro-Russian point of view on the conflict, according to which the West forced Russia to attack. This narrative is based on the analysis stating that the attack on Ukraine was justified because Ukraine had breached international law.
Scotland allegedly stops supporting refugees from Ukraine, and the Russian economy has not suffered from the sanctions
Refugees from Ukraine are still presented as unwelcome. One article presented Scotland’s decision to halt its refugee assistance program as a clear signal to support this thesis. As regards the economic sanctions imposed on Russia, the dominant narrative is that they haven’t done any damage. Articles on this topic focus on the consequences of halting gas and oil exports to Europe.
Middle East countries (have not) joined the BRICS group, and the European Union and NATO will fall apart
Two articles present the likely joining of the BRICS group by Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as a fact that has already taken place. The purpose of disinformation is also to spread false information about Ukraine’s independence. One of the websites published a Hungarian version of a text about Ban Ki-moon written by Simon Parkes. The former UN secretary general allegedly stated that Ukraine is not an independent state, as its borders were registered after 1991.
Efforts are made to present the Ukrainian authorities in a bad light. An example of such rhetoric is an article claiming that Zelenskiy was furious over the news that Canada had not imposed any sanctions. Articles embracing the rhetoric of the imminent collapse of the European Union and NATO focus on identifying more European politicians who will have to step down, like Boris Johnson. The same texts point to the potential fact of the extension of the BRICS group, which is to indicate that the countries of the Global South choose Russia as their ally.
Ukrainian leaders are still portrayed as incompetent. An example of spreading this narrative are posts in social media implying Volodymyr Zelensky’s mental illness. There is also a message emphasising the European Union’s drive for war, and presenting Viktor Orbán as a politician who cannot be drawn into the war and who cares about the interests of his country.
Russian disinformation in Latvia: narratives built around conspiracy theories
The trend of spreading Russian propaganda in Russian is still visible. There were just a few misinforming articles targeting Latvian-speaking audiences. It is worth noting that Russian disinformation focused on spreading disinformation around conspiracy theories. The narratives were built around:
- accusations against Ukrainian liberals who are supposed to use the war to promote their progressive views,
- implications that the war is a part of a global conspiracy,
- emphasising the fact that politicians are becoming richer due to the war.
In Latvia, the idea of introducing compulsory military service is being discussed. This topic was also touched by pro-Kremlin disinformation channels. They questioned the necessity and ability of Latvia to defend itself in a possible war with Russia, as well as the benefits of NATO membership. One of the articles also mentioned the weakening of Germany caused by the sanctions imposed on Russia. Then, in the same text, it was also concluded that the sanctions are part of a global conspiracy.
Russian disinformation in Lithuania: the aftermath of the Kaliningrad blockade
During the period under review, Russian propaganda focused mainly on the following issues:
- Military activities,
- Military aid provided to Ukraine,
- The introduction by Lithuania of the provisions of the European Commission regarding the transit of goods to the Kaliningrad Oblast.
Regarding the latter, pro-Kremlin channels have speculated that Lithuania has been put up against the wall. The transit activities were allegedly to escalate tensions and scare the public.
Russia was provoked by the West, and Ukraine is responsible for the food crisis
One Facebook user quoted Noam Chomsky. The philosopher stated that the United States provoked Russia to attack Ukraine. The U.S. was supposed to do this by trying to expand NATO to include the Ukrainian state. He then added that the Russo-Ukrainian war began in 2014 (Euromaidan). In his opinion, it is for this reason that the Ukrainians themselves started the war and are responsible for it.
One of the authors of disinformation suggested political repression was taking place in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine. Next, he stated that the Ukrainian army was shelling civilian targets in the Kherson region using Western-supplied HIMARS launchers.
Typical narratives are also present. Articles on pro-Kremlin websites claim that Ukraine is losing the war. The authors of the disinformation declare that the Ukrainian state has been defeated and that the West must come to terms with it. Another article suggested that the powers had already decided the outcome of the war and that the public had been deceived. The last of them emphasises that Russia’s victory is inevitable, and building good relations with this country (and Belarus) is necessary.
Disinformation channels continue to accuse Ukrainians of Nazism. In one of the posts, citizens of the country under attack were called Russophobic Nazis who want to sell their country to Western colonisers. Others accuse Ukrainians of committing war crimes since 2014. Another internet user accused Ukraine of deliberately causing the global food crisis. He presented a video of a helicopter firing flares that he believes set their farmlands ablaze.
Anti-Russian sanctions are illegal and the supply of weapons is immoral
Pro-Russian propaganda sources continue to try to prove the harmlessness and illegality of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia. In the first case, we are dealing with out-of-context excerpts of articles from the world’s media. The author of the above-mentioned misinformation stated that anti-Russian sanctions are as ineffective as vaccines against COVID-19. On the other hand, freezing Russian assets abroad is allegedly illegal.
Vaidas Lekstutis claimed that providing weapons to Ukraine is immoral. In his opinion, the supplied weapons can be used to attack civilian objects. At the same time, a country providing military aid may find itself under Russian occupation when the geopolitical situation changes.
Another author in his article stated that Europe is economically exhausted by providing aid to Ukraine. However, he did not include any credible sources to support his thesis.
“Family” quarrel, lack of transparency in aid for Ukraine, and Article 5 of the Washington Treaty
Furthermore, Eduardas Vaitkus claimed that Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians are in fact one nation. According to him, they should follow the example of China, where people living in different regions speak differently, but they live in the same country. Vaitkus probably suggests that Russia, Ukraine and Belarus should form one state. Another possible interpretation of Vaitkus’s words is one in which the war is seen as a quarrel between “brothers.”
Ignas Vėgėlė stated that the aid provided to Ukraine is not transparent enough. Later on, he suspects that some powers may derive financial benefits by “misappropriating” the aid provided. The authors of the remaining articles insinuate that the aid is not reaching Ukraine and is being bought at inflated prices.
In another disinforming material, one can read that people should not put so much hope in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. The alleged reason for that is Germany’s objection to financially support Ukraine. According to Dainius Razauskas, Poland is a threat to Lithuania. In his opinion, the south-eastern part of his country is for Poland what Donbas is for Russia.
The war in Ukraine is portrayed in pro-Russian messages as part of a global conspiracy. According to one of the users of social media, there is no war in Ukraine. Jews, Anglo-Saxons and other “clans” fight there. On the other hand, another pro-Kremlin commentator suspects that Jews, under the disguise of war, are preparing or carrying out a purge of local residents of Ukraine.
Russian disinformation in North Macedonia: NATO is the new crusaders
In the Macedonian internet space, there has been a tendency to publish several articles covering one event or one statement by Russian dignitaries. Portals publish the same text twice, but with a changed header.
Russian propaganda outlets portray NATO as the new fascists. At the same time, they emphasise that Alexander Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin already know the strategy of the West. They present the North Atlantic Alliance and the West as a dividing force between the Slavs and the Orthodox. In support of this claim, accusations are made towards NATO of causing the break-up of Yugoslavia. The President of Belarus described the alliance as “new crusaders” at a meeting of graduates of Belarusian military schools. On the occasion of an extraordinary meeting of the lower house of the Duma, the pro-Russian sites forced the narrative that Russia had not yet shown what it could do.
Economic effects of the sanctions
In posts and articles that take up the pro-Russian narrative, the authors emphasise that Russia has not been affected by the sanctions. For this purpose, they use an insulting statement of Dmitry Medvedev, in which he states that the Russian economy is doing well. In his statement, the vice-chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation ignored the fact that in the first quarter the number of Russian people living in poverty rose from 12 million to 21 million.
The propaganda channels also show narratives about the alleged accession of Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to the BRICS group.
RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental missiles and the alliance of the Balkan states
Researchers have seen the return of narratives regarding the RS-28 Sarmat ICBMs. In order to emphasise the Russian military advantage, the author highlights their modernity and successfully completed tests in a post describing the tested missiles.
Four articles also make references to Putin’s alleged statements about creating a neutral military alliance of the four Balkan states (hence the name B4). Narratives of this type about the alleged coalition could be found as early as in 2016. Disinformation related to this topic, however, returned due to the actions of Ljupco Palevski – the leader of a far-right party.
Russian disinformation in Poland: the Volhynian massacre and the “Stop Ukrainianization of Poland” project
The topics most willingly taken up by pro-Russian activists and activists in Poland are:
- the Volhynian massacre and the Ukrainians’ failure to admit their guilt, and the inaction of the Polish government for political reasons,
- Refugees and the threat they pose.
Ukrainians are Nazis who sucked out the Bandera cult with their mother’s milk
A post was published on the far-right site in social media suggesting the rise of tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv. The author of the post tried to prove that the real enemy of Poland is not the Russians, but the Ukrainians. This was evidenced by the fact that a film about Katyn was screened in Russian cinemas, and an analogous film about Volhynia was not showed in Ukrainian cinemas. Ukrainians are still presented as Nazis. The authors, on the basis of materials taken out of context about the niche cult of Stepan Bandera, try to prove that this ideology is common in Ukraine.
The above narrative about the cult of Stepan Bandera is connected with the one about the West fighting Russia with Ukrainian hands. NATO is to weaken Russia with the help of Ukraine. Until then, the Polish government must tolerate the cult of Bandera, common among Ukrainians. One of the pro-Russian portals has published a text by John Mearsheimer in which he proves that Russia was provoked by the United States. The invasion was supposed to be caused by the threat allegedly posed by Ukraine joining NATO. According to the narrative in question, the U.S. is not interested in ending the war, on the contrary – it wants to prolong it.
An interview with Stanisław Srokowski was published on the same website. He stated that the outbreak of the war was provoked by the United States in order to weaken Russia. Srokowski also paints a dark scenario in which Ukrainians change Poland’s demography, enter the Sejm and enforce their territorial claims.
Przemysław Piast published an article claiming that Ukrainians are neo-Nazis because UPA murderers are their heroes.
In a text published on another pro-Russian website, the author claimed that calling military operations in eastern Ukraine a war should be considered disinformation. According to him, in order to talk about a war taking place on a given territory, it must first be declared.
“Stop Ukrainianization of Poland”
At the meeting of the Parliamentary Team for International Relations and the Interests of Poland and the Polish Diaspora, the project “Stop Ukrainianization of Poland” was discussed. It was prepared by the Confederation of the Crown of Poland. Far-right politicians argued that:
- Ukrainians pose an epidemiological threat,
- The Polish government does not act in the best interest of its citizens,
- The privileges enjoyed by Ukrainians are a proof of the organised resettlement action of Ukrainians aimed at the Ukrainization of Poland,
- Currently, ideas are being discussed assuming the participation of Ukrainians in the elections in Poland, which would bring the victory of the Ukrainian minority.
The authors of two posts on far-right pages repeat the narrative about the privileges of Ukrainian refugees. This is evidenced by the fact that Polish universities have prepared places for students from Ukraine.
An article appeared on the pro-Russian portal legaartis.pl claiming that Poles who lent their flats or houses to “displaced persons” notice the increasing inconvenience caused by their “ill-considered decisions”. They want to free themselves from the “intruders”. According to the portal, it is not easy from a legal point of view. Several private property owners in Międzyzdroje have found out about it. The portal informed about calls to leave the premises, with which the Ukrainians allegedly would not comply.
Poland escalates the war, the West’s reluctance to help, and the Volhynian massacre
Marcin Skalski stated in his article that Poland is not the goal of Putin. In his opinion, the Polish government is doing everything possible to make this attack happen.
A text was published on a right-wing website in which a thesis was put forward about the West’s reluctance to send aid to Ukraine. The article states that Poland is one of the countries that help the most, but the price is paid by ordinary citizens struggling with the economic crisis. The Polish government – according to the author – works to the detriment of the Polish nation, and in addition, Ukrainians demand much more funds than the ones offered.
On a pro-Russian website, known for spreading conspiracy theories, a statement was made that the Polish Armed Forces were disarmed by sending aid to Ukraine.
12 articles reminding about the Volhynia massacre were published in the Polish media. These narratives are intended to deepen the division between Polish and Ukrainian citizens. The texts aimed at the Polish government are intended to show its ineptitude and servility towards Ukraine, and thus to show the lack of Polish sovereignty or lack of respect for the victims of these events. The articles aimed at the Ukrainian authorities are intended to convince the reader that Ukrainians still consider the Ukrainian Insurgent Army as heroes, which is to prove that they are neo-Nazis.
Russian Disinformation in Slovakia: Questioning aid to Ukraine, and sanctions hit the West
In the Slovak information space, articles about Western sanctions adversely affecting the economies of Western countries, not Russia, achieved the greatest number of interactions. The second most widespread narrative was the questioning of military aid to Ukraine. The topic was taken up in two articles and it reached the number of 14 thousand interactions. Many of the pro-Russian posts were intended to maintain the anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western tone of the discourse in order to distort the image of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The almost complete lack of narratives targeting Ukrainian refugees is noteworthy.
The West is fighting with Ukrainian hands, and the Ukrainians refuse to fight
Russian disinformation continues to spread two mutually exclusive narratives. The first talks about the use of Ukraine by the global West to wage war with Russia. The second shows the Ukrainian army in a bad light. Allegedly, new recruits are sought in bars and pubs, but the recruiters’ actions are not effective – Ukrainians are to refuse to join the army.
The sanctions are hitting Western countries, and Russia will suspend gas supplies
Topics related to the sanctions imposed on Russia were taken up in 17 posts in total, and they obtained a total number of interactions close to 90,000. The first of the most widespread pro-Russian narratives says that the sanctions did not harm the Russian economy and that they are responsible for the difficult economic and energy situation in Europe. Other posts raised the topic of Russia’s alleged suspension of gas supplies to Europe. According to the authors, this would cause a terrible crisis.
Weapons sent by the West are allegedly being destroyed by the Russian army
The Russians allegedly continue to destroy military aid sent by Western countries. This narrative in the Slovak media is disseminated by a fan page called Armáda Ruskej Federácie (Army of the Russian Federation).
Incompetence of the Ukrainian authorities and the weakness of the European Union
The pro-Russian media continues to portray the Ukrainian authorities as incompetent. This narrative was discovered in three posts that copied a post by far-right politician Milan Uhrik. In two posts, politicians are accused of caring for Ukraine at the expense of their own citizens.
There is also a narrative about the weakness of the West which is doomed to collapse. Propagandists predicted the collapse of successive European leaders, which is supposed to be heralded by the resignations of Boris Johnson and Mario Draghi. The wave of dismissals would lead to the collapse of the West. In another post on social media, the European Union was accused of hypocrisy. According to the propaganda message, the EU orders Serbia to recognise the independence of Kosovo, and yet it does not recognise the people’s republics in the Donbas region.
Russian disinformation in Ukraine: attempts to slander the Ukrainian authorities, and trade in weapons received from the West
This week, Russian propaganda on Ukrainian Telegram focused on discrediting Ukraine’s political leadership, focusing on publishing information in foreign media about arms smuggling, ineffective sanctions, and the general economic consequences of the war. It is worth noting that the advances of the Ukrainian army near Kherson are discredited and presented as false pro-government information. One can also find disinformation related to the Russian attack in Vinnytsia (the analysis of which is available here).
The advances of the Ukrainian army are not real – Ukrainians are carrying out “controlled terror”, and Poles are privileged in Ukraine
Narratives appeared in six articles trying to prove that there are tensions and misunderstandings between the authorities in Kyiv and the West. Pro-Russian propagandists portray the advances of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the south of the country, near Kherson, as propaganda ploys, thanks to which Kyiv hopes to extort more aid from its Western partners. This way the Ukrainian authorities are supposed to try to keep morale high.
On the occasion of the sentencing to death of a British fighter in Ukraine, attempts were made to discredit Western volunteers fighting in the ranks of the Ukrainian army. According to propagandists, Ukraine will be forced to deal with the issue of “foreign mercenaries”. Also, there are still claims that the Ukrainian government is responsible for the food crisis and wants to make money off of it.
Pro-Russian Telegram accounts also accuse Ukrainians of neo-Nazism and attacks on civilians. In the latter case, open accusations are made against the special forces, the office of the president and the GUR (military intelligence of Ukraine) of using “controlled terror”. Intelligence agents and special forces operators are to organise terrorist attacks, and the president’s office is to support them.
There are also narratives about the privileges of Poles in Ukraine. An example of such a narrative is Diana Panchenko’s post in which she manipulates information on the above subject. Pro-Russian propagandists highlight that Russian missiles hit military targets, not civilian ones. They also emphasise that Ukraine is only a weapon in the hands of the West to fight Russia.
The European Union and human trafficking, and Russia’s unsinkable economy
The European Union allegedly encourages and condones human trafficking, especially regarding Ukrainian women. Ukrainian politicians and construction companies intend to rob Ukraine by building houses for displaced people.
According to propaganda channels, the Russian economy has not even been scarred by the sanctions imposed by the West. At the same time, the posts make claims about the negative impact of the sanctions on the economies of Western countries. In the near future, this will lead to the resignation of many European politicians. The resignation is allegedly due to the ineffectiveness of the sanctions, which did not stop the war and did not force Zelensky to comply with the Minsk agreements. The consequence of the imposition of the sanctions will also be an energy crisis.
Ukrainians and Poles want genocide against the Russians
On various pro-Russian Telegram channels, multiple posts appeared regarding the proposal of the former President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, who had suggested that the number of Russians should be reduced to 50 million. Propagandists took up this topic and described Wałęsa’s plan as genocide. They also suspect that Ukrainians support this idea, which is also the main reason for special status of Poles in Ukraine.
A pro-Russian Telegram channel highlights Russia’s actions, which allegedly allow the use of the Ukrainian language in the occupied territories. The channel presents Ukraine in a negative light in opposition to actions in the occupied territories. It mainly draws attention to the demands of Ukrainian activists to ban the Russian language from schools and to remove monuments commemorating Russians from the streets.
Poland escalates the war, and Ukraine sells weapons supplied by the West
The false thesis about the escalation of the war by the Polish government is still present in the Ukrainian information space. Researchers found many manipulative posts inspired by an article in The New York Times, Atlantico and the Financial Times. The source text concerned the sale of weapons supplied to Ukraine by Western countries.
Russian propaganda also emphasises in Ukraine that military aid sent by the West weakens the military potential of the countries that provide it. It also highlights the alleged fact that supplying weapons prolongs the war.
The West will stop deliveries because of corruption, and the European Union and NATO are weak
There was news on Telegram about alleged war fatigue among Europeans and alleged corruption in Ukraine. For these two reasons, Western countries would stop providing aid to the fighting Ukraine. Accusations of corruption and incompetence against the Ukrainian government appeared in 16 articles. Three articles predicted the European Union / NATO / the West to be weak and doomed to fall apart.
Russian Federation strikes its opponents with an information stream. The attack is meant to “deprive” the victims’ message of information and prioritise own messages. Such activities are carried out using bots, which are designed to break social media algorithms and promote a given disinformation. Activities of this kind in the period under review can be observed in Hungary and Ukraine. This is evidenced by the number of interactions that are much greater than average.
Another of the typical features of Russian propaganda is the adaptation of the message to the specificity of the target country. Disinformers adjust the message to the current social, political and economic situation. In the Baltic states and in Lithuania, disinformation focused on the blockade of the Kaliningrad Oblast is still visible. On the other hand, the Polish media space has been dominated for a considerable time by disinformation related to the Volhynia massacre. In Bulgaria, propaganda tries to discredit the authorities.
Typical of the Russian rhetoric of the “besieged fortress” are messages about Ukraine provoking Russia’s attack in an attempt to join NATO. This narrative line, which creates the image of Russia as an endangered and disadvantaged state after the collapse of the USSR, has been used for a long time, but it has intensified before February 24.
Russian disinformation in the reviewed period uses a relatively subdued message, but attention should be paid to the use of mutually exclusive narratives. An out-of-context UN report was used to support the propaganda message in the Czech Republic. This is new. As is the claim that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have joined the BRICS countries. This message shows Russia in a positive light and aims to convince readers of Russia’s lack of political isolation.
Attempts to legitimise Russian aggression against Ukraine and presenting the sanctions as illegal are also worth noting. In connection with the approaching winter, attempts of energy blackmail are also visible.
False information is repeated by major Russian politicians. Channels spreading disinformation serve as a propaganda mouthpiece for Russian dignitaries. Such activities are aimed at disseminating false information among a much larger group of recipients. Moreover, they show that the Kremlin is an ideological monolith.
This report is a result of cooperation between 11 NGOs, think-tanks and researchers associated in the Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group. The group members monitor the narratives that appear on pro-Kremlin websites and in social media in eleven countries of Central and Eastern Europe on a daily basis. During monitoring, particular emphasis is placed on the narratives related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Group was founded in cooperation with Open Information Partnership.
Partners: Civic Resilience Initiative (Lithuania), Analyses and Alternatives (Bulgaria), Prague Security Studies Initiative (Czechia), GRASS (Georgia), Atlatszo (Hungary), MOCT (North Macedonia), Fakenews.pl (Poland), Slovak Security Policy Institute (Slovakia), Detector Media (Ukraine), DebunkEu.org (Lithuania).