Russian disinformation has intensified in accordance with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The subject of 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 is the summary of the work of several organizations associated within the Open Information Partnership in the period from 6 to 26 June 2022.
There are several axes around which a false pro-Russian narrative is being conducted. These are the following:
- events of the war,
- situation of the Russian minorities in different countries,
- Ukrainian refugees and their status in different countries,
- consequences of imposing economic sanctions on Russia,
- military threat to Central Europe,
- consequences of widely understood military support for Ukraine.
Key false narratives have been accompanied by hyperlinks directing the reader to the relevant pages. Key is understood as such articles and entries, which have generated a significant number of interactions such as comments, likes and shares.
Russian disinformation in the Baltic States
Several key narratives about this region can be listed. First of them focuses on the events related to the Russian-Ukrainian war. For example, we can read articles claiming that it was Western countries that forced Russia to attack, Ukrainian soldiers attack civilians, while Russian soldiers are trying to save them. Russian propaganda also emphasizes the weakness and instability of the Ukrainian state, the fact that Western countries do not comply with the norms they have created, and the loss of interest in helping Ukraine. At the end of June, there were also articles spreading false information about the approaching military defeat of Ukrainian troops and the distrust of the Baltic states towards NATO.
Russian disinformation aimed reporting on attempts to destroy Russian cultural heritage (e.g. monuments to Soviet soldiers) and to ban the publication of Russian works of culture, which would force Russia to take action. In this context, it is worth noting that such a discussion is indeed taking place in the Polish press, but all activities related to the boycott of Russian culture are bottom-up and not legally authorized by the Polish Government.
Another axis of the narrative is the military threat to Eastern Europe and the risk of spilling the conflict beyond Ukraine. The following threads can be noted in the published materials: Lithuania is not a legal and independent state, Poland is striving to escalate the war. The articles also concern such issues as the serious consequences to be drawn against Lithuania due to the blockade of the transit of products subject to anti-Russian sanctions to Kaliningrad, the fascisation of the governments of Latvia and Moldova, and the Polish intentions to escalate the war.
Moreover, it is worth mentioning that Russian propaganda is trying to emphasize the economic effects of the sanctions and the support for the fighting Ukraine, such as the increase of the price of gas, social discontent, or the closure of factories.
Russian disinformation in Bulgaria: Russia’s contribution to the prosperity of many countries
In the Bulgarian information space we can distinguish narratives related to: the events of the Russo-Ukrainian war, refugees, the economic consequences of the sanctions, military aid to Ukraine, the threat to Eastern Europe and the risk of spreading the war beyond Ukraine.
In the first narration, there are accusations against the West, saying that it uses Ukraine as a weapon in its fight against Russia and deliberately attacks the Russian economy, despite Russia’s contribution to the prosperity of many countries. The publications also concern the threat posed by Russia to Western European countries, the risk of spreading the conflict to other countries, and inform that the West and the European Union will lift the sanction only after the Russian economy collapse. Some reports appeared at the end of June stating about the pressure made by Western countries on the Ukrainian government in order to surrender.
With regard to refugees, the prevailing narrative says that the Bulgarian Government has mistreated them and calls for stop helping them.
The message about Western sanctions imposed on Russia is dominated by the claim that the Kremlin has expected them and that the restrictions only hit the economy of the countries that imposed them, due to their energy dependence on Russia.
Pro-Russian articles describing military aid to Ukraine push the false narrative that the United States provides weapons, which are capable of destroying entire cities. Their intention is to reveal the “real goal” of the United States, which is to destroy Russia, not to help defend Ukraine’s independence. There was also an article indicating that the financial support received by the Ukrainian state is greater than its budget, but a large part of these funds was stolen by the Ukrainian authorities.
As for the threat to Eastern Europe and the risk of spilling the war beyond Ukraine, Russian disinformation is focusing on the capabilities of the new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.
Russian propaganda in Czechia: Ukraine is losing and this causes economic problems
The Czech media space is dominated by the message that Ukraine is losing the war. The connection between its alleged defeat in the military field and economic problems in Western Europe is also emphasized. There were also articles accusing Ukrainians of attacking civilians and committing war crimes, and highlighting the struggle of “mercenaries” with agents of Western intelligence services on the Ukrainian side.
In one of the articles, Ukraine is accused of causing a global food crisis. What is interesting, this narrative appeared after Zelenskiy’s unsuccessful telephone conversations with African leaders, who are the object of Russia’s geopolitical game for influence.
In one of the posts on social media, Ukrainian refugees are accused that their arrival in the Czech Republic is motivated by economic factors, and is not a consequence of the war that has engulfed Ukraine. The refugees are also accused of introducing disorder and internally destabilizing Czechia.
Regarding the economic issues, the main topic in the articles spreading disinformation is that the economic problems of Western countries result from the military defeat of Ukraine. The economic crisis is pictured as the result of inability to force or persuade the Ukrainian government to conclude an agreement with Russia.
Regarding the security of Eastern Europe and the risk of escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, there have been articles pushing disinformation about a possible Russian attack on Lithuania, which could be justified by the blockade of Kaliningrad. In addition, there are also channels of disinformation that accuse the West of the possibility of a nuclear attack.
Russian disinformation is trying to instill fear of the citizens. The actions of pro-Kremlin propaganda focus on weakening the defence and military potential of Western countries, the responsibility for which is to lay in the military aid from many countries. It also indicates at the waste and theft of Western military aid, and even tries to convince recipients that weapons delivered to Ukraine as aid are later sold to ordinary Ukrainian soldiers. This narrative is intended to undermine the support for Ukraine, pointing out that the authorities that run the state are riddled with corruption.
In addition to the examples of disinformation mentioned above, it is worth to note that in the Czech Republic there are attempts to indicate at the weakness of the European Union and NATO. This is to result in the disintegration of these organizations. Channels spreading disinformation are also trying to accuse organizations such as the Red Cross of trade in human organs in Ukraine.
Russian Disinformation in Estonia: The United States is fighting with the use of Ukrainian hands, and the EU is trying to use the war for its own purposes
Russian disinformation in Estonia is trying to push the narrative stating that the United States started the war and is fighting using Ukrainian hands, and still losing this war. Moreover, attempts were made to prove that information about Russian war crimes is exaggerated.
Narratives related to refugees from Ukraine try to show them as a threat. It is emphasized that the presence of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Estonia may lead to its Russification.
In the context of the consequences of sanctions, there is a repeated disinformation stating that they hit the West to a much greater extent than they hit Russia.
Special attention is drawn to the narrative saying that the European Union is trying to use the Russian-Ukrainian war, like it used the pandemic, in order to create a centralized and unified state. There was also an article stating the presence of secret American labs in Ukraine. Their employees were to work under the protection of diplomatic immunity.
Disinformation in Georgia: secret labs and the “war party”
The dominant narratives in the Georgian media space are those concerning attempts to drag Georgia into the war and the Ukraine’s defeat. Another noticeable activity concerns the accusations of Poland of attempts to seize the territory of Ukraine. There have also been allegations against an alleged lobby group present in the United States that was to push Ukraine into war, as it did with Georgia in 2008.
In the context of refugees, one should note the message accusing Ukrainians of trying to raise a revolution in Georgia, putting Mikheil Saakashvili at power and trying to destabilize the state via participating in political rallies.
With regard to the consequences of introducing sanctions, it is worth mentioning the materials indicating their ineffectiveness and the damage they cause to countries supporting the Ukrainian government. Pro-Kremlin narrators also paint a vision of heavy punishment to be imposed on Georgia by Western countries for failing to implement “radical” sanctions.
In reference to the military aid to Ukraine, the prevailing narrative says that the weapons supplied by the West are used contrary to the arrangements and sold to the black market. Another message states that the supplied weapons will not help Ukrainians win the war.
As in the case of Estonia, there is a narrative in Georgia about the presence of biological labs created in Georgia and Ukraine by the United States. Russian propaganda is also visible as the pressure for the Georgian state to maintain neutrality. According to this narrative, Georgia should give up its aspirations for membership in international structures in order to ensure its security.
Disinformation in Hungary: denazification of Ukraine and the war that saved it from economic collapse
In Hungary, regarding the war, the prevailing narrative says that Ukraine must be de-Nazified, the Russian army is strong, the Ukrainian army is weak and incompetent, while the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine commit war crimes and the Ukrainian government will fall. It is also highlighted that the invasion of Russia saved Ukraine from economic collapse. At the end of June, pro-Russian articles appeared concerning the Lithuanian blockade of the Kaliningrad region.
Russian disinformation accuses the refugees of being lazy and overuse Hungarian hospitality.
In terms of the economic consequences caused by the imposition of sanctions on Russia, there is repeated narrative that they weaken the economy and contribute to its collapse in the West. It is also pointed out that the real cause of the economic crisis in these countries are sanctions.
Another articles appeared, with a claim that the war was triggered by the actions of the authorities in Kiev discriminating against the Russian linguistic minority. There are also noticeable allegations that the Ukrainian government is creating an undemocratic and oppressive state for minorities.
Among the security threats in Eastern Europe, a potential war between Russia and Poland is mentioned. In reference to the Kremlin’s statement that it has taken appropriate measures to take care of the national interest, narratives predicting the possibility of a Russian attack on Lithuania have also emerged. Moreover, fear is stricken through the false claims about an impending global conflict that needs to be prepared for. These words were to be spoken by one of the British generals. Actually, he declared preparation for the possibility of a global conflict is necessary, because the war in Ukraine undermines the global order.
The disinformative narrative concerning the military aid to the Ukrainian army focuses on pointing out that many Western countries do not support Ukraine, arms supplies weaken the military potential of European countries and that they are wasted by soldiers.
In addition, it is worth to note the propaganda activities insulting the Ukrainian authorities stressing the corruption of the European Union and its approaching disintegration. There are also narratives accusing the West of starting this war, emphasizing the dependencies and subordination of the European Union towards the United States.
Disinformation in Latvia: Ukrainian refugees pose a threat to Latvian culture
Russian disinformation in Latvia focuses on the events of war, the economic consequences of sanctions and the refugees.
One of the main narratives is suggesting the imminent defeat of Ukrainian troops by the Russian army, the West forcing Russia to perform an attack on Ukraine, the attack on civilians by Ukrainian soldiers and their committing war crimes.
As for the sanctions, we can notice a recurring claim that their imposition did not cause the expected result and did not damage the Russian economy. The sanctions have only contributed to high inflation in Western countries, especially in the United States. A worth noting is the attempt to introduce the claim about the conspiracy called the Great Reset, a part of which would be the war in Ukraine.
According to one of the entries, Ukrainian refugees pose a threat to Latvia, and their language and symbols present in the public and media space threaten the foundations of Latvian culture.
Disinformation in Lithuania: Russophobic Lithuanians
In Lithuania, in relation to military actions, the dominant narrative says about the war crimes of Ukrainian soldiers, their Nazi approach, the use of Ukraine by the United States to wage (and even fuel and escalate) the war against Russia.
According to Russian propaganda in this country, refugees are to be privileged over the Lithuanian population and do not deserve any support. There was a material stating that there are many young men in Lithuania who have deserted and bribed Lithuanian border guards to stay in the country.
In the messages disinforming Lithuanian citizens, the sanctions imposed on Russia are presented as not having the impact desired by the West. Economic restrictions are to have the opposite effect to the intended one – that is, to destroy the economies of West. With regard to Lithuania, according to propaganda channels the ban on the transit of goods to Kaliningrad will not hit the Russian, but the Lithuanian economy.
With respect to the aid provided to Ukraine by Lithuania, it is worth noting that there is a message related to the collection of money for the Bayraktar drone. The funds allocated for its purchase were to be defrauded.
It is also worth to mention that in the pro-Kremlin narrative, Lithuanians are presented as a russophobe nation seeking revenge on Russians. The Russophobia of Lithuanians and the propaganda war that their country is to wage with Russia were be the reasons for the lack of tourist traffic.
Lithuania is also accused of seeking war and escalating it by blocking the transit of goods across the border with the Kaliningrad region. This ban is pictured as an unlawful act of provocation and a manifestation of the Russophobic policy of the Lithuanian government (it is worth adding that 10 materials with similar rhetoric appeared, which generated 19 400 interactions).
In addition, propaganda narratives in the media space state that:
- Lithuania should become a neutral state,
- the Ukrainian authorities are corrupt and incompetent,
- The European Union and NATO are weak and about to crumble,
- The Lithuanian government is using the war in Ukraine as an excuse for restrictions of its citizens civil liberties.
Disinformation in North Macedonia: an attempt at blackmail by the Russian Embassy
In North Macedonia’s information space, Russian disinformation accuses NATO of trying to subordinate Europe and the Balkans. The West is also blamed for conducting an aggressive policy towards Serbia due to its inability of controlling Russia. This rhetoric was undertaken by the President of Serbia himself. Foreign “mercenaries” are indicated as fighting in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This narrative is meant to justify Russia’s waging war against the Nazi and capitalist West.
In the context of sanctions, there is a repeated claim that they hit the West more than Russia and will have to be lifted. In addition, the economic polarisation of the world caused by them is emphasized.
When it comes to the security of Eastern Europe, there is a narrative line stating that Russia will regain everything what is Russian. In addition, we should pay attention to the activities of the Russian Embassy in North Macedonia. The ambassador emphasized the friendly relations between Macedonians and Russians, simultaneously stating that he is not every hostile action in the country. This constitute an attempt to blackmail the society of North Macedonia caused by the support for Ukrainians defending themselves against the invasion.
At the end of June, materials appeared accusing Lithuania of escalating international tension and seeking war with Russia. These allegations are related to Lithuania’s actions regarding the Kaliningrad region and are intended to portray Russia as a victim of NATO and the West.
Propaganda messages also emphasize the alleged military superiority of Russia. This narrative is based on presenting the destructive power of the new Russian RS-28 Sarmat missiles and is intended to evoke fear among the public.
Russian disinformation in Poland: The New World Order, ungrateful refugees
Poland is the target of a broad disinformation campaign. In connection with the events of the war, we can note the narratives stating that the war in Ukraine is the next step in the New World Order’s introduction. A similar way of thinking applies to war as the next stage of introducing the above-mentioned “order” after the period of pandemic. The pro-Kremlin parties draw attention to demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. Information about Ukrainian soldiers attacking civilian objects is shared on Telegram.
On the above-mentioned portal, there was a false information about the participation of a Polish officer in the war (we wrote about it here). As in the countries listed above, there were materials about the imminent defeat of Ukraine and forcing Russia to attack it by the West. The last narrative is to be supported by the claim that Ukraine applied for NATO membership, and its authorities introduced a law discriminating linguistically against the Russian-speaking minority.
Creating antagonisms and insulting refugees by Russian propaganda in Poland
With regard to refugees, an unfriendly narrative created to arouse resentment towards them prevails. Attempts to portray Ukrainian women as a competition for the Polish women should be noted. It is emphasized that the majority of refugees from Ukraine are not women and children, but aggressive black men.
Right-wing websites draw attention to the threat of crime, the perpetrators of which are to be Ukrainians. This narrative became popular after the murder in Warsaw’s Nowy Świat district. In some messages, Ukrainian refugees are portrayed as displaced persons who are about to change demographic relations in Poland (this is part of a broader conspiracy theory about Heavenly Jerusalem, which we wrote about here).
Citizens of Ukraine are also presented as the privileged ones compared to Poles allegedly treated by their own authorities as second-class citizens. As for the social benefits received by refugees, the prevailing message is that Poland cannot afford to support them. In connection with the spontaneous help provided by the Polish citizens to people coming from Ukraine, narratives discouraging its continuation dominate.
According to the fake message, the eviction of Ukrainians from home is to be punished with imprisonment, and refugees are to present a demanding attitude, be choosy and ungrateful for the help, and are to pose an epidemiological threat. In addition, pro-Russian propaganda warns that Ukrainians worship Stepan Bandera and emphasizes high financial status of Ukrainian citizens coming to Poland.
At the end of June, the false message was dominated by information about the West’s loss of interest in helping Ukrainian refugees, their ingratitude for their help and their privilege towards Polish citizens were emphasized, as well as their reluctance to take up work.
Recurring propaganda theme: sanctions ‘don’t work’
According to pro-Kremlin propaganda sources, financial sanctions imposed by Russia can reach citizens of any state. In addition, in the Polish information space there was a material stating that it is not Russia with its citizens, but Poles, who suffer as a result of the sanctions. There is a recurring claim about the impact of sanctions on the countries that imposed them instead of Russia. At the end of June, this narrative was used by Marcin Podstawka in his vlog, he also stated that Russia earns enough money from selling energy and can wage war for a very long time. A few days earlier, Wojciech Olszański made an attempt to prove the claim, which states that the West is presented as a real threat, not Russia, with which Western countries secretly trade.
Discrimination against Russians, provocation to attack and a nuclear conflict
There are, however not very often, accusations of discrimination against Russians and the Russian-speaking minority in Crimea and the Luhansk People’s Republic. There is also a narrative that as one of the reasons for the war cites the introduction of discriminatory Russian law onto the territory of Ukraine.
Pro-Kremlin narrators emphasize that it is Polish government that provokes Russia to attack. Their aim is to reduce support for activities supporting the Ukrainian army. There was also a claim, which, however, did not gain much popularity, saying that Poland would be the Russian aggression’s next target. The above propaganda messages are still present in the Polish media space. The materials referring to them are based on accusing Radosław Sikorski of urging to nuclear conflict and pointing to the Suwałki Gap, Vilnius, Oslo and Poland as further targets of Russian military operations.
Weakening the military potential of Poland and homopropaganda
Military aid to Ukraine is also the target of Russian propagandists’ attack. They state that sending weapons to the fighting Ukrainians is weakening the Polish military and defense potential. In this way, they want to discourage the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian army. They also state that Polish aid is financed by conservative taxpayers, who do not agree with the values promoted in Ukraine. “Homopropaganda” the fight against the church, the legalization of drugs, pornography, abortion, euthanasia, organ and human trafficking, prostitution and pedophilia can be distinguished as the examples of them.
The message created by Russian propagandists also highlights that 80% of the weapons sent do not reach the fighting Ukrainian soldiers due to the ubiquitous corruption. At the end of June, till continued narrative stated that sending weapons to the Ukrainians was nothing else than disarming and depriving of the possibility of defense.
Polish-Ukrainian Federation, Heavenly Jerusalem
In addition, there were reports informing about Polish politicians’ alleged plans to create a Polish-Ukrainian federation. Propaganda emphasizes that Crimea was never a part of Ukraine, and the referendum on joining it to Russia was carried out legally, President Zelensky embezzles public funds and tries to sell Ukrainian land to foreign entities.
There were also false narratives referring to conspiracy theories and claiming that:
- The Jews want to transform Ukraine into Heavenly Jerusalem,
- war is part of the New World Order,
- the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not real,
- Ukrainians are Nazis,
- The United States makes decisions concerning the actions of the Ukrainian army.
In addition, historical conflicts between Poles and Ukrainians are recalled. As in the case of the countries discussed above, there is a narrative about the necessity for the Republic of Poland of staying neutral and not allowing to be drawn into the war. At the end of June, there were also messages stating that Russia is not the aggressor, and Ukraine benefits financially from the conflict and the organizing the so-called extreme tourism i.a. to Bucha.
Russian disinformation in Slovakia: the West is responsible for the global food crisis
In relation to the events of the Russo-Ukrainian war, we can observe a new narrative stating the lack of evidence confirming information about rapes committed by Russian soldiers on Ukrainian women. Russian disinformation points to Ukraine and sanctions to be the real cause of the global food crisis. There are also repeated claims stating it was the West that provoked the conflict, and that it is basically a war of the United States against Russia. Similarly to the other countries, in Slovakia there were claims about the imminent defeat of Ukraine and the unwillingness of Ukrainian soldiers to continue the fight.
In the economic field, there are repeated statements about the lack of effects of sanctions imposed on Russia, the real victims of which are the societies of Western Europe. In order to substantiate the false message, the authors of disinformation point to the high prices of energy and food, as well as to the improving economic relations between Russia and China.
The President of Slovakia has been accused of showing more concern for Ukrainian refugees than for Slovaks. The entire political class is addressed with similar false accusations. They are accompanied by questions related to the financial assistance of Ukrainians, in opposition to the lack of money transfers for Slovak families.
With regard to the situation of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, it is pointed out that the Arms Forces of Ukraine are attacking civilians in Donbas.
Military aid is also the target of propaganda attacks. Here, attention should be paid to the claims stating that providing this type of aid prolongs the war. The above narrative is authenticated by calls for peace. There are repeated claims about wasting the military aid provided by Western countries. This type of propaganda messages is authenticated by photos of destroyed equipment that was delivered to the Ukrainian army as part of the supply of weapons. At the same time, what is also worth noting are the threats of attack directed by Russia against countries providing broadly understood military support.
In addition, the following narratives should be noted: the West and the European Union are conducting contradictory policies, giving Ukraine candidate status to the European Union is an empty and meaningless gesture, the European Union supports Nazi groups by giving Ukraine the status of the candidate.
Russian disinformation in Ukraine: Russophobia, Nazism and corrupt politicians
Ukraine is a superior target of the Russian propaganda message. This is evidenced by the much larger number of disinformation and propaganda materials appearing in the information space and the huge number of interactions (an extreme case reached 2 761 345 interactions).
In reference to the events of the war, present narratives concern:
- the approaching defeat of Ukraine – based on the claim that the Ukrainian authorities hid information about the events in Sievierodonetsk, the battle for which was to have a decisive impact on the fate of Donbass,
- Nazi views of Ukrainians,
- planning of annexation of the territory of Ukraine by Poland,
- shelling of civilian objects and attacks on civilians by the Ukrainian army,
- the presence of foreign mercenaries in the ranks of the Ukrainian army,
- alleged tensions between the West and the Ukrainian authorities.
At the end of June, regarding the war, there were materials claiming that the Ukrainian state is not interested in the families of the fallen soldiers, the authorities betrayed the army for financial gain, citizens of Western countries have stopped supporting Ukraine and the West is blackmailing the Ukrainian state.
As for the war refugees, the prevailing rhetoric is that Western countries welcome professionals and specialized representatives of specific professions with open arms, and send the rest back. According to Russian propaganda, Western countries are supposed to limit the freedom of immigrants and be “supersaturated” with Ukrainians.
In Ukraine, as in other countries, there is a message about the resilience of the Russian economy to sanctions, which in fact hit Western societies. It is authenticated by entries about alleged trade activity between specific Western countries and Russia. A new narrative that has appeared in the Ukrainian media space states that the country’s economy is about to collapse.
Ukrainians were also accused of Russophobia and Nazism, the introduction of an embargo on Russian literature and the simultaneous promotion of Nazi-like texts. A new wave of Russophobia is to go through Ukraine, the evidence of which is to be the confiscation of Russian language textbooks in the Odessa Oblast, the removal of Russian authors from the school curriculum and the ban on the use of Russian language in schools in the Mykolaiv Oblast.
In the context of military aid to Ukraine, there is still a message conveyed, saying about alleged thefts of military equipment, as well as their improper use.
The message of incompetence and corruption of the Ukrainian government (the sale of weapons received as part of military aid from Arab states) continues. There is also a new narrative related to Ukraine’s obtaining of candidate status for the European Union, which states that this is only an empty gesture. Propagandists also state that Ukraine’s accession to the European Union is unlikely and candidate status was granted only because of the war.
Russian propaganda focuses on several issues and refers to current or recent political and military events. These are:
- Lithuanian transit’s blockade of goods through the Kaliningrad region,
- granting Ukraine the status of a candidate to the European Union,
- Battle of Sievierodonetsk,
- the global food crisis.
Poland and Ukraine are the particular targets of Russian agitation and disinformation, as evidenced by the much higher number of false articles and interactions they have generated compared to other countries.
In many countries, the narrative is conducted alike and schematically. Examples include claims that the Russian economy has not suffered as a result of the imposed sanctions, and that their real victims are the citizens and economies of the West. The topic of secret biological laboratories is still present. It is visible in the information space of Estonia and Georgia; what is new is the accusation of Georgia of having such labs.
The narrative aimed at discouraging and arousing hostility towards Ukrainian refugees is also continuing. It emphasizes their alleged privilege and diverse influence on the internal situation in the countries where they found shelter from the war. Ukrainians are portrayed as Nazis worshiping Stepan Bandera. There are also accusations of war crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers. The aim is to portray the defenders of Ukraine in a negative light and to discourage world public opinion from them.
The widely understood incompetence of the military and civilian authorities is also emphasized, which aims at undermining the trust of Ukrainian and Western citizens and present the defenders and their command as corrupt, and the military aid provided as useless, stolen and wasted by inept soldiers.
In several cases, we can distinguish calls for neutrality, open accusations of distrust of NATO against particular countries. At the opposite extreme, there are accusations of escalating the conflict and striving for open war directed to specific states. This is a typical action designed to undermine trust in international organizations and portray Russia as a victim, or to arouse fear or confusion among citizens of states being “hostile” to Russia.
The fight against Russian culture, accusations of removing monuments from public space and the works of Russian writers from the school reading list, limiting the linguistic rights of the Russian minorities are aimed at presenting Russia as a victim, and other countries as aggressors and discriminatory torturers.
The pro-Russian message also emphasizes the devastating capabilities of the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile. Its aim is to show the modernity of the Russian army and the ability of efficient operation of the arms industry despite the sanctions imposed. Attention is drawn by the fact of associating the war with conspiracy theories. The conflict in Ukraine is connecting to Heavenly Jerusalem, the New World Order and the Great Reset. Thanks to this, Russian propaganda can reach wider audiences who are susceptible to manipulation.
Russia’s disinformation message is varied and shows features of bipolarity, and the way in which it is conducted indicates hypocrisy. On the one hand, it is noticeable that Russia is presented as a victim of the West, which wants to annihilate it at any cost, and on the other hand, the Kremlin is making it clear that it is ready to attack more countries. The emergence of new narratives should be made dependent on future political events, as well as the victories and defeats of both sides of the front. It should also be expected that the schemes and matrices currently used will be multiplicated and continued.
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).