Ukrainian Nazis for the Czech Republic, bio laboratories for North Macedonia, and Russophobia for Georgia. Analysis of Russian propaganda in 11 European countries

Ukrainian Nazis for the Czech Republic, bio laboratories for North Macedonia, and Russophobia for Georgia. Analysis of Russian propaganda in 11 European countries

14 Вересня 2022
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Ukrainian Nazis for the Czech Republic, bio laboratories for North Macedonia, and Russophobia for Georgia. Analysis of Russian propaganda in 11 European countries

775
How Russian propaganda juggles its narratives in different European countries.
Ukrainian Nazis for the Czech Republic, bio laboratories for North Macedonia, and Russophobia for Georgia. Analysis of Russian propaganda in 11 European countries
Ukrainian Nazis for the Czech Republic, bio laboratories for North Macedonia, and Russophobia for Georgia. Analysis of Russian propaganda in 11 European countries

Throughout July 2022, a team of researchers from 11 countries analyzed social media posts (on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram) to identify common and distinct narratives of Russian propaganda. In July, 1,529 unique messages containing disinformation or promoting Russian propaganda narratives were identified.

Українською текст читайте тут.

The number of recorded messages with disinformation in European countries

July 2022

Most messages containing Russian propaganda and disinformation were recorded in Ukraine’s information space. Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland are also leaders in the spread of Russian disinformation. The amount of disinformation in the Russian-language media segment of the Baltic countries is somewhat higher than in the national language segment. A little less — in Bulgaria and North Macedonia. It is worth considering the geographical proximity to Russia, the size of the countries, the population, and, therefore, the number of users in social networks, which are preyed upon by Russian propaganda.

In Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, our analysts conducted content monitoring in parallel in the national and Russian languages. The country's name indicates information related to content in the national language. The Russian-language content of the three countries is combined into one category — Russian-language content for the Baltic countries.

The most significant number of Russian propaganda and disinformation messages were related to the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war — 648 messages. 318 messages were dedicated to the consequences of economic sanctions. Manipulations on the topic of military aid to Ukraine were recorded in 227 messages. A little less — 149 messages — were devoted to military threats to the West. 94 messages were identified on the topic of assistance to Ukrainian refugees. The fewest messages with disinformation were recorded concerning Russian culture and the situation of Russian-speaking minorities — 39 messages. Another 54 messages were related to other topics of Russian disinformation.

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine

July 2022

 

The events of the Russian-Ukrainian war as viewed by Russian propaganda

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war

July 2022

 

Propaganda and disinformation regarding the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war in Ukraine were promoted the most. Fewer such messages were observed in Hungary and Russian-language content for the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The least amount of disinformation and propaganda about war events was recorded in the Latvian language.

Russian propagandists worked impeccably in the internal information space with strict state regulation and censorship. Therefore, it is not surprising that the statement "Ukraine will lose the war" is the most common narrative of Russian propaganda regarding the events of the war. Its spread in Ukraine significantly exceeds the indicators of foreign countries. Abroad, it was promoted in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. No messages were recorded in North Macedonia and the Latvian and Estonian segments.

In addition to this grand narrative, agitational propaganda (agitprop) spreads a group of messages of very simalar meaning. For example, in Hungary, it promoted the message that "the Russian army is making significant progress." In Bulgaria, Georgia, North Macedonia, and Hungary, the "victory" narrative was replaced by the message that "the West knows that Russia will win the war." Another statement in this bloc is, "Russia is not fighting at its full capacity." Most of the messages about it were registered in Ukraine. It was also distributed in Georgia, North Macedonia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. Contrary to common sense, agitprop spread the message that "Ukrainians refuse to fight" in the information space of Estonia (in Estonian), Slovakia, Ukraine, and the Russian-language content of the Baltic countries. The message that "the West offered Ukraine to surrender" was also spread in Georgia and the Russian-speaking segment of the Baltic countries.

Within this narrative, agitprop tried to create a picture of enormous losses of the Ukrainian army, and significant and final losses of Ukrainian territory, etc. For example, the Czechs were shown stories about the newly occupied cities where the local residents were allegedly happy to see the Russian "liberators", so the alleged "victory of Russia" is irrefutable.

One of the Russian disinformation tactics is to shift responsibility for one's own crimes to Ukraine or Western countries. This tactic spreads the narrative that "the Ukrainian army is committing war crimes." It was promoted the most in the Ukrainian information space to force Ukrainians to stop supporting their army. Among foreign countries, the largest number of messages spreading this narrative was recorded in Russian-language content in the Baltic countries. They mostly wrote about Ukraine committing terrorist attacks against peaceful Russians. By contrast, this narrative was not shared in Bulgaria, Georgia, Latvia (in Latvian), and North Macedonia.

This story is closely related to the previous narrative that "Ukrainian authorities are corrupt and incompetent". Here, the information attacks were primarily aimed at Ukrainians. This way, the citizens of Ukraine should lose trust both in the army and in the country's top leadership, which would greatly facilitate the work of the Russian occupiers. The message was also recorded in the information space of Hungary, Georgia, the Baltic states, and Slovakia.

Another most widespread message in this group was that "the West is using Ukraine for a war against Russia." It is said to be beneficial for the West to fight with Russia outside of its territory, not to endanger its people and infrastructure. Pro-Russian messages also communicate that NATO will expand the geography of the participating states due to the war in Ukraine. The largest number of messages on this topic was recorded in the Russian-language content of the Baltic countries. It was also mentioned in Georgia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. This message was also often spread in the Ukrainian segment, but with a different emotional load. In Ukraine, pro-Russian "opinion leaders" appealed to the fact that "the West will fight with Russia until the last drop of Ukrainian soldier’s blood." By this, they mean that Ukrainians are less valuable than their own citizens. Not a single message on this topic was recorded in Latvia (in Latvian), North Macedonia, and the Czech Republic.

Russia has been promoting the message that "Ukrainians are Nazis" for a long time. When announcing the start of a "special military operation", Putin also used this "argument" and stressed the need for "denazification and demilitarization" of Ukraine. Most reports about Ukrainian Nazism were recorded in Poland. A little less in Ukraine and in Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. On the other hand, not a single message on this topic was recorded in Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian languages.

To promote this narrative, propagandists appeal to various examples. In the Baltic countries, Ukrainian Nazism is highlighted through the prism of historical events, particularly the shooting of Jews in 1941. In Georgia, the image of the most famous Ukrainian "Nazi/Fascist" Stepan Bandera was used to illustrate Nazism. Hungarian social networks circulated the posts of allegedly Ukrainian users criticizing the "neo-Nazi regime" in Ukraine and calling for "Putin to come" and "clean up the Azov terrorists". Reportedly, in 2014, Azov mocked peaceful citizens and burned them alive. In Lithuania, emphasis was placed on the "Russophobic" Ukrainian "Nazis" who wanted to sell Ukraine to the "West".

In addition to the already mentioned "denazification and demilitarization", Russian propaganda has other "explanations" for why Russia attacked Ukraine. Among other things, propagandists "justify" the beginning of a full-scale invasion because it was allegedly "the West which forced Russia to attack Ukraine." This message was spread the most in Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Manipulative, out-of-context quotes from "experts" were used to promote this message in Hungary. Lithuanians were told that Russia was allegedly forced to attack Ukraine because of NATO's expansion plans. Moreover, the US planned to build its military bases in Crimea, which was not yet occupied at the time. Georgian television reported that the reason for the attack was Ukraine's desire to join NATO, so Russia was allegedly forced to oppose this desire.

When discussing the war's course, propagandists often mention "foreign mercenaries fighting in Ukraine." By "mercenaries", they mean the representatives of the "Foreign Legion", an official unit of the Ukrainian army. Ukraine's official explanations about the status of the fighters are useless. The Russians use captured foreigners to blackmail Ukraine's partner states. According to them, if these fighters are mercenaries, then the norms of the Geneva Convention do not apply to them. The self-proclaimed occupying power, contrary to all norms of international law, has already sentenced several representatives to death. The largest number of messages about "mercenaries" were recorded in the information space of Ukraine and the Czech Republic, somewhat less — in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and the Baltic states. In the Czech Republic, "foreign mercenaries" were discussed in the context of foreign intelligence agencies’ employees allegedly based in Ukraine. Stories about foreign mercenary bases destroyed in Ukraine were made up for Hungarians. In addition to replacing the terms "mercenaries" with "combatants", agitprop uses tactics to discredit foreigners fighting in Ukraine. For this purpose, there was a spread of information in Bulgaria that American, Polish, and German "mercenaries" allegedly fled from Ukraine in one night, leaving their weapons unattended. In North Macedonia, they resorted to the tactic of appealing to authority and quoted the representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov. According to him, "foreign mercenaries" in Ukraine are mostly criminals who are hiding in Ukraine from justice.

In the domestic market, propagandists created a myth about the "Russian soldier a hero and liberator". The Russian army was the first to believe in him and expected a "bread and salt" greeting from the Ukrainians. From the beginning of war, Russian soldiers went to Ukraine, carrying a parade uniform for "the parade of victory over the Nazis." The most significant number of messages stating that Ukrainians would supposedly be happy to greet Russians were recorded in Ukraine. Much less was written about it in Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovakia. Foreign pro-Russian media talked about it to make foreigners also believe in "the holy Russian mission to liberate the oppressed." In Estonia, the message was promoted on the example of the formation of the so-called people's republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. The context for this was the narrative that they [the republics] independently recognized their independence in 2014, just like Estonia at the time. In Lithuania, propaganda tried to convince the citizens that Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians are one nation, so it is worth forgetting about linguistic differences and unite into one "big country". In Slovakia, the agitprop mentioned the story about the "Ukrainian grandmother with a red flag" preparing to meet the Russian army. However, her tears of despair because of the Russian mine in the yard were left out of the picture.

Another important message of Russian propaganda is that "reports about the crimes of the Russian army are false." This message was most actively spread in the Ukrainian information space, much less — in Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. In this way, Russian propagandists most often try to justify the killing of civilians through missile strikes on civilian infrastructure. The Russians claim that soldiers, military equipment, or weapon depots are placed in civilian facilities or residential buildings. So Russia allegedly had every right to strike such objects. For example, Bulgarians were told that the Ukrainian authorities pay activists, particularly children and students, to imitate the corpses of civilians while lying on the streets. Then, such plots will allegedly be used for "false" accusations against the Russian military. The same messages were spread in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Lithuania. In the Ukrainian infospace, these narratives are promoted through constant accusations of the Ukrainian military for crimes committed by the Russian army. Reportedly, the Ukrainians are shelling their territories to shift their responsibility to the Russians.

Russia is also trying to shift the responsibility for blocking Ukrainian ports and the risks of famine in some countries to the Ukrainian authorities and foreign politicians. The narrative that "Ukraine is causing the world food crisis" was mentioned in the Baltic countries and Ukraine. In North Macedonia, a message about "the West's guilt for the world food crisis" was spread. In Slovakia and Hungary, Ukraine and the West were accused of causing world hunger.

Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian War, Poland has been lobbying for Ukraine's interests in the world and helping Ukrainian refugees. Poland was one of the countries that sheltered the vast share of Ukrainian refugees. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Russia also directed its information weapons against it. The message that "Poland wants to annex part of Ukraine" was spread in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Georgia, and Poland. In particular, pro-Russian Internet resources told Poles that their politicians want to unite Ukraine and Poland into one country.

During the research, messages like "the war in Ukraine is not real" or "the war in Ukraine is part of a conspiracy theory" were also found in the information space. These messages were promoted exclusively in foreign infospace (Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Lithuania). For example, in Latvia, agitprop tried to spread conspiratorial theories that the war between Russia and Ukraine is only a "theater" and "in reality" these states are allegedly cooperating. In Poland, they were trying to convince that war in Ukraine was part of a new world order formation.

Such messages were promoted in the Ukrainian information space: "there are certain misunderstandings and/or tensions between the political management of the West and Ukraine." In addition to Ukraine, this narrative was recorded in Hungary, Russian-language content for the Baltic countries, and Poland. But there, its distribution was relatively insignificant compared to Ukraine. In this way, propagandists tried to demoralize Ukrainians and convince them that they were left alone with the enemy.

In the Baltic states, Georgia, and Ukraine, propagandists spread messages to prove that Russia's actions were a preemptive strike: "otherwise, Ukraine was first to attack Russia." In Georgia, this narrative was promoted this way: "Russia's invasion of Ukraine is justified and legal." In the Hungarian infospace, Ukrainians allegedly accused Zelensky of starting the war. People in Lithuania were told that Ukrainians welcome Russian "saviors" and that the USA allegedly provoked a "conflict" between Ukraine and Russia.

The reports about the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war, spread in North Macedonia, were somewhat different. In particular, their infospace mentioned that "NATO is a modern fascist organization" that "is unable to stop Russia". The propagandists also promoted the message that "NATO divides the Slavs" through the prism of historical events and the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Russian propaganda spread the message that "Western and Ukrainian leadership are incompetent." Such disinformation was recorded the most in Hungary. It was also spread in Ukraine, Bulgaria, and the Russian-speaking segment of the Baltic countries' social networks and pro-Russian media.

In the Ukrainian information space, propagandists spread the message that "there is an obvious conflict in the Ukrainian government". They wrote about the conflict between Zelensky and Zaluzhny, between the Office of the President and the military, and between the Office of the President and representatives of other authorities — in this regard, any disputes will serve a key purpose. The propagandists also tried to discredit the Ukrainian army’s military service and spread the message that "mobilization in Ukraine happens with violations."

The message that "Ukraine should negotiate with Russia" was mentioned in Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. The message that "the Ukrainian army is incompetent and weak" was spread in Ukraine and Hungary. Propagandists shared fakes that allegedly seriously wounded Ukrainian soldiers are not taken abroad for treatment but are used as organ donors. The Hungarian infospace spread the message that "Ukraine is not a sovereign and democratic state"; instead, "DNR is a sovereign state".

In Ukraine, propagandists tried to discredit the work of volunteers, so they wrote about their "corruption". To justify Russia’s threats regarding nuclear weapons, the propaganda states that it was Ukraine who wanted to use nuclear weapons against Russia. Yet, even though Ukraine does not have such a weapon, allegedly, Ukrainian volunteers were collecting money for it. Russians often use the tactic of mirroring their own actions. An example of it is the spread of messages that "Ukrainian information space is closed and strictly censored." Propagandists also claim that "drug trafficking is growing in Europe" through Ukraine. Suppose you put all these propagandist messages in one heap. In that case, one will realize that Ukraine is a superpower because its citizens manage everything simultaneously and even more: "if the Russians had not attacked, then Ukraine would have been the first to attack not only Russia but also Belarus".

The war can go beyond the borders of Ukraine

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding military threats to the West

July 2022

The largest number of reports with this narrative was recorded in Georgia. A little less — in Lithuania and Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. Disinformation messages were also distributed in Latvia, North Macedonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine and in Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. Only in Estonia, no message of this bloc (in the national language) has been recorded.

The most common message herein is "the EU/West/NATO is weak and will soon fall apart." Most such reports were registered in Slovakia and Hungary (40% of the total). This message was also recorded in Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine.

The second largest share of messages was that "a second front against Russia will be opened in Georgia." Almost all of such messages were recorded in the Georgian infospace and only some in Ukraine.

Russian propaganda often accuses other states of "escalating the conflict". For the most part, propagandists convince us that it is the "collective West's fault." However, in July, this message was recorded in regards to Lithuania and Poland. Separate statements about these states’ participation in "inciting the war" were also recorded in Ukraine.

Russian propaganda traditionally uses intimidation tactics. This bloc of messages refers to the fact that "Russia will not stop at Ukraine and will attack NATO". Most of the statements in this regard were recorded in Bulgaria. It was also spread in Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Ukraine, and Hungary. Most often, propagandists mention that Poland will be the following country where Russian troops will go after Ukraine. In Bulgaria, they used the stereotype of the "terrible and invincible" Chechens, with whose help "Russia will conquer NATO."

Intimidation was also used in messages like "Russia will use nuclear weapons if forced to do so." That is, Russia has no intention of losing and, according to the Soviet song, "will do everything to win no matter the price." The largest number of such reports was recorded in the Czech Republic. It was also written about in Bulgaria and Georgia.

Owing to the work of domestic pro-Russian propagandists, Ukrainians have already become accustomed to the messages about foreign rule. However, as the research shows, Ukraine is not the only one governed by a "big brother". The message that "the USA rules the EU and other states" was widely spread in Slovakia. It was also recorded in Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Baltic States.

 

Military aid to Ukraine

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding military aid to Ukraine

July 2022

"A certain state should not be helping Ukraine because of historical conflicts" is the most common message of this narrative. All these messages were recorded in Poland, which has become one of the biggest lobbyists for Ukraine’s interests since the beginning of the war. Only a few such messages were recorded in Ukraine.

The second largest bloc is the message that "military aid to Ukraine weakens the state that provides this aid." Not all foreign citizens may support their government’s aid to Ukraine. Therefore, Russian propaganda tries to reinforce these sentiments with such messages. This narrative was often recorded in Ukraine in the context that foreign countries will eventually stop helping Ukraine at the cost of their own security. It seems illogical to spread such a message in Ukraine because it primarily targets residents of aid-giving countries. However, this is how the propagandists incite that Ukrainians must prepare for a significant reduction in military aid or perhaps even a complete absence of help from international partners. A little less often, this message was spread - in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The message was also shared in Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary. If one looks at the overall context, this message is combined with threats of future Russian attacks on other countries, so the effect of fear is amplified. Propagandists also appealed to ethics, saying that "donating for military aid is immoral" or "those who help Ukraine are ridiculous".

The longer Ukraine resists Russia, the more it damages Russia's image of an "invincible country." Therefore, Russian agitprop spreads the message that "military aid prolongs the war". The longer Ukraine fights, the greater the losses among its military and civilians, losses in the economy and infrastructure, and so on. Thus, Russia is manipulating the thesis that it is worth stopping providing weapons to Ukraine - and then the war will quickly end. These messages are reinforced by narratives about the "uselessness of aid", meaning that Russia will win sooner or later anyway. That "military aid prolongs the war" was mentioned the most in the Czech Republic; the message was also spread in Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, and Slovakia. Such aid's futility was mentioned in Georgia and Estonia.

Russian propaganda works to devalue, discredit, and stop the world’s aid to Ukraine and, to achieve this, propagandists spread the message that "Western military aid is being stolen" or is not being used for the intended purposes. It is also one of the most significant messages by its number. It was primarily written about in Ukraine to exert emotional pressure on Ukrainians whose relatives are fighting in the military. Such messages also undermine trust in the army and the authorities.

The message that "Ukraine will use Western weapons to attack Russian territory and kill civilian Russians" is quite widespread. The propagandists are trying to convince us that "the West gives Ukraine bad weapons" and that "the Ukrainian military refuses to fight with it", or that the West uses Ukraine as a testing ground for developing the latest weapons. In addition to Ukraine, several messages with this narrative were also recorded in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

The world is tired of Ukrainian refugees

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding Ukrainian refugees

July 2022

Poland leads the list regarding the number of registered disinformation messages about Ukrainian refugees. It is probably because this country sheltered most Ukrainians.

Russian propaganda narratives about Ukrainian refugees are monotonous. The utmost propaganda efforts were aimed at convincing that "Ukrainian refugees are undermining the internal stability of the host countries." Propagandists are also trying to persuade citizens of other countries that "helping Ukrainians is a higher priority than helping the vulnerable population of their own countries." The largest number of such messages was recorded in the Polish infospace.

The third most widely used message was that "Ukrainian refugees are corrupt and ungrateful". It was distributed in Bulgaria, Estonia (in Estonian), Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. Following this kind of message, it was logical to spread another one, such as "Ukrainians are no longer welcome abroad" (in Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic countries), and it's time to return home. Hence, to "stimulate" Ukrainians to return to their homeland, "it is necessary to reduce the aid for Ukrainian refugees."

In the Ukrainian segment, propaganda claimed that "the rights of Ukrainians abroad are being violated." Probably, such tactics were used so that Ukrainians would not seek help abroad. Propagandists mentioned that reportedly Ukrainian women were forced to provide sex services abroad as there was no other acceptable work for them. The topics of human trafficking were also being manipulated.

Who is actually affected by the economic sanctions against Russia?

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding the economic consequences of sanctions

July 2022

 

Most messages about the economic consequences of sanctions were recorded in Ukraine. Almost the same number of messages from this bloc was recorded in Slovakia and Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. Disinformation on the sanctions topic has hardly touched Poland's infospace.

Russian propaganda reacts emotionally to the messages on introducing new sanction packages. Key Russian propagandists were personally affected by the sanctions. Therefore, they try to discredit their effectiveness. The most common statement of this bloc is that "sanctions affect the West more than Russia" or "sanctions do not harm Russia", but even "sanctions make Russia stronger." Propagandists still believe in the famous Russian "import substitution", which is ridiculed even by Russians. This version of the message was distributed in Bulgaria and North Macedonia. In Georgia and the Russian-speaking social networks and pro-Russian media in the Baltic countries, the message was spread that "the Russian economy is still thriving and the ruble is strengthening, despite the sanctions." On the contrary, statements that "sanctions against Russia are illegal" were spread in Lithuanian and Latvian languages.

Agitprop claims that "certain individuals benefit from war". For example, in Lithuania, propaganda tried to discredit Andrius Tapinas, a Lithuanian journalist who organized the collection of money to purchase a Bayraktar for Ukraine. After all, the Turkish manufacturer gave the drone for free. This caused a wave of speculation as to what the collected money would be used for. One of the propaganda versions was - to play in a casino in Las Vegas.

The message that "Europe has an energy crisis" is essential. It was spread both about Europe in general and with an emphasis on individual countries. Most messages were recorded in Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. In the same context, Russian agitprop used the threat of "stopping gas supplies to the EU". The largest number of messages in this regard were recorded in Hungary’s infospace. In an attempt to influence the sanctions policy, Bulgaria was blackmailed by its "dependence on Russia" and "a breakdown in diplomatic relations". In the Georgian infospace, Russian propaganda was convincing that "the West punished Georgia for not imposing sanctions against Russia."

Agitprop tried to strengthen its influence on the audience by manipulating the thesis that "inflationary and energy crises are caused by the wrong political approach of the West". According to one of its versions, "sanctions have caused the war in Ukraine." Such reports were recorded in Georgia and Hungary. The EU and the USA succeeded in increasing the sanctions pressure due to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In Georgia, it was also mentioned that the EU sanctions harm the environment and the health of its residents.

Russian propaganda deliberately manipulates the message that "Ukraine cannot repay its debts" - this was written about in the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Hungary. In the Ukrainian infospace, propagandists also spread specific messages about the consequences of economic sanctions. Unlike citizens of other countries, Ukrainians were convinced that "the domestic economy is about to collapse", because "the West is "abandoning" Ukraine", despite its "dependence on foreign financing".

A separate group of disinformation messages of this bloc was about the blockade of Kaliningrad. They were distributed in Russian-language content for the Baltic countries.

"Cancel culture" and Russian-speaking minorities

Narratives and messages of Russian propaganda regarding Russian culture and Russian-speaking minorities

July 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced the "issue" of protecting Russian speakers as the one that "forced" him to launch a "special operation" in Ukraine. The largest number of disinformation messages (51% of the total number) of this narrative was recorded in the Russian-language content for the Baltic countries. This indicator is four times higher than the one in Hungary, the second country regarding the number of such messages. Most often, Russian propaganda accuses other countries of "Russophobia". The lion's share of such statements falls on the Russian-speaking segment of the Baltic states.

The second largest segment of this bloc is "Russian culture/sports are being discriminated against". The biggest number of such messages was recorded in the Russian-language content of the Baltic countries. In addition, in Latvia and Lithuania, such statements were also recorded in the state languages. The message was also recorded in Hungary.

The narrative that "Ukrainians discriminate against/terrorize Russian-speaking citizens" has been recorded in Ukrainian information space for a long time. Back in 2014, the Russians used it to justify the occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. At the beginning of the full-scale war, it was widely spread in the speeches of Russian officials and propagandists. Not only Ukrainians were accused of attacks on Russian culture, but also citizens of other countries. The narrative was recorded in the infospace of Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, and the Baltic countries' Russian-speaking social networks and pro-Russian media. For example, in Latvia, it was said that the proposal to change the names of the streets of the Latvian capital, which refer to Russian writers and artists, is unfounded and unfair. The Czechs were convinced that Ukrainians would soon declare themselves Russians. It mentioned that Putin's decree, which allows Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship, will lead to the disintegration of Ukraine since a large part of its population recognizes itself as Russian. In Ukraine, propagandists also "heated" the topic of the opposition between the Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking populations as the topic of discrimination based on language. Traditionally, such messages were spread: it is "Russians" who live in Donbas; therefore, Russia should help them. During the research in the Czech Republic and Ukraine, several messages on the topic of "Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians are one nation" were recorded.

This study was conducted by a consortium of public organizations, during which a local organization was responsible for collecting and processing data for its country following a shared methodology:

  • Bulgaria — "Analyses and Alternatives";
  • Czech Republic — "Prague Security Studies Initiative";
  • Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — "Debunk.eu";
  • Russian-language content in the Baltic countries — "Civic Resilience Initiative";
  • Georgia - "GRASS";
  • Hungary - "Atlatszo";
  • North Macedonia - "MOST";
  • Poland - "Fakenews.pl";
  • Slovakia — "Slovak Security Policy Institute";
  • Ukraine — "Detector Media".

Collage credits: Svitlana Hryhorenko / Detector Media

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