Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the topic of World War III has been actively circulating in the Russian media.
First of all, according to Russian media, talks of World War III are "a standard method of intimidation" and "a fairly popular topic for Western speculation."
Although before April, there were some articles in the Russian media denying World War III, from the beginning of April, Russian propaganda shifted to another narrative: World War III is being provoked by the West and Ukraine, and Russia only "prevents" such a course of action.
So RIA Novosti published an article, "Western society is being prepared for the Third World War," in which propagandists assure that "Western inhabitants are being forced to conclude that a world war is not only inevitable but that it is already underway." In the article, propagandists examine in detail the "examples" of the actions of some European and American politicians, which, in their opinion, "push to scenarios that are guaranteed to lead to a direct military clash between NATO and Russia, and hence to a possible world war." They also recall "the idea of the Polish government to introduce a NATO peacekeeping contingent into Ukraine, which again is guaranteed to lead to the start of a global conflict." Moreover, propagandists accuse the authors of an American newspaper of "irresponsibility in raising hatred of Russia."
The press secretary for the Russian president Dmitry Peskov called "the prevention of World War III as a goal of the operation in Ukraine" on the air of the British television channel Sky News.
"Imagine a situation where a NATO member, Ukraine, thinking about the return of Crimea, attacks Russia and Russian Crimea. Applying Article 5 of the NATO Charter, NATO countries with nuclear weapons will have to defend Ukraine. There could be a third world war. What is being carried out now is protecting us from any potential threat of such a war," Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian media even used comments from Ukrainian political scientist Kost Bondarenko in an interview with political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, but both figures are known for their pro-Russian views and ties to the Opposition Platform—For Life and Party of Regions.
Thus it is not surprising that the statement of a "Ukrainian political scientist" that "the military operation in Ukraine is not a component of the Third World War, it prevents it" confirmed Russian narratives.
Over the past two weeks, Russian propaganda has begun to state the possible beginning of World War III and even suggest why it could start.
The high probability of World War III was stated by the propagandist Margarita Simonyan in the program of Vladimir Solovyov. "Either we lose in Ukraine, or World War III begins. I think World War III is more realistic, knowing us, knowing our leader. The most incredible result that this will end in a nuclear strike seems more likely to me than any other scenario," said Margarita Simonyan.
According to Russian media, anti-Russian sanctions may be one of the causes of World War III. For instance, propagandists refer to the article by retired French general Jacques Guilleman on the Entre La Plume et l'Enclume website. In the article, he noted that if the US and Europe do not stop their anti-Russian sanctions, the Third World War will be inevitable.
Moreover, according to Russian media, "World War III could start in space." This statement was made by the Director-General of the State Corporation "Roscosmos" Dmitry Rogozin on the TV channel "Russia 24". According to him, an American ship Boeing X-37 can be a carrier of weapons of mass destruction. The head of the state corporation spoke about the joint proposal of China and Russia to ban the launching of weapons into space, but the United States, according to him, does not respond to such suggestions. The possible use of anti-satellite weapons on the apparatus of another state could be the beginning of the Third World War."The destruction of an alien spacecraft is the Third World War. It is a casus belli (a formal reason for declaring war) unequivocally," Dmitry Rogozin said.
And the third reason for World War III, according to Russian media, is "supplies to Ukraine of the latest generation of US weapons." The "official representative of the People's Militia" of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic", Eduard Basurin, believes that in such a way "a war with the whole world is already starting openly."
Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia's intelligence, stated that the US and Poland want to «establish military-political control» over Western regions of Ukraine.
According to Naryshkin, Polish soldiers will enter the Western regions of Ukraine as peacekeepers but will eventually take control of all the strategic objects. "According to the calculations of the Polish administration, their preventive consolidation in the west of Ukraine is highly likely to lead to a split in the country — Warsaw will essentially receive control over the territories claimed by "Polish peacekeepers", Naryshkin decried.
Is Russia getting ready to react to a possible NATO/UN peacekeeping mission?
On April 22, Russia's defense ministry announced the tasks of the second stage of "the special operation in Ukraine". One of them was "to establish complete control over Donbas and southern Ukraine, creating a land corridor to Crimea and another exit to Transnistria".
Although the Russian foreign ministry has stated that they "do not see" the risks of escalation in Transnistria and seek a peaceful solution to the issue, but Russian media spread entirely different narratives, Russian media do not agree.
For instance, the article with the title ""Hello" from Moscow to Kishinev: Do not take up the mind - we will protect Transnistria" notes that the actions of "the current Moldovan authorities demonstrate that the Republic of Moldova is preparing to repeat the "Ukrainian scenario"" and "if Kishinev does not remain neutral in the Ukrainian issue, then it risks losing the Left Bank region completely".
Another example is the article "Moldova risks losing Transnistria," published by NewsFront.info. It accuses the authorities of the Republic of Moldova of "blocking the import of raw materials for the Moldavian Metallurgical Plant, which is why the enterprise stopped. Cargoes with food and medicines are also not allowed into the region. In Tiraspol, they are talking about a complete blockade and are waiting for help from Russia." These statements ended with the phrase "And it [help from Russia], apparently, already on the way." This is how they commented on the statement of Russia's defense ministry about "going to Transnistria through the south of Ukraine".
According to Russian media, Moldova is also "playing with Russophobia," and "there are facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population" in Transnistria. Also, it "continues to declare sovereignty and territorial integrity. [...] The negotiation process does not produce results, just like the Minsk agreements were not implemented by the Kyiv regime. It has already led to the fact that the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics have received recognition from Russia. Apparently, the same fate awaits Transnistria. And Moldova and its society must themselves rid of the current government and Russophobia."
"We must not allow Maia Sandu (President of the Republic of Moldova) and her Romanian curators to unleash another war on the territory of Transnistria today. All this Nazism, which has taken root next to us, just needs to be destroyed, uprooted, and forgotten about for many years," said the deputy of the party "United Russia" Viktor Vodolatsky.
At the same time, a former "minister of defense" of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" said that "the joint preparation of the Romanian-Ukrainian coalition for the "cleansing" of Transnistria received additional confirmation." "The authorities and the military of Moldova are frankly afraid of war and do not even hide their fear. But if (or rather, when) the command arrives, absolutely no one will ask them. The army of Transnistria hasn`t a chance to hold out for any long time without outside support in the event of an attack from two sides," wrote Igor Strelkov.
On April 25, the UK government announced that all tariffs on goods imported from Ukraine will now be reduced to zero, providing much-needed economic support. On April 27, Bloomberg reported with reference to its sources that the EU is considering removing all remaining tariffs and quota requirements on Ukrainian exports as well. Meanwhile, on April 26 Germany announced its plan to ensure that Ukraine can continue to grow grain and deliver it to countries worldwide despite the war.
Such economic support is very much welcome in Ukraine indeed. At the same time, Russian propaganda describes these developments as the West wanting to buy all food from Ukraine so that Ukrainians would starve.
For instance, Russian propagandist Sergei Koliasnikov writes that "it seems that collective Europe will repeat the Ukrainian famine organized by Poland in the 1930s". "Only in the current configuration, a military defeat will be added to it along with the destruction of critical infrastructure and mass casualties," Koliasnikov adds. He also writes that "the world is plunging into an unprecedented food crisis due to anti-Russian sanctions by the West."
Oleg Tsarev, a former Ukrainian MP who now collaborates with Russia, also urged the Russian military to bomb the Ukrainian railway further so that the export of Ukrainian grain would not be possible. This is quite understandable: Russia has already been capturing Ukrainian grain in this war and bringing it back to Russia—it wants to continue doing so.
This is another example of how Russian propaganda aims to turn all positive developments in the relations between Ukraine and its Western partners upside down for the domestic audience.
Russian media and Telegram channels actively spread a new narrative voiced by Putin: a «terrorist group with connection to SBU» was trying to kill Vladimir Soloviov, a notorious Russian propagandist sanctioned by the EU.
Alexander Bortnikov, the head of FSB, told Russian state-owned TV channel Rossiya 1 that "preparation for this terrorist act" was carried out by "6 Russian citizens" who were "curated by the SBU." "They are connected to the neo-Nazi group 'National Socialists White Power'," Bortnikov stated. At the same time, he did not explain how it turned out that Russian citizens were neo-Nazis if Russia was an anti-Nazi state.
According to the statement by FSB, the detained were also in possession of narcotics, among other things. Here we see how Russian propaganda replays all the same narratives: Ukrainians and all connected to them are both neo-Nazis and drug addicts.
SBU has denied any involvement and said it had no plans to kill Soloviov. The service also added that "Soloviov is a common propagandist — a Russian version of Goebbels — who will be held responsible for his crimes in the international courts after Ukraine's victory."
Later on April 25 FSB also stated that the "terrorist group" was also planning to kill Olga Skabeeva, Oleg Popov, Margarita Simonyan, and Dmitry Kiselyov, other key Kremlin propagandists.
Russian media Novorosinform now writes that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a «war for independence which Russia announced to the Western colonial empire». According to the article, «the real war» is not against Ukraine but «against its masters.»
"What Russia is doing now in Ukraine is not a war but a special operation. The real war is not against Ukraine but against its masters. This is a war for Russia's independence from the West, which leaves it no other place in the world except as a place of a raw material colony. This is our holy war for the right to be ourselves, for the right to develop in our own way," the article reads.
On April 21, Latvia and Estonia were the first in the world to officially recognize the war evils of Russia in Ukraine as genocide. On the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation declared all employees of the Baltic consulates persona non grata. How has Russian propaganda threatened the Baltic states in response to their diplomatic moves against Russia because of the war in Ukraine?
In addition, "in Lithuania, the situation in Ukraine is used, among other things, to increase NATO military contingents in the country. [...] In neighboring Estonia, they seek to fight Russia not only at the level of politics and diplomacy but also by interfering in the life of civil society."
Also, the Parliament of Latvia ban on public events promoting Nazism and communism was "considered in the Federation Council as evidence that "neo-Nazism is winning in Latvia"."
And as the "expert" summed up in the RT article, "there is a huge Russian diaspora in Estonia and Latvia, and they are afraid that this "fifth column" of theirs will prevail over them. Therefore, they believe they should be crushed and everything should be forbidden to them, such as the language and their media, so that they do not decide anything in the country."
"It's a shame that we did not protect the Russian population in the 1990s, who were taught there to sit quietly and not stick out. But there still remains a huge Russian population, so they are afraid that Russia will remember them and come after them. But this is irrelevant to us. Yes, the Baltic states are not alien to us, there were Slavs there, but now it is not so important for us. The Baltics themselves will fall into our hands when and if Europe starts to disengage from the Anglo-Saxons and disintegration begins inside it," said Petr Akopov.
"In the first place here, as in the case of Ukraine, the issue of demilitarization remains for Russia. Because the Baltic countries for Russia are not countries, but territories where the Americans, British and Western Europeans deploy their weapons that can threaten Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kaliningrad," said Alexander Nosovich.
A regular update on Russian propaganda narratives from our colleagues and friends at texty.org.ua:
Mainstream Russian media use tabloid journalism when criticizing Biden and spreading anti-Western narratives:
Demonization of Poland – a separate direction in Russian propaganda:
Japan has joined the list of the Russian enemies:
“During one of the most barbaric episodes of World War II, Japanese fascists killed near 300 000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers in six weeks. Japanese atrocities matched the actions of the German Nazis and sometimes even surpassed them. Their cruelty is more comparable to the Ukrainian Banderovtsi, who the current Japanese government actively supports today because of the joint ideological and historical basis” — Regnum.ru
Russians react sharply to the “Russophobia” and “cancelling” of Russia and Russian culture. They remind of the supremacy of the their culture over European:
“Russian culture traditionally had a much higher moral bar compared to the Europeans. Russians are idealistic by default. This protects our people from Western infantilism and “cancel culture”. However, other civilizations may shun us because of this fact” — Life.ru
Russian propagandist Andrey Rudenko, a correspondent of Russian-state owned company VGTRK, posted a video of an alleged vote in Rozovsky district of the Zaporizhzhya region during which «inhabitants chose to join the DPR».
Russian occupants now do not even bother staging fake referendums like the ones in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk in 2013. Fake votes in what looks like a school hall suffice. That's understandable, given that the legitimacy of such "votes" is zero in any case.
Russia's defence ministry accuses Ukraine and the West of "horrendous provocations with multiple casualties" in Zaporizhzhya, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Sumy and Kharkiv regions.
In particular, Russians claim that "nationalist battalions" will be shelling Orthodox churches on the night of Orthodox Easter (the night of April 24) and blame Russia for it. "Kyiv plans to attract many Western reporters for filming and immediate promotion of fake news," a post on RIA Novosti reads.
If following Russian propaganda during the war has taught us anything, it's that Russia accuses others of doing what Russia has done/plans to do itself.
On March 2, the EU rolled out sanctions against the Russian state-owned media companies RT and Sputnik, which effectively suspended their broadcasting activities in Europe. Google has also taken an active position against Russian disinformation actors by taking down YouTube channels associated with pro-Kremlin Russian media outlets. Meta did the same by blocking access to RT and Sputnik in the EU.
Over the years, Russia has invested billions of dollars in its propaganda machine, which made it a good thing that the EU finally started targeting Putin's media empire. However, now that the influence of Russian media companies has decreased significantly, Chinese media aimed at foreign audiences may start to fill in the gap.
Russia has cunningly used Western democracy and freedom of speech against the West itself. Russian media has spread the Kremlin's narratives under the guise of "alternative opinion" and "hidden truth," a strategy which has appealed to conspiracy theorists and "enemies of the establishment." Now, these audiences are likely to turn to Chinese media which, as our analysis shows, act in a very similar manner to their colleagues from Russia. Thus, the Chinese government may further provide Vladimir Putin with information support in the international arena, and, with hybrid warfare in mind, this assistance may prove to be no less important than supplies of military equipment.
Read more in our recent article:
“Friendship Has no Limits:” Is China Helping Russia in the Information War?
On April 11, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov named one more target of Russia's "special operation in Ukraine." According to him, "special military operation is designed to put an end to the reckless expansion and the reckless course towards the complete dominance of the United States and under them the rest of the Western countries in the international arena." Later, Foreign Minister added that "the West initiated an all-out hybrid war against Russia, using the Ukrainian crisis as a pretext."
Moreover, the press secretary for the Russian president Dmitry Peskov stated that "the US could not supply weapons to Kyiv if they wanted peace in Europe."
Thus, Russian media has started spreading the narratives that Europe and the United States are provoking Russia to continue and even intensify hostilities in Ukraine. They began to publish the interviews and comments from political commentators and scholars who actively supported such a narrative.
For instance, political commentator Vladimir Kornilov said that "the West is doing everything to make the special operation last longer." Sergey Karaganov, a historical sciences doctor, assumed that "the big West is against us [Russia], which will sooner or later begin to crumble." Fyodor Lukyanov, research professor at the Higher School of Economics, added that "Europe is being rebuilt on a military footing before our very eyes."
Russian media also try to support their narratives by creating different fakes and manipulations. Thus, according to Kremlin media, Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, "proposes to resolve conflict by military means," the Pentagon "thought about the supply of weapons to Kyiv for strikes on Russian airfields" and "prepares Ukraine for two years of war."
Over the last week, Russian media have significantly intensified anti-Western narratives. Here are some examples from our colleagues and friends at texty.org.ua:
As the Russian army gets ready to ramp up its assault on Donbas, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko met at Vostochny spaceport in Russia's Far East. During the meeting, the two dictators voiced many anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian narratives.
In particular, Putin argued once again that "Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians are one people" and stressed that Russia had "no other choice" but to start this war. "What we are doing is helping people and saving people, on the one hand, and on the other hand, we are simply taking measures to ensure the security of Russia itself," Putin stated.
In his turn, Lukashenko stated that "a civilizational collision" between Russia and the West is happening in Ukraine. "We once decided that the Cold War was over, that page has been turned, and we will live in a new civilized and just world based on mutual understanding and the triumph of international law. The West didn't think so. They did not destroy us then; they decided to try now," Lukashenko decried.
According to the sociological survey conducted by "Active Group," 75.5% of Russians approve the idea of a military invasion in the another country after Ukraine and believe that it should be Poland. Now we can see how Russian propaganda has actively started spreading anti-Polish narratives.
For instance, in an interview with the Russia 24 TV channel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Balts, Danes, and Poles would not allow the European Union to "somehow separate" from the North Atlantic Alliance and would push the community into "NATO networks."
Russian media also actively spread the comment of German politician Waldemar Gerdt who called the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Piotr Glinski about the "disappearance" of Russian culture "very similar to fascism or nationalism."
Moreover, on April 11 Russian news website Ukraina.ru published an interview with Polish publicist Ronald Laceski. Earlier Russian propaganda has already used some of the narratives from this interview against Ukraine. Here are some of them:
Russia has launched a new narrative to discredit arms supplies to Ukraine. According to this narrative, any military assistance delivered to Ukraine is immediately destroyed or captured by the Russian army. For instance, the Russian defence ministry stated on April 10 that the air defence system S-300 supplied by Slovakia had already been destroyed in the Mykolayiv region.
However, Slovakia's PM Eduard Heger said that Slovakia categorically denies Russian propaganda that S-300 defence system in Ukraine was destroyed. "It's a hoax," Heger tweeted. Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also warned about upcoming provocations from Russia.
"Russia knows arms supplies are essential for Ukraine and mobilizes all efforts to undermine them. Moscow prepared a massive info campaign targeting foreign media and politicians. Their troll factory may spam emails and flood comments with disinfo on Ukraine. Don't fall for it," Kuleba tweeted.
"Russia knows arms supplies are essential for Ukraine and mobilizes all efforts to undermine them. Moscow prepared a massive info campaign targeting foreign media and politicians. Their troll factory may spam emails and flood comments with disinfo on Ukraine. Don't fall for it," Kuleba tweeted.
Tony Couture, Philosophy Department, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, argues in his article for UkraineWorld that Russian propaganda cannot win. Here's why, Mr. Couture argues:
On April 6, Russian state-owned outlet RIA Novosti published the article "What is Russia fighting for in Ukraine?". At first sight, this article constructs the image of Russia as an innocent country, but actually, it discredits Ukraine and Europe, and at the same time, it shows the information context in which Russia lives every day. Here are some of the central narratives of Russian propaganda from the article:
More information on recent Russian disinfo narratives from our partners and friends at texty.org.ua:
Another update on Russian disinformation strategies from our partners and friends at texty.org.ua:
Russian authorities look for reasons why Europe doesn't believe in messages of Russian propaganda. Once again, they stated that "Europe doesn't know the truth about what is happening in Ukraine." So, according to Russia, "it is necessary to break through the information blockade" and "get the EU countries out of the looking glass."
"Today, Europe is in complete informational isolation and is absolutely behind the looking glass, not imagining what is actually going on," Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia's commissioner for human rights said. According to her, the main task of Russian journalists, commissioners for human rights, authorities, and public organizations is "to convey the truth to the world community about Nazism in Ukraine."
There seems to be no limit to what Russian propaganda can deny. On April 1-3, images of the massacre of Ukrainians by Russian soldiers in Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region emerged. These images prompted outrage in Ukraine and abroad. Western nations have already sought to isolate Russia economically and punish it for the invasion.
At the same time, Russian officials denied any involvement of Russian troops in these atrocities and said it was a "Ukraine-produced fake." For instance, Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated that said photos in Bucha were "staged when Russian servicemen left the city." He also added that "Moscow sees a direct threat to international security in such provocations."
Russia also employs pro-Russian fringe Western experts to spread the narrative that the Bucha massacre "was falsified." Russian media outlet Izvestiya published an interview with Jim Jatras, a retired US diplomat and supporter of conspiracy theories. In this interview, Jatras stated that "any information coming from Kyiv can't be trusted."
Russian media also use the "Ukraine faked Bucha" narrative to intimidate and consolidate their war supporting audiences. Russian propagandist outlet News Front wrote that "khokhly [derogative word for Ukrianians] and Anglo-Saxons needed a "mass murder in Bucha." "Bloody Kyiv regime desperately needs heavy weapons, and Europe is obliged to abandon Russian gas**. Both goals are now likely to be achieved," the article reads. Furthermore, News Front writes that "the West does not need any truth." "Russians must be demonized, dehumanized, turned into non-humans. Filtration camps for Russians in London, Paris and New York are no longer a wild fantasy; wait for it," the author writes.
Meanwhile,on April 3 Russian state-owned media outlet Ria Novosti published an article about "what Russian should do with Ukraine." It's full translation is here. And here are some quotes:
Does this article leave any doubt for whether Russian soldiers did "denazify" civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities and towns?
Russia now uses the cost of living crisis in the UK to push the narrative that it happened due to sanctions. Ruslan Ostashko, a Russian propagandist and news anchor at Pervyi Kanal, writes that «Great Britain is freezing and starving already, and it's just the beginning».
The cost living crisis had emerged long before Russia renewed its invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, it is a good story for Russian propaganda to spin and repeat its narrative about "sanctions hurting the West more than Russia." There is little doubt that Russia would use any future economic problems in the EU, UK and the US to fuel this narrative.
On the night of April 1, two helicopters fired on an oil depot in Belgorod, a Russian city near the border with Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Russians already said that these two helicopters were Ukrainian. While Ukraine's Armed Forces have not confirmed this yet, Russian propagandists already spin the story about "Ukraine's airstrike on Belgorod", which they use as a pretext to call for the abandonment of negotiations with Ukraine.
This change in Russian narratives might indicate that Russia wants to pull out of the negotiations with Ukraine. Also, Russian propagandists started occasionally using the word "war", which used to be prohibited.
The story about "Ukrainian helicopters" is also fascinating in the light of a statement of the Russian military from March 25, which said that Ukraine's air force had been "practically destroyed." So how can Ukrainian helicopters advance in Russia? Either Russians were lying back then, or they have used their helicopters to strike the oil depot in Belgorod and accuse Ukraine of doing that.
According to Russian media, sanctions are an ineffective tool. Propagandists argue that sanctions do not work or will hit back against those who impose them on Russia.
Thus, Russian media spread narratives that isolating Russia will cause a global financial crisis.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that sanctions doom Europeans to exorbitant prices. Moreover, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the European Union endangers the well-being and security of its citizens by its actions against Russia.
“By its actions, the European Union not only leads to a deadlock in relations with Russia but also endangers the well-being and security of its citizens and the stability of the global financial and economic system,” the statement says.
Several noteworthy cases of Russian disnformation narratives selected by our partners texty.org.ua. These illustrate how Russia tries to turn tables and blame Ukraine and its allies for its own aggression:
Once again, the press secretary for the Russian president Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian military does not shell civilian objects in Ukraine. According to Peskov, "the Ukrainian nationalist formations" are responsible for the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
"From the beginning of the military operation, the Russian troops had a rigorous order <...>: not to target at civilian objects. And they don't do that. They don't shell houses, they don't shell apartments, they don't shell civilian objects. They shell and target only military infrastructure facilities as one of the main goals of the operation in the demilitarization of Ukraine," Peskov said.
But when the Russian involvement in the shelling of civilian infrastructure becomes difficult to hide, Russian propaganda has only one excuse: "These Nazi battalions use the apartments as a hiding place for their weapons, ammunition <...>, for snipers. It causes return fire."
Another example of this narrative was provided toda by Russia's defence ministry. The ministry stated that "the Kyiv regime uses places of worship and places of public worship as points for the collection and transfer of weapons and Nazis to participate in hostilities". However, photos published by Russian's do not prove that the synagogue in Uman was ever used to store munitions.
Alexander Fomin, Russia's deputy defence minister, announced after Ukraine-Russia talks in Turkey that Russia has decided to "drastically reduce hostilities" in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions. According to U.S. intel, Russia has already begun to withdraw some forces around Ukraine's capital. The most likely reason for this is the Russian military's complete lack of success in these directions. For the last two weeks, Russian forces were unable to threaten Kyiv. Ukraine's army also went in a counteroffensive. Irpin, a major Kyiv suburb, was liberated on March 28.
This development is a massive challenge for Russian propaganda, which has persuaded the domestic audience that the Russian army would be able to capture Ukraine in a few days. Now propagandists have to explain why precisely Russia did not capture Kyiv. Here's how they try to do that.
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov compares anti-Russian sentiments in Western countries with anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.
"What struck me at the current stage is such an unprecedented surge, I would even say, an explosion of prehistoric (without exaggeration) Russophobia, which has woken up in almost all Western states and which the leaders of these states actively encourage. I know that there are realistic figures in the EU countries who see the perniciousness of inciting this kind of Russophobia, who remind you that 80 years ago, even a little more, there was a similar attitude towards a particular nationality in Europe. And remind how it ended," Lavrov decried.
If the Jewish people invaded a neighbouring country and killed thousands of civilians, that would be true. That's precisely what the Russian army has done in Ukraine. And here, Lavrov keeps wondering why people in the West hate Russia.
Russian propagandists are truly lazy. Russian defence ministry insists that there were «US-funded biolabs» in Ukraine, although no proof has been shown. Now Russians say that Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, the Budapest-born American financier and philanthropist George Soros were involved in financing these labs.
Russian propaganda can't seem to invent anything new. In particular, George Soros was portrayed as "the almighty leader of the globalists" for years. According to Russian narratives, he represents "the evil West", which "robs Ukraine of its natural resources" and "has turned it into anti-Russia."
Another anecdotal failure of Russian propaganda. Anonymous Russian Telegram channels started posting a photo of an alleged Ukrainian medal to be issued for capturing Crimea. The medal was said to be found in one of the recruiting stations in Kherson. The channels used this photo as "proof" that Ukraine was planning to attack Crimea soon.
However, a closer look at this photo shows that the medal is of shallow quality. Furthermore, initials of Ukraine's president are wrong: not "В.О." (Володимир Олександрович), but "В.А. Зеленський" (Владимир Александрович), as spelled in Russian.
This is already a second time since the beginning of the war when Russia tried to forge "proof" of "Ukraine's plans to attack Crimea and Donbas." On March 15, Russia's state media RIA Novosti claimed to seize a unique laptop with "Kyiv's plans to bomb Donetsk." Still, Russian propagandists failed to properly use the Ukrainian version of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Oleg Tsarev, a former Ukrainian MP from the Party of Regions who fled to Russia in 2014, and now allegedly travels with Russian occupants, talked to Russian propagandist media antifashist.com. In this interview, Tsarev argued that Ukraine should not exist as an independent state.
"These [Ukraine] are Russian lands, and they must return to Russia. In what form this will happen is negotiable. It can be both a confederation and accession to Russia directly. We will discuss this with the people. But we must clearly state that Ukraine, as an anti-Russia, as a state deeply hostile to Russia, should not exist. This is our native Russian land; these are our people, even if they are sick with nationalism now. But these are our people," Tsarev said.
This narrative clearly shows Russia's intentions regarding Ukraine: the Kremlin and its minions want to obliterate Ukraine, occupy its territory and kill everybody who would resist. Hence, Ukraine will continue standing firmly to repel the Russian invasion. In this, it needs all the help it can get.
Here's our new article about how Russian propaganda has provided information support to invading troops that destroy Ukrainian cities.
Propaganda Kills: How Years of Russian Disinformation Have Led to Mass Civilian Deaths in Ukraine
Russian propagandist talk show "60 minutes" aired a striking statement of Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov argued in this statement that "America is striving for a unipolar world." "It will not be a global village, but an American one. Maybe an American saloon where everyone dances to the tune of the strongest," Lavrov decried. Furthermore, he stressed that there are "players" who "would never agree to that." Lavrov named China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Russia as such players.
Russia keeps counting on China's support. However, China does not seem to hurry to stand with Russia. In today's conversation with the U.S. President Joe Biden, China's President Xi Jinping said that as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and the largest two economies, China and the U.S. should not only lead bilateral relations to develop on the right track but also shoulder the responsibility to keep the global peace. Does Russia suit these plans?
On March 16, Russians bombed a theatre in Mariupol where hundreds of people, primarily women and kids, had taken shelter. While commenting on this, Russia's defence ministry stated that "the militants of the Azov battalion committed a new bloody provocation by blowing up a theatre building in Mariupol that they had mined." This narrative is targeted at the domestic audience in Russia. With each new day of the war, it becomes harder for Russian officials to sell the statement that the Russian army "only shells military targets."
On March 17, a new message appeared within this narrative. Kremlevskaya Prachka, an anonymous pro-Kremlin Telegram channel, wrote that "the US leadership planned to use this explosion as an excuse to bring its military into the territory of Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers." It looks like the Kremlin still sees US involvement everywhere, just as it is in the case with alleged "Nazis."
Vladimir Putin wildly miscalculated when he expected that Russian troops would meet resistance only from "nazi battalions" while invading Ukraine. The first three weeks of the war have shown that Ukrainians in occupied cities have actively protested against the Russian invasion. Very few local government officials politicians opted to collaborate with Russians, and locals in many regions have helped Ukraine's armed forces destroy and capture Russian soldiers. Furthermore, no political party or politician left in Ukraine would openly support the invasion.
Russian propaganda desperately tries to find some foundation Russian occupation could build upon despite all that. In this regard, Russia's defence ministry listed Ukraine's regions in which, according to its data, the population stands for "good relations" with Russia. "15 million people maintain 'strong ties with Russia' in these territories," Russia's defence ministry stated.
Russia keeps fooling itself. The latest poll by the Rating group has shown that only 2% of respondents believe the Russian invasion was meant to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. Meanwhile, 56% are sure that Russia aims to eradicate the Ukrainian people. Such an opinion prevails in all regions of Ukraine.
One of the rare reactions to Ukrainian rallies in occupied Kherson: Aleksandr Hodakovskiy, one of the military commanders of the so-called "DPR" wrote on Telegram that the people in Kherson who have demonstrated against Russian invaders are "Russians who do not identify themselves as Russians." According to Hodakovsky, "this is a sickness" and these people "should see a doctor."
Hodakovsky is a former commander of the Alpha special unit of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and a former citizen of Ukraine. In 2014, as Russia covertly invaded Donbas, he betrayed his country. Now he does not understand those brave people of Kherson who are brave enough to identify themselves as Ukrainians even under occupation. Hodakovsky also repeats the Kremlin's narrative about Ukrainians not being a nation.
Will Belarusian armed forces be used in Russia's invasion of Ukraine?
On March 11, Alexander Lukashenko went to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin. There were concerns that this meeting might mean that Russia would draw Belarusian armed forces into its invasion of Ukraine. These concerns turned out to be justified. During the meeting, Lukashenko argued that "Ukraine was preparing to attack the joint forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus on Belarusian territory."
Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine's defence minister, argued that Russia plans a provocation, namely an aerial attack on Belarus's territory from Ukraine's airspace to drag Minsk into the war under a false pretext. "I guarantee: Ukraine's armed forces did not, do not and will not plan any aggressive acts against Belarus," Reznikov stated.
Ukraine's Armed Forces announced that Russian aircraft had made an airstrike from Ukraine's Rivne region territory on Belarusian Kopani village situated along the Ukraine-Belarus border. Belarusian media outlet Nasha Niva confirmed that there were airstrikes near Kopani village. However, the Belarusian defence ministry denied this and stated there were no airstrikes on the Belarusian territory.
For now, it seems that Ukraine's timely reaction to this provocation makes it useless for Russian propagandists, and they decided not to go ahead spinning up this false-flag attack story. Nevertheless, Ukraine's Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security warns that Belarusian troops might invade Ukraine on March 11, 21:00 Kyiv time, so this story is definitely not over.
Since the beginning of March, Russia has spun the claims about "US-funded bio-laboratories in Ukraine", which were allegedly "developing bio-weapons." On March 8, Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that "Russia obtained documents proving that Ukrainian biological laboratories located near Russian borders worked on development of components of biological weapons."
On March 10, Ria Novosti, a Kremlin-controlled media, reported that Russia's defence ministry "can say a high degree of probability" that "one of the tasks of the United States and its allies is the creation of bioagents capable of selectively affecting various ethnic groups of the population."
This new disinformation campaign revives a narrative about the "US network of biolabs in Ukraine" which existed long before the war. According to this narrative, the US government has created "biological laboratories" in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries to conduct tests on humans. This narrative has become more prevalent in relation to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, with claims that the US intended to test COVID-19 vaccines on Ukrainians. Now Russians claim Ukraine and US were working on bioweapons.
No reliable proof of that has ever been shown. The United States has denied Russian claims that Washington is operating biowarfare laboratories in Ukraine. The US also warned that Moscow might use chemical or biological weapons during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Please also see an article about this disinformation narrative on factcheck.org:
Social Media Posts Misrepresent U.S.-Ukraine Threat Reduction Program
Recently Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that "it's necessary to stop Ukraine from turning into 'anti-Russia'." "The main thing is to stop the attempts of the placeholders, who illegally seized power, to betray the vital interests of the Ukrainian people and, in order to please the West, turn their country into an 'anti-Russia' as the meaning of their existence," Lavrov decried. This statement was widely shared by Russian media and also by Russian embassies all over the world.
However, nobody except Russia itself did anything to turn Ukraine into "anti-Russia."
So how can Ukraine not be "anti-Russia"? It's the Kremlin's doing; no one else is to blame.
Yuriy Tkachov, a chief editor of Odesa-based outlet Timer, wrote very sarcastically that many Ukrainian media and bloggers who were said to be pro-Russian assumed "pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian position to various degree" after Russia invaded Ukraine. He puts recently banned TV channels NASH and UkrLive as examples. Therefore, Tkachov argues that these media and opinion leaders were falsely labelled pro-Russian. "So what, it turns out, they were not agents of the Kremlin and traitors at all? In the end, it turned out that they were our own, but just with a different opinion, right? And they were unreasonably persecuted?" Tkachov wondered with a fair bit of sarcasm.
No, media and opinion leaders Tkachov means were not falsely accused of being pro-Russian, and here's why:
Hence, the Ukrainian government was right to introduce sanctions against media and bloggers, which Tkachov now tries to whitewash. Russian information influences in Ukraine had too much time to promote anti-Western and conspiratorial propaganda among Ukrainians. For more information about anti-Western actors in Ukraine, refer to our Infowatch section.
Russian propagandists keep using Ukrainian collaborates to push their narratives. Today Russian media have spread a statement by Illya Kyva, a Ukrainian MP from the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform—For Life who fled to Russia. He urged Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to transfer power to Viktor Yanukovych, a wannabe dictator ousted from Ukraine by the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. However, according to Kyva, Yanukovych "was deposed in a coup" and therefore, "he has all the legal and legitimate rights to negotiate on behalf of Ukraine to achieve peace".
Such a statement from Kyva and Russian media's "information support" is not coincidental. Russia has harboured Yanukovych since he fled from Ukraine in 2014. On March 2, 2022, before the second round of Russia-Ukraine negotiations, Russians flew Yanukovych to Minsk. Apparently, they counted on putting him in the presidential seat once again if Zelensky was removed from power, but that move ended with nothing. Today, before the third round of negotiations, Russia flew Yanukovych to Minsk again. Putin likely wants to bring Yanukovych, the Kremlin's puppet, back to power in Ukraine. This move would make it easier for Putin to further legitimise war against Ukraine in the eyes of Russian population.
Russia teases "long work" on Ukraine after "denazification" and "demilitarization."
Bogdan Bezpalko, a member of the Council on Interethnic Relations under the president of the Russian Federation, stressed in a commentary for propagandist news website ukraina.ru that "many people who live in Ukraine have been reformatted with the help of a new ideology". "It's as if a child got into a sect. Parents do not lose blood and genetic connection with it, but at the same time, the child becomes completely different and no longer perceives the father as his father; it has completely different values, he is ready to take out all the family property to the head of the sect from the apartment." Bezpolko added that citizens of Ukraine fell under hateful sectarianism. "This is a quasi-religion, and Ukrainian nationalists themselves admit it. For them, nationalism is a religion, and Bandera is their prophet," he emphasized.
Clearly, Russia plans repressions against any Ukrainian who would hold on to their identity and resist the Russian occupation of Ukraine.
A new level of cynicism reached: Russia's defence ministry stated that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is "catastrophic" and "rapidly deteriorating." According to an article in Kremlin-controlled outlet Ria Novosti, "the Kyiv regime has almost lost the ability to manage the administrations of regions and districts of the country, the administrations of settlements are not able to solve elementary issues of a social and domestic nature."
In fact, the Russian invasion has caused this "catastrophic humanitarian situation", and Russian propagandists try to use it to their advantage by providing assitance to locals and filming this process. For instance, Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine, is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe due to the Russian siege. Meanwhile, Russian troops did not let Ukrainian humanitarian convoys in and brought one of their own. This convoy was accompanied by a camera crew set to film "grateful Ukrainians." However, Ukrainians protested and told Russian soldiers to go home. People shouted: «Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes! Glory to the nation! Death to the enemies! Ukraine above all!». The «Russian world» is not welcome even in Russian-speaking cities such as Kherson.
After the initial shock of the Russian invasion, pro-Russian media and opinion leaders, many of whom initially supported Ukraine or tried to remain neutral, are once again voicing very similar narratives. Right now, one of such narratives is that "Ukraine won't become an EU member any time soon."
For instance, Kremlin-controlled media TASS writes with reference to Russia's ambassador to the EU that "there is no fast track procedure" for the EU membership. In fact, it has become harder for any third country to become an EU member since the last enlargement wave, TASS argues.
A very similar wording appeared on the Ukrainian pro-Russian website Strana. The outlet published an opinion piece that reads that "there is no fast track procedure" for the EU membership. Nevermind. Neither NATO nor the EU would accept Ukraine. [...] Both the US and the EU now want to turn Ukraine into a kind of Afghanistan for Russia and force Ukraine to constantly purchase lethal weapons with Western loans for many years to come. Everyone is only interested in money," the opinion piece reads.
In fact,now is the time when Ukraine has got a way to join the EU way faster than before. "Since 2014, Ukraine has tried to convince its western partners that the best way to stop Putin is to give Ukraine what he does not want it to receive. Because of the war, some European partners started to realize that it is indeed so. Given the support it currently enjoys, Ukraine has a good chance of completing its bid successfully. More so since the politicians can no longer oppose the accession: Their voters would simply not support this," European Pravda, a reputable Ukrainian news outlet, writes.
As Western sanctions against Russia start having a tangible effect on the population, Russian media try to downplay the significance of these sanctions in several ways.
In some cases, that is true. For instance, a mayor of Kupyansk, Kharkiv region, collaborated with the Russian army. However, most Ukrainians actively resist Russian invaders with arms or civic protests. Thousands of civilians who had never held arms before joined the territorial defence units. Others confront Russian soldiers with words. For instance, locals in Berdyansk, southern Ukraine (a region where pro-Russian sentiments used to be strong) protested against Russian soldiers until those rode away in trucks.
"The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, and their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war. We are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe," Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said.
"The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, and their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war. We are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe," Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said.
In return, Russia will likely ban all European broadcasting.
🇺🇦 Ukraine has been targeted by #Russian hybrid warfare for over 8 years. Watch this #video by @IMatviyishyn to learn more about the Kremlin's hybrid threats, as well as how to help #Ukraine counter them. pic.twitter.com/YVPTWAfuTI— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) February 23, 2022
🇺🇦 Ukraine has been targeted by #Russian hybrid warfare for over 8 years. Watch this #video by @IMatviyishyn to learn more about the Kremlin's hybrid threats, as well as how to help #Ukraine counter them. pic.twitter.com/YVPTWAfuTI
Anti-Western Narratives in Ukraine and Russia # 6
The Russian invasion of Ukraine would mean an enormous challenge for Ukrainian anti-Western media and opinion leaders, as most of them are openly or hiddenly sympathetic towards Russia, but protest loudly when being called “pro-Russian.” That’s why for the last few weeks these actors have been saying that “Russian invasion was invented by Western media” and “disinformation campaign” was targeted against Russia.
However, as Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”, the possibility of Russian invasion grows even higher. Hence, many anti-Western actors try to justify the Kremlin’s actions and at the same time accuse the West of doing nothing to help Ukraine. Here are the key narratives on this:
Judging from their rhetoric, Ukrainian anti-Western actors are getting ready to harshly criticize any sanctions against Russia, especially so if the international community would give them a reason to do so. Any mild restrictive measures would be targeted at once. This information campaign could be damaging to the pro-European and pro-Western sentiments of Ukrainians which are currently all-time high.
Vladislav Surkov, former Putin's aide and one of the key masterminds behind the Russian invasion in Donbas in 2014, published an article saying that Russia should reinstate the borders the Russian empire had prior to 1918. Surkov argues that the peace deal Bolshevik Russia signed in 1918 was "derogatory" and that modern Russia has to achieve "the right peace." In particular, according to Surkov's article, Ukraine and the Baltic states should be a part of Russia. That's another example of how the Kremlin thinks: Russia's imperial ambitions never went away and won't go away anytime soon.
The Kremlin's disinformation campaigns on Minsk Protocols are based on its own understanding of how these agreements should be implemented. The Kremlin and its proxies in the so-called "DPR" and "LPR" escalated hostilities both in 2014 and 2015 prior to negotiation of the Minsk Protocols (referred to as "Minsk-1" and "Minsk-2" in order to force a deal on Russia's terms, using the strategy of "coercion to peace."
Read more in our latest article:
Minsk Coercion: Pro-Russian Social Media Accounts Pressure Ukraine to Implement the Minsk Protocols
Anti-Western Narratives in Ukraine and Russia # 5
During his press conference with France's President Emmanuel Macron, Russia's President Vladimir Putin crudely stressed the importance of the Minsk agreements. "As for the Minsk agreements, are they alive and do they have any prospect or not? I believe that there is simply no other alternative. I repeat once again, in Kyiv, they either say that they will comply, or they say that this will destroy their country. The incumbent president recently stated that he does not like a single point of these Minsk agreements. 'Like it or don't like it, it's your duty, my beauty.' They must be fulfilled. It won't work otherwise," Putin said.
Putin's rhetoric coincided with an increase in messages related to Minsk agreements on Russian-language social media segments. For instance, according to data from Hoaxy, a monitoring instrument set up by the University of Indiana, on Twitter, the primary conversation starter on Minsk Agreements is Vladimir Soloviov, one of the key Kremlin propagandists. His tweets related to Minsk Agreements were diffused in the network of 929 accounts, 239 of which are more likely bots.
Anti-Western Narratives in Ukraine and Russia # 4
Ukrainian journalists and commentators often voice anti-Western statements later picked up by pro-Kremlin media.
An example of such coordination is a statement by Ihor Huzhva, chief editor of online media Strana. On January 31, he wrote that Western media, including CNN, Reuters and Bloomberg, "shoot with fakes" about a potential Russian invasion. Huzhva argued that the very same media "have been telling for four years straight that 'Trump is a Russian spy' with references to 'sources," but "produced no proof." "The 'Trump is a Russian spy' scheme was used for creating an entirely virtual information reality. Now it's used worldwide. The story with Trump can be called a 'civil fake war,' and what is happening now - a 'world fake war'," Huzhva wrote.
Huzhva's post about the "world fake war" was republished by numerous pro-Kremlin outlets:
Furthermore, the idea of a "world fake war" was also repeated by Ivan Skorikov, a Russian political commentator and expert of "CIS countries institute." Interestingly, the "Russian world" adepts keep denying the possibility of a military escalation. What would they say if it were to happen after all?
Anti-Western Narratives in Ukraine and Russia # 3
On January 27, Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian runaway oligarch who currently resides in Austria, and one of the owners of TV channel Inter, published an article saying that Ukraine could be "the Switzerland of Eurasia" if it gave up on NATO membership. Lanny Davis, a lawyer representing Firtash first asked Kyiv Post to publish this article as “exclusive” op ed piece from his client. However, when the outlet refused, Davis published the article on his Medium page. In the end, many Ukrainian media outlets picked up this story and shared key narratives from the article by Firtash.
"This is my point pertinent to the current crisis: America, Europe, and Russia can all benefit from a neutral Ukraine as economic and trading partners with all, military allies of none," Firtash writes. "I have little doubt I speak for many Ukrainians who would like to have the best of both worlds — neutrality, trading with all, and good relations with all. And why not? This would mean more jobs and prosperity for Ukraine. A neutral Ukraine should not be seen as a threat to America, Europe, or Russia," he adds.
This is a classic Kremlin narrative spread via one of it's proxies. Russia would never allow Ukraine to remain neutral: European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine is the only alternative to coming back to Moscow's political orbit. Russia's aggression against Ukraine has been the key driver of Ukraine's drift towards NATO since 2014.
Anti-Western Narratives in Ukraine and Russia # 2
On January 23, anonymous Telegram channel Ze Rada (77 thousand subscribers) published a post in which it writes with reference to “it’s source” that Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin “reached some kind of an agreement in Geneva in summer” and, according to this agreement, “the U.S. took an obligation to solve the Ukrainian issue in Minsk format.” Hence, the post reads, both the West and Russia raise tensions and demonstrate readiness for the war, but in fact all the recent talks about possible Russian invasion were made to coerce Zelensky to accept Russia’s terms on Donbas.
This post was shared by numerous other anonymous Telegram channels, including First (416 thousand subscribers), Legitimnyi (228 thousand subscribers), Rezident (172 thousand subscribers), Spletnitsa (55 thousand subscribers), Tainaya Kantseliaria (40 thousand subscribers), Hater (4 thousand subscribers). Channels Legitimnyi, Rezident and Spletnitsa were proven to be controlled by Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Other channels are likely to be a part of the Russia-controlled network as well.
This is only one example of how anonymous Telegram channels try to push the narrative that the West and Russia have already reached an agreement on Ukraine behind Ukraine’s back. “Unfortunately, in this situation, we have become a hostage to the bargaining between the superpowers, which consider Ukraine as one of the elements of the Big Deal,” Rezident writes. The end goal of this campaign is most likely to spread despair in the Ukrainian society.
Anti-Western Narratives in Ukraine and Russia # 1
As Russia continues to amass its troops near Ukraine’s borders, anti-Western and pro-Russian actors in Ukraine spread the same narrative Russian officials, media and commentators do: Russia allegedly does not want to wage war against Ukraine, and the recent military escalation is the result of provocations by the West and by the U.S. in particular.
For instance, Ihor Huzhva, chief editor of the online media Strana, which often has pro-Russian rhetoric, argued in his Facebook post that “the Western media blow out the panic about “Russian invasion to Ukraine”. According to Huzhva, a war with Ukraine would not be beneficial for Russia as it “would solve neither of its tasks, but would create a lot of new problems.” On the contrary, in the West and in Ukraine alike “there are forces which are very much interested in breaking off the negotiations between U.S. and Russia," Huzhva suggested. He assumed that the West could use the Russia-Ukraine war in February to draw attention from the 2022 Winter Olympics in China. A very similar message was voiced by Sergei Markov, a Russian political commentator. He argued on air of Komsomolskaya Pravda radio that the U.S. might start a war in Donbas in January to upset the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Ukrainian political commentators often voice anti-Western messages which Russian media later share. On January 18, a talk show took place on TV channel NASH (owned by pro-Russian politician Yevhen Murayev), during which Russia’s military escalation was discussed. Guests of the talk show shared several anti-Western messages. For example, Viktor Suslov, a political commentator linked to the pro-Russian Opposition Platform—For Life party, stressed that “the country [Ukraine] is on the brink of the economic catastrophy”, and this happens “along with the military frenzy of the West.” It is notable that key messages from the talk show were published on ukraina.ru, a Kremlin-controlled media which is popular in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Such narratives are in line with recent statements by Russian officials. On January 17, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the U.S. statement that Russia is preparing for a “false-flag operation” in Donbas as “total disinformation.” On January 20, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that Ukrainian and Western claims of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine were a “cover for staging large-scale provocations of their own, including those of military character.”