Russian Disinformation Warfare: LIVE Updates

May 20, 2022
Regular updates on Russian disinformation narratives targeting Ukraine and its allies.
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May 20

Alternative für Deutschland, a far-right populist party, and Die Linke, a left-wing party, transmit the Kremlin’s narratives about the Russian invasion of Ukraine to German audiences.

Even though Die Linke has repeatedly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the party has not really done much to help Ukraine in any way. The party's calls for peace, diplomatic solutions, and avoiding escalation may be based on the party's values, but they nevertheless reflect exactly what the Kremlin needs and seeks: a lack of unity in the West on arms deliveries to Ukraine.

AfD, on the other hand, employs a very pragmatic approach. The party sees the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a distant conflict, which Germany has nothing to do with and which should not suffer economically for. That's why members of the party see no problem with continuing to trade with Russia. They rarely mention Russian war crimes, and when they do, they call for "independent investigations." Members of AfD do not see the symbolic value of Ukraine's EU membership and do not recognise the country's achievements. This approach is very understandable and clear for the Kremlin.

This AfD "pragmatism" is far more dangerous than Die Linke's idealism, not only due to the far-right party's influence on social media but also due to their willingness to seek what's more profitable over what's morally right. Die Linke has a long history of ties with Russia, but those ties could at least be perceived as the party's Eastern German legacy. AfD, on the other hand, established its support of Russia after the annexation of Crimea, and will likely keep its ties to Moscow in the future — so long as it makes any economic sense.

Read detailed analysis with examples of rhetorics of both parties in our latest article:

Alternative for “Peace:” German Far-Right and Leftist Parties Help Kremlin Propaganda

May 18

While Russia is stealing tons of Ukrainian grain, blocking access to Ukrainian ports, and provoking a food crisis, Russian propaganda blames the West for a future famine.

According to Russian officials and the media, the cause of famine in Ukraine and the world will be anti-Russian sanctions and the export of grain from Ukraine to Europe.

On May 14, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that product prices are rising sharply because of Russia, threatening hunger. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on this statement, explaining that, in her opinion, "prices are rising due to sanctions imposed by the collective West under pressure from the United States."

Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev also pointed to "the threat of hunger due to anti-Russian sanctions."

On May 18, Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Head of the International Committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, accused the West of "grain exports from Ukraine dooming Ukraine to starvation."

"They are robbing the Ukrainian people, dooming them, in fact, to starvation, but they will say that Russia is to blame for everything," Vladimir Dzhabarov said.

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that "the European Union will help Ukraine empty its grain storage." In addition, he called UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, "piglets from the European Union."

The same comparison was used by the Head of the All-Russian Trade Union Association, Sergey Vostretsov. According to him, "Ukrainian authorities are 'piglets' who want to provide 'fat European pigs' with grain because of their naivety."

May 17

Texty.Org.Ua studied how often the term "denazification" was used in Russian media since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Take a look at the significant decline in usage of the term at the beginning of April, when Bucha massacre was discovered.

May 16

On May 16, a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) leaders (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) took place in Moscow. CSTO is the Russia-led security bloc trying to position itself as a NATO rival. This way, Russia tried to draw all the CSTO members into its war with Ukraine. During the summit, many noteworthy statements were voiced.

Vladimir Putin, Russia's president:

"Evidence of the maturity of our organization and its real ability to adequately counter acute challenges and threats was the successful conduct of the CSTO peacekeeping operation in January this year in Kazakhstan at the request of the Kazakh leadership. The contingent of the CSTO Collective Forces, introduced for a limited time, prevented the seizure of power in Kazakhstan by extremists, who were also controlled from abroad, and helped quickly stabilize the republic's internal political situation."

"The issue of ensuring biological safety also requires the most serious attention. We have long sounded the alarm about US military-biological activity in the post-Soviet space. As you know,the Pentagon has created dozens of specialized biolaboratories in our shared region, and they are by no means engaged in providing practical medical assistance to the population of the countries where they have launched their activities. Their main task is to collect biological materials and study the specifics of the spread of viruses and dangerous diseases for their purposes. And now, during a special operation in Ukraine, documentary evidence has been obtained that near our borders, components of biological weapons were created in violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons, and possible methods and mechanisms were worked out to destabilize the epidemiological situation in the post-Soviet space."

"Unfortunately, in our neighbouring country, Ukraine, neo-Nazism has been on the rise for a long time, to which they [the West] turn a blind eye, and therefore actually encourage their activities. And all this is accompanied by an unprecedented surge of frenzied Russophobia in the so-called civilized and politically correct countries in Western society."

"As for the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance, yes, this is a problem that, in my opinion, is being created completely artificially, since it is being done in the foreign policy interests of the United States. In general, NATO is used as an instrument of foreign policy, in fact, by one country — this is done quite persistently, skillfully and very aggressively. All this exacerbates an already difficult international security environment."

Alexander Lukashenko, self-proclaimed president of Belarus:

"Today's meeting is taking place at a difficult time, the time of the revision of the world: the unipolar system of the world order is irretrievably a thing of the past, but the collective West is waging a fierce struggle to maintain its positions. All means are being used, including those in the area of responsibility of our organization: from NATO sabre-rattling near our western borders to a full-scale hybrid war unleashed against us, primarily against Russia and Belarus."

"NATO is aggressively building up its muscles, drawing Finland and Sweden, which were neutral yesterday, into its nets, acting on the principle: whoever is not with us is against us, hypocritically continuing to declare its defensive orientation. Against this background, the genuinely defensive and peace-loving position of the Collective Security Treaty Organization looks in contrast."

"Today, there is no more topical and important issue than the conflict around Ukraine. Since 2014, all of us have provided all the necessary assistance to resolve it. In principle, all of us sitting at the table are ready to do this even now in any format. It is clear that Ukraine was incited and incited, stuffed with nationalism, Nazism — evidence of that is Odesa, where people were burned alive — and fascism, Russophobia and weapons."

"So far, in the West, including in Washington, we see only a desire to prolong the conflict as much as possible. For this, Ukraine continues to be pumped up with weapons. The goals are clear: to weaken Russia as much as possible, "drown" it, as they say, in this war, or you can make it "flare" more widely — we are also observing this. If this is the intention, then, probably, no one will be able to sit this one out."

May 13

Russia keeps using religion as a weapon. Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (controlled by Russia) stated that Russia invaded Ukraine because its former President Petro Poroshenko established the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (independent from Moscow).

The establishment of the independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine has fundamentally changed Russian influence and soft power structure in post-Soviet countries. It revised the status of Moscow as the leading ecclesiastical center of the Orthodox Church, which remained almost intact for more than 300 years. Back in 2019, we conducted cross-border monitoring of Russian propaganda messages in the local media outlets of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in their reporting on the establishment of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Beyond Religion: What media outlets in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine say about the autocephaly of Ukrainian Orthodoxy

Furthermore, in 2021 we detected that the Moscow Patriarchate Church in Ukraine campaigned against vaccination from COVID-19 in Ukraine.

The Church Against Vaccines: How the Russian Orthodox Church Opposes Vaccination in Ukraine

May 12

Today, on May 12, Finland formally announced its intention to join NATO. The Kremlin immediately reacted to this statement.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, "NATO expansion threatens the world's security, and, in particular, the European continent," and "Finland's entry into the Alliance is a threat to the Russian Federation."

Russian political commentator Maksim Bardin in his comment for Regnum.ru stated that "The United States needed Finland not as an ally, but as a subordinate." In addition, "in the current situation, Finland occupies an important geostrategic position, the country borders on Russia, so Washington needs to take socio-political control under it."

On April 11, it became known that Finland and Sweden set to join NATO as soon as summer. Since that time, Russian propagandists have again begun to actively spread the narrative that "NATO has begun military development of the territories adjacent to Russia," which "carries a threat to Russia, as it increases the country's land border with the North Atlantic Alliance."

For instance, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko threatened that "if Finland joined NATO, Russia will not remain indifferent to this issue." "Our military will consider all necessary measures required to ensure the legitimate interests of defense," he added.

Also, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, "if countries join NATO, their territories will become a space of confrontation between the Alliance and Russia." The consequences will inevitably affect "good neighborly relations."

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev added that "after Sweden and Finland join the Alliance, the United States and Great Britain will immediately deploy nuclear weapons on their territory. Military exercises near the border will become more frequent."\ Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov spread the same narratives. He said that "if Sweden and Finland join NATO, they will have to treat Russia as an enemy. Moscow will have to do the same."

May 11

On April 28, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, stated that "Poland is planning to establish their control over part of the territory of Ukraine." According to him, "Poland and the United States are working out a plan to establish Warsaw's military-political control over 'its historical territories'."

In addition to speculations from the Russian authorities on possible Polish capture of Western Ukraine, Russian media are manipulating the information trying to find some "evidence" for their narratives. This is clear proof that, in fact, Poland has no plans to seize Ukraine, so the propagandists have to create "convenient facts" by themselves.

For example, propagandists manipulated the data of a Polish poll in which 56.8% of respondents supported the participation of the Polish military in the peacekeeping mission in Ukraine if it is organized by NATO, the UN, or the European Union. But many Russian media reported the results of the poll under the headline "The majority of Poles supported the deployment of troops to Ukraine."

Russian propagandists even have an explanation for why Poland still hasn`t captured Ukraine: "Warsaw has danger from Russia that, as Putin said, will give a lightning-fast response. It is holding back both Poland and Romania. [...] Most likely, control will be established during the collapse of Ukraine when the paralysis of the central government occurs."

In any case, Russian propagandists have already stated that "Polish plans for Western Ukraine are dangerous for Russia." As a consequence, they warned that "if Polish troops enter the territory of Western Ukraine, all their military units and weapons will become targets for the Russian army."

Moreover, according to Russian media, "Poland is planning to attack Belarus".

"Now the main threat to Belarus comes not from the Baltic countries, but from Poland, which is accumulating troops on the border with the Republic," a military expert said in an interview with Ukraina.ru

The self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko reacted to "Polish plans" during a parade in honor of the 77th anniversary of Victory Day in Minsk. He stated that "if the Poles decide to try to attack the Republic of Belarus, they [Belarus] will immediately 'break off horns' for Poland [Russian idiom that means 'pacify']."

May 10

Russian media post "prognoses" from astrologists and mediums about the Russia-Ukraine war, as spotted by our colleagues and friends at texty.org.ua: * "The existence of Russian civilization is at stake; many are anxious about the future. However, prophecies and predictions say that Russia will withstand the coming trials but will have to work hard.[...]Other countries will turn away from the "rotten hegemon—the United States." — life.ru

  • "It is absolutely impossible to say that Zelensky can win, that he is leading his country to victory: the inverted Star card indicates complete hopelessness, that he has no chance." — 5-tv.ru
  • "At the end of the second summer month, challenging events for Russia are possible. Military conflicts by this time may reach their peak. Moreover, even biological or chemical weapons are not ruled out." — Kurer-sreda.ru

May 9

Key quotes from Putin's speech at the victory day parade:

  • "Last December, Russia called on the West to an honest dialogue, to search for reasonable, compromise solutions, to take into account each other's interests. All in vain."
  • "Preparations were underway for another punitive operation in Donbas, for an invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea. In Kyiv, they announced the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons. NATO has begun active military development of the territories adjacent to us."
  • "Everything indicated thata clash with neo-Nazis on whom the United States and their junior partners lean would be inevitable [...] Russia gave a preemptive rebuff to aggression. It was a forced, timely and only right decision."
  • "Especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US started talking about its exclusivity thereby humiliating not only the whole world but also its satellites, who have to pretend that they do not notice anything and meekly swallow it all".
  • "Those who crushed Nazism during the Great Patriotic War showed us an example of heroism for all time. This generation of winners, and we will always look up to them".

As you can see, Putin continues to claim that "Russia has only defended itself," and his history-related delusions did not go anywhere. The man is sick and has to go one way or another. Instead of "repeating the heroic deeds of grandfathers," Russians have become the very embodiment of the evil their grandfathers were fighting against in WWII. That's what you get when you let a crazy dictator rule over you.

May 6

On April 28, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to supply arms to Ukraine under a land-lease program. It needs to be signed by the President of the US Joe Biden for the law to take effect. The program will allow the United States to supply arms and other aid to Ukraine faster and without standard bureaucratic procedures. How did the Russian media react to this?

First of all, Russian propagandists are very worried about how Ukraine will pay for the weapons provided under the land-lease program. Russian media emphasized that "this is not free of charge" and "Ukraine will have to pay Washington later for the 'gifts.'"

According to State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, "Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is driving his country into debt" because "many generations of Ukrainians will pay the price."

One Russian media even "tried to figure out what ulterior motives the initiators of this act are pursuing." According to it, lend-lease "allows the West to create a model of long-term conflict" and "turns Ukraine into a kind of 'European Afghanistan.'" Furthermore, lend-lease should "satisfy American society, which has been sensitive to the fact that taxpayers' money is being scattered right and left in recent years, " because lend-lease "will not be charity" for Ukraine.

State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin added one more motive of the USA: "Lend-lease will increase the profits of American military corporations several times over."

According to Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, "Ukraine more and more unceremoniously uses its European sponsors for his own purposes."

Russian media Ukraina.ru called it the "Lend-Lease of the death." The propagandists compared the lend-lease of the Second World War and the current lend-lease. They emphasize that, firstly, "the old lend-lease was intended to defeat Nazism and fascism, and this one was to support them." Secondly, "the current lend-lease is also the actual legalization of the weapons that the West has already supplied to Ukraine." Thereby "the United States in Ukraine is fighting for the destruction of Russia because this country is preventing the United States from restoring world hegemony."

State-owned outlet RT added that the lend-lease will help the USA continue to "saturate Ukraine and the Kyiv regime with weapons." According to propagandists, "this is a deliberate USA policy to revise the results of the Second World War and weaken the role of the UN."

Russian media also published the list of the weapons that "the United States will share with Ukraine." But propagandists were concerned thatthese weapons "in general pose a rather serious threat to Russian troops." Therefore, in their opinion, "it is necessary to do everything possible in order to not allow weapons from the lend-lease list will never get on the battlefield."

The idea that lend-lease "may complicate the tasks of the Russian army" was also expressed on Radio Sputnik.

May 5

On May 5, Anatoliy Shariy, a popular Ukrainian blogger and politician, was detained in Spain on an international arrest warrant for suspected treason.

Shariy has heavily criticized the Euromaidan of 2013-2014 and Ukraine's post-2014 authorities. UkraineWorld has often tracked his messages in the chorus of Ukrainian anti-Western actors. His commentary is often politically incorrect, frequently featuring hate speech and derogatory statements against his opponents. His narratives often align with those of Russian propaganda. He also echoes Russia's domestic information agenda, mostly by mocking Russia's anti-Kremlin opposition. For years Shariy has supported the Kremlin's narrative of Ukraine being a Western "colony" dominated by Russian-hating neo-Nazis in his videos. Now Russian propaganda tries to use his arrest to fuel its narratives about "anti-democratic Ukraine" and "decaying Europe":

  • Pervyi, one of the most popular Russian TV channels, called Shariy "an opposition blogger" and said that "he has honestly told about everything happening in the country, about the Euromaidan events and what came next." Such a token of recognition from the Kremlin's propagandists means a lot.
  • Zvezda, the official TV channel of the Russian army, quoted Illya Kyva, a former Ukrainian MP who has collaborated with Russia for years, saying that the arrest of Shariy "tells you everything you need to know about political asylum in Europe." "There are no more rules in the world," Kyva decried.
  • Russian outlet Ukraina.ru published two extensive articles on Shariy. In one of them, the website writes that Shariy's detention means "Europe has started a hunt ordered by Ukrainian neo-Nazis." Another one is an interview with Johan Bäckman, a Finnish pro-Russian political activist. In this interview, he said that Ukraine persecutes its own citizens around the globe just as the U.S. does, and such "widespread repressions" will continue. Bäckman also decried that "Europe has turned into Ukraine" since "there are Ukrainian flags everywhere."
  • Russian news website Politnavigator quotes Ihor Korotchenko, a Russian military expert, saying that in Ukraine, Shariy faces the prospects of "tortures in SBU basements, or even death." Konstantin Dolgov, a former "speaker" of the so-called "foreign ministry of the DPR", told Politnavigator thatShariy will likely be deported to Ukraine and "we [Russians] have to act, but how?"

All this "support" is another proof that Shariy was indeed involved with Russian propagandists.

May 3

Amid anti-semitic statements by Russia's foreign ministry and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian-organized anti-vax Viber chats are actively spreading anti-semitic propaganda. This is hardly a coincidence. Here are some notable examples of such propaganda discovered by our friends at texty.org.ua.

According to this picture, Jews pitted Russians and Ukrainians against each other and made them believe that the war is in their best interests. However, only Jews gain from this war, the text on the picture implies.

The caption on this widely shared picture reads: "A nation without land will come to the land without a nation. Not a single synagogue was damaged during the fighting in Ukraine." This pic was made by Russians, since it uses the phrase "на Украине", not "в Украине", as Russians do.

This message is widely shared by anti-wax groups and implies that "under Jewish yoke" the best Ukrainians are sent to the frontline as "cannon fodder." Also, the message calls on Ukrainians to "stop this."

This message "explains" that the war is only taking place in southern and eastern regions of Ukraine because "a new Israel was proclaimed with two capitals in Ukraine: Adessa and Dnipropetrovsk (sic!)"

May 2

Each year on this day, Russian "media" write that Odesa is "occupied by Nazis," building this narrative upon the tragedy in the house of trade unions on May 2, 2014. Forty-eight people, most pro-Russian activists, died from suffocation or burns during a fire that took over the building during the clashes in Odesa. Russian television broadcast images of charred bodies and reported that "Ukrainian Nazis" had "burned alive" fellow citizens friendly toward Russia. However, since then, no similar incidents have ever happened in Odesa.

This year is no different. Russian state-controlled outlet Riafan writes that in 2014, the local government in Odesa "has betrayed" the interests of ordinary citizens and, since then, the "Nazis" have occupied the city.

Apparently, Russians would like to "liberate" Odesa as they did with Mariupol. Over the last few weeks, Odesa has been constantly hit by Russian cruise missiles. As a result of one of such airstrikes, eight people died, including a 3-month-old baby and a pregnant woman. That's how Russians "liberate Odesa from Nazis."

See our updates from January 20 to April 30 here.

Vitalii Rybak and Iryna Subota

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