How Russian Disinformation Harms Ukraine-Poland Relations

February 15, 2024
Russian disinformation works to spread hostility in Poland towards Ukraine: what narratives have been spread on Telegram, Facebook, and X (Twitter).

Goals of Russia's Disinformation in Poland 

Driven by internal vulnerability and long-standing imperialistic ambitions, Russia's disinformation machine has worked tirelessly to generate new falsehoods and reinforce existing narratives in pursuit of its geopolitical goals. Globally, Russia is eager to divide society in Poland and the entire EU as well, aiming to weaken Ukraine's allies in their support of Ukraine's resistance against Russian aggression.

Recognising Poland's new role in the international arena as a bridge between war and peace, providing its territory for the transit of military and financial assistance in both directions, Russia is trying to degrade Poland's support of Ukraine. In this case, Russia wants to bring discord into Ukraine-Poland relations in order to decrease Poland's financial, military and humanitarian support of Ukraine and Ukrainians. More importantly, they aim to spread personal hostility between Ukrainians and Poles, as well as their political elites. 

Tools and Narratives 

The Russian-Ukrainian war is being fought on both battlefields and on the virtual front, where losses carry their own significant weight. To counteract Russia's propaganda, Poland has initiated various measures through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and certain NGOs, but there is still no united strategy to take on Russian information warfare.

Nevertheless, straight after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Poland's National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) took swift action by prohibiting the broadcasting of Russian propaganda channels such as RT (Russia Today), RT Documentary, RTR Planeta, Sojuz TV, and Russija24. However, Moscow continues to work in Poland at a number of different levels and with numerous audiences to spread Russian falsehoods and propaganda narratives.

According to the Warsaw Institute,  several of the most popular news services (Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny, Myśl Polska, Wolne Media, wRealu24, Xportal) and Telegram channels (Anielskie Siostry Jasnowidzki, Niezależny dziennik polityczny, Układ Warszawski) have a tendency to spread pro-Russian narratives. Although Poland's National Broadcasting Council has curbed the activities of certain platforms like wRealu24 and Xportal, others continue to support Russia's disinformation campaigns, primarily through Internet and Telegram channels.

Russian propaganda is mainly focused on:

  • Poland's military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine
  • Ukrainian refugees in Poland
  • Ukraine's achievements in the war
  • Poland's involvement in the Russo-Ukrainian war
  • Ukrainian grain and produce exports and the blockades of the Ukrainian-Polish border
  • The internal situation in Ukraine and Ukraine's political elites
  • Past ethnic conflict

Due to the blocking of Russian news services and TV channels, the internet and major platforms like Facebook, Telegram, and X (formerly known as Twitter) have become primary channels for disseminating disinformation.

According to several services (Statista, Statcounter), Facebook stands out as the most popular social media platform in Poland.  On Facebook, preferably disinformation or propaganda is shared by mainly individual users. 

One impactful example involves a video that falsely accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy "of committing acts such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression." This video went viral and was shared over 320 times, gathering 190 comments. In reality, President Zelenskyy has never been implicated in any such crimes, but the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova.

Another instance involves a video circulated through a private account allegedly showing a party in the Ukrainian city of Odesa with the comment "the war is in full swing," suggesting that there is not actually a dangerous war in Ukraine.

The post attracted many negative comments about Ukrainians and Ukraine. In reality, the club in Odesa later explained that the proceeds from the party were directed towards supporting Ukrainian hospitals and the military.

The increasing role of Telegram, which is now the second-most popular messaging platform in Poland, has provided a significant conduit for the Kremlin to propagate its disinformation.

There are three particularly popular pro-Russian Telegram channels: Niezależny dziennik polityczny, Anielskie Siostry Jasnowidzki and Układ Warszawski, which fully devote their efforts to spreading groundless and manipulative claims against Ukraine. For instance, Anielskie Siostry Jasnowidzki falsely claimed that Ukrainian males as young as 17 are being conscripted in Ukraine. 

Układ Warszawski, on the other hand,  concentrates more on criticizing Ukraine and its officials, as well as praising the Russian military and its aggression. These Telegram channels also target Ukrainian refugees. For example, Anielskie Siostry Jasnowidzki periodically shares manipulations portraying Ukrainian refugees in a negative light.

These channels suggest that "Ukrainian children are prioritized over Polish ones" and "Ukrainian workers are replacing Polish ones," aiming to spread the idea that Poles should be fearful and hostile towards  Ukrainians. Moreover, these channels also accuse Ukrainian refugees of crimes like robbery and murder with fabricated evidence.

According to the European Commission's report, X (Twitter) is identified as the highest-ranked platform for disseminating disinformation. However, in Poland, X(Twitter) doesn't rank as the pinnacle of popular social media platforms. Nevertheless, Twitter users spread fakes against Ukrainian refugees, claiming them for theft and fraud.

Pro-Russia news service, Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny spreads misleading information about the Russo-Ukraine war. It disseminates claims suggesting that Ukraine is destined to lose the war, even with the support of modern equipment provided by the US and EU.

The narrative dismisses the Ukrainian military's achievements, especially the liberation of temporarily occupied territories like Kherson, while urging its audience to instead focus on Poland's security and dismissing what it terms as "Ukrainian fairy tales" of counteroffensives and victories. These narratives seek to foster anti-Ukrainian sentiments among the Polish populace, despite the relentless nature of Russia's aggression.

Russia's propaganda and disinformation resources have also fabricated information regarding Polish casualties in the Russo-Ukraine war. For instance, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov quoted a Polish source saying that "1200 Poles have died during the conflict in Ukraine." In reality, however, this claim originated with the pro-Russian Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny Telegram channel.

In addition, Polish media outlet Myśl Polska reported that "over 10,000 have Poles died during the conflict in Ukraine," but later removed the claim from its website.  The claim was also spread by, but was never retracted. These fabricated casualty figures significantly exceed the actual count, considering the Polish army's strength of 60,000 soldiers. In reality, according to NashVybir as of August 2023, only 7 Poles have been killed in the Russo-Ukrainian war.


It is worth noting that although major Russian disinformation channels in Poland are far away from the most popular news sources,  the constant fabrication of myths and fake news about Ukraine and Ukrainians causes confusion and hostility in Polish society. This has particularly affected the narrative surrounding the country's comprehensive support of Ukraine.

Russia's propaganda seeks to stoke tensions in Ukrainian-Polish relations.

While Ukrainian and Polish state institutions, along with analytical think tanks, have worked diligently to debunk Russia's disinformation, Russian propaganda continues to try to exacerbate issues in Ukrainian-Polish relations. In its efforts to exploit the shift in Poles' attitudes towards Ukrainians, it reinforces the narrative of prevailing Polish weariness towards Ukraine.

As Ukraine advances on its path to the EU, there will inevitably be a number of sensitive issues between Ukraine and its neighbours to the West. Therefore, it is crucially important for both Ukraine and Poland to avoid providing Russian propaganda with opportunities to engender division between the two countries.

The article was originally published on the Kremlin's Voice platform.

Maryna Yakymchuk
Analyst at Internews-Ukraine