How Kremlin-Backed Telegram Channels Target EU in Ukraine (Part 1)

June 28, 2024
Pro-Russian Telegram channels spread propaganda against EU-Ukraine relations, portraying both the EU and Ukraine in a negative light.

Despite ongoing controversies surrounding Telegram, the messaging platform continues to gain popularity. The last Internews Media Consumption Survey indicates that Telegram has become Ukraine's preferred social network for both communication and news consumption, with a consistent upward trend.

Since the full-scale invasion, Telegram channels have become the primary source of front-line updates, including additional information on Russia's attacks, such as the launch of missiles and drones against Ukrainians. Furthermore, numerous Ukrainian news services and politicians switched to Telegram, increasing usage from 60% in 2022 to 72% in 2023.

At the same time, Telegram channels became a key tool for manipulation and disinformation dissemination. Oleksiy Pivtorak, deputy head of the Media Detector Research Center, referred to Telegram as a hotbed of disinformation, noting that the platform's prevalence of fakes makes it extremely dangerous for its users.

As a result, Russia and pro-Russian Telegram channels continue to be able to use the social network to disseminate propaganda and manipulative narratives about Ukraine, including its integration into the EU.

According to the list of pro-Russia Telegram channels compiled by Ukraine's Security Service, 12 of the most popular channels were chosen: Legitymnyy, Resident, Anatolii Sharii, Mir Segodnia y Yurii Podoliak, ZeRada, Zhenshchina z Kosoi, Politika Strany, Kartel, Media Killer, Splietnitsa, Media Post and Nabliudatel.

Since the start of the full-scale war, these channels have increasingly shared official statements or reposted foreign media articles, offering subjective opinions or forecasts, as well as heavily biased perspectives on EU-Ukraine relations. Initially, these Telegram channels focused primarily on their own propagandist analyses.

However, around autumn 2023, there was a noticeable shift, with the channels beginning to share reposts from various foreign media sources. As of 2023, the frequency of posting anti-EU narratives has gradually declined. Instead, pro-Russian sources have disseminated Eurosceptic sentiments sourced from prominent media outlets including Politico, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and The Observer, among others. They have also expanded their repertoire to include lesser-known but more Eurosceptic news services.

For the last two years, in the matter of Ukraine's integration into the EU, the most pro-Russia Telegram channels have been focusing on the following main falsehood narratives:

Narrative #1 "The EU's support is not significant and falls every day."

Narrative #2 "The EU is on the way to slow collapse."

Narrative #3 "The EU is weak politically, economically, and militarily."

Narrative #4 "The EU does not want to accept Ukraine due to its low economic development and corruption."

Narrative #5 "Ukrainian refugees threaten Europe."

Narrative #6 "EU's sanctions against Russia do not work and have a negative impact only on the EU."

Narrative #7 "The EU will never refuse Russia's energy sources."

Narrative #8 "Ukraine will never receive profits from frozen Russia's assets."

Narrative #9 "Ukrainian grain threatens the EU market."

  • Narrative #1 "The EU's support is not significant and falls every day."

Despite the EU's and its member states' significant financial and military assistance, pro-Russian social media promoted narratives about "the EU's limited assistance to Ukraine." One of the most prevalent allegations is that "member states buy outdated and ineffective weapons from Ukraine." Moreover, anti-EU Telegrams, such as ZeRada, criticize those who have already provided financial assistance, noting that "such assistance is only useful for economic prospects."

However, the EU's assistance to Ukraine has only increased; since Russia's full-scale invasion, the EU and its member states have allocated €98.5 billion. Despite the fact that the EU's capabilities to conduct common military policy are severely limited, the EU and member states have agreed to provide €32 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, as well as to train Ukrainian militaries and launch other military initiatives such as Czechia's initiative to raise funds for the purchase of artillery shells for Ukraine.

The next part is devoted to debunking the myth of the weakness of the EU and its upcoming collapse.

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

Analyst at Internews-Ukraine PhD in International relations