While disinformation actors predominately focused on front line developments, with well-rehearsed claims that the West is provoking the war and undermining peace negotiations, the recent destruction of the Kerch bridge was largely ignored, despite the furore of Russian officials. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s controversial ‘peace strategy’ tweets were lauded by pro-Kremlin voices, as they sought to ridicule his critics.
The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout October 3 - 9, 2022, including new or shifting narratives and key cases. These development and insights primarily relate to narratives about the following themes:
Events of the Russian invasion to Ukraine
(Negative) Economic Consequences of Sanctions
Conditions of Russians and Russian-speaking Minorities
Military Threats to Eastern Europe/Risk of War Expanding Beyond Ukraine
Military Aid to Ukraine
The Nord Stream pipeline explosions were once again blamed on the West this week. Sources such as Douglas Macgregor were used to make unsubstantiated claims, including that the Biden administration ordered the sabotage to be carried out.
EKRE has engaged in fear-mongering tactics this week, claiming that the national song festival will be abolished as a far-right tradition or abandoned when the Estonian language is overtaken by foreign languages. A recent poll shows growing support for EKRE.
Far-right sources maintain the following series of claims about Ukrainian refugees: a) they are ethnic Russians; b) they are actually migrant workers, not refugees; c) they undermine Estonia’s stability and traditions by Russifying schools and forcing true Estonians to move abroad. Disinformation actors easily alternate between the contradictory claims that refugees seek conflicts with local Russians but also support Putin and Russia.
The energy crisis is also discussed in contradictory terms: the same publications have claimed that the crisis was caused by various political circumstances while also blaming it solely on Europe’s green policies.
A new narrative that Ukraine is preparing a nuclear attack was observed this week.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 2,100 interactions.
This week, pro-Kremlin voices in Latvia primarily focused on discussing the situation on the frontlines. These were primarily continuing narratives claiming that i) the US is directly involved in the war; ii) Ukraine is a Nazi state; iii) Ukraine is preparing a nuclear attack. The attack on the Kerch bridge did not become a source of disinformation.
The economic messaging that was in focus over the previous several weeks was not observed during this monitoring period. However, this may constitute a sporadic fluctuation, rather than a long-term trend.
The process of creating a new government after the Parliamentary election of Latvia has begun. At the moment, it seems like the previous Prime minister of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš, will continue to occupy this role. This news has affected some of the disinformation content analyzed this week.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 2,100 interactions.
Traditional messages about the developments of the Russia-Ukraine war were the most prevalent this week. These narratives are sometimes contradictory, for example the claim that the West abandoned Ukraine and asked it to surrender has been presented alongside the accusation that the West is undermining peace negotiation efforts.
The recent destruction of the Kerch bridge generated only one piece of disinformation content, which depicted the explosions as an act of terrorism committed by Ukraine with the help of its rulers (US, UK, NATO).
The inflation and energy crises were once against blamed on the West’s false political approach. A Facebook user claimed that there is no objective reason for gas prices to be this high and that the actual reason is the “satanic plans” of Biden and Schwab, who are supposedly lying about the war.
Narratives about the war expanding beyond Ukraine focused on two sub-narratives, including one new one. The new sub-narrative is that Russia is losing the war and will use nuclear weapons. Disinformation actors also claimed that Zelensky is escalating the war to a global conflict by demanding that the West launch “preventive strikes” on Russia. Zelensky was also called a "small, crazy fuhrer" who may attempt to use a dirty bomb against Russia.
Pro-Russian disinformation actors also claimed that governments are using the war in Ukraine to limit the freedoms of their citizens and that those who support Ukraine are ridiculous. This accusation was based on the announcement of a new rally by the controversial Lithuanian Family Movement, which seeks to protest Lithuania’s “dictatorial” policies. It is worth noting that this misleading and fearmongering announcement was actively shared on Facebook. A Lithuanian MEP also shared similar claims.
The statements made by Elon Musk were picked up and reported. Sporadic anti-Western messaging and anti-government messaging was also present.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 8,500 interactions.
The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group unites 10 think tanks and research groups, which are working non-stop to monitor Kremlin propaganda in 11 countries.
Our partners: Civic Resilience Innitiative (Lithuania), Analyses and Alternatives (Bulgaria), Prague Security Studies Initiative (Czechia), GRASS (Georgia), Atlatszo (Hungary), MOST (North Macedonia), Fakenews.pl (Poland), Slovak Security Policy Institute (Slovakia), Detector Media (Ukraine).