Kremlin propagandists mainly pursued existing narratives regarding events on the Russia-Ukraine front line, ranging from claims that Ukraine’s allegedly slowing offensive was indicative of their ‘impending defeat,’ to suggestions that Ukrainians are fighting on behalf of ‘corrupt Western regimes.’ Only one new sub-narrative was observed, in Estonia, portraying Western-led military training for Ukrainian soldiers as ‘escalatory.’
The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout October 17-23, 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
This week, the most prevalent topic among Estonia’s pro-Russian voices was the events of the Russia–Ukraine war. The Ukrainian offensive seems to have slowed down, leading disinformation actors to spread claims about the Ukrainian Army supposedly impending defeat.
The majority of pro-Russian messaging this week included the following claims: i) Russia only attacked because Ukraine was planning to attack it first; ii) NATO / the West will attack Russia; iii) the Azov regiment is a terrorist organization; iv) Ukraine is preparing a nuclear attack; v) the West/US is responsible for the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines; vi) Ukraine should not / will not become a NATO member; vii) military aid prolongs the war, as well as endangers the countries that provide it. Some of these claims have been directly influenced by the events that occurred during the week under question. For instance, Sergei Shoigu’s phone calls to British, French, Turkish, and US defense ministers about Ukraine’s possible use of a dirty bomb were used to spread similar disinformation narratives.
Claims that the Ukrainian army attacks Russian civilians remain notorious.
Anti-refugee and anti-sanctions messaging has become less prevalent, but nevertheless continues to appear. News of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure were used to amplify antirefugee messaging; according to pro-Russian disinformation actors, the number of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia will continue to grow in the winter.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 1,500 interactions.
This week, a relatively small amount of pro-Russian disinformation was observed in Latvia. These narratives primarily focused on i) discrediting anti-Russian sanctions; and ii) traditional accusations of the West waging war on Russia; iii) accusations that the West sabotages the Nord Stream pipelines; and iv) claims that the Ukrainian army is losing the war.
Allegations that both military and financial aid to Ukraine is either being stolen or misused were detected once again.
On October 22, about 50 people protested in the center of Riga against the introduction of the National Defense Service. An invitation to the protest was supposedly distributed anonymously on Facebook. Some of these activists also protested against the LGBTQ+ community on the bridge near the Freedom Monument, demanding that Latvian society return to the “traditional family” model.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 979 interactions.
This week, pro-Russian disinformation actors in Lithuania focused on the events of the war. No new narratives were identified, as propagandists continue to justify the Russian invasion and claim that Ukrainians are fighting on behalf of the corrupt Western regimes. They also blamed the West of attempting to discredit the Russian army with claims that Russians are being supplied with Viagra in order to rape Ukrainian women.
Disinformation actors also claimed that Russian strikes on Ukraine have been very precise and that Ukraine is incapable of defending itself from Russian drones, even with Western technology.
Articles claiming that providing military aid to Ukraine endangers Lithuania were also detected. Propagandists claim that the money would be better spent on internal problems, whereas military support for Ukraine may provoke Russia to attack Lithuania.
One disinformation article used a misleading, overly generalized headline "Europe wants Russian goods" to imply that the West regrets imposing sanctions on Russia. The same outlet also published another misleading article about the war not being responsible for inflation.
Some new, miscellaneous narratives in Lithuania are that a) Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine were planning a coup in Belarus to prevent it from helping Russia; and b) French citizens allegedly do not support further aid to Ukraine. Attempts to discredit Western leaders have also continued.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 2,900 interactions.
The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group unites 10 think tanks and research groups, which are working non-stop to monitor Kremlin propaganda in 14 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), Press Club Belarus (Belarus), GlobalFocus Center (Romania), European Western Balkans (Serbia).