Winter is Coming: Analyzing Russian Propaganda Across Europe

-Analysis-

Kyiv — One of the main narratives of Russian propaganda in recent years can be summed up as follows: “Russia is a global power and the West must respect it.” However, since the beginning of the invasion, the European Union has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia.

In light of this clash, Moscow’s propaganda in the West has taken four distinct and distinct lines: “The future of the EU will be cold and hungry…”, “the EU shot itself in the foot…” , “The US economy is also suffering, and is now looking for ways to resume business with Russia…” and “Sanctions don’t hurt Russia, they only make it stronger.”


To dig a little deeper, Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security (CSCIS) analyzed narratives about international sanctions against Russia, which were covered on the pro-Russian channels of 11 European countries that are the closest neighbors. of Ukraine and Russia.

Slovakia and Hungary

Among EU member states, the highest percentage of sanctions disinformation (up to 31% of all articles published by pro-Kremlin channels about Ukraine) was observed in Slovakia and Hungary.

In those two countries, their own political forces are adding to the news hype. For example, in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán regularly makes anti-sanctions statements, which are picked up and broadcast by pro-Russian messengers throughout the region.

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In Slovakia, some pro-Russian opposition politicians are using the sanctions issue to criticize the current government and use it to promote their Eurosceptic plans.

The “inevitable” victory of Georgia and Russia

A similar trend is also observed in Georgia. Officials at the highest levels echo Russian narratives that the West seeks to drag Georgia into the war (to open a “second front” against Russia) and accuse opposition parties of aiding this conspiracy. Although the topic of sanctions is often heard, it serves as a complement to anti-Western rhetoric.

Such messages are intended to confirm “Russia’s inevitable victory” and “the ineffectiveness of the West’s approach to the Russo-Ukrainian war.”

Bulgaria and North Macedonia, “puppets” of the West

In Bulgaria and North Macedonia, pro-Kremlin voices are discrediting EU sanctions. Quotes from Russian or Western politicians and pundits who have anti-Western rhetoric are shared across media channels.

In Bulgaria, sanctions are also mainly used as proof that the country chose the “wrong side” by agreeing to be one of the “puppets” of the West.

Poland and the Czech Republic

Anti-sanctions messages are not very common in Poland and the Czech Republic. Narratives about sanctions in the Czech Republic occur primarily in the context of energy and internal political affairs.

In Poland, Russian propaganda primarily focuses on distorted historical narratives to discredit Ukraine, its citizens, and relations with Poland.

So, although there were messages in June questioning the sanctions, these were not common or very popular with people.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: dangerous sanctions

In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the issue of sanctions is also not very common (it does not exceed 8% of all messages). In Lithuania, for example, sanctions are mainly discussed in the context of the Kaliningrad transit dispute, which stopped the transport of Russian goods through the country to the Russian enclave.

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Although the issue was resolved diplomatically, the danger of the so-called anti-Russian policy continued to be widely discussed and economic sanctions were singled out as a direct threat to Lithuania’s security. However, in the Russian-speaking segment of the Baltic countries, the issue of sanctions is more widespread.

Propagandists try in every possible way to explain why sanctions should be abandoned. In particular, they refer to the increase in housing tariffs for the population (gas, heating) and state that trade and transport links with Russia are crucial for the local economy.

In Ukraine, fears of economic collapse spread

The main goal of anti-sanctions messages in the pro-Russian segment of Ukrainian society is to undermine citizens’ morale and trust in Western partners. All the narratives refer to a “weak and divided West”.

Propagandists claim that “Western support will end very soon and Ukraine will face economic collapse”, while Russia is portrayed as “a strong adversary, completely unaffected by sanctions”.

Regularly circulating forgeries claim that “Western creditors intend to use loans at high interest rates that will enslave Ukraine or give them control over Ukrainian land and other resources.”

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