Policy Brief Covering Major Russian Disinformation and Propaganda Narratives (August 2023)

Russia continues to fight for the hearts and minds of Westerners. At the very least, it is trying to create information chaos that under- mines social cohesion and influences public opinion on Russian geopolitics. The policy brief conducted by the Kremlin Watchers Movement covers the main narratives and patterns used by Kremlin propaganda.

Russia continues to fight for the hearts and minds of Westerners. At the very least, it is trying to create information chaos that undermines social cohesion and influences public opinion on Russian geopolitics.

Naturally, the key subject is the war in Ukraine, which affects Czechia, Slovakia and Poland deeply. Among other things, the narratives mapped in this policy brief aim to undermine reliable partnerships and support for Ukraine from these countries.

Therefore, it is important to know the patterns used by Kremlin propaganda in order to build resilience and common awareness of this malign behaviour. Sharing good but also bad practices is crucial – the policy brief therefore includes a mapping of this field in terms of the legal fight against disinformation, the role of civil society, and media literacy and strategic communication. The authors also offer a list of recommendations focusing on these areas at the end of the policy brief.

Key Findings

  • Many of Russia’s propaganda narratives attack refugees fleeing war. They are presented as criminals or ingrates, and in all the information spaces under observation, they have been presented as a threat to the economic well-being of the domestic population. Objectification is experienced by both genders – men are presented as criminals, women sometimes as victims of sexual violence, or accused of wanting to “steal” European men. Cultural and linguistic differences are often manipulatively pointed out.
  • All of the countries surveyed have been heavily dependent on Russian energy in the past. The strategic vulnerability and situation were exploited by similar narratives in all states to build fear and insecurity in the population about the energy crisis following a full-scale Russian invasion. Similarly, in efforts to build societal fatigue from the conflict, the rhetoric also touched on the issue of sanctions, which were said to be more damaging to European states than to Russia.
  • A key effort of Russian propaganda in all states has been to discredit and demonise Ukraine or Ukrainian political elites and the ordinary population. The mainstay has been the narrative of so-called Ukrainian „fascism”, in which Russia is presented as an eternal anti-Nazi fighter. However, the glorification of Russia also took place outside the remnants of Soviet propaganda, focusing on praising Russia’s military “achievements” and, conversely, blaming the West (e.g. the alleged presence of bio- logical laboratories in Ukraine).
  • The accusations against the West have mainly consisted of false claims that it is rejecting peace negotiations and deliberately prolonging the war (e.g. for political or economic interests). There were also narratives about the possible dragging of partners supporting Ukraine into the war. This rhetoric has also been applied against various national politicians who, in their support of Ukraine, are allegedly oblivious to the needs of the ordinary population or are turned into agents of Western interests.

More information can be found in the study below.

The report was produced within the Kremlin Watchers Movement project, which has been active for almost three years in the fight against Russia’s malign influence and disinformation in Europe. The report presents facts and conclusions from an analysis of the information environment. The authors are solely responsible for the content of the document.

Authors: Katarína Drevená, Peter Dubóczi, Štefan Ižák