While refugees, sanctions, and public support for Ukraine remained key targets of disinformation in the beginning of July, the topic of Kaliningrad was further exploited to assert that Lithuania is only provoking Russia. A new trend of placing the Russian invasion to Ukraine in the context of popular conspiracies, such as the Great Reset, was noticed as well.
The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout July 4-10, 2022, including new or shifting narratives and key cases. These development and insights primarily relate to narratives about the following themes:
Events of the Russia-Ukraine War
(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
Over the previous week, the key topic that pro-Kremlin messengers used for Estonian-language audiences was Ukrainian refugees. They were pushing the narrative that some believe Ukrainians who come to Estonia to be better than Russians due to their language, culture etc. Also, Ukrainian refugees were portrayed as scoundrels hiding in Estonia from military service. The EKRE party was particularly active in spreading these messages: “deserters are given the opportunity to hide abroad - although it should be of the utmost importance for Estonia that the Russian war machine in Ukraine is smashed to pieces”.
The war was placed in the context of popular conspiracies. One of them was the Great Reset conspiracy: allegedly, the Covid pandemic was the first phase of the Reset, and the Russia-Ukraine war is the second one. Another theory goes that the reason for the war was to discredit and destroy the Russian Orthodox Church.
The monitoring did not observe any noteworthy trace of other Kremlin narratives (those related to sanctions, negative consequences of military support to Ukraine, Ukraine losing the war). Yet, the modest general amounts of stories that the monitoring managed to identify does not allow to judge of trends at this stage
Electricity prices set a record on Monday, June 11. Finland-Baltic region appears in deficit. This will probably be used by pro-Kremlin voices to continue discrediting Estonian support to Ukraine, especially in view of the fact that the energy policy of the government appears heavily challenged by opposition parties.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 2,300 interactions.
Ukrainians sell the weapons donated by the West, including to the Russians [Uued Uudised]
"The highly authoritative Bulgarian state-run publication Bulgarian Military has published a story that, according to both Ukrainian and French sources, it has emerged that Ukraine has sold two 155 mm howitzers it received from the French directly to the Russians".
"Interpol is also allegedly aware of the matter, with German publication Overton Magazin highlighting the views of Interpol chief Jürgen Stock on the same issue. He fears that ‘weapons will fall into the hands of criminal groups’. He adds that even the US special services do not know exactly where these weapons are going and that this trade probably has the tacit approval of a number of foreign countries".
Over the previous week, and as previously observed, Latvian-language pro-Kremlin social media segments produced only a few stories related to the war in Ukraine, which attracted modest audience engagement. A possible explanation is that the Kremlin prioritizes targeting local Russian-speaking populations (see the specific chapter in this Report for more information) rather than the limited in size and hardly persuadable Latvian-speaking audiences.
Populist politician Aldis Gobzems appealed to nationalistic sentiments and criticised Latvian policies and the situation in the country - one of the aspects of criticism was the “overuse” of Ukrainian flags, which supposedly undermines Latvian native culture and nation.
NATO talks to increase their military presence in Latvia were portrayed as threatening Latvian national security.
Stand-alone articles were detected promoting the narratives of military superiority of Russia and senselessness of sanctions.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 4,600 interactions.