The explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines saw Kremlin propagandists seize the opportunity to sow division among Western nations by accusing the United States of perpetrating the attack, citing decontextualized quotes from President Biden to bolster their unsubstantiated claim. Meanwhile, disinformation actors continued their prolific targeting of Ukrainian refugees in a bid to stoke fears about the ‘Russification’ of host countries.
The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout September 26 - October 2, 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
EKRE continues to focus on claims that war refugees are Russifying and otherwise destabilizing the country. Additionally, they promote claims that the energy crisis has been caused exclusively by the Estonian government and the EU’s green agenda, without any recognition of impact from the war in Ukraine.
Anti-sanctions messaging was widespread as usual. It has been intertwined with anti-EU statements and Covid conspiracies. The primary claims are that Estonia is in the midst of economic catastrophe due to the COVID-19 hoax and the proxy war in Ukraine, while Russia is laughing as Europe suffers from its own sanctions.
Tucker Carlson alleged that the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged by the Biden administration. A conservative source in the USA also cited a Trump-era official who compared Ukraine's situation to that of the Wehrmacht at the end of 1942, echoing both the “Ukraine is losing the war” and “Ukrainians are Nazis” sub-narratives.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 3,000 interactions.
The most attention was again given to economic sanctions; no new trends or narratives emerged.
Pro-Kremlin messengers legitimised the illegal referenda and the proclaimed annexation of Ukrainian territories, attempting to persuade their audience that this should not entail additional EU sanctions against Russia.
Individuals aiming to discredit Ukrainian refugees or threatening nuclear war were detected.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 2,200 interactions.
This week, the most focus was once again placed on the events of the Russia-Ukraine war. The new narrative is that the US is planning a nuclear detonation in Ukraine. Propagandists also blamed the West for waging war on Russia in Ukraine, portraying Russian soldiers as “liberators” welcomed by the local population (including legitimisation of the illegal referenda).
Significant attention is given to the Nord Stream pipeline explosion, which is explained as US sabotage. An old quote from President Biden was decontextualized and used for these claims. There were also two cases of disinformation actors claiming that the annexation of Ukrainian lands was legitimate. Claims about the West being at open war with Russia continued in addition to the aforementioned new sub-narrative claiming that the US is planning a nuclear explosion in Ukraine.
Narratives focusing on Ukrainian refugees had two unique cases. One claimed that Ukrainian refugees are wealthy and should not receive support, while the other mocked the Lithuanian government for supporting Ukrainian students in Lithuania.
Only three pieces of disinformation focusing on the economic situation of Europe were recorded this week. It was claimed that inflation and the energy crisis are caused only by the West. In one of these cases, an FT publication’s headline was misleadingly translated to paint an over-dramatized situation of the economy.
In addition to this, pro-Kremlin voices continued discrediting the Lithuanian government as corrupt or autocratic, the Ukrainian leadership as spoiled and weak, and the West as greedy and hypocritical. It is worth noting that we did not record cases of disinformation directly focusing on conditions of Russian culture, military threats to Eastern Europe or military aid to Ukraine.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 5,100 interactions.