Blame shifting game. Navalny case used by pro-Kremlin media to undermine Polish foreign policy

In February, one major topic flogged media outlets analysed by Debunk EU – the Navalny case. Poland was presented as a Russophobic and failing state in relations to its foreign policies not only with Russia or Belarus, but with US and NATO as well. National health policies related to coronavirus, mostly masks and quarantine, though to a lesser extent, were among the most targeted sectors, but only in Polish language media outlets and Facebook groups.


Throughout February, Debunk EU experts spotted 835 articles with disinformation and 43 with misinformation relating to Poland. Compared to the previous period, this constituted approx. ↑95% increase in total amount of cases observed throughout the month. This is a direct result of improvement in labelling process by Debunk EU, especially inclusion of Facebook groups and pages as well as Russian-language media outlets. Compared to previous months of analyse increase of 16% were noted, thus disinformation and misinformation in Poland amounted for 32% of the general information flow. According to Debunk EU analysts, those articles had a potential reach of 425 million contacts.

Presence of Polish diplomates at the Alexei Navalny trial triggered the first flow of disinformation under which Poland was accused of interference in internal affairs of Russia. Later on, after Russia’s decision of expulsion of Polish diplomates and reciprocity measures taken by Poland, the situation intensified. Actions of Polish diplomates were announced as illegal. Statement of Polish politicians, such a President’s interview calling for sanctions against Russia, were used to spread the negative message stating that Poland patronizes Russia and interferes in its domestic affairs. Polish reaction was recognized as a sign of Russophobia.

The narrative presenting Poland as a vassal of NATO/EU/US was used again commonly (107 articles) which follows an ongoing trend. This month such narrative was used mostly in relations to Nord Stream 2, thus new message was escalated – Questioning the usefulness of important infrastructure projects. This month Poland was also accused of rewriting history due to rejection of Red Army ’liberation’ of Poland. The narrative was spread in relations to WWII anniversaries.

Narratives by reach, @DebunkEU data

The increase in number of articles presenting Poland as a Russophobic state with anti-Russian policies and improper foreign policies was reflected in the achieved reach in the audience (approx. 276 million potential contacts). In stark contrast with distribution by mentions in articles, messages relating to COVID-19 reached relatively small contact audience, indicating a low effect of communication associated with this narrative.

Share by media sources, @DebunkEU data

Starting from January problematic information in Russian language were included into analyse. Moreover, in February Debunk EU analyst begun to analyse problematic information in Facebook groups and pages. Due to this improvement diversification of media outlets was spotted. Problematic information related to Poland was mostly spread by the Kremlin’s funded information outlets such as Ria.ru, News-Front.info, Sputnik (publishing in Russian and Polish languages).