Despite Ukraine’s recent military advance in Kharkiv oblast, there was a notable silence from Kremlin propagandists as few attempted to address the issue. Instead, disinformation actors across the Baltics predominantly targeted Western support for Ukraine and refugees, claiming that governments, politicians and the media were prioritising Ukrainians at the expense of their own citizens.
The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout September 4-11, 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
Although the Ukrainian offensive in Kherson oblast began on September 6, it was only closer to the weekend that local voices of Kremlin propaganda noticed it. Quite expectedly, they made up impressive figures to report on “catastrophic” losses among the Ukrainian army. Moreover, they warned that Ukraine is going to invade Russian territories, and even more: that to achieve its goals, Russia may attack NATO member states.
The most prevalent narratives this week still involved stories about Ukrainian refugees. Far-right websites and an anarchist website specializing in conspiracy theories continued to claim that “Ukrainian refugees undermine host countries' internal stability” and that “Ukrainian refugees are prioritized over the host country citizens”.
While some articles published by far-right groups support Ukraine's fight against the invading Russians, other authors associated with EKRE unanimously oppose Estonia's support for war refugees. In terms of economic consequences of sanctions, the continuing narrative was primarily that “sanctions hurt the West more than Russia”. A new narrative, “Russia will stop all gas deliveries for Europe”, emerged from an article citing Dmitry Peskov, and a small online study claimed that fewer people see Russia as responsible for the war; hence, the authors claimed that the “Western society does not support Ukraine”.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 4,500 interactions.
This week, only a handful of articles containing disinformation about the Russia-Ukraine war were detected in the Latvian language space. They focused on the economic consequences of sanctions (with the same narrative that sanctions only make Russia stronger, whereas Latvia is suffering a disastrous “energy crisis” because of them) or tried to discredit the Latvian government (that is allegedly supporting Ukrainians at the expense of Latvians, or only pretends to be supporting Ukraine to hide its real policies).
The Ukrainian offensive in Kharkiv oblast was ignored.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 10,200 interactions.
This week, disinformation messaging was mostly aimed at undermining public trust in the Lithuanian government and mainstream media, as well as discrediting Ukraine and its leadership. The narratives remain the same: media all lie; the government uses the war in Ukraine to establish a dictatorship; Ukraine is all corrupt; the government supports Ukrainians whereas its citizens suffer poverty, etc. The visit of Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych to Lithuania was noticed.
The Ukrainian offensive in Kherson was ignored – at least, the monitoring didn’t spot any report or attempt to reinterpret the situation. Only individual articles were dedicated to developments on the frontline, but they focused on Zaporizhzhia NPP and blamed the West for using Ukraine to wage war on Russia.
The economic consequences of sanctions were also given attention. The main thread remains the same: the situation on the energy market (this week, tariffs for electricity were in focus) is disastrous and comes as a result of short-term governmental policy. On Thursday, the nationalist political party National Association (“Nacionalinis susivienijimas”) held a protest "on the destruction of the public energy sector."
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 9,100 interactions.
The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group unites 10 think tanks and research groups, which are working non-stop to monitor Kremlin propaganda in 11 countries.
Our partners: Civic Resilience Innitiative (Lithuania), Analyses and Alternatives (Bulgaria), Prague Security Studies Initiative (Czechia), GRASS (Georgia), Atlatszo (Hungary), MOST (North Macedonia), Fakenews.pl (Poland), Slovak Security Policy Institute (Slovakia), Detector Media (Ukraine).