Pro-Kremlin messengers use decontextualized report to spread claims of Ukrainian war crimes

In Lithuania, the frontline of the Russia-Ukraine war has become the focus for pro-Kremlin messengers with allegations of Ukrainian war crimes, fuelled by a decontextualized Amnesty International report. In Latvia and Estonia, a persistent effort to drive a wedge between the citizens and Ukrainian refugees was noticed, with narratives intended to invoke fear about the erosion of national culture.


The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout August 8-14, 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

  • Refugees

  • Conditions of Russians and Russian-speaking Minorities

  • Military Threats to Eastern Europe/Risk of War Expanding Beyond Ukraine

  • Military Aid to Ukraine


ESTONIA

Overview:

  • Like in the previous weeks, only a few articles were detected that targeted Estonian-speakers.

  • Although tensions were high around the removal of Soviet monuments in Estonia, the monitoring did not observe manipulations with regard to the matter.

  • Anti-refugee messaging remains notorious. Ukrainian refugees are repeatedly portrayed as mentally close to Russians; the narrative is that growing number of people like this in Estonia will allegedly erode its national composition and bring it back to Soviet-style colonial conditions.

  • Russian victory in Ukraine is presented as inevitable; negotiations with Russia are portrayed as the only existing, pragmatic solution.

  • Once again, the Amnesty International report was referred to in order to claim that Ukrainians commit war crimes and target civilians.


For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 4,900 interactions.



Disinformation narratives in Estonia about Ukrainian refugees and economic consequences of sanctions
Disinformation narratives in Estonia about Ukrainian refugees and economic consequences of sanctions

Disinformation narratives in Estonia about other themes related to Ukraine
Disinformation narratives in Estonia about other themes related to Ukraine


LATVIA

Overview:

  • As in the previous weeks, only a few articles were detected that targeted Latvian-speakers.

  • Journalist Sandris Točs and politician Aldis Gobzems posted another batch of anti-sanctions statements repeating the mantra that inefficient Latvian politicians are to blame for the energy crisis and the alleged fact that sanctions hurt Latvia more than Russia.

  • Week by week, we observe individual but regular messaging fuelling public irritation and fatigue of Ukrainian refugees, Ukrainian symbols on the streets, etc. The narrative is also notoriously repeated that Latvian government cares for Ukraine and Ukrainians more than its own citizens.


For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 5,400 interactions.



Disinformation narratives in Latvia about Ukrainian refugees and economic consequences of sanctions
Disinformation narratives in Latvia about Ukrainian refugees and economic consequences of sanctions

Disinformation narratives in Latvia about military threats to Eastern Europe and other themes related to Ukraine
Disinformation narratives in Latvia about military threats to Eastern Europe and other themes related to Ukraine


LITHUANIA

Overview:

  • Since the resolution of the Kaliningrad dispute, events of Russia-Ukraine war have been steadily in the focus of pro-Kremlin messengers in Lithuania. This week, they were especially visible claiming that Ukrainians are targeting civilians and committing other war crimes (referring to a decontextualized Amnesty International report, and claims made by controversial celebrities like Roger Waters or Steven Seagal).

  • There were also continuing fake stories showing how the West is losing interest in helping Ukraine or that Ukrainians are Nazis. Old narratives got repeated that Russia is not fighting at full capacity and that NATO provoked the war.

  • Ekspertai.eu (a known disinformation site) referred to CBS documentary “Arming Ukraine” to claim that Western military aid is being stolen in Ukraine.

  • Individual articles were observed that continued old narratives that i) the West is secretly trading with Russia; ii) Ukrainian refugees are prioritized over Lithuanian citizens (the story of Ukrainian schoolkids allegedly having a priority to enter local schools); iii) Lithuania is a puppet of the West (statement by political commentator Nida Vasiliauskaitė).

  • One narrative claims that the criticism of sportswoman Margarita Drobiazko was organised by the government to distract public attention from real issues. The state is claimed to be “on the fascist path”.

  • Manipulations of the Kaliningrad dispute were no longer observed, as well as messages about the risks of the war expending beyond Ukraine.

  • Attacks on journalist Andrius Tapinas were of lower scale but continued.


For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 6,400 interactions.



Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about the events of the Russia-Ukraine war

Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about the events of the Russia-Ukraine war and Ukrainian refugees
Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about the events of the Russia-Ukraine war and Ukrainian refugees

Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about the events of the economic consequences of sanctions, conditions of Russians, military aid to Ukraine and other themes related to Ukraine

Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about the events of the economic consequenses of sanctions, conditions of Russians, military aid to Ukraine and other themes related to Ukraine
Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about the events of the economic consequences of sanctions, conditions of Russians, military aid to Ukraine and other themes related to Ukraine


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).

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