Russia Continues to Threaten Nuclear Holocaust. Russian Media Monitoring Report, August 8th – August 14th
Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant conundrum was all over the headlines of the Russian propagandist media last week. The Russians also moaned about derussification in Ukraine, lashed out at their Baltic neighbours and praised Uzbek-made refrigerators. This monitoring report debunks these and other lies spread consummately by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.
Nuclear Blackmail Continues
Russian occupation forces seized Europe's largest Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant exposing the facility to unprecedented risks. Before looking at Russian propaganda, here is a quick recap of the situation from Kyiv: ZNPS personnel have been reporting continuing presence of military vehicles and ammunition at the facility. They work endless shifts and are subjected to threats and torture by the Russian military. The power plant has sustained heavy damage to some of its mission-critical infrastructure. According to ZNPS specialists, the damage was caused by targeted strikes by Russian artillery units which were directed by Rosatom employees acting as forward observers. The attacks were intended to intimidate the Ukrainian personnel to the point that they would agree to re-route power supply to the Russian energy grid. If successful, the power plant would safeguard the aggressor’s energy supply and enable long-term occupation of the Ukrainian South. In fact, Russia is resorting to nuclear terrorism keeping the power plant personnel and the entire world hostage since a nuclear disaster and its aftermath would affect a vast territory far beyond the occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia oblast.
Russian information troops have launched a large-scale campaign to spread disinformation and propaganda in order to shift the entire responsibility for the nuclear menace to Ukraine. To achieve the desired effect, they have been using the all-familiar though quite alarming clichés such as “Nazi artillery units”,”dirty bomb” and “atrocious provocations” by “nationalist groups”.
Russian propagandists throw impudent demands at Ukraine's Western allies which sound very similar to terrorist threats: “Moscow urges Kyiv’s partners to bring Ukrainian authorities to reason and make them cease shelling the power plant. That being said, the Russians reject the idea of setting up a demilitarized zone around the facility claiming that they are in fact protecting it against “a nuclear disaster”.
As usual, Russian fringe websites presented a number of conspirological theories: “The fallout from a [nuclear] disaster would turn an immense amount of territory into desolate wasteland. Such doomsday scenario in this sector fits perfectly into the grand scheme of Kyiv's Western masters: nothing but scorched earth for Russia! … instead of advancing, Russian armed forces would have to launch a grand-scale relief effort under incessant fire from Nazi combatants.
Baltic States Spearhead Russophobia
Last week, Russian media bombarded the Baltic States with accusations of “belligerent Russophobia”. This outrage followed earlier discussions regarding closing borders with the aggressor state and designating it a state sponsor of terrorism: “Estonia’s decision to suspend Schengen visas issued to Russian citizens by the Republic of Estonia, is pure insanity”, “the Saeima’s decision to designate the Russian Federation a State Sponsor of Terrorism in the country is just another example of propaganda as Latvia’s bark is much worse than its bite”.
Russian propagandists offer a multitude of ideas as to who is behind these radical steps, which clearly contradict themselves: Some of them accuse the USA: “The wording of Latvia's recent declaration clearly shows who is pulling all the strings — and it isn't Brussels since, unlike the USA, the EU legislation has no such designation as ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’. It is in the USA that the Russophobic lobby introduced such a resolution to the Congress in disregard of the position of the Department of State”. However, others point fingers at the EU: “As far as the Baltic States are concerned, they have always been at the beck and call of the EU the collective West. Accepting a religion or joining a sect is always associated with indoctrination and even hazing”.
By and large, these contradictions are inconsequential as the Baltic States are always portrayed as puppets dancing to somebody else’s tune.
The Russian Federation warned that this decision “will be the final nail in the coffin of Russo-Latvian relations” whereas some hotshots went as far as saying that “Latvia and its neighbours must face the consequences of designating Russia State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
Zelenskyy’s Golden Parachute
Russian news spinners are tirelessly generating new argumentation to discredit Ukraine and put a new coat of paint on some old fakes. Last week they brought back the hackneyed scaretales about the lifting of the ban on sale of farmland trying to convince that “the sale of Ukrainian arable land to large international corporations will force many farmers out of business and leave them on the brink of poverty”, “It is safe to say that serfdom is making a big comeback in Ukraine as the people who work the land will lose their rights to it”.
The propagandists have also offered their own interpretation of the decisions of the Ukrainian government on privatization which they called “Zelenskyy's golden parachute”. “Ukraine is headed for mass privatization, and Western investors are already poised for action. When the deed is done, Vladimir Zelenskyy and his team will get golden parachutes leaving the country in shambles”.
“It is perfectly obvious that the privatization rush is fueled by the fears that, sooner or later, Russian army will gain control of the Ukrainian territory which has been under the nationalist rule since 2004. As soon as the news about Russian control over this property reaches our ‘partners’ from across the ocean, they will say: “With all due respect, comrades, you took something that belongs to us” and seize our assets, which currently remain frozen, on legitimate grounds”.
Europe Falls into Discord while Russians Fall in Love with Uzbek Fridges
“Anti-Russian sanctions are nothing but a joke” is the underlying theme which has dominated the news on Russian media since 24 February 2022. However, researchers at Yale University published a study which shows that sanctions “are crippling Russian economy”. In an effort to control the damage, Russian propagandists are trying to paint a completely different picture.
They are pushing the narrative that Russia has passed the stress test and has successfully adapted to the sanctions which, they claim, are doing the West more harm than good. They even go as far as saying that the West is about to ease the sanctions: “EU’s sanction policy regarding Russia is losing steam”, “analysts agree that the sanctions have become a serious bone of contention for the European countries”, “as Europe is headed for a recession, their leaders are bound to ease the sanctions so Russia must stand its ground and push its economic agenda in an effort to secure business development”.
At the same time Russian disinformation sources threaten and intimidate: “the public is waking up to a grim reality as they realize that the sanction policy is making Europeans’ lives less and less comfortable. Apart from comfort, the situation may pose significant health risks in the event of power and heating outages in the winter”, “the sanctions are turning into a time bomb for the countries where governments disregard the underprivileged and fail to provide any incentives for their protection”. According to the propagandists, it is Germany, EU’s powerhouse, that is going to take the biggest fall: “anti-Russian sanctions will eventually hit the vulnerable social classes in Germany and cause social unrest”.
Russian media are confident that the West is unable to survive without Russia and its oil and gas. They sing praises to Vladimir Putin's economic genius: “the president of Russia Vladimir Putin played Biden in the energy war. The embargo on Russian oil put by Western countries only led to a surge of demand due to a deficiency of the commodity on the market”.
The grim forecasts for the EU produced by Russian propagandists even include an imminent war between Turkey and Greece: “the downfall of the European Union as a result of economic confrontation with Russia is bound to trigger a Greco-Turkish war for Western Thrace and Aegean Islands”.
Such messages provide a suitable background for an optimistic outlook on the Russian economy by fake experts who expect ”a growth in Q4 2022”. All you need to do, they say, is stiff upper lip as “most of the inconveniences due to the sanctions imposed by unfriendly states will be dealt with. To drive economic growth, the government is laying the groundwork for new consortiums of vendors from ‘friendly’ states which are soon expected to enter the Russian market ”.
However, the comments from businesses are far less optimistic. They are anxious that the dwindling supply of home equipment to Russia will dry out and no “parallel imports” (a new term for “contraband” — editor’s note) would help. At the moment, Russians are importing home equipment from the countries which the Russian Federation considers friendly: Belarus, Armenia and the like. That being said, Russian distributors admit that “EEU states have run out of goods which could be readily shipped to the Russian Federation without the risk of sanctions”. Russian business analysts are getting Russian consumers accustomed to the idea that Uzbek, Turkish and Chinese brands are just as good: “in the long run the shortages will be balanced out by alternative brands — for example, those from Asia and Turkey. In July, Russian chains started offering goods from suppliers in Uzbekistan, Turkey and China to address the shortages of home equipment from certain brands. According to analysts, Uzbek brand Artel is in a good position to replace Western brands”.
Also in the News:
The search for American mercenaries in Ukraine continues: “The U.S. Department of Defense has launched a new practice of hiring mercenaries in Ukraine — the so-called contract ‘assistants’ […] American military personnel “has been integrated into the Ukrainian ranks from the very beginning of the hostilities. […] It was Ukraine that became Pentagon's testing ground for those tactics: similar to outsourcing, the Americans are offering money to experts who are ready to apply their skills in large-scale military operations”. This fake was traced to Causer, an ultra-right news source from France.
Ukrainian refugees also got a fair share of discreditation: “Ukrainian refugees have finally shown Ukraine's true colours to the Europeans: all they bring is rudeness, ingratitude, crime, vandalism, and Ukrainian Nazism. This is the face of the ‘nezalezhna’ Ukraine and the essence of Ukrainian character.
Russian media expressed shock and disgust by Ukraine’s active steps towards teaching in English in an effort to phase out Russian: “Interestingly, this is has nothing to do with thoughtfulness or mismanagement. It is an intentional policy of the government who are fully aware of their actions. Yet, it is still unclear who exactly will provide English training to dozens of millions Ukrainians so that they could watch Netflix shows in the original”. They assure that Ukraine's derussification efforts are doomed since “there is nothing you can do to make people forget their native tongue. An assimilation machine would probably help, but Ukranizers have never had and will never have one. Even Poland failed at forcing Galicians to forget their language — all they managed was to spoil it with Polonisms”.
We have built a corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (almost 22,000 news items) for our weekly disinformation monitoring report. Each paragraph was processed by the algorithm which defines its topic automatically. The resulting topics (i.e. groups with similar content) were short-listed by the topics relating to the war or its consequences for Russia. The number of mentions of a certain topic was then counted for each publication. Our conclusions are based on the respective findings and the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.
We used materials from tass.ru, riafan.ru, lenta.ru, russian.rt.com, aif.ru, life.ru, slovodel.com, news-front.info, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, politnavigator.net, donbasstoday.ru, sevastopol.su, politobzor.net, naspravdi.info, antifashist.com, kafanews.com, anna-news.info, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, dnr-pravda.ru, dni.ru, rusdnepr.ru, 3652.ru, comitet.su, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, sobytiya.info, doneck-news.com, meridian.in.ua, dnr24.com