African Mercenaries Escape Poverty by Coming to Die for Ukraine. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 28 November-4 December 2022

Last week, Russian media quoted Putin’s bluster and calls to the Russian people to stand as one with the government. The hackneyed Russian fakes never stopped coming: the propagandists claimed that it was only mercenaries who were fighting for Ukraine while Western arms were being sold to terrorists. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.


Follow the trending topics of Russian disinformation on our interactive dashboard “Disinformation about the War in Ukraine”

For The Mobilized We Care

When the Russian leadership announced general mobilization, hundreds of thousands of Russians were thrown into the grinder. Many of them are obviously getting discontent due to the unclear purpose and future of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Kremlin officials are trying hard to convince the public that they do care about the mobilized and their families. To this end, last week's publications on Russian media abounded in reports about new programs to support the mobilized, rehabilitation centers opening and the like. It is Vladimir Putin himself who leads this noble initiative by commanding the army of bureaucrats and comforting the families of the wounded. However, he does not seem to be eager to meet the soldiers face to face: “As of now, there are no specific plans for Vladimir Putin to meet the wounded soldiers, but you may rest assured that the president will continue to confer with those responsible for the progress of the special military operation”.

Russian propagandists also highlighted nationwide support of the “special operation” and stressed that the people and the government stand united. “We all, at one point or another, volunteered to defend our motherland to the end. They are and will always be our heroes”, said Putin’s spokesman Peskov.

“Mercenaries” Attack!

Russian disinformation media continue to cover the heroic defense against the hordes of “Polish mercenaries”. According to Russian media, they are dying by the hundreds in Ukraine. So high is the body count that the authorities of the Polish town of Olsztyn had to open a dedicated cemetery: “The frequent funerals of militants from the town due to extreme losses have become a real problem for the authorities. The residents have been complaining about the processions and the firing of rifles by the honor guard. To address the complaints, the authorities decided to set up a new cemetery in an out-of-sight area to bury the mercenaries. The cemetery will resemble similar American facilities”.

It is for that reason that the AFU is about to get reinforcements from Africa of all places: According to German media, “African mercenaries are flocking to Ukraine to avoid poverty and unemployment”. Ukrainian propaganda lures destitute African youth with promises of Ukrainian citizenship and a sizable compensation should they get killed in action”. The dark-skinned warriors “are notoriously violent” since most of them are “Islamic terrorists, ethnic militants and common thugs”. Not long ago, Western media published an interview with African students in Russia who exposed Kremlin's schemes of sending foreign students to fight against Ukraine. It seems that Russian propagandists have been trying to drown this shocking report in a flood of nonsense.

Not the Pope We Used to Know

Not long ago, we reported a spike of favorable references to Pope Francis on Russian media — the same very Pope who had allegedly condemned Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

However, last week’s mentions of the Pope on Russian media were full of anger. It was the Pope’s earlier words about the violence of certain representatives of Russian ethnic groups who were part of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine that caused this outburst of hatred.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hurried to condemn the Pope: “Minister Lavrov: The Pope’s harsh words about the Chechens and the Buryats are not helping to settle the conflict”, “The Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova earlier said that the Pope’s opinion on the Chechens and the Buryats was a disgraceful perversion of truth”. The Pope also got his fair share of criticism from the official representatives of Russian religious communities: “His words were equally condemned by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the head of Russia’s Buddhists … and the head of Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia”.

Russia’s top peacemaker Ramzan Kadyrov, who also happens to be the Head of the Chechen Republic, stated that the Pope ought to “treat people with more humanity. His latest statements condemning the violence of the Russian military are sowing the seeds of division among peoples”. He even went as far as accusing the head of the Catholic church of the deaths of Ukrainians: “Certain members of his flock from NATO countries are turning Ukrainians into cannon fodder”.

Funnily, some Russian propagandists took the Pope's criticism as a compliment: “The effect of Roman pontiff’s words on the soldiers was just the opposite of what the Pope intended. “Our soldiers fight with dignity and they do it very well — no surprise that their skill got the Pope’s attention. This means they do their job just right”.


The Putin Phenomenon

Last week, Russia propagandist media decided to remind the world that Putin is the greatest leader of our time and once again published the absolute numbers showing the people’s support of the president’s course: “According to an earlier survey by VCIOM, 78.7% of the residents of Russia trust the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin while 75% of the fellow citizens approve of his actions”, “The results of the sociological study have shown that the actions of the President and the Armed Forces of Russia, and Russia’s actions in general are approved by an overwhelming majority of citizens who consider them warranted”.

The officials who have also been treating their leader to lip service even coined a special term for the results of the sociological “study”: “the Putin phenomenon”: “The high confidence rating of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin demonstrates that he has been working effectively for the good of all Russians and meets the aspirations of the people”.

According to some Russian political observers, “people trust Putin inherently, on a much deeper level than their positive or negative assessment of the current situation”.

By claiming so Russian propagandists are telling people to trust Putin and hint that it is this confidence that keeps the West at bay: “Our foreign opponents have been waiting for the confidence rating to drop, but the President’s rating has remained steady since March 2022 with minor fluctuations of 2-4%”.

Also in the News:

Russian propagandists spread new fakes and claims about Ukrainian weapons being sold to terrorists and criminals: “[…] AFU commanders and Ukrainian government officials have often been caught red-handed while selling arms to the West which provided them”, “French politicians fear that the weapons provided to the Kyiv regime might end up in the hands of the “enemies of the West”, “the Ukrainian crisis caused a surge of illegal arms supplies to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin causing the weapons to end end up in the hands of terrorist groups active in the region”.

The Methodology

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


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