NATO Has Russia in its Sights, Hungarians Treated as Cannon Fodder in Zakarpattia, and Disinformation Tsunami to Sabotage Mobilization in Ukraine. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 23-29 January 2023

Last week, Russian media went all guns ablaze with a mass disinformation campaign to discredit Ukraine's mobilization efforts. They also ran numerous materials about the secret plans to destroy Russia being developed by the Western allies and counted days before Turkey's imminent withdrawal from NATO. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

Horrors of Mobilization in Ukraine

Last week, Russian propagandist media seemed to be reluctant to report on the progress of military operations. They only gave scarce details of the “heavy fighting around Artyomovsk” (Bakhmut – editor’s note) and chose words carefully while talking about the “occupation army” which “has been attempting resistance on the outskirts of Ugledar”. It seems that Russian reports have learned from experience and do not hurry to brag about battlefield success of their army.

Instead, Russian propagandists focused on the supplies of Western arms: the tanks, the aircraft and the rockets and missiles. Russian media have long accepted the fact that Ukraine is getting a steady stream of modern Western weapons and have taken their nuclear threats off the table. Instead, they keep repeating self-assuring mantras such as “Western tanks cannot tip the scales of the Ukrainian conflict” or “training the Kyiv thugs to fly Typhoon fighters may take years since those aircraft are generations ahead of their Soviet legacy fleet”.

We have also been observing the launch of a massive disinformation campaign to discredit and sabotage the mobilization campaign in Ukraine. Social media are burbling with rumors about indiscriminate distribution of summons in the street which originate from purpose-made disinformation chats and telegram channels.

The materials from Russian media are used as original sources while the scare tales about the mobilization in Ukraine are intended to distract Russians from similar news at home. “Ukrainian military commissariats hunt men who are eligible for military service using ambulances as cover” (in all fairness, Odessa military commissariat representatives did ride with paramedics and hand out summons, but a wave of public outrage caused their superiors to denounce such practices — editor’s note), “the officers of territorial recruitment and social support centers do not hesitate to play the heavy. Recruits are put face on the ground, their arms twisted as they are herded into vehicles and taken to the medical commission by force. This is happening all over the country: from Odessa to Krivoy Rog to Dnepropetrovsk”, claim the disinformation media.

Such materials sometimes get quite absurd and border on utter lunacy. The author of one of such articles calls on “the Russian people” to resist mobilization and compares Ukraine to the Golden Horde: “First, SSU and police forces (the “baisahci”) enter a city. They knock on every door and check people's IDs. The Ukrainian “baisahci” also scour the streets, department stores, underground and local trains. As a result, some men's papers are checked a dozen times a day. The detained prisoners (the “horigdols”) are escorted to designated barracks which are guarded by the “mortons” in “otolts”. The “horigdols” are then armed and sent to the front lines at gunpoint to fight against Russia or be executed on the spot. This is pure Golden Horde!”.

Curiously, Timothy Snider, Professor of History at Yale University, referred to the ancient Russia as “Mongol Rus” in his series of lectures on the history of Ukraine due to the fact that the Golden Horde occupation of this part of Kyivan Rus lasted the longest during which period its local rulers were appointed by the khan.

We have also noted a certain coordination of Russian and Hungarian disinformation activities. Last week's feeds on Hungarian media abounded in questionable videos and dubious reports on the horrors of the mobilization campaign in Zakarpattia which were actively supported by Russian disinformation mongers: “Hundreds of Ukrainian military and police officers have been brought to tame Zakarpattia”, “the Kyiv regime has come up with a final solution to the Hungarian issue by sending Hungarians to the front lines as cannon fodder” (in fact, representatives of indigenous Russian peoples are blaming Russia for the losses of their compatriots in the war which appear quite disproportionate considering the difference between the size of their population and that of ethnic Russians — editor’s note), “Ukrainian authorities keep hundreds of bodies of soldiers away from prying eyes in unmarked refrigerator cars at the Hungarian border” and so on.

New Plans to Destroy Russia

Russian media are known to exploit the theme of West's plans to dismantle Russia. Interestingly, there has been a spike in the number of such stories on the pages of the leading Russian websites lately. The key message is that the enemies want to bring Russia to its knees: “The West has always been true to its anti-Russian agenda… and its plans to re-federalize Russia”.

Disinformation media quote Western politicians out of context trying to convince the public that the West has already put its plan to dismantle Russia in motion. Such statements as “The international community cannot take a comfortable stand on the sidelines, waiting for developments to develop, but must take a bold initiative that supports the re-federalization of the Russian state” or “We should discuss the prospects for the creation of free and independent states in the post-Russian space... The rupture of the Russian Federation will bring unquestionable benefits in the security, including energy security, and in the economy of Europe and Central Asia” are presented as concrete plans to destroy Russia.

Certain so-called experts claim that the West intends to occupy the territory of the Russian Federation similar to Germany in 1945: “The supporters of Russia's collapse somehow believe that they will be able to repeat the victory of 1945, occupy Russia and install their administrations?” Or they say that other countries cherish plans of annexing Russian territories — for example, they claim that Poland is drooling over Smolensk: “However surprising in 2023, Polish historians still believe the outskirts of Smolensk to be ancestral Polish land based on the fact that Poles settled there in the 17th centuries!... The term “lost territory” implies Poland's rights to bring that territory back”. It was exactly the same reasoning that Russia used to substantiate the occupation of Crimea which it claimed to have belonged to Russia historically.

Kremlin's information lackeys keep saying that the West has long been using Ukraine as a means to an end (this is yet another version of why the invasion took place) provoking Russia to start a new war: “Being aware of their plans, Russia got ahead of NATO by launching a special military operation. We realized that Ukraine was our chance to prevent NATO from marching into Russia. .. The North-Atlantic alliance was historically established to counter Russia. Its current leadership is obsessed with ambitions”.

The propagandists are trying to mobilize support of the Putin regime stressing that “the number of naive doves of peace in Russia is getting lower each month”. “Russian people are shocked by Ukraine's war crimes and insulted by Western politicians who call on their voters to rally behind the idea of dealing a devastating blow to Russia that would lead to its demise. They are growing absolutely confident that the special military operation must continue towards a total victory. This must be a decisive knockout and not some compromise decision of referees after arguing over points”, conclude Russian media writers.

The disinformation media never forgot to mention that Russia will never end up defeated or in isolation. Therefore, Europeans and Americans have to take Moscow’s interests into consideration one way or another. To prove their point, they quote Henry Kissinger, a famous American diplomat yet a representative of a bygone epoch: “Russia must be given the opportunity to one day rejoin the international system”, “Russia has been an essential part of Europe for 400 years”, “I believe in dialog with Russia to avoid a situation in which a country, even one engaged in a conflict, is denied an opportunity to redeem itself”.

The current situation at the front lines resulting from Russia’s wirthdrawal from a part of the occupied territories is a product of Putin's thinking which follows a long-term strategy to build a new world order instead of focusing on a total victory: “What did the press say yesterday? “Holding the current positions is Ukraine's best option. Wishing for more is totally unrealistic. Yet, there is only one man who can make it happen. That man is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Should he decide otherwise, Ukraine will never stand a fighting chance to defend those positions”.

Turkey to Leave NATO?

Last week, Russian propagandists had a sudden interest in the statements of certain Turkish politicians with a pronounced anti-Western stand: “More and more politicians and experts have come to realize that the time of reaping benefits from being NATO’s southernmost stronghold are buried in history as today the problems caused by being a member of the alliance far outweigh the advantages”, “Deputy Chairman of the Homeland Party (VP) Ethem Sancak dropped a bombshell by saying that Turkey may exit NATO in five to six months amid provocative actions against Ankara”.

Disinformation media insist on the existence of an influential political force in Turkey which opposes the country's NATO membership: “Turkish Homeland Party (VP) has launched a public awareness campaign calling on the government to pull out from the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization”, “it (the Homeland Party — editor’s note) has been collecting signatures on the respective petitions and organizing rallies and protests against the alliance's military bases on Turkish soil”.

The propagandists are savoring quotes from the representatives of the ultra-nationalist Vatan (Homeland) Party who stress that “the withdrawal from NATO has become a matter of national emergency in the best interest of the country”.

Russian media say that Turkey no longer benefits from being a NATO member: “Although Turkey used to reap huge benefits from being a part of the alliance with Washington on speed dial, today NATO is only draining Turkey's resources without offering much in return. This is why the so-called experts on Russian media convince the public that “Turkey's pullout from NATO may happen in the near future” and "Such speculations are based on solid facts rather than hypotheses”.

More trends of Russian disinfo - find in our interactive dashboard "WARTIME DISINFO FROM RUSSIA"

The Medodology

We have built a corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (almost 30,000 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 lenta.ru, tass.ru, riafan.ru, russian.rt.com, regnum.ru, iz.ru, life.ru, trmzk.ru, vz.ru, donbasstoday.ru, novosibirsk-news.net, ura.news, newizv.ru, news-front.info, aif.ru, slovodel.com, nakanune.ru, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, rosbalt.ru, polit.info, sevastopol.su, ng.ru, expert.ru, dni.ru, kafanews.com, antifashist.com, dnr-pravda.ru, naspravdi.info, kerch.fm, anna-news.info, dan-news.info, tehnowar.ru, aurora.network, gorlovka-pravda.com, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, 3652.ru, politnavigator.net, rusdnepr.ru, politobzor.net, doneck-news.com, mir-lug.info, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, nefakt.info, novosti.icu, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, comitet.su, sobytiya.info, denis-pushilin.ru, dnr24.com, meridian.in.ua.

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