Second Coming is Just Around the Corner! Russian Media Monitoring Report, 30 January-05 February 2023

Russia is facing unprecedented budgetary deficit. Western sanctions are pushing hard on the people and the economy. However, Russian propagandists assure that this is all but temporary: stiff upper lip, tighten your belts as the whole planet will soon be covered in the radioactive ashes of Word War III, and North Korea will help to make it happen.

This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

Situation in Luhansk Oblast: Fakes and Disinformation

Apart from Donetsk oblast, Russian are bolstering their offensive toward Lyman and attempting to push Ukrainian forces back from Kreminna. These efforts are supported with disinformation leaks to erode the morale of Ukraine's defenders.

Last week, Russian media spread multiple fakes on the alleged discovery of mass graves of the AFU personnel in the north of Luhansk oblast.

They also mounted a targeted disinformation attack on the 25th Separate Airborne Sicheslav Brigade currently operating near Kreminna. The disinformation media people ridiculed the soldiers, made up all kinds of nonsense tales, and accused the brigade command of war crimes and criminal negligence. Their manipulations were based on an overly emotional video posted by journalist Kateryna Kotenkova employed by the manipulative Ukrainian media ZNAI.UA. In the video, Ms Kotenkova called on President Zelenskyy to help organize a search for the paratroopers missing in action and claimed that military commissariats and the brigade command are refusing to talk to the families. Searching for servicepeople missing in action is indeed a problem for the Ukrainian authorities, but there is only that much that the officials can do. Not all the bodies can be retrieved from the gray zone due to shelling while Russia remains reluctant to disclose information about the wounded. This tactic isn’t new: Russia actively exploited the emotional vulnerability of the families of Ukrainian servicepeople missing in action in 2014-2015.

Russian disinformation media twisted Kotenkova’s words and turned them into a demoralizing scare tale about a “black hole” near Kreminna which devours Ukrainian soldiers.

“Dear compatriots, have a little patience: Russia's economy will soon beat Germany’s”

As at January 2023, Russia's budgetary deficit was skyrocketing. Due to the oil sanctions the neighbor state lost more than 1.761 trillion rubles in revenue. Although this fact is impossible to ignore, the Russian government's propaganda campaign is running full-steam painting a convincing picture of an alternative reality.

The disinformation media avoid talking about economic disasters at all costs. Instead, they draw the readers’ attention to the hardships of living in Europe: “Londoners demand higher salaries to catch up with the rising cost of living”, “It seems that Britons are going to experience “a winter of discontent” with powerful mass protests to bring back the memories of the similar events which took place almost half a century ago”.

The propagandists have also been trying to trick the public into thinking that the sanctions have zero effect on Russia’s economy: “The infernal sanctions promised by the non-friendly states turned out to be a huge flop”, “Those who predicted an economic crisis for Russia in 2022 have been proven wrong”, “Despite the sanctions and the back-biting attitudes in the West, Russian GDP is expected to grow 0.3% this year”, “The current oil price cap set by the Group of Seven is hardly going to have any significant effect on the volume of Russian crude exports since Russian merchants re-routed the shipments from the countries which agreed to support the sanctions to those which did not”.

Russian propagandists keep assuring that an economic boom is just around the corner — you just need to have a little faith: “According to the forecast of the Ministry for Economic Development, after a 0.8% slump in the current year, the GDP is expected to grow approximately 2.6% in the next two years”. Some self-proclaimed experts even claim that “Russia will have outperformed Germany in terms of economic growth by 2024”.

Being unable to ignore the turmoil in the energy sector completely, the Russian media try to offset the negative reports with more positive news: “Russian oil companies have boosted production of crude oil and gas condensate… despite the implementation of the EU ban on Russian oil”.

They also reported an increase in the volumes of “both coal, oil products and other resources” explaining that imports have remained the same due to limited throughput capacity: “Unfortunately, infrastructure limitations have been affecting the volumes of shipments… the authorities have to make some tough choices. Oil products and coal are equally important, and only time will tell which one gets higher priority”.

Curiously, Russian media have been attempting to discourage the people from buying United States dollars — the traditional way of saving money in the post-Soviet realm. Russian propagandists keep reminding the readers that the existing financial system is on the brink of collapse which would turn their dollars into useless paper: “Many key decision-makers have grown tired of the dollar which is putting poorer economies at a disadvantage. In addition to that, the members of the US Congress were recently presented with a report on an imminent default — at least, on American external debt. The necessity or rather an obligation to use two currencies on a daily basis is a major hassle”, “The world monopoly of the American currency is no more”.

North Korea Will Turn the USA into Radioactive Wasteland

Russians are being scared with war, and not just any war, but a nuclear one to engulf the entire world. The instigators are all the usual suspects, NATO and the Americans: “NATO’s strategy may lead to a Third World War”, “The USA and NATO are busy working on the implementation of a disastrous scenario called “World War 3”, “They are begging for a Third World War to finally begin”.

As we wrote earlier, Russians are only using the word “war” in the future tense. This trend seems to be changing. The propagandists are reluctantly acknowledging the existence of war, but they putting all the blame on Washington which caused “a war which many Russians used to consider a mere possibility”.

According to their version, Putin has nothing to do with starting the war in Ukraine — it is the West and the USA in particular who are to blame: “Kremlin representatives have repeatedly stressed that it is NATO’s course on destabilizing Europe and advancing to the Russian borders as well as Europe’s Russophobic policies that have caused the current situation”. Interestingly, “the current situation” is the euphemism which they use to avoid calling a spade a spade — that is, using the term “war”.

Russians explain American militaristic aspirations by deep-buried phobias and the desire to keep their hands clean while achieving their goals: ”America’s biggest fear is to be defeated in front of the whole world”, “The American policy has always been the same: demonize the enemy, assemble a coalition of allies and coerce them into fighting for your interests while retaining leadership, use a bare minimum of your own human, material, and financial resources . While others die in the name of American interests, the USA reaps profits”, “Washington's actions follow the old imperial pattern to live at the expense of others”.

They claim that the USA is about to wage a war on all the nations that defy their hegemony: on Russia, North Korea, and Iran, but on China first and foremost: “The loud statements of the American military about the future war with China should not be disregarded as raving mad since they reflect Washington's true intentions in the Asia Pacific region”, “The American army is indeed preparing for an imminent military conflict with China”.

Global peace has only two defenders: Russia and North Korea which are capable of thwarting evil America with joint nuclear strikes: “The more American threats are thrown at North Korea, the more powerful its response will be”, “Pyongyang is ready to respond to American provocations with “stunning nuclear might”.

Also in the News:

Russian media ran numerous stories about corruption in Ukraine and blamed Zelenskyy for stealing Western aid: “Experts say that the visit of American auditors is a sobering wake-up call for the Kyiv regime. According to Oleg Soskin, the former advisor to the former president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, the current Ukrainian government is quickly losing the trust of its Western sponsors”, “The high-ranking Western officials… realize that it is nothing compared to the hundreds of millions disappearing without a trace in the bottomless pockets of President Zelenskiy’s team”.

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.

disinfomonitor russian propaganda eng russo-ukrainian war

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