Could We Still Have a Deal? Russian Media Monitoring Report, 27 February-5 March 2023

Last week, Russian propagandist media ran yet another fake report about Ukraine's intention to use weapons of mass destruction — this time in Transnistria. The Russian disinformation machine continues to build an image of a peace-loving Russia willing to negotiate things in a civilized manner. The only problem is that the evil West is hell-bent on war. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

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


Crushed AFU Counterattacks that Never Happened

The stories on Russian media last week said that Ukraine was suffering horrendous losses while the Russian operation was going to plan: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to counterattack near Ugledar in the direction of LPR, but so far all their attempts have been futile”, “The AFU mounted a counterattack against the advancing forces of the Russian army near Kremennya in disregard of heavy losses, but still failed”, “Although the commanders on the ground had reported that their units were not mission-capable, the higher military command ordered to proceed with offensive action which was unsuccessful”. However, there have been no statements on the AFU counteroffensive from Ukrainian officials.

The propagandists rehashed their old stories about the formation of a new battalion in the occupied territory of Donetsk oblast which, they claim, consists of captured Ukrainians who are willing to sign a contract with Russia's Ministry of Defense: “There are about the 70 people in the battalion of which 95% are former AFU thugs. The unit members are to sign contracts with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the standard terms”.

Ukrainians are Blamed for War Crimes Committed by Russian Army

The Russian army seems to be proud of committing abominable war crimes. There are dozens of photos and videos of executions, torture and humiliation of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians which circulate the internet. Still, Russian disinformation media keep making up new scare tales about the abuse of Russian prisoners of war by Ukrainians: “They did horrible things to the prisoners of war: cut off their genitals with a knife, slit their throats and chopped their heads off <…> Three people were executed with a shot to the head”. These scare tales are intended to whip up the mobilization campaign and convince Russian soldiers that surrender is not an option.

They also keep inventing stories about Ukrainians using innocent people as human shields: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) used civilians to create fake news. “We were in Lvov on the second day after my arrival. We were staying in the basement of a school. The military had put a group of gypsy people just above us. The soldiers were below. This was done intentionally: if the building had been hit, it would have looked as if the strike had targeted a shelter with civilians. The same tactic was used in Donetsk and Kharkov”. Similar stories often appear on Russian media to distract the readers from the actual war crimes committed by Russians and mobilize the populace for the war against Ukraine.

Containers of Californium-252? You Can’t be Serious!

Here is something new: according to last week’s statement of Russia’s Ministry of Defense, Ukraine was planning “a nuclear provocation” near the Russian-occupied Transnistria: “According to the intelligence data of the Ministry of Defense, the Kyiv regime is planning a provocation intended to blame the Russian military of targeting a facility where radioactive materials are used which could result in a nuclear incident causing radioactive contamination of the nearby area”.

According to the disinformation media, “several containers with radioactive substances have been delivered to Ukraine from the EU to put this insidious plan into action”. They claimed that the radioactive substance in question was Californium-252. It seems that the choice of culprit by the Russian propagandists was affected by their hate of the United States — the more demonic, the better!

In fact, Californium-252 is most commonly used in radiography and energy generation. There are only two producers in the world: in Russia and in the United States. Their yearly output of Californium-252 is counted in milligrams which makes the Russian claims of container loads brought to Ukraine absolutely ridiculous.

Oligarchs Have Made Russia Vulnerable

The propagandists keep scaring Russians with tales about the evil West that wants “to disunite the Russian people”, dismantle the Russian state with the ultimate goal of “adding the fragments to its geopolitical domain”. Make no mistake: the plans to dismantle Russia “have been long in the making”, the propagandist media claim.

Interestingly, a crackdown on dissent and anti-war sentiment is also gaining momentum in the Russian information space: “We are facing first-rate professionals who have planned and executed color revolutions and coups d’etat in a few dozen countries which our generation learns about from history books”.

Russian media are slowly turning against the Russian wealthy who so far have remained in moderate opposition to Vladimir Putin: “The billionaire elite has been using corrupt officials to rob our country. Government officials did not object when they appropriated Russian diamonds, oil, and timber nor did they mind when they funneled the proceeds abroad and made Russia vulnerable to its enemies. They made astronomic profits here in Russia, but spent them elsewhere”.


How About Negotiations?

Russia is desperately searching for ways to recoup its strength and set the territorial expanse achieved by the occupation in official ink. This is why Russian propagandist media have been busy talking about Russia's readiness for peace talks. The new Russian calls for negotiations no longer sound like an all-out ultimatum, but this doesn't make them any less cynical.

Russia continues to consider Ukraine Washington’s puppet: “The West has rejected our “best offer of establishing peace” which was made at the beginning of the hostilities”, “The West’s desire to destroy Russia forced the Russian Federation to launch a special military operation in Ukraine. And now the “enemies of Russia” are supplying weapons to the Kyiv regime and torpedo all the attempts to negotiate for peace”.

The disinformation mongers are urging Ukrainians to “get rid of the blindfolds” which don't let them see things clearly and stand in the way of peace”.

Russian media keep repeating that “the West has invested too much money and effort to drive a wedge between Ukraine and Russia”. This is why the West has no interest in peace between the fighting nations since Ukraine is merely a tool to deter Russia: “They are trying to use the country as a tool to weaken and isolate Russia, dismantle the existing security architecture and maintain their hegemony which has long lost its former shine”.

To further the claim, the propagandists convince the readers that “freezing the conflict is the best possible option to cease the hostilities without further escalation”. The West must let Russia keep the “new” territories: “agree on the de-facto division of Ukraine and the new borders of Russia as guaranteed by the West”, “Russia has its own views on many issues, but if the West wants peace, it must take them into consideration”.

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

The Methodology

We have built a comprehensive corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (approximately 34,000 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 contain 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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