Coca-Cola Refreshments for the Nazi. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 22-28 May 2023

Last week, Russian media continued spreading stories about an alleged rift between the military and political leadership of Ukraine. The propagandists once again claimed that the CinC AF General Valerii Zaluzhnyi had been incapacitated and was no longer able to discharge his duties. Russia’s foreign ministry also said that the United States had financed Hitler and accused it of aiding the Holocaust.

Finally, even a slightest hint at the possibility of Japan's NATO membership was enough to make the disinformation media lose their nerve.

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”


Schrödinger's Zaluzhnyi

Russian media gave a lot of attention to the announced delivery of “F-16 fighter-bombers” to Kyiv. However, they said the warplanes would not be a game-changer for Ukraine and that their use would mark the beginning of a direct NATO-Russia conflict: “No single weapon can change the course of war. That being said, the deployment of F-16 fighters could push NATO into a direct confrontation with Russia”.

The propagandists assured that the planes earmarked for delivery to Ukraine were old and no match to the Russian models: “Those planes are obsolete. They were built with previous century materials and technology which make them easy targets for the state-of-the-art Chinese and Russian air defenses and the new generation of fighter aircraft”. The disinformation media even made their own assessment of the US Air Force and concluded that “the US Air Force is going through some really hard times”.

The propagandists also spinned the news reports on the infiltration of sabotage and reconnaissance groups (SRGs) into Russian territories for their own gain. In particular, on 22 May, there were reports of explosions in Belgorod oblast followed by the information about the incursion of forces consisting of Russian volunteers who fight on Ukraine's side into the Russian territory. The disinformation media grasped at the reports to claim that NATO wants to go to war with Russia: “The incursion of SRGs into Belgorod oblast using Western military equipment is a clear indication that the West is taking its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine to a whole new level”.

Russian media once again insisted on a conflict between President Zelenskyy and the CinC AF General Valerii Zaluzhnyi: “President Vladimir Zelenskiy is headed for a clash with the CinC of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhniy over the power in the country, “Much like many countries in the 20th century, when the army chiefs took out the political leadership during wars, Ukraine may just well follow the path of a military coup”.

The disinformation about the conflicts between Ukraine’s leaders presented by Russian media has been taking new and unexpected twists. For example, the media said that “It is not just the old Soviet cadre that dislike Zelenskiy: there is no love lost between Ukraine’s president and the NATO-trained younger generation of commanders including senior officers. They are disappointed and even enraged by the sudden rise to prominence of the president’s favorite lackeys such as the Chief of Defense Intelligence Kirill Budanov”.

Russian propagandists are quite annoyed by the facts which disprove their fakes. For more than a week, they have been telling all sorts of stories about Valerii Zaluzhnyi. Some claim that he was wounded or even died after a Russian artillery strike: “Zaluzhnyi sustained injuries to his head and multiple shrapnel wounds. Although Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief successfully survived cranial trepanation, he is said to be unable to further discharge his professional duties”.

Even after the short video recorded by Valerii Zaluzhnyi on 25 May to reassures his fellow citizens and dismiss Russia’s allegations of his “serious injury”, the fake factories did not rest their case and followed with more bogus reports on Zaluzhnyi's injury: “The hacker added that the Western handlers had instructed the Ukrainian regime to keep the information under tght wraps since they feared that the news about the chief's state of health would demoralize the Ukrainian army”.

On 30 May, Russia issued an arrest warrant for Valerii Zaluzhnyi. This means that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation either does not follow Russian news sources, which insist that Zaluzhnyi is dead, or knows they cannot be trusted.

Japan as NATO member: a propagandist’s nightmare

Russian propagandists keep claiming that Washington, not Moscow, is the the global aggressor. They say that it was the United States that caused the situation to escalate: “The hostile actions of the United States, which has long become a side to the conflict, plunged the Russo-American relations into a deep and dangerous crisis fraught with unpredictable consequences”.

Russian media convince their audiences that “the United States has no rational reasons to extend further support to Ukraine”. They claim it might even cause a default in the USA: “The current administration is burning through the budget at an astronomical rate to support the Kyiv regime instead of focusing on stabilizing the financial situation at home”. In reality, the funds allocated to supporting Ukraine are too small to cause any serious imbalance of the US budget.

Russian media also claimed that the USA was trying to draw Japan into the North Atlantic alliance: “Japan is looking after its own interests and has no plans of joining NATO. However, should Washington “so desire”, Tokyo might reconsider”. According to the “experts”, “In fact, Japan has been under the US protectorate since 1945. ...In other words, the sovereignty of its state policy is nearly non-existent”.

Such messages appeared after the news reports of 10 May about Japan being in talks to open of a NATO liaison office.

Those discussions gave Russian propagandists the reason to claim that “NATO’s plans to open a liaison office in Tokyo show that the alliance intends to secure a foothold in the Asia-Pacific region and promote “NATO-centric formats of anti-Russian and anti-Chinese tension”.

However, Russian propagandists argued that wasn’t only Japan that the United States wanted to do its bidding. According to the chief of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergey Naryshkin, “The US-headed Western nations are encroaching on “the very essence of human nature”, “The West aims to turn the free man into “a fully controllable transhumanist chimera”". Whatever that means, the SVR chief is convinced that “”the insane arrogance” of Western politicians has denied them the opportunity to take part in ensuring global prosperity and security”.

Americans as accessories to the Holocaust

Last week, Russian propagandists fumed over US Senator Lindsey Graham words said after the meeting with the Ukrainian president: “The US Senator called killing Russians the best money America has ever spent”.

According to Russian media, on 26 May, US Senator Lindsey Graham met with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, and after the meeting, he delivered a statement as follows: “And the Russians are dying. Best money we’ve ever spent”. Many news outlets aired a short video with those words to report on the event.

The “experts” on Russian media immediately commented that “what Senator Graham said is “an open secret”” and swore to retaliate: “All evildoers will be punished”.

In fact, the words “And the Russians are dying” and “Best money we’ve ever spent” were said by Senator Lindsey Graham at different points of his conversation with President Zelenskyy and they did not relate to its content – even the order of the two sentences in the original video is different.

However, the propagandists could not resist using such a controversial statement for their own purposes. The Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova did not take long to offer an analogy. She said that the financing of Hitler’s regime by the Americans led to the Holocaust: “Senator Graham must be aware of other similar US investments in the past. One of them led to World War II and the Holocaust”, “Zakharova said that Kodak built bomb fuses at its German factory, Coca-Cola provided fizzy refreshments to the German soldiers in Cologne while the world-famous Fanta was a Nazi creation altogether”.

Zakharova’s words were immediately picked up by the “experts” who said that “The Third Reich would not have been able to invade Poland and Russia if not for the American automobile giant”. They even claimed that Henry Ford himself was a Nazi collaborationist: “The legendary Henry Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle. Not only did his German-based factories produce up to 70,000 trucks a year for the Wehrmacht: those vehicles were assembled by prisoners including those from Oswiecim. “General Motors” was much more important for the German military machine than Swiss banks”.

Unfortunately, Maria Zakharova failed to mention how Moscow-controlled communists paved way for Hitler’s coming to power and how the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact enabled the Nazi to launch the Second World War. The Lend-Lease Act adopted by the United States which had been instrumental for the Soviet victory was also conveniently overlooked.


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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