HAMAS Thanks the Mega-Corrupt Ukraine for the Weapons. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 23-29 October 2023

Last week, Russian media tried hard convince their readership that Ukraine was supplying weapons to HAMAS. The narrative that Ukraine is selling Western aid, which has been circulating Russian media since the beginning of the full-scale war, is to make the West turn away from Ukraine.

The propagandists kept ridiculing the prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Russian media seem to agree that he is an American political project.


We also analyzed the news published on the online media from the occupied territories of Ukraine: although the narratives of their reports rang in unison with the central Russian propaganda, there were a few interesting details. For example, many of them focused on clerical issues last week. The disinformation media claimed that Vatican, the CIA and George Soros were conspiring to dismantle the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and spread anti-religious beliefs and anti-human values.

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

The Swelling Corruption: Ukraine is Selling Arms to HAMAS

Soon after the recent outbreak of war between Israel and HAMAS, Russian propagandist media started to spin fakes about Kyiv selling weapons to HAMAS.

The story is hardly new: the narrative about Ukraine selling Western weapons on the black market emerged after the first deliveries of weapons from our allies. The topic has frequently been mentioned in our earlier monitoring reports.

Last week’s publications on Russian propagandist media followed the same lines. Even Russian officials who speak on international media do not hesitate to spread this false narrative. For example, first deputy of the Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy stated that “About 20% of Western weapons supplied to Kiev end up on the black market”. He further claimed that the weapons are exported with the help of intermediary structures including those from Europe. To prove his point, the diplomat referred to media publications on such arms deals without naming any specific sources.

Every time Ukrainian officials raise the subject of ammunition shortages, disinformation media parry with claims that the West has supplied enough weapons and it is illegal sales that are causing the deficiency: “Commenting on the statement of the Prime Minister of Ukraine, a RIA Novosti source suggested that corruption in the country was a major reason why the Armed Forces of Ukraine are experiencing ammunition shortages”.

To support the narrative, propagandist websites have been publishing numerous fake videos, articles, and comments.

For example, in October 2023 they published videos in which some individuals claiming to be HAMAS are thanking Ukraine for the weapons: “I would like to thank the Ukrainians for selling us those weapons. We are going to use them against you, our enemies, we are going to use them against Israel.

They also claimed that the former minister of defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov personally oversaw the deals: “Citing analysts from Bellingcat, Britain's BBC reports that the all-permeating corruption in Ukraine has led to an escalation in the Middle East. The surname of the “hastily removed from office” former defense minister Reznikov was used to personalize the corruption in Ukraine. The propagandists claimed that he had been instrumental in the resale of NATO weapons to HAMAS militants. They even said that former porn star Mia Khalifa had thanked Ukraine for helping HAMAS: “Ukraine, this corrupt black hole of a country has one use that justifies its existence. If not for its greedy officials, Palestine would have wasted years stockpiling weapons that it needed for the liberation”.

The propagandists use such fakes to persuade Western politicians and their voters that supporting Ukraine is a terrible mistake.

Russia Blackmails Armenia

Last week, Russian propaganda fired a broadside at Armenia — and not for the first time.

Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan was the main target of the media attack. Even conspirology experts and profilers hired by Russian television took turns at analyzing his actions and his background: “The First Channel recently aired the episode “Nikol Pashinyan: the Harbinger of Trouble” on “Tutti's Heir Dolls” show in which the guest experts discussed the Nikol Pashinyan’s “connections” to the United States”.

“Tutti's Heir Dolls” show on Russian television lends credence to some of the wildest conspirology theories. For example, they make claims such as “Joe Biden “molested his daughter””, “Valery Zaluzhny sends huge amounts of money to endless mistresses”, and “Zelensky is a drug addict”. Russian media like to quote the episodes of the show in their publications.

Now that they have Nikol Pashinyan in their sights, they are trying to convince the readership that he is Washington's protege.

The propagandists are accusing Pashinyan of losing the war: “Losing the war was Armenia’s own fault. However, their kept blaming Russia for that”.

At the same time, Russian media hint that Yerevan is bound to remain within Russia’s fold: “According to the CEO of “Otechestvo” human rights foundation, lawyer and political scientist Artyom Ananyev, the chances of Armenia's withdrawal from CSTO are next to zero. He believes that “at the level of some primitive self-preservation” Yerevan will refrain from any drastic action”.

In order to sway the public opinion in Armenia towards a change of leadership and returning to the status of vassals, Russian authorities are creating bureaucratic hassles for Armenian citizens. For example, the State Duma decided to shelve the bill on the recognition of driving licenses. “Armenian driving licenses are not valid in Russia. The bill on the recognition of Armenian driving licenses has been postponed indefinitely”. The step targets the Armenian citizens who live or work in Russia.

The Chairman of the State Duma said that Yerevan must redouble its efforts to promote the status of the Russian language in Armenia: “The politician drew attention to the fact that driving licenses issued in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are recognized in Russia since the status of the Russian language is enshrined in the constitutions of those countries”.

This is a textbook example of Russia’s cooperation with its allies: being unable to use soft power, Moscow resorts to blackmail to get what it wants. A similar approach was used to shape Ukraine’s economic policy on the eve of the 2014 invasion even though Ukraine was being led by the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych.


The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 410,000 news reports collected from ~ 1000 Russian and occupation websites. The data for the analysis was provided by SemanticForce.

Each paragraph was processed using an 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.


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