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Putin Will Lead Russia to Victory while Trump Will Lead the US out of NATO. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 4-10 December 2023

Last week, Russian media once again brought the main focus on the news from the Ukrainian front. Saying that Russia's victory is just around the corner, the propaganda claimed that the Ukrainian forces were retreating and spread fake news about captured towns and villages.

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Follow the trending topics of Russian disinformation on our interactive dashboard “Disinformation about the War in Ukraine”

Last week also marked the kick-off of Putin's presidential election campaign: he had already said that he would run for one more term in office. The disinformation media are playing a key role in it by providing information support so expect more news about Putin's care for the common Russians and the country’s success in confronting the West. Russian media also look forward to Trump’s comeback as that would open the door to the possibility of the United States pulling 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.

Exuberant Propaganda

Last week, Russian propagandists decided to revisit the subject of Ukraine’s failures in the battlefield: “Ukrainian assault teams are getting mopped down by our paratroopers”.

Truth be told, the Russians did have some minor advances in a few areas along the front line. Stlll, this was nothing like the breakthrough claimed by the propagandists who wrote that “Banderstadt will be forced to surrender a number of positions and retreat to the west”.

Russian media are elated by the news from the USA whose Senate cannot seem to reach an agreement on the aid package to Ukraine. Therefore, any statements about the difficult geopolitical situation coming from Ukraine are interpreted as if Ukrainians have been betrayed: “More and more Ukrainians are blaming the United States. They feel betrayed because “with the current dynamic along the front line the Armed Forces of Ukraine will have to go on the defensive further and further west””.

The disinformation media are already chilling their champagne to celebrate the victory in the war: “The imminent catastrophe in Zaporozhye front is going to set off a chain reaction”. They claim that the AFU have been suffering tremendous losses and convince that “even the mobilization of the remaining population will become a game changer for the AFU”.

Last week, many Russian media took advantage of a foreign journalist's mistake. On 9 December, Bild newspaper military analyst Julian Röpke reported that the Russians had recaptured two villages on the Vremyevsky Bulge which had been liberated by the AFU in the summer this year. It was soon discovered that Röpke had been relying on old videos making the news essentially irrelevant.

Russian propaganda, however, spread the news report as if it was a fact proved beyond any doubt. “The footage shows Russian troops moving along the central streets and coming under fire from the north”.

Quite expectedly, after Röpke himself denied the news, Russian media simply ignored it. Those who did acknowledge the mistake said that Röpke was only wrong about timing since it was only a matter of time for the villages to be captured by the Russian army: “The Bild analyst deleted the post about the Russian army capturing Staromayorskoye and Urozhaynoye. It appears that his conclusions were based on an old video. Still, Röpke will have ample opportunity to publish this material — just a little patience, that's all”.

Everyone Is Talking About Putin

“Vladimir Putin has announced his decision to run for another term in 2024 presidential elections of the Russian Federation” was one of the biggest news on the Russian media last week. On 8 December Putin said that he would run for another term in office. The announcement was rather an open secret and was completely expected.

The propagandists have their work cut out for them: every Putin's word, speech or trip is now going to get maximum media attention.

This report covers Putin's meeting with common Russian people: “The head of state is to visit one of the country's regions next week”.

Here, he is speaking words of humanism: “Putin stressed the need for decisions on the amnesty for certain categories of women who have been serving prison terms for non-violent crimes.”

Here, he is showing his care for children: “During his first visit to Russia exhibition and forum in Moscow, the president left a hand-written message on the wall of one of the pavilions. He made a wish that children's desires and plans come true”.

And here, he is supporting volunteers: “Putin will take part in the 2023 Volunteer of the Year Award Ceremony being part of the “We Are Together” international award”.

Putin's trip to the Middle East was also covered in great detail. On 6 December, the Russian president visited the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia: “Escorting Russian President Vladimir Putin's flight to Abu Dhabi was a perfect advertisement for Russian Su-35S fighters which have proven to be ideal in the air escort role. These aircraft have no equal in the world in terms of range and the capabilities of the weapons they carry”.

The so-called “experts” immediately began to say that “Vladimir Putin’s successful visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have traditionally been close with Washington, highlight the impotency of Western sanctions against Russia.”

The propagandists huffed and puffed trying to prove that the Arab world supports the Russian dictator: “Arabs respect the power of words, the power of spirit and power in general. This is why Arabs have deep respect for Putin and Russia”.

As the election date approaches, we should expect more and more news reports about Putin's diplomatic victories, support for Russia in every corner of the world, and Putin’s love for ordinary Russians.

Praying for Trump's Comeback

Russian propaganda has been keeping a close eye on Donald Trump, their favorite in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

The propagandists are convinced that once Trump returns to the Oval Office, the United States may pull the plug on supporting Europe and even withdraw from NATO: “Such plans are evident from Trump’s public speeches in which he pledges that “we will finish what we started last time — the process of reassessing the tasks and purpose of the North Atlantic Alliance”, “If former U.S. President Donald Trump wins the election and returns for his second presidential term, the importance of maintaining NATO in a combat-ready state will decrease”

Russian media are playing their long-time favorite tune that the support of Ukraine, which the current U.S. president advocates, increases the risk of Russia's nuclear strike: “Biden has made it clear that he is firmly set on the path to a nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia provoked by the conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO,” but Trump is nothing like him. He is willing to take Russia’s interests into account.

The propagandists claim that such willingness stems from his desire to protect the interests of the United States in the face of its likely collapse as a result of the confrontation with Russia: “However, “the American instinct of self-preservation” dictates Trump’s return as the leader of the nation”.

Russian propaganda insists that “the multipolarity of the world” is an established fact: “Embracing multipolarity is a part of the transformation process”. Furthermore, they cynically declare that the new world order in which Russia does not have any hostile intentions towards other countries is fairer than the current situation: “According to Putin, the replacement of the previous unipolar system with a more equitable multipolar order is the main trend of global transformation. He pointed out that Russia is open to constructive partnerships with any countries and has no hostile intentions towards anyone”.

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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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