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How propaganda responds to western countries allowing strikes on Russia with their weapons. Russian Media Monitoring Report, May 27 – June 2, 2024

Last week, Russian media extensively covered the permissions granted by Ukraine's partners to strike Russia with Western weapons. We observed a wide range of emotions. From assurances that it won't change the situation on the frontlines since not many countries supply Kyiv with dangerous weapons to reflections on a Third World War provoked by the United States. However, the most prominent emotion was anger. Some experts call on the Russian leadership to act harshly and prevent the West from crossing "red lines" in the future. Some figures have once again called for bombing European countries with nuclear weapons. Propagandists also claim that if the war is not won soon, Kyiv may acquire nuclear weapons, which they will undoubtedly use against Russia.

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Read about this and more in the latest issue of our monitoring of Russian state media and manipulative sites that specifically spread Russian disinformation.

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Kyiv Allowed to Strike Russia

Last week, headlines in global media were filled with news that several of Ukraine's allies granted Kyiv the right to use their weapons in case of military necessity to strike Russian territory. For instance, this decision was made by Poland, France, the United Kingdom, the Baltic countries, and the Czech Republic.

Russian propaganda could not ignore these events. In the propagandist materials, signs of the Kübler-Ross model were noticeable, which describes how a person who learns something bad initially denies the information and, by the end of the internal stages, accepts the reality. Disinformers seemed to experience various psychological stages of accepting the new reality.

Denial

Some propagandists emphasized that the Western countries' permission to use their weapons on Russian territory does not pose a significant threat to Moscow's military power. They argued that only a few countries on the list allowed this supply of powerful weapons: “More than ten countries have stated that they allow the Armed Forces of Ukraine to strike targets on any territory of Russia. But serious missiles are supplied to the Armed Forces only by three countries: the USA, Britain, and France.”

Even if Ukraine fully utilizes this permission, it will not change the course of the war, as Russia is “successfully advancing and will soon capture the Kharkiv region.”

Anger

Among the propagandist publications, we encountered numerous threats to Western countries: “Perhaps the reaction will be unexpectedly very harsh right now.”

The favorite threats include calls to use tactical nuclear weapons for revenge. Disinformers urge strikes on European capitals: “Putin also said that these European countries are small and densely populated. So, is it possible that Russia will consider itself at war with NATO countries after these strikes? ... Poland is the main war instigator. Should their citizens feel like they do in Belgorod?”

Some so-called experts lament that Russia itself allowed Western countries to reach this decision by not standing up for its own “red lines”: “This is one of the main problems why the West is escalating because Russia does not respond. The West and the Armed Forces of Ukraine are constantly striking the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (one of the constant false theses). And Russia somehow does not respond. ... Russia says: no, we are good, we won’t do that.”

Bargaining

Russian media also reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine and NATO have long been striking Russian territory with Western weapons (it should be noted that the border regions of Russia have long been engulfed in war, but it is unclear what weapons are being used). NATO is already entirely at war in Ukraine against Russia, so why should the new decision change the situation for Kyiv for the better? “Russia states that these strikes on Russia will be carried out not by Ukraine, but by NATO countries. Because intelligence, targeting, flight missions – NATO officers will do all.”

Depression

This stage is characterized by messages that a nuclear war may soon begin. According to the Russian version, the West has taken another step towards confrontation, and Russia cannot afford to lose, so the world is awaiting a new world war: “The USA has taken a big step towards nuclear conflict,” “The USA is pushing Russia towards the use of tactical nuclear weapons.” The decision to allow strikes on Russia with Western weapons was made after Russian troops began advancing on the Kharkiv region, taking advantage of the fact that the Ukrainian Armed Forces could not strike the distant rear of the advancing group, as these rear areas were on Russian territory.

“Talking head” Sergey Markov, who voices the necessary propaganda theses, stated that after granting permission to strike Russian territory, the West's decision to protect Ukrainian skies is lacking, and after that, a real war will surely begin: “NATO is now discussing the possibility of closing the sky over western Ukraine from Russian missile strikes with their air defense systems to allow the Armed Forces to use F-16s... Suppose NATO air defense systems strike Russian missiles from the territory of Poland and Romania. In that case, Russian missiles will strike these air defense systems on the territory of Poland and Romania. And then NATO will start a war with Russia not with the hands of the Armed Forces, as now, but directly themselves. First, the war between Russia and NATO will be sluggish, then active, then with tactical nuclear weapons, then with strategic nuclear weapons. That's it, the end. All this could happen this summer.”

Acceptance

Here, the propagandists pretended as if they had long been expecting this decision: “The West will inevitably step by step lift restrictions on strikes across the entire territory of Russia with NATO weapons. But they will do it according to their strategy of 'a thousand small steps.'”

Propagandists accepted the reality and drew new “red lines” – now they claim that Russia is not afraid of Western weapons, but everything could change if Ukraine receives nuclear protection. After that, World War III will surely start, but for now, it is possible to continue fighting as is. Therefore, today, Moscow's main task is to achieve its goals and prevent Kyiv from obtaining nuclear weapons: “If Russia does not respond, everything will end with the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to the Armed Forces.”

The paradox is that no one is even hinting at nuclear weapons for Kyiv, neither in Kyiv nor among the allies.

Friendly Taliban

Last week, propaganda tried to convince that the Afghan Taliban movement is a friend of Russia. The campaign takes place against the background of discussions about excluding the Taliban from the Russian list of terrorist organizations. Specifically, the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Justice reported to Putin that the Taliban could be removed from the list.

So-called experts began to declare: “Russia is removing the Taliban from the list of terrorist organizations because it is a real government and no longer engages in any terrorism. Russia is doing this earlier than other countries. Well, Russia can show leadership in political decisions.”

The Taliban movement was recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia in 2003 after it was included in the corresponding list by the UN Security Council. The removal of this status has been discussed in Russia before.

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To explain to Russians why it is worth befriending the Taliban, disinformers emphasize: “There are many promising areas for cooperation. For example, Afghans are interested in expanding the purchase of petroleum products and other goods from Russia, and the use of Afghanistan’s transit capabilities may also be discussed.”

And in the context of confrontation with the West, the Taliban are almost brothers to the Russians, as they forced the US to leave Afghanistan in 2021. This is a force to be reckoned with and befriended. Moreover, the Taliban have friendly relations with China. Therefore, it is obvious that the organization will become a close partner of Moscow.

The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 500,000 news reports collected from ~ 1,000 Russian websites. The data for the analysis was collected and 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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This article was originally written in Ukrainian. It has been translated into English using AI tools such as DeepL, ChatGPT, and Grammarly. If you encounter an error that requires immediate attention, please inform us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Your understanding and support are appreciated.

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