In July 2022, a team of researchers from 11 countries, including Media Detector, analyzed social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram) to identify common and distinct narratives spread by Russian propaganda.
The study established that the statement “Ukraine will lose the war” is the most common narrative being pushed by Russian propaganda as regards the ongoing hostilities, Detektor.media reports.
In Ukraine, its spread significantly exceeds the pace recorded in other countries. In Europe, it was promoted in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and within the Russian-language content targeting the Baltic states. No such messages were spotted in North Macedonia, as well as in the Latvian and Estonian segments.
In addition to this grand narrative, Russian propaganda is spreading a group of related messages. For example, in Hungary they pushed the message that “the Russian army is making significant progress.”
In Bulgaria, Georgia, North Macedonia, and Hungary, the “victory” narrative was replaced by the message that “the West knows that Russia will win the war.” Another message targeting these audiences is “Russia is not fighting at full strength.” Most of the messages on the said topic it were registered in Ukraine. It was also spun in Georgia, North Macedonia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and in Russian-language content aiming for the Baltic countries.
“Contrary to common sense, propagandists spread the message that ‘Ukrainians refuse to fight.’ It was spotted in the media space of Estonia (in Estonian), Slovakia, Ukraine, and the Russian-language content spread in the Baltic countries. In the Russian-speaking segment of the Baltic media space and in Georgia, the narrative that “the West offered Ukraine to surrender” was also spread, the study says.
Within this narrative, the Russians tried to create a picture of huge losses that the Ukrainian army is suffering, major and irreversible losses of Ukrainian territory, etc. For example, the Czechs were shown stories about the newly occupied cities, in which the local residents are allegedly happy about their Russian “liberators”, so a picture was created to claim that the alleged “Russian victory” is irrefutable.
Russian propaganda is also spreading the narratives that “the Ukrainian army is committing war crimes,” “the Ukrainian government is corrupt and incompetent,” “the West is using Ukraine for a war against Russia,” “Ukrainians are Nazis,” “the West forced Russia to attack Ukraine,” “foreign mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine”, myths claiming that a “Russian soldier is a hero and liberator”, “reports about the crimes of the Russian army are false”, “Ukraine is causing a global food crisis”, “Poland seeks to annex part of Ukraine”, “between the political leaders of the West and Ukraine there are certain misunderstandings or tensions,” etc.
In the Baltic states, as well as in Georgia and Ukraine, propagandists claim Russia’s actions are a preemptive strike, “otherwise Ukraine would be the first to attack Russia.”
In the Ukrainian information space, propaganda pundits span the message that “there is an obvious conflict in the Ukrainian government” and that “mobilization in Ukraine is taking place with violations.”
In Ukraine, propagandists also tried to discredit the work of volunteers, therefore they wrote about their “corruption”, and in order to justify their own threats regarding the use of nuclear weapons, they said that it was Ukraine that allegedly wanted to use nuclear weapons against Russia: “And the fact that we have such weapons no, they made it up, supposedly Ukrainian volunteers are collecting money for it.”
In total, 1,529 unique messages were identified in July as containing disinformation or promoting Russian propaganda narratives.
The research was conducted by a consortium of public organizations, where a local organization was responsible for collecting and processing data from its country according to a common methodology:
Bulgaria — “Analyses and Alternatives”,
Czech Republic — “Prague Security Studies Initiative”,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — “Debunk.eu”,
Russian-language content in the Baltic countries — “Civic Resilience Initiative”,
Georgia – “GRASS”,
Hungary – “Atlatszo”,
North Macedonia – “MOST”,
Poland – “Fakenews.pl”,
Slovakia — “Slovak Security Policy Institute”,
Ukraine — “Media Detector”.