Crimea Shudders from a “Boom” while Russians Complain about Persecution. Russian Media Monitoring Report, August 15th – August 21st

The recent series of strikes on military installations in Crimea caught Russian propagandists by surprise. No matter how hard they tried to ignore the elephant in the room, their denial strategy failed so they had to improvise. This monitoring report debunks the lies spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

Just a Boom, Not to Worry

The progress of the ‘special military operation’ in the East and South of Ukraine seems to be a sensitive subject for the leading Russian media. By and large, their reports stay in tune with the bravura tone of the press office of the Russian Ministry of Defense. “State-of-the-art weapons were used” ... “a precision strike killed more than a hundred combatants from Poland and Germany” .. “at least 200 nationalists confirmed dead” etc. However, there seems to be a seismic shift in Russian propagandist and disinformist pool. Certain contributors to second-tier propagandist websites have been using the term “konashenkovshina” to describe the rhetoric of the official mass media (a derivative from the surname of the Chief of the Directorate of Media Service and Information of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation – editor’s note). Notably, they have been calling for more realistic reporting on the problems in the Russian military and even demanding a full-scale mobilization of the Russian society.

Russian propagandists prefer to brush disgraceful failures under the carpet (just what happened after the sinking of cruiser Moskva). However, it is the sheer scale of the problem that makes it impossible to ignore. The coverage of recent of acts of sabotage and strikes on Russian military installations in the occupied Crimean peninsula by the Ukrainian forces was yet another example.

At first, the Russian news reporters tried to calm down the public with official comments from the occupation administration officials. As this strategy failed, they were forced to resort to conspirology in an attempt to transform fear into anger. The explosions that rocked military airfields and ammunition dumps in Crimea were called “acts of terrorism”. It would be absurd to expect the Ukrainian government long labeled as incompetent or contemptuously regarded as “a company of crazy comedians” to pull it off. The common suspects wear stars and stripes: “Crimea is a priority target for the Kyiv regime, and their American sponsors are always eager to oblige their craze for terrorism”.

The most radical Russian commentators are calling for an iron hand: “This is exactly what happens when you tolerate the nationalist instigators who openly call Crimea an occupied territory and welcome a Ukrainian offensive. Just a personal opinion”, “… the acts of sabotage in the Crimea were made possible by years of soft policy on pro-Ukrainian forces in Crimea which have now got a taste of blood”.

It is quite worrying that the indigenous people of Crimea are being labeled as terrorists: “Chubarov and Djemilev are about to head out to Istanbul to expand the network of recruitment centers for the guerrilla operations which are terrorizing Crimea. ‘Make the entire Crimea Tatar again!’ is going to be their battle cry”.

Russians are Likened to Jews in WW2

Unjust treatment of ethnic Russians in Western countries is becoming a central subject for Russian mass media. Last week, some of them even drew parallels between the way the collective West is treating Russians abroad and the persecution of Jews by the Third Reich: “the Russian residents of Latvia are reliving the terror of the persecution of Jews by German Nazis”, “Iron Curtain 2.0” looks strikingly similar to the Nazi genocide of Jews. The people are discriminated on a single particular basis – their place of birth.” The emergence of such rhetoric is related to the ongoing discussion regarding restrictions on the issuance of visas to Russian citizens among the EU member states.

At the same time, the news reporters are trying to persuade the readers that visa restrictions for Russian nationals in certain countries are by no means critical. For example, they claim that Finnish visa policy will hardly affect the lives of most Russian people: “The restrictions on the issuance of tourist visas to Finland will first and foremost affect the residents of the North-Western region and Leningradskaya oblast in particular…. while those who live in other regions of Russia will hardly notice any differences as there are many other popular European destinations whose visa policies remain unchanged”.

Interestingly, the reports on travel restrictions for the Russians follow the same line: go ahead and restrict — we aren't interested anyway! For example, Estonia's visa ban was often accompanied by the reminder that Russian citizens, especially the proud patriots, had long lost interest in visiting the country: “It was in 2007 that most of Russian patriots struck Estonia off from their travel plans after its government took down the Bronze soldier monument in a demonstration of its true colors. Those who intended to travel via Estonia to Europe might have to amend their travel plans — a minor inconvenience compared to what the Estonians are losing.”

The policy of restricting free travel of Russian nationals is presented as blatant chauvinism and nationalism which are part of “EU’s anti-Russian ideology”. Propagandists insist that such decisions have nothing to do with Russia’s war on Ukraine in an effort to show that Russian leaders carry no blame for the treatment of their people:

This statement is nationalism at its worst. The calls to restrict free travel for Russian citizens are, in fact, calls for violation of Estonia’s own legislation and the country's international commitments”, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation condemned the ban on issuing Schengen visas to Russian citizens as proposed by certain European states and called it flagrant chauvinism”.

Europe Haunted by Ghosts of Nazism and Fascism

Propagandists and news reporters on Russian media continue persuading the Russian people of being besieged by fascists and Nazi whatever works to justify the war on Ukraine.

For example, they claim that the leaders of Romania and Moldova are following the ideas of Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu: “These fascist adepts of Antonescu, who take inspiration from the bloody dictator, must be dealt with decisively, once and for all!” They generally associate EU leadership with the Nazi: “As a matter of fact, the West generally condones Nazism”, “and this kind of ideology is dominant among European leaders”.

That being said, the propagandists are trying to educate their readers about the differences between the Western culture and values and the Russian ideology rooted in conservatism. They criticize liberalism and tolerance which “have permeated the Western culture resulting in the imposition of race and gender policies in schools, universities, and hospitals”.

It isn't only the Ukrainians who are being labeled as Nazi by Russian media: “The Americans are promoting and financing the new format of global fascism turning Ukraine into a Nazi state. They have re-launched the despicable projects of the Third Reich in Japan which involved biological experimentation on human subjects”, “”Washington's official position of turning a blind eye to fascists and neo-Nazi draped in the so-called freedom of speech and self-expression is one of many specters of the monstrous past of the American nation which it is desperately trying to conceal. We are talking about fascist treatment of American people who were subjected to mass segregation and sterilization, all part of the eugenic approach to purifying the nation.

Russia Hit by Global Recession, Otherwise Doing Fine

We have been observing a new narrative used by Russian media to convince the people that Western sanctions have nothing to do with the imminent collapse of the Russian economy. “Global recession is on its way”, “the fires of economic crisis are bursting all over the world”, “nowhere to hide from the crisis” were just a few examples of Russian propaganda rhetoric.

To make these prophecies believable enough, they went full-on apocalyptic: “brace for violent inflation and a sharp drop in consumer spending, rapid shrinking of the so-called middle class free-falling into poverty, raw materials, energy and agricultural commodities prices going through the roof, household income decline and so on. The crisis is sweeping the world like a tsunami with far-reaching effects: from putting Chinese developers on the brink of insolvency to a new market crash in the U.S.”.

Conveniently enough, Russian pseudo-economists can't put a finger on the causes of the calamities which are portrayed as a natural perfect storm. Since the crisis “is absolutely beyond control”, Russian media advise their readership to stiff upper lip and prepare for “an unprecedented recession in the history of mankind which may last for decades”.

Also in the News:

Russian media continued to blame Ukraine for putting fuel into the fire of the ZNPS crisis: “Shooting at targets in close proximity to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station is a glaring example of nuclear terrorism. Make no mistake: these atrocities are part of an intricate long-term plan to use nuclear terrorism for political gain. It was in 2021 and early 2022 that the president of Ukraine demanded to restore Ukraine’s nuclear status and its arsenals. Since Ukraine doesn’t have enough time to build a nuclear bomb, a dirty bomb may just as well be in the works”.

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

The Methodology

We have built a corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (almost 22,000 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 the quotes from paragraphs referring to each topic.

We used materials from tass.ru, riafan.ru, lenta.ru, russian.rt.com, aif.ru, life.ru, slovodel.com, news-front.info, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, politnavigator.net, donbasstoday.ru, sevastopol.su, politobzor.net, naspravdi.info, antifashist.com, kafanews.com, anna-news.info, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, dnr-pravda.ru, dni.ru, rusdnepr.ru, 3652.ru, comitet.su, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, sobytiya.info, doneck-news.com, meridian.in.ua, dnr24.com

disinfomonitor russian propaganda eng russo-ukrainian war

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