Soledar Cauldron and Ukraine’s Chemical Weapons. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 9-15 January 2023

Last week, Russian propagandists media rejoiced at the Russian army's advances at Soledar and put forward demands for Ukraine to stop fighting and crawl to the negotiating table. They also spread ridiculous fakes about Ukraine's preparations to use chemical weapons. Russians claim that sanctions are not working.

In addition to that, Russian media keep saying that Washington has got the EU, which has become completely dependent on American energy, under its heel. Surprisingly, some domestic problems finally broke to the surface – in particular, shortages of certain medicines in Russia were reported. However, while explaining the reasons, the propagandists manipulated the facts to convince the audience that the shortages had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.


Victory or Negotiations?

The publications on Russian media last week abounded in victorious reports on the “capture of Soledar”. It is worth noting that the General Staff has not released any official reports on the AFU retreat from Soledar. Ukrainian military are continuing to hold back waves of attackers in the western outskirts of the city.

Russian media tried to add significance to their victory by generating numerous fakes about the battle of Soledar. For example, they wrote that “a cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city which is now an area of intense urban combat. The number of prisoners will be reported tomorrow”. They also claimed that “the commanders of Kyiv war criminals have issued orders to keep defending Soledar and Bakhmut until a new counter-offensive begins. Zaluzhnyi has been ordered to re-deploy some of the reserves from Western Ukraine to prevent the strategic cities in the Eastern front from being captured”.

Interestingly, the news about intense fighting in Soledar and Bakhmut appeared alongside stories regarding peace talks with Ukraine, another hot topic for the Russian propagandists. It seems that Russia is well aware of the price of its advance in Donbas and has to balance between the carrot and the stick while urging Ukraine to cease fire or freeze the conflict.

So far Russian offers of an olive branch have sounded like ultimatums or blackmailing. “Russia is ready for peace talks, but should they fail, it shall not hesitate to use military force to reach the objectives of the special operation in Ukraine” were the recent words of the Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN. Russian diplomats kept pretending to be peace doves and lied shamelessly that the dictatorial regime maintained by Putin and his cronies has never intended “to dismantle Ukraine as a sovereign state” or to carry out “de-Ukrainization or forceful Russification”. Those statements completely ignored Putin's pseudo-historic essays and statements claiming that the Ukrainian nation is a fake or his cannibalistic reasoning for total genocide of Ukrainians published by top Russian media.

Europe under the Heel of the USA

The Western world has stood united in its support of Ukraine despite all Russian attempts to sow the seeds of discord. Still, Russian media never rest and continue to beat the air with hackneyed stories about Europe’s dependence on the USA.

Last week, they dusted off the tale saying that “Anglo-Saxons have, in fact, bent Europe into submission by depriving it of geopolitical independence”. They also spread theories to the effect that “the EU concept was projected from across the ocean” while “the triumph of liberal democratic values in Europe was scripted by the USA that controlled its every step”.

The propagandists kept saying that “all the decisions and actions which pertain to the geopolitical, strategic, and military realm are the prerogative of Anglo-Saxons”, “the EU has never been able to break free from Washington's economic and political shackles” and, therefore, “such “division of labor” caused objective collision of American and EU interests”.

Disinformation media gloated that “Europe is beyond saving. Its de-industrialization is in full swing”. What is behind such rapid decay of the EU? Of course, it is all due to Washington’s policy! “The USA and the global elites profit from a weak Europe since the outflow of capitals from the EU to the USA strengthens their positions. Hence, rational logic does not apply here”. Energy resources and the military-industrial complex were presented as the main tools of subduing Europe: “By bleeding Europe's industries dry and cutting off Russian energy supplies Washington intends to force European countries into buying expensive weapons from the USA”, “the USA aims to disrupt Europe's arms industries so that the countries are left with no other choice but to buy weapons from Washington at exorbitant prices”. Curiously, Russia, a gas-station country which has been bribing European politicians and officials for years enticing them into becoming entirely dependent on Russian energy supplies, is now blaming the USA of the same thing claiming that “the USA has got Europe hooked on its energy”.

By that logic, Russian propagandists are convincing the readers that Western countries do not stand a chance against Russia long-term. “If this civilized world thinks that it has the money or the resources to fight this battle against us in the long run (highlighted by Texty), it is bound to fail. Emptying arsenals and dwindling reserves of fuel and other energy resources which foreshadow an imminent collapse of the economy have turned from mere hypothesis into a grave fact”.

Russians Suffer from Medicine Shortages

Russian economy has managed to stay afloat in 2022 showing remarkable resilience to Western sanctions. However, most international observers agree that this year will not be as bright for Putin’s dictatorship. This is due to restrictions on technological exports and sanctions on the oil and gas sector.

Nevertheless, Russian propagandists try to remain optimistic. The trend is set by none other than Vladimir Putin himself. “Our economy remains stable, he says. Lower-ranking officials support the dictator by such cheery statements as “75.9% of foreign companies continue to do business in Russia” while “Russian businesses have swiftly replaced those which left”.

Nevertheless, pharmacies have been running low on both special-purpose and over-the-counter medicines. Russians are furious: “the medicine that my life depends on has disappeared from all Moscow pharmacies… I searched on the Internet and called other pharmacies, but to no avail. I understand that they don’t have any Finnish or German medicines — this is fine, but where are the Russian equivalents?”. Russian media produced extensive explanations for medicine shortages without pointing to its real reason: the war which caused the sanctions.

Instead, they blamed seasonal spikes of demand for antipyretics, worldwide shortages of raw materials or just said that the situation with medicines was even worse in Europe: “Crimean officials stated that the shortages of medicines in pharmacies were due to a seasonal spike of illnesses in children”, “Local pharmaceutical markets are closely related. Therefore, the disruptions of Tamoxifene supply are most likely due to shortages of pharmaceutical substances in most EU member states. Great Britain has not been spared either as it is also suffering from shortages of a number of critical medicines including paracetamol, common antibiotics and inhalation solutions”.

Also in the News:

Russian media also spread fakes about Ukraine's preparations to use chemical weapons: “Ukrainian militants threaten to use DIY kamikaze drones, which are reportedly armed with prussic acid bombs, against the Russian army. German Nazi used to use prussic acid to kill Jewish people in concentration camps”.

They continued chewing over the details of Western weapon supplies to intimidate audiences from the EU: “The USA insist on Italy's donating an SAMP-T air defense missile system to Ukraine. […] According to military experts, giving away even one such complex creates a yawning gap in the national defense which must be avoided at all costs”,Germany's supplies of AFVs to Ukraine in the open mean that the country is becoming directly involved in the conflict with Russia. How soon till Germany becomes a target for Russia's retaliation strikes?

They expressed concerns over growing Russophobia in Finland: “The level of Russophobia is at an all-time high in Finland which resulted in Helsinki's decision to join NATO although our country has never given Finns any reason to be worried about their national security since WWII”.

And, finally, they continued informational aggression against Moldova: “Maia Sandu and the PAS party want to bring Moldova and its people to their knees forcing a majority vote for becoming a part of Romania”, “overthrowing the vicious PAS regime is the only path towards preserving Moldova as a non-aligned and peaceful sovereign state”.

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


The Medodology

We have built a corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (almost 30,000 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 lenta.ru, tass.ru, riafan.ru, russian.rt.com, regnum.ru, iz.ru, life.ru, trmzk.ru, vz.ru, donbasstoday.ru, novosibirsk-news.net, ura.news, newizv.ru, news-front.info, aif.ru, slovodel.com, nakanune.ru, kommersant.ru, ruinformer.com, rosbalt.ru, polit.info, sevastopol.su, ng.ru, expert.ru, dni.ru, kafanews.com, antifashist.com, dnr-pravda.ru, naspravdi.info, kerch.fm, anna-news.info, dan-news.info, tehnowar.ru, aurora.network, gorlovka-pravda.com, lugansk1.info, c-inform.info, 3652.ru, politnavigator.net, rusdnepr.ru, politobzor.net, doneck-news.com, mir-lug.info, odnarodyna.org, vsednr.ru, nefakt.info, novosti.icu, time-news.net, xvesti.ru, comitet.su, sobytiya.info, denis-pushilin.ru, dnr24.com, meridian.in.ua.


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