US Reopens “Secret Biolabs” in Ukraine. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 10-16 April 2023.

Russian media are confident that the Ukrainian counter-offensive will be disastrous and signal the end of the support of Ukraine by the West. Last week, the propagandists told stories about the brave Russian army fighters who have already knocked out many Leopard tanks and killed thousands of Polish mercenaries. The disinformation media continued producing fakes about “secret biolabs” operated by the United States in Ukraine and convincing the audiences that Washington is ready to go to war with China to keep the dollar afloat. This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

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


German “Leopards” in Kherson Swamps

Last week's reports on Russian media spelled doom for the imminent counter-offensive of the Ukrainian defense forces: “Ukraine has neither the troops nor the weaponry to wage a counter-offensive”. To prove this point, Russian media circulated bits and pieces of the recent Pentagon leaks with the key point “Kyiv is running out missiles of ammunition”. The propagandists explained that the leak had been planned and executed by Washington to blame the AFU for the future failure of the upcoming counter-offensive: “The United States leaked classified documents to avoid responsibility for the probable failure of the counter-offensive being planned by Ukraine’s defense forces”. The propagandists love to produce a flurry of forecasts: while being absolutely impossible to verify, they start to seem plausible if repeated enough times.

They ran numerous stories about the impenetrable defenses and minefields built by the Russian army: “A member of “Akhmat” special forces team told us about the reinforcement of the defenses which spread toward Kremennaya with minefields”, “The Russian fighters defending this position are protected by an intricate system of trenches dug in a sandy forested area”.

To demonstrate the success of the “special military operation” (the official term for Russia’s war against Ukraine used by Russian media — editor’s note), keep producing new fakes. According to last week's report on RIA Novosti, a group of Russian commandos captured and sank a Leopard which had recently been delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine: “One Leopard tank was captured by a Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group (SRG). After an unsuccessful attempt to evacuate the vehicle to a rear area, the commandos had to sink it in a swamp”. Another source, the Tsargrad, wrote that “the much-praised German Leopard tanks on which the AFU had been putting so many high hopes broke down well before reaching the front lines”.

However, the occupiers did not provide any evidence to those claims. It was not the first time that Russian forces claimed capturing Leopard tanks. On 3 March, the First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Dmytro Polyansky reposted a fake photo of a Leopard 2A5 tank allegedly captured near Bakhmut from his Twitter account only to delete it hours later.

The propagandists are certain that no foreign mercenaries are able to help Ukraine as Russian army is killing them by thousands: “2,500 thousand Polish mercenaries have already been killed out of the original 20,000 troops who had joined the AFU ranks”.

Interestingly, certain Russian media are starting to admit that the Ukrainian offensive might be a success after all. The propagandists are preparing the audiences for such a bad-case scenario by claiming that even if Ukrainian army does manage to launch a counter-offensive, such an operation is unlikely to bring any significant gains and will eventually cause the West to pull the plug on Ukraine: “Even if the operation begins successfully, no Western country is ready to foot the bill just to see the end of it”.

Moscow Wants Control over American Labs

The propagandists just cannot resist from running stories about “secret biolabs” allegedly operated by the United States in Ukraine. This is an old fake that was favored by both Russian disinformation media and pro-Russian agents in Ukraine. However, this narrative reappeared in the news feeds of Russian media last week: “According to Ryabkov (deputy foreign minister of Russia — editor's note), the United States is building up its biological military activities worldwide — the country is bolstering its biological warfare capabilities in most every region of the world”.

According to the propagandists, the operation of biolabs was one of the reasons behind the war: “If not for the SMO, the world would never have known the truth about Pentagon's biological military occupation of Ukraine. As a result, Ukraine has turned into the focus of many dangerous deceases including the ones whose origin remains unclear”.

The Russian Ministry of Defense complains that the Americans keep building new laboratories and training Ukrainian biologists regardless of the SMO: “Although some of the American programs were renamed, their purpose remains the same: to develop biological warfare components in Ukraine”.

Russians claim that the world would be a lot safer if the USA provided access to their biological military programs for inspection: “Most of the members to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)... support the position of the Russian Federation to the effect that “the development of a universally applicable, legally binding and non-discriminating protocol to implement an effective inspection mechanism would greatly contribute to the effectiveness of BTWC".

The propagandists warn that the United States is one step away from creating genetically targeted biological weapons: “Once created by the Americans, biological weapons with genetic targeting would be a geopolitical and military game changer much like the nuclear weapons in the 1940s and 1950s”.

The disinformation media also claim that it is not just the Russians who are concerned about the dangers caused by the “American biolabs” — there have been protests against such facilities worldwide: “The operation of American biolabs in Ukraine triggered protests in South Korea, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Serbia. The public concern over the risks posed by those facilities is growing all over the world”.

Finally, they called on China to join the “anti-lab front”: “The American biolabs manufacture weapons that could be used against the geopolitical rivals of the United States. Hopefully, the Chinese leadership will make the necessary conclusions sooner than later. The threat of biological warfare posed by the United States could unite our nations even further”.

Happy for Assad, Concerned about Orban

Russian propagandists gave a fair deal of attention to Russia’s allies last week.

First and foremost, they published gleeful reports on the developments in Syria ruled by Bashar al-Assad. Syria has been in talks with Saudi Arabia regarding its reinstatement as a member state of the Arab League. The disinformation media are presenting this fact as an unquestionable victory over the USA: “The issue of Syria’s return to the Arab League is largely related to the aftermath of the crisis in which the Americans attempted to dismantle the ruling regime in the republic”, “Syria finally returns to the organizations of the Arab world turning the page on all the disagreements in connection with the American aggression””.

The disinformation media also voiced concerns about Russia’s primary European partner — the prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán who may become the target of American sanctions: “Washington is considering sanctions against the supporters of the prime minister of Hungary”. After sifting through the documents leaked from the Pentagon, Russian media claimed to have found the line that reads “Hungary considers the United States its main adversary”.

The propagandists insisted that the United States continues a policy of isolating Russia’s partners who serve the best interest of their people: “Such steps are due to Budapest's refusal to fall in line with the policy on Russia adopted by most of the Western countries”, “While Orbán is likely to come out unscathed, the administration of the president who can hardly stand on his two feet is going to show yet another example of state-level brashness, cowboy diplomacy, treachery and much everything else we dislike about America”.

They also kept a close eye on China, another key partner of Russia. Russian media said that Washington has been putting more pressure on China following a “fruitful” visit of Xi Jinping to Moscow.

According to the propagandists, the United States is provoking China into starting a war against Taiwan to maintain the dollar’s dominance: “The United States wishes to orchestrate two conflicts: in Europe and in China. While other nations are engulfed in the flames of war, the United States will lecture on who the bad guys are while the dollar is getting stronger”.


The Methodology

We have built a comprehensive corpus of all the materials from Russian websites and those maintained by the occupation force (approximately 34,000 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 contain 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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