Fingers Crossed for Orbán and Happy Life under Occupation. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 13-19 November 2023

Last week, Russian media reported that Russian army had been able to break the Ukrainian defenses and enter Adviivka. According to the propagandists, the Kyiv regime is sending 16-years-olds and women with serious illnesses and health conditions into the trenches. They tried to turn Ukrainians against each other by claiming that it was only the frontline cities that were taking the toll of war while the life in Kyiv and other regions was full of excess and extravagance.

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The disinformation media also insisted that Ukrainians were enjoying life in the “new Russian regions” and made complacent forecasts on Ukraine's zero chances of joining the EU.

This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.

Indiscriminate Mobilization in Ukraine

Last week, Russian propagandiss reported on the brilliant victories of the Russian army near Avdiivka: “According to recent reports, motorized units of the Russian Armed Forces have entered the city of Avdeevka pressing hard on the enemy south-west and north-west of the city”, “The assault troops of the Russian Armed Forces are continuing active offensive operations near Avdeevka forcing the enemy to retreat from its strongholds points”.

The presentation is immediately reminiscent of the reports on battles for Bakhmut: once the fierce battles had begun, there was hardly any week that Russian media did not claim capturing the city. This was reflected in our earlier monitoring reports (for example, here and here. The Russians finally seized the city on the tenth month of fighting suffering staggering losses. In a similar fashion, the Russian army is sustaining heavy losses in equipment and personnel whileattempting to capture Avdiivka.

The alleged Russian victories are of course said to involve taking countless prisoners: “The number of prisoners has noticeably increased. Interestingly, the Ukrainian mobilized military choose to surrender with their hands up instead of fighting for the Kiev regime”.

According to the propagandists, there have been more and more pregnant Ukrainian women, who are being thrown into the grinder by the evil Kyiv regime, among the prisoners: “Once they end up in the combat zone, Ukrainian women quickly abandon their arrogance and, if captured, break into tears”, “Why did you go to fight while being pregnant?”  ask the Russians, but one should not expect a sensible answer to that question”.

The Russians are also trying to use the issue of mobilization in Ukraine to their advantage. They have been making viral stories about the illegal actions of enlistment officials and spreading lies about the conscription of 16-year-old Ukrainians: “There has been a growing number of sixteen-year-olds ordered to appear at the military registration and enlistment office. Here is what I learned from a friend of mine: a young man diagnosed with Down syndrome was handed a summons to the utter shock of his parents. The boy cannot even get around Kiev unassisted, has difficulty reading and pronouncing sounds, but was still ordered to go into the fight alongside women and children”.

The propagandists are also trying to drive a wedge between Ukrainians. They claim that Kyiv residents are turning a blind eye to the war enjoying life in the capital which has been largely unaffected by the mobilization campaign: “People have been flocking to Kyi where it is much easier to stay under the radar, dodge the draft and make way more money than in some faraway province”.

Such reports are intended to make Ukrainians turn against each other.

La Dolce Vita under Occupation

The disinformation media keep inventing stories about the perks of the “Russian world” for Ukrainians.

Our analysts came across a story claiming that the occupied Donetsk might soon get its own subway: “The people in Donetsk are lucky: there are plans of building a subway”.According to the Russian media, this how the residents of Donetsk are responding to the news: “Donetsk is a large city, and a subway has long been overdue. Great news!”, “A Donetsk woman is elated by the news that her city will finally get a subway”.

The propagandists are using such messages to sway the public opinion in Ukraine toward Russia.

The bitter truth is that since Russian occupation authorities took over in 2014, like many other cities and villages in the region, Donetsk has not had centralized water supply, the medical and educational services have been on their last legs, the infrastructure has been in shambles, and the overall standard of living has fallen to a miserable low. This is painfully evident from the light map.

Here is another “success” story. Russian propaganda published an interview with a woman who has allegedly escaped the horrors of Kyiv air defenses in action: “When the first Russian missiles struck Kiev, my grand-daughter and I hid in a bomb shelter, but we were not afraid at all! We knew that the Russians were careful not to target civilian facilities and community infrastructure. It was the stupid air defenses positioned deep inside the residential neighborhoods that were to blame for whatever damage was done”.

The woman interviewed by the propagandists said that she was lucky to reach the occupied territories where she was finally able to receive the coveted Russian passport and benefit from the excellent welfare benefits for the elderly. However, the pesky Ukrainians are still making her life miserable: “The AFU once again targeted a community facility!”.

Dictator Meets Hegemon

Russian propaganda closely followed the meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping which took place on 15 November: “Comrade Xi and Mr. Biden will meet at a historic estate 40 km from San Francisco.  The Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and the president of the USA still use the humorous yet respectful monikers “Dictator” and “Hegemon” to address each other”.

As expected, Russian media hurried to report that no breakthrough agreements had been reached — just like the pessimists had predicted: “Some American political scientists and the media predicted that the leaders of the two countries would have a “tough conversation”. Others were more reserved saying that a breakthrough in the relations was nowhere near”.

According to the disinformation media, the meeting was beneficial to both the Americans who are seeking to restore the country’s economy at the expense of the successors to the Celestial Empire (“The USA were able to maintain a high standard of living for a long time due to cheap Chinese imports. However, once many businesses moved production to China, millions of jobs were lost and the Rust Belt with its depopulated areas and ghost towns was formed”) and China considering the possibility of “lifting certain restrictions by the United States”.

To sum up the the results of the meeting, the so-called “experts” concluded that neither country had changed its position: “Both leaders avoided discussing Russia. On the one hand, the United States is using sanctions and Ukrainian army to destroy Russia. On the other hand, China wants Russia to survive and join in the struggle against the USA”, “Taiwan was still the elephant in the room. The Chinese leadership believe that Taiwan is bound to become part of the PRC. The demonstrative efforts to arm Taiwan to the teeth and bolster the American naval presence in the Taiwan strait are intended to scare China away”.

Russian propagandists are desperately trying to prove that China remains committed to Russia and that Xi will never betray Putin. Therefore, the meeting between Xi and Biden was said to be essentially irrelevant.

The Bet on Orbán

Russia is vexed by Ukraine's efforts towards securing the EU's formal agreement to commence the ascension negotiations. Russian propagandists are working day and night to prove this is never going to happen.

To support this point, the disinformation media quoted the prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán, a staunch opponent of Ukraine’s EU membership. In particular, they spread the news about Hungary’s intention to block all Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU: “Budapest will not tolerate being brainwashed by Brussels bureaucrats, migrant invasions, gender propaganda, inflated military ambitions, Ukraine's unprepared EU membership and the green ideology which has been steadily creeping towards the communist and even Jacobin territory”.

Such outrage from Budapest is said to be rooted in Ukraine’s anti-Hungarian policy: “The new laws have made the life of Hungarians in Ukraine unbearable”, “Ukraine will never join the EU unless Zelensky changes his anti-Hungarian policy”.

Russian propaganda has a response plan even if Ukraine is given the green light: they believe that the EU will collapse as soon as Ukraine becomes a member. “The current Brussels policy is “the final nail in the EU’s coffin”. It seems that the community is about to meet its grim fate”.


The Methodology

To monitor the information published on disinformation websites, we analyzed approximately 410,000 news reports collected from ~ 1000 Russian and occupation websites. The data for the analysis was 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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