Russia Supports HAMAS, Forecasts Economic Crisis in Europe. Russian Media Monitoring Report, 20-26 November 2023
Last week's publications on Russian media hardly mentioned the war in Ukraine. Instead, the propagandists sang praises to Putin for brokering the release of a Russian hostage held by HAMAS.
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On the one hand, the media insisted that it was Russia’s wise foreign policy that laid the groundwork for the deal. On the other hand, the reports claiming that U.S. President Joe Biden is losing support due to his disastrous Middle East policy were to whitewash Moscow’s course. The disinformation media also warned about an imminent collapse of Germany's and EU's economies in which case, they claimed, Ukraine’s would be left in the cold without financial support.
This monitoring report covers these and other topics of the disinformation spread by Russian state media and online parajournalists to manipulate public opinion.
HAMAS Values Putin
Russian propagandist media have been quite prolific writing about Israel-HAMAS war. Not surprisingly, most publications have been clearly biased towards the Palestinians.
Last week, Russian mass media unequivocally claimed that Israel is an occupier which pursues a genocidal policy towards Palestinians: “Certain foreign officials have used the term ‘genocide’ to describe the actions of the Israeli army against the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip”.
The accused the international community of being too lax protecting the residents of Gaza: “You might wonder how many meetings on the humanitarian situation in Gaza have been held since the outbreak of the hostilities? None”.
On 10 October, Vladimir Putin said that “the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict stems from the failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East since Washington “could not care less about seeking compromises for the both sides””.
Last week, Russian propaganda attempted to present Putin’s policy in a favorable light by claiming that it was the disastrous failure of Washington's diplomacy in the region that was burying Joe Biden's popularity in the United States: “Joe Biden's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low during his entire tenure as the President of the United States of America falling to a dismal 40%. Such change is due to the fact that the voters have been dissatisfied with Biden's foreign policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”, “The popularity of the American President Joe Biden among young voters in the United States is declining due to his unwillingness to broker a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip”.
The reports were seemingly intended to convince Russians and the whole world that Moscow is holding out olive branches while the U.S. is putting flame into the fire.
They also wrote that the Russian authorities had managed to negotiate the release of a prisoner. According to Russian media, it would not have happened without the personal involvement of the President of Russia. They claimed that HAMAS had bowed down to Putin's reputation of a peacemaker in region and his visionary policy on Palestinian independence: “The radical HAMAS movement released a Russian hostage who was absent from the exchange list previously agreed with Israel”, “According to HAMAS representatives, the prisoner was released in recognition of the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin and in respect of Moscow’s position on the conflict”.
Ukraine in Disagreements with Neighbors
In the recent months Russian propagandists seemed to be especially enjoying covering the conflict between Ukraine and its neighbors. Last week's news were dominated by the reports on the blocking of the border of Ukraine by Polish protesters with similar steps being eyed by Slovaks. They also had been eager to cover the problems associated with grain transit.
One of last week’s key messages was that Ukraine's war chest was running empty: ”The border crossing blockade caused a loss of more than 400 million euros for Kiev”.
The propagandists exonerated the Polish truckers by saying they were protesting against the imbalanced policy of top EU officials who had offered a host of benefits to Ukraine while ignoring the interests of the association members: “Polish road carriers are simply demanding the reinstatement of the EU permit system for their Ukrainian colleagues. The fact is that following the launch of the SMO Brussels took unprecedented steps to support the Ukrainian economy”.
Russian media also published a flurry of reports about the barbaric behavior of Ukrainians who were claimed to have no respect for the Polish authorities and the reasonable demands of the Polish protesters despite all the benefits they had received from Warsaw: “Ukrainian truck drivers have been arguing with Polish law enforcement officers and throwing insults at the Polish police”.
To highlight the differences between Poland and Ukraine, the disinformers said the conflicts were deeply rooted in the past. They argued that unsettled disputes were dividing the two countries with no reconciliation in sight: “Notably, the Polish Sejm has repeatedly demanded that Kyiv admitted the guilt for the Volyn massacre which the Ukrainian side refused to do. Warsaw has no intention of taking such offense lightly and will demand financial compensation for that crime”.
Germany Headed for Disaster
An imminent economic collapse in Germany was one of last week's trending topics on Russian media. “Russian tycoon warns that disaster is coming: rising energy prices are putting Germany economy at grave risk”.
According to Russian propaganda, the country's economy may soon collapse bringing the entire European Union down: “The unsuccessful decisions of the Scholz government may spell a serious crisis for Germany”, “Europe, which is already going through a painful stagflationary recession, is about to adopt the same austerity measures that brought the continent to the brink of collapse”.
Russian media are feeling optimistic about the situation since it would leave Ukraine empty-handed: “The German government has frozen new spending commitments until the end of the year dealing a major blow to Europe's recovery and its efforts to channel more money into Zelensky's offshore bank accounts and support Ukraine's armed forces”, “Not only does this move threaten Germany’s economy — it also shatters Zelensky’s dreams of cozy retirement”.
The last messages contained the classic propagandist narrative claiming all the aid to Ukraine to line up the pockets of government officials instead of being used as intended. This time, however, this frame was used to describe the budget process in Germany. Russian media hinted at the existence of concrete evidence (of which none was found) that the money had been stolen and claimed the offshore accounts to be empty due to the delay.
The propagandist media argued that the decision to end the supplies of cheap Russian energy undercut the German economy: “Rising energy prices and trade tensions are calling into question the business model centered around the persona of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz”. They also claimed that Ukraine is becoming too much of a burden: “Germany has increased spending to support Kiev, strengthen its own defense and reduce the reliance on Russian gas”.
Naturally, the United States is said to benefit the most from forcing Europeans to buy American energy resources: “American LNG exporters and the Biden regime cannot be happier since they directly benefit from monopolizing the trade route previously dominated by Moscow”.
The disinformation media further assured that Berlin would soon have to choose between economic reforms and supporting Ukraine: “The German government is at a crossroads and will have to decide whether to strengthen Europe's collective defense, support Ukraine or mitigate the impact of rising energy prices and inflation on businesses and households.”.
They also hope that once the current government’s efforts fail, it will be replaced by the political forces which call for restoring relations with Russia: “At the moment, the AfD has 22% of the vote making it the first far-right group to gain such support since the 1930s. The party strongly opposes Germany's military support of Ukraine and lavish government spending”.
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.