This has been a busy time for the Kremlin’s spin-doctors. Russian state-controlled TV channels continued to vent and spin disinformation messages about the recent incident with the UK warship HMS Defender in the Black Sea. At the same time, the head of the Russian diplomacy accused the West of promoting “totalitarian rule in global affairs” (via sanctions over human rights violations no less) and tried to attack Western values by suggesting, that students are taught that Jesus Christ was bisexual in the Western schools. (The independent Russian outlet the Insider debunked this and another nine of the Foreign Minister’s claims).
Disinformation splashes in the Black Sea
Last week a British warship HMS Defender was making a passage along the Crimean cost, through the internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. But in the context of the illegal annexation of Crimea, for the Kremlin this amounted to a provocation, and of what scale!
According to the pro-Kremlin media, the UK warship not only violated Russian territorial waters (except that it didn’t, as the Russian territorial claims are based on the illegal annexation of Crimea), but also constituted a NATO provocation and an evil Anglo-Saxon plot to halt Eurasian integration. The UK wanted to get shot at! (Except that it wasn’t: the UK Ministry of Defence swiftly denied that any shots were fired at HMS Defender). The UK, supported by the US, was seeking to create a casus belli – a pretext for war, and not just any war but a world war, because according to Russian state-controlled TV this is how the British Prime Minister wants to go down in history…
If this pompous and false rhetoric sounds familiar – it should. The pro-Kremlin media used the same disinformation tropes in 2018, when Russia illegally seized two small Ukrainian artillery vessels in the Kerch strait and detained 24 Ukrainian sailors. Back then, as today, disinformation outlets alleged all sorts of provocations, incitement to war, and border “violations” – all in vain.
Wave of disinformation against the EU
The European Union returned to the centre of the pro-Kremlin media’s attention last week, following the European Council meeting, during which the European leaders stressed the need to continue supporting Russian civil society and independent media, and to respond to any malign, illegal and disruptive Russian activity.
There could be only one explanation for such decisions for the pro-Kremlin media: European leaders were subject to American “dictate”, allegedly preventing constructive dialogue with Russia. Furthermore, Poland and the Baltic States were single-handedly accused of destroying the EU by pushing an “Anglo-Saxon” agenda.
This way, the pro-Kremlin media closely followed the lead of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who in a recent op-ed also likened the EU to a choir singing to “Big Brother’s” tune and claimed that “an aggressive Russophobic minority […] increasingly sets the EU’s policy”. Such claims echo several prominent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives on “lost sovereignty”, US presence in Europe, and that of allegedly endemic Russophobia.
True to their commitment to support the embattled illegitimate president of Belarus, pro-Kremlin outlets this week also alleged that the latest targeted economic sanctions against the Belarusian regime were imposed to impoverish common people and interfere in Belarusian internal affairs. Claims demeaning the Belarusian opposition and conjuring a “NATO threat” followed.
Such messages were as predictable as they are false: the new economic sanctions are carefully calibrated to target the Belarusian regime (read more here) and were imposed as a reaction to escalating violations of human rights and violent repression in Belarus. Despite the clamour of disinformation outlets, the EU continues to support civil society and future democratic Belarus.
Post Scriptum: this week pro-Kremlin disinformation sources frequently referred to “Anglo-Saxons”. Here’s a little aid we made last year to brush up your memory on what the pro-Kremlin media mean with this term.