By EUvsDisinfo

From 6-9 June, elections to the European Parliament took place across EU Member States in the largest European democratic exercise. These elections give a governing mandate to the European Parliament for the next five years and will lead to the appointment of the next president of the European Commission and the college of commissioners.

In this series of articles, we show examples of key tactics, techniques, and procedures employed by pro-Kremlin manipulators and disinformers targeting the European Parliament elections. We have examined attempts to smear leaderssow distrust, doubt, and divisionflood social media with falsehoods trying to turn the public against Ukraine; and project Russia’s own shortcomings onto the EU to distract from the reality of Putin’s Russia.

In the first article, we analysed the technique of smearing prominent political leaders by inventing scandals, twisting or taking things out of context, or posing as ‘Doppelgängers’ to clone or hijack their online identities to lure target audiences. A second technique is closely associated with the first: sowing discontent, doubt, and division.

The second article looked at attempts to foment discontent inside EU Member States, exploit existing political issues, and erode the credibility of the EU system. We have documented increasing attempts by Russian state-sponsored and pro-Kremlin outlets targeting the EU to influence public discussions.

The third article examined techniques to flood information spaces with falsehoods to turn the public against Ukraine. Anti-Ukraine narratives are still, by far, the dominant topic for Kremlin manipulators. On a regular day, half of the content across key Russian state-controlled and pro-Kremlin platforms are directed against Ukraine in one way or another.

In the fourth article, we analysed the attempts to engage ‘Whataboutism’ to paint a negative picture of Europe and the elections to avoid uncomfortable comparisons with Russia’s own situation.

Technique no. 5: dismiss the results and drive new wedges

It is a kind of a ‘catch all’ argument simply to dismiss the results as not representative so anything following from this election process can be attacked as lacking legitimacy, lacking representation or not having political weight or relevance. A bit like flipping over the game table when you are about to lose. It’s a cheap trick but it is attractive especially with audiences prone to believing in conspiracy theories.

As soon as preliminary election results were known, the leading Russian state news wire and Kremlin mouthpiece TASS issued a long piece combining reportage and commentary setting the tone for how to interpret the result. The key elements are captured in the headline: ‘EU citizens have spoken out against the course of Brussels, but they will not be heard’. A classic ‘Elite vs. the people’ narrative. Further, TASS dismissed the European Parliament as a mere ‘rubberstamp for the European Commission’, ‘imitating’ politics and still populated by members with an agenda against Russia. This claim echoed another classic but still prominent Kremlin accusation against EU leaders: they are Russophobes. In addition, TASS claims, the European Council with the heads of state or government takes decision in secrecy.

A bonus: dismiss key leaders and fuel the fire!

A key figure, Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Putin’s former deputy chief of staff, set the tone for exploiting the elections to fuel political instability. Volodin advanced the notion that the EP elections were only a first phase and suggested that both President Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz ought to ‘resign and stop bullying the citizens of their states’. Volodin praised European far-right partiessupporting their demands for votes of no confidence. Federation Council Chairperson Valentina Matvienko chipped in, mocking the ‘old world’ (France and Germany) for being under the control of Washington, thus repeating the narrative of ‘Lost sovereignty’.

A referendum amid the imminent collapse…

Leading Russian state TV stations chose, unsurprisingly, to emphasise the ‘mistaken support to Ukraine’ as the element which in one way or another played a role in most political issues. ‘The bureaucrats in Brussels’ allegedly failed to listen to anti-war voices.

Through the lenses of Kremlin TV, the elections were more or less framed as a kind of referendum on support to Ukraine or how come to terms with Russia. The reports had the well-known Kremlin tonality of the ‘imminent collapse of the West’.

Enough about the European Parliament – for now

The Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov seems to want to conclude the rounds of high level commentary for now by stating that the elections results need to be studied more carefully. But suffice to say that the European Parliament will be dominated by pro-European parties with an agenda against Russia. So no good is to be expected from that front.

We will follow the further attempts to undermine and manipulate the interpretation of the European Parliament elections by Russian state-controlled and pro-Kremlin ecosystems. Follow our European Elections section on our website and check elections related cases in our database.

By EUvsDisinfo