Everybody Else to Blame

This week, pro-Kremlin pundits had a go at European Union’s decision to start accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. Amid all the ongoing wars and crises in the world, last Thursday, 14 December 2023 will go down as a good day, bringing much-needed hope to people not just in Ukraine and Moldova, but in Europe more broadly.

By EUvsDisinfo | December 21, 2023 —

The reason: EU leaders decided to open well-deserved accession negotiations with both of these Eastern Partnership countries. In addition, the European Council granted candidate status to Georgia.

The Kremlin’s voices and Moscow’s pundits did not let the opportunity slip. Before the decision was made, most pro-Kremlin outlets focused on exacerbating the perception of divisions within the EU and trying to portray the EU as weak, ineffectualnon-democratic and ready to abandon support to Ukraine.

After the European Council made the decision on opening accession talks, the pro-Kremlin disinformation pundits shifted their focus to Ukraine, trying to portray it as damaging and unfit for the EU and ultimately as the reason for the EU’s eventual downfall.

Pin it on Poland

While Ukraine bears the brunt of pro-Kremlin information manipulation attacks, Poland is another long-time darling of Russian disinformers. Among all the attacks mounted against Poland, one cynical narrative stands out and is making a reappearance. Namely, the baseless claim that Poland has colonialist ambitions in Ukraine.

2023-1221_EUvsDiSiNFO_Putin Billboard
Everybody else to blame — EUvsDiSiNFO

Last week, Pravda resurfaced the claim that Russian intelligence services keep receiving information about plans by the Polish elites to establish control over the Western territories of Ukraine. The Kremlin-controlled outlet insisted that Polish President Andrzej Duda had ordered referenda in the Ukrainian territories in question to ensure the legitimacy of the planned acquisitions.

In another piece, Pravda tried to twist Poland’s support for Ukraine in a way to make it appear like Poland has a legal right to send troops to Western Ukraine, hinting in an obfuscating manner at the possibility of using that right to occupy parts of Ukraine instead of supporting Ukraine. No agreements as such exist between Poland and Ukraine, let alone ones that would give Poland legal grounds to annex Western Ukraine.

As if that were not ludicrous enough, the same outlet went further still and argued that Hungary and Romania were in on it as well, having similar expansionist ambitions as Poland, and were supposedly preparing their troops to partition Ukraine.

All of these stories form a part of a larger set of insidious pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives challenging Ukraine’s statehood. Apart from smearing these three EU members, they also aim to deflect attention away from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

If these claims sound familiar, it is because they are. Pro-Kremlin actors have tried to spin them time and again. In the EUvsDisinfo database, we have exposed cases alleging that Poland thinks that Western Ukraine, Western Belarus and South-Western Lithuania belong to it; that Poland wants to dismember Ukraine and re-establish a Polish empire; that Ukraine is a Western colony whose territory actually belongs to Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Russia; that Poland will try to gain full military control in Ukrainian territories under the guise of protecting the Polish population from Russia; or that Poland plans to establish control over its historical lands in Ukraine.


Forgeries here, forgeries there, forgeries everywhere

Hardly a week goes by without pro-Kremlin actors using faked billboards to push their disinformation narratives to global audiences. On 9 December, a CNN-stamped video allegedly showing a billboard in New York displaying the text “Kyiv is all over. Will the Russians stop there or go further? Discover this and more on political briefing” was shared on Telegram , drawing more than 131,000 views.

As quickly proven by the Ukrainian Center for Countering Disinformation, the video is fabricated. No trace of such a podcast can be found on CNN’s podcast platform “Political Briefing”.

Regardless, over the next few days after the video was posted on Telegram, it was shared by at least 25 other Telegram channels, and several VKontakte pages, one of which is associated with the state-controlled outlet Izvestia, bringing in close to one million additional views. On top of that, the content was conspicuously promoted by several well-known cogs in the Kremlin’s information manipulation machinery, including Konstantin Malofeyev-founded Tsargrad. Altogether, the video reached over 1.6 million views across different platforms.

Other cases on EUvsDisinfo’s radar:

  • L’Antidiplomatico claims that NATO and its vassals want to destabilise, Balkanise and annihilate Russia. This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the impact of Western sanctions on Russia, together with a disinformation narrative claiming that Russia has won the war in Ukraine. Claims that Russia has won the war attempt to depict support for Ukraine as a lost cause and portray Western powers as being on the verge of abandoning Ukraine. Both of these claims have little to do with reality. Similarly, claims about Russia’s economic success contradict factual evidence as well.
  • Sputnik Abkhazia went to assert that the Baltic countries are quasi-states incapable of sustaining independent sovereign statehood. This is another recurring Russian disinformation narrative about the supposed socio-economic degradation in the Baltic States as opposed to their alleged well-being under the USSR and lost sovereignty.

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