Despite the summer being in full swing, pro-Kremlin information manipulation operators do not seem to be getting any time off this year. As Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine is not really going to the Kremlin’s plan at all, Russia’s government is on a charm offensive to convince the world that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.
Source — EUvbsDiSiNFO — August 3, 2023 —
Table of Contents
Last week, the Kremlin hosted the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg with just 17 heads of African states present, down from 43 last time. The recent summit was a follow-up to the first one held in Sochi, Russia back in 2019. By the Black Sea, the Kremlin made a number of rosy commitments to African leaders. Fast-forward to the present, and atrocities, violence, looting, and disinformation across Africa by the Kremlin-backed and funded Wagner forces are probably the most visible deliverables of the Kremlin’s engagement in Africa.
Pro-Kremlin information manipulators did not let a good opportunity slip and tried to kick up dust around the high-level meeting. On 26 July, the very day that a coup started in Niger and one day ahead of the Russia-Africa Summit, an image was uploaded on Facebook featuring Yevgeny Prigozhin, not officially sighted in Russia since his mutiny attempt in June, with Freddy Mapouka, the ambassador of the Central African Republic. Quickly, at least 10 other Facebook channels and 30 Telegram channels with different captions circulated the image. Some posts claimed that Prigozhin is holding meetings with senior officials and military personnel from the Central African Republic, Mali, and Niger. Others insinuated that Wagner is preparing specifically for a mission in Niger.
This was not all the attention Wagner received (or rather drummed up for itself). The next day, the official channel of the Wagner group in the Central African Republic, @officersunion, posted on Telegram a message with a picture allegedly showing a pro-Wagner protest taking place in Mali. A few hours later, the same account posted a similar message with a video featuring pro-Wagner protesters, this time supposedly taking place in Burkina Faso. That evening, @officersunion uploaded a message with a picture showing a third pro-Wagner protest that purportedly took place in the Central African Republic. A number of Wagner-related Telegram accounts amplified these posts, receiving over 250,000 views in the first 24 hours.
It is also noteworthy that the incident started around the same time that an audio statement allegedly of Prigozhin was released claiming his support for the coup in Niger and announcing that he has a thousand Wagner mercenaries ready to go to Africa to support the new administration.
No grain for you, my friend
One of the timeliest issues at the heart of the summit was food security and, more precisely, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which ensured the safe transportation of grain out of the region. As we all well know, the deal expired on 17 July because Russia withdrew from it. EUvsDisinfo has covered pro-Kremlin disinformation around the deal in two recent articles.
In St. Petersburg, in an effort to cut Ukraine out of the grain deal and to win over African hearts and minds, Putin promised six African nations up to 50,000 tons of free grain in the three months following Russia’s exit. To put things in context, as of July 2023, almost 33 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs had been exported via the Black Sea Grain Initiative before Russia scuttled it. Putin’s offer was not what most participants had hoped for and, after two days of meetings, African leaders left Russia without a new grain deal.
To justify Russia’s withdrawal from the Initiative, the Kremlin’s information manipulation apparatus kept on deceivingly insisting that the deal had become a business, filling Western pockets at the expense of those in need. This ambiguous allegation is not backed by any evidence whatsoever and is a part of a wider disinformation campaign targeting the Initiative. All this false posturing is to shift blame for the global food crisis from Russia onto the EU and other Western nations. We can be all but sure that the Kremlin will keep cynically weaponising food security, which means you can expect to hear more from us on this very soon.
Also on EUvsDisinfo radar this week:
- In an Orwellian spin on reality, News Front, an outlet directed by the Kremlin’s federal security service, or FSB, claimed that Russia has never rejected a peaceful solution to the ‘situation in Ukraine’. This is a recurring and blatant pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative that aims to garner support for Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russia does not even try to hide its plans to occupy parts of Ukraine, from Donbas to the borders of Moldova.
- As RT and its regional language versions are sanctioned by the EU due to their support for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, pro-Kremlin disinformers are constantly looking for workarounds to reach audiences within the EU. For Spanish-speakers, they have set up a spin-off called ‘Ahi Les Va!’. A recent piece published by the outlet makes the claim that elections in Spain do not really matter, as ‘there are no Euro-sceptic parties, or opposition to NATO, at Congress, neither in the left nor in the right’. This is a stale cocktail of several recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives against democracy and sovereignty. As none of Spain’s main parties with parliamentary representation have expressed support for Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, this disinformation narrative aims to discredit Spain’s democratic system by pretending the result of the vote does not matter, as real decisions are taken elsewhere.
Also See: « Comment acheter des amis et tromper le monde » EUvsDiSiNFO — (2023-0803) —