Reflection on Two Years of War and Disinformation

The Kremlin’s lies, deceit and disinformation have systematically fuelled Russia brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. Two years later, Ukraine fights bravely on and we continue to expose Russia’s lies. Don’t be deceived.

By EUvsDisinfo | February 24, 2024

Two years ago, on 24 February 2022 Russia launched a brutal full-scale invasion against its peaceful neighbour Ukraine and the world irrevocably changed. There are a lot of memories accrued in these past two years. Some traumatic and painful, like learning of the horrendous atrocities committed by Russia in Bucha, some are full of optimism and resolve, like seeing Ukraine liberate Kherson from the Russian invaders. But in these last two years we gathered more than just memories, we also sifted through piles and piles of pro-Kremlin disinformation fuelling Russia’s war machine with hate and lies. So, when we think about #24Feb2022, we also think of all the pro-Kremlin disinformation that we sought to expose on our EUvsDisinfo platform.

Reflection on two years of war and disinformation — EUvsDiSiNFO

Here is but a glimpse of some of the pro-Kremlin disinformation topics that have become inextricably linked with our memory of war.

Brutality of Russian war crimes in Mariupol and Bucha

The shelling of Maternity Ward No. 3 in Mariupol is a war crime and took the life of innocent civilians, including children. Top Russian officials confirmed the targeting of the facility, but claimed it was a stronghold of “radicals”. They were lying.

Russia also sought to use disinformation not only to deflect the blame for atrocities in Bucha, but also to pre-emptively shape narratives for countering and discrediting any evidence or investigation into Russian war crimes in Ukraine. And then, a year later, a new generation of pro-Kremlin falsehoods about Russian crimes in Bucha had arisen.

Paying lip service to peace

When Russia’s ‘three day operation’ inevitably run aground and crumbled in the face of a resolute resistance of Ukrainian people, the Kremlin started an out-pour of so-called ‘peace proposals’ from the Kremlin amounting essentially to unilateral demands for Ukraine to surrender and give up the territories temporarily occupied by Russian invaders. Just and sustainable peace was never in the Kremlin’s interest, all the talks about peace were simply designed to boost Russia’s international image. Ultimately, the Kremlin only deploys its ‘peace narrative’ to disguise Russia’s appetite for war.

Starving the world

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine destabilized global food markets, while Russian disinformation about food security sought to exacerbate tensions in a bid to deflect blame and undermine global support for Ukraine. Then, in preparation for the Russia-Africa summit, Putin penned a disinformation-laden article using Kremlin Newspeak to deceive and distract the world from Russia’s crimes. This is what Putin said, and this is what he really meant.

Nuclear sabre-rattling and ‘biolabs’ scare-mongering

In the past two years, the Kremlin’s disinformation peddlers have sharpened their nuclear rhetoric to create a false perception of a ‘cornered Russia’ to try to deter and dissuade the West from supporting Ukraine and responding to Russia’s annexation of temporarily occupied territories in Ukraine. When that did not work, a more crudely carved pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative emerged, with Kremlin top officials and pro-Kremlin outlets resurfacing a washed-out claim that Kyiv will supposedly detonate a dirty bomb or a radiological weapon and then blame the disaster on Russia.

In a similar vein, the Kremlin’s disinformation machinery continued to fabricate make-believe stories about biolabs in Ukraine and bioweapons testing, while tossing its tentacles near and far. So, we asked and independent expert to tell us about the crucial differences between legitimate biological research and the development of biological weapons and why Russia is spreading disinformation about biological research in Ukraine.

Hate speech and incitement of genocide

Hate speech and de-humanisation against Ukraine have become the norm in pro-Kremlin lingo. Open calls for genocide blend in, setting the scene for war crimes. Most Russians accept the policy. In fact, a lot of hate speech comes straight from the top. From Putin’s articles and speeches in key state media blessing genocide to former president Medvedev wanting people and Ukraine itself “to disappear”. The road to atrocities begins with hate speech. A road from Moscow to Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol and other places of atrocities. A prime example was a prominent Russian long-read, “What should Russia do With Ukraine”, published just as the world was watching the horrors of Bucha, details how Ukraine should be treated – or rather: destroyed. The horrific ideas ring similar to what Europe has seen in previous wars.

Energy blackmail

The Kremlin’s disinformation peddlers like to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has nothing to do with any bad consequences of their attack. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, pro-Kremlin outlets have been active in spreading disinformation related to energy – all in an effort to hide Moscow’s attempted blackmail with energy supplies to obtain Western political concessions: the lifting of sanctions or pressure on Kyiv to accept Russian demands. After a lot of scare-mongering and blackmail it became apparent that the Kremlin’s attempts to manipulate were no match to the energy resilience of Europe and Kremlin’s disinformation narratives about energy issues targeting Europe melted away when contrary to their gloomy predictions Europe did not freeze to death last winter.

Re-writing history to fit the Kremlin’s imperial delusions of grandeur

Historical revisionism takes many devious forms in Russia. One of the most blatant Kremlin’s attempts to of manipulation is the re-writing of school history books , filling them with lies and pro-Kremlin disinformation, often trying to hide the fact that Russia is, indeed, a colonial empire, hiding in plain sight.

In fact, Russia’s information manipulation apparatus attempts to poison the information space by distorting history and creating an alternative reality, using history as an information weapon in Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine. One of the goals of the Kremlin’s historic revisionism was to look for scapegoats. In an upside-down mirror of Moscow’s own imperial ambitions actions, apart from Ukraine, Poland has long been smeared as a warmonger and a ‘vassal’ of the US trying to annex parts of Ukraine and Belarus.

Russian cultural special operation

Culture has long been used as an imperialistic tool to impose the supposed supremacy of Russia over the nations and ethnicities it occupied. Russia’s cultural presence abroad is perceived by the Kremlin as an instrument for cultural domination. With Ukraine as the largest and most immediate target in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, Russia has been using a myriad of strategies in the intellectual and creative field for years, decades and centuries.

Blame the West

Shifting the focus, engineering paranoia and manufacturing fake threats has long since been the go-to tactic for the Kremlin’s information manipulators. Pro-Kremlin outlets repeatedly claimed looming Western invasion of Russia, Ukrainian plots to use nuclear bombs, and threats to the Orthodox faith in Ukraine. All to distract from bloody battles, atrocities, civilian deaths and continuous deliberate and indiscriminate bombing of Ukrainian cities.

The Nazi obsession

From the early days of the war, Putin has tried to portray himself as the tamer of neo-Nazism. It is a schoolyard defence most of us know. If someone calls you a name you reply, “It takes one to know one” or “you are worse than me”. That is, accuse them of the very charge they made against you. This rhetorical tactic is a projection – a way to shift blame for their own destructive actions. Why? Because Putin tried draw the ultimate card of scaremongering to mobilise Russian society: Nazis with chemical weapons and everything else deadly. Essentially, “Nazi” is both a label and a narrative, and unlike any other, it summarizes the mythology that sustains the Kremlin’s regime in a single word.

See Also : Retour sur deux années de guerre et de désinformation

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