We celebrate the New Year as a chance for a new beginning, and for most of us, leaving 2020 behind feels like a relief. In 2021, humankind starts fighting back against COVID-19 with a massive vaccination campaign. The European Union has coordinated and secured procurment of 300 million doses of vaccine from BioNTech-Pfizer, and more than 1 billion doses of vaccines from five other companies, once the clinical testing is finished. One of them, British-Swedish AstraZeneca, has invited the Russian Gamaleya Institute on testing a combining of the two companies’ vaccines. We are certainly not out of the woods yet, but there is cause for cautious optimism. 2021 could be a year of cooperation, of hope, of change.
The War on Sputnik V
But some things do not change: The pro-Kremlin media continue to support conspiracy theories around the pandemic, like the “Great Reset”, and continue to suggest that the pandemic is an instrument by the “elites” to establish a world government, imposing total control on the population. Russian state media continue to indulge in examples of problems with the Pfizer vaccine, carefully avoiding news about the side effects of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
Despite the cooperation between AstraZeneca and the Gamaleya Institute, pro-Kremlin media continue to parrot claims about a campaign, even a war, against the Sputnik V vaccine. Pro-Kremlin media even claim that “The West” is more preoccupied with fighting the vaccine than the virus and that not using the Sputnik V would be certain death.
Another thing that has not and probably will not change with the new year is Ukraine’s role as the top-target of pro-Kremlin disinformation. Almost half of this week’s cases are devoted to Ukraine. According to the pro-Kremlin media, Ukraine will continue to be on the brink of collapse. Tropes on “external control”, “genocide” and “Nazis” will continue to be regurgitated in 2021, just as earlier. The nationalist website Tsargrad.tv organised a vote for “Russophobe of the Year” and the winner was Turkey’s president Erdogan, who in 2021, according to the pro-Kremlin media, will attack Russia-controlled areas of Eastern Ukraine together with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy (who did not even make it to the top-5 of Tsargrad’s list of international Russophobes).
The War on Christmas
Pro-Kremlin media will likely continue parroting the phrase “no evidence!” in 2021, be that in the MH17 case, the Navalny Poisoning or Russia’s interference in foreign elections. On the other hand, the same sources will continue claiming, without presenting any evidence, that the US is creating biological weapons in laboratories close to Russia’s borders.
The previous issue of the Disinformation Review was devoted partly to Christmas Disinformation – the Kremlin’s own little yuletide tradition. This week, we can tick off a few more examples of the Kremlin’s attempt to spoil the holidays as we learn that the US is sacrificing Christian traditions on the altar of ”Political Correctness”.
We can expect the pro-Kremlin media to continue this tradition in 2021, depicting “The West” as a region, marred by moral and social collapse, descending into tyranny. This trope has very deep roots in the traditions of disinformation; the “Threatened Values” being one of the core narratives of the pro-Kremlin media.
30years ago, on this day, 7 January, Russia celebrated Christmas as a public holiday for the first time since it was banned in 1929 as part of the Kremlin’s atheist and anti-religious programme. EUvsDisinfo wants to use this opportunity to wish all our readers in Russia and other countries, celebrating today, a merry Christmas.
Edit: Factual mistake corrected.