As the world cautiously begins to adjust to the new realities of post-quarantine life, the pro-Kremlin media is adjusting as well – and returning to familiar territory.

That’s not to say that we’ve seen the last of coronavirus-related disinformation – far from it. COVID-19 will continue to affect life around the world for the foreseeable future, with a potential second wave anticipated in the coming months. Scientists are still racing to find a viable cure. In this context, don’t expect to see mis- or disinformation about the coronavirus disappear – it will simply fade into the background and become yet another persistent bug in our information landscape, like climate change denialism and anti-migrant fearmongering. If past is any indication, the pro-Kremlin media will continue opportunistically exploiting conspiracy theories and other disinformation narratives around COVID-19, undermining the EU, attacking the US or “Western elites”, or fomenting public fear and distrust. Other disinformation cases this week foreshadow which narratives are likely to endure in the months ahead: namely George Soros and Bill Gates anti-vax conspiracy theories, claims that non-capitalist countries are better able to handle crises, and nonsensical obfuscation like that “Western elites” or a global “Deep State” are behind the pandemic, or that COVID-19 is a US bioweapon. Attacking Western media that report critically on the Kremlin’s handling of the pandemic is also a tactic that will likely persist.

 

 

Bad Ukraine

But this week pro-Kremlin disinformation also returned to one of its favourite punching bags: Ukraine. Besides regurgitating old tropes – like that Euromaidan was an “ultranationalist pro-Western coup”, that Crimea was not annexed, and that the EU is exploiting Ukraine – pro-Kremlin outlets also got newly creative in their attacks against the country that is still facing conflict six years after the illegal annexation of Crimea. Latching on to an OSCE report from May 9th that recorded the injury of four children in eastern Ukraine – but didn’t ascribe responsibility to any party – the pro-Kremlin media took attribution into its own hands and accused the Ukrainian army of deliberately firing at children. Ukrainian soldiers were also baselessly accused of raping an American photojournalist in Donbas. Other cases sought to undermine the credibility of the Ukrainian government and President Zelenskyy, suggesting that Ukraine is planning to attack Donbas and sabotage peace talks, that hunger riots are breaking out in the country, and that migrant workers are being driven to Donbas in order to get them back to Europe. And a recurring narrative remains that Ukraine is a puppet of the US, which is trying to gain control of Crimea and control political appointments in Ukraine. The CIA is in on it too, of course: ordering Zelenskyy to extend sanctions and even block access to Russian social networks (in fact, this decision was made by Ukraine’s National Security Council, for pretty understandable reasons).

 

 

The Kremlin’s Victory Day Angst

With May 9th being Victory Day – one of Russia’s most prized national holidays, marking the surrender of Nazi Germany and Soviet takeover of Berlin – the attacks on Ukraine and other “Russophobic” countries were seamlessly blended with another pro-Kremlin disinformation specialty: historical revisionism. Ukraine was accused of suppressing Victory Day celebrations in a “Russophobic” attack on historical memory, national “devaluation”, and disrespect of veterans. Poland and the Baltics were charged with seeking to minimise the USSR’s victory over Nazism (as was the Western media writ large). Meanwhile, the Belarusian opposition allegedly tried to disrupt the Victory Day parade with funding from the US State Department. On the topic of World War II, pro-Kremlin outlets are stubbornly sticking to the classic deflection tactic of disinformation: “accuse others of what they accuse you”. And so it turns out that the West is supposedly guilty of historical revisionism and abdication of truth by drawing attention to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. That Pact, in case anyone needs reminding, divided Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influences and paved the way for five decades of communist totalitarian rule throughout eastern Europe. If only the Kremlin could acknowledge – even once! – the untold pain and suffering wrought by that disastrous pact and its secret protocols. Unfortunately, history has taught us not to hold our breath.

 


related disinfo cases

Date
Title
Outlets
Country
24.05.2020
  • Komitet spaseniya Ukrainy
US, Russia
24.05.2020
  • Rossia 24 - YouTube
US, Ukraine
24.05.2020
  • Sputnik English,
  • Sputnik France
Russia
23.05.2020
  • News Front - German
Norway, Sweden, US, Russia
23.05.2020
  • Eho.md
Ukraine, Russia
23.05.2020
  • Polnyi contact - Radio Vesti
US, Ukraine
23.05.2020
Israel, US
22.05.2020
  • Sputnik Poland
Poland, Germany, Russia
22.05.2020
  • Sputnik Poland
France, Poland, Germany, Russia
22.05.2020
  • Russia-insider.com
UK
22.05.2020
  • flux.md
Moldova
22.05.2020
  • Sputnik France
Russia
21.05.2020
  • Sputnik Armenia - Russian,
  • Sputnik Abkhazia - Russian,
  • Sputnik Tajikistan - Russian
Romania, Bulgaria, US, Russia
21.05.2020
  • Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Czech Republic, Russia
21.05.2020
  • Geopolitica.ru - Italian
US, Russia
20.05.2020
  • politnavigator.net
Ukraine
20.05.2020
  • lenta.ru
USSR
20.05.2020
  • Verelq.am
Armenia, US
20.05.2020
  • Sputnik Poland
Poland, US
20.05.2020
  • Sputnik Poland
Cuba, UK, US
20.05.2020
  • Sputnik South-Ossetia,
  • Information agency RES
Georgian region of South Ossetia, EU, Georgia, US
20.05.2020
  • Sputnik France
EU, France, Russia
20.05.2020
  • RT English
Ukraine, Russia
19.05.2020
  • rusvesna.su
US, Ukraine
19.05.2020
  • antifashist.com
Germany, Ukraine
19.05.2020
  • RT Germany (old)
Italy
19.05.2020
  • Sputnik South-Ossetia
China, US
19.05.2020
  • Pervyi Kanal
US, Russia
18.05.2020
  • RIAFAN - Russian
US, Ukraine
18.05.2020
  • News Front - French
Ukraine
18.05.2020
  • News Front - Russian
US, Ukraine
18.05.2020
  • 3lnar.com,
  • akhbarak.net,
  • akhbaralyawm.com,
  • alanbatnews.net,
  • albidda.net,
  • albidda.net,
  • albousla.ps,
  • albousla.ps,
  • alhemyarianews.com,
  • alkalimaonline.com,
  • alkhabar-sy.com,
  • alkhabaralgded.com,
  • alkhabaralgded.com,
  • alkhaleej.ae,
  • Al Minasa Press,
  • alwafd,
  • alwatanonline.com,
  • RT Arabic ,
  • asianewslb.com,
  • asianewslb.com,
  • elnashra.com,
  • eltakrer.com,
  • eltakrer.com,
  • emeknes.com,
  • emeknes.com,
  • ertikaznews.com,
  • event-sy.net,
  • event-sy.net,
  • Gulf 365,
  • i-iz.com,
  • johinanews.com,
  • johinanews.com,
  • kachaf.com,
  • Klyoum.com,
  • Klyoum.com,
  • Klyoum.com,
  • kol-masr.com,
  • mulhak.com,
  • nabd.com,
  • nabd.com,
  • rtarab.com,
  • sahafah24,
  • shaam.org,
  • shamra,
  • syria-24.com,
  • syriahomenews.com,
  • worldpublishersnews.com,
  • xeber24.org
Syria, Russia
18.05.2020
  • Tsargrad TV
US, Russia
18.05.2020
  • News Front - Hungarian
Ukraine
17.05.2020
  • business-gazeta.ru
EU, US
17.05.2020
  • RT Arabic ,
  • ar.shafaqna.com,
  • Khabar Masr
US, Russia
17.05.2020
  • RT Arabic ,
  • ar.shafaqna.com,
  • Khabar Masr
Russia
16.05.2020
  • rusvesna.su
Ukraine
16.05.2020
  • ren.tv
EU
16.05.2020
  • Vesti FM - YouTube
EU, US, Ukraine
16.05.2020
  • ren.tv
Ukraine
16.05.2020
  • News Front - Spanish
China, UK, Syria, US
15.05.2020
  • News Front - Spanish
US, Ukraine, Russia
14.05.2020
  • Sputnik Arabic
USSR, UK, France, Germany, Russia
14.05.2020
  • RT Arabic ,
  • RT Arabic - YouTube
China, US
14.05.2020
  • Sputnik Arabic - (sptnkne.ws),
  • elssayda.com,
  • Tasrebat
Syria, US
14.05.2020
  • News Front - Bulgarian
EU
14.05.2020
  • News Front - Bulgarian
Venezuela, US
13.05.2020
  • pravdoryb.info
Poland, US, Russia
13.05.2020
  • nahnews.org
Malaysia, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Russia
13.05.2020
  • 60 minut @Rossiya 1 - YouTube
Ukraine
13.05.2020
  • RIAFAN - Russian
Ukraine
12.05.2020
  • RT English
US, Russia
11.05.2020
  • Podneprovie
US, Belarus
11.05.2020
  • novoross.info
Ukraine
11.05.2020
  • Sputnik Poland
Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia
11.05.2020
  • Dmytryy Hordon - YouTube
Ukraine, Russia
10.05.2020
  • ZIK.ua,
  • eadaily.com
Ukraine
09.05.2020
Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Russia
08.05.2020
  • Ahí les Va - YouTube,
  • Ahí les Va - YouTube
France, Germany, US, Russia
08.05.2020
  • Ahí les Va - YouTube
EU, Germany, US, Russia
07.05.2020
  • ukraina.ru
Ukraine
06.05.2020
  • politnavigator.net
Ukraine
06.05.2020
  • rusvesna.su
Ukraine, Russia
06.05.2020
  • regnum.ru
EU, Ukraine
05.05.2020
  • novorosinform.org
Ukraine
04.05.2020
  • News Front - Russian
Ukraine
04.05.2020
  • jpgazeta.ru
Ukraine
04.05.2020
  • rossaprimavera.ru,
  • newdaynews.ru,
  • Komsomolskaya Pravda - Donetsk
Ukraine
30.04.2020
  • Tsargrad TV
EU, Romania, Bulgaria, Baltic states
30.04.2020
  • Tsargrad TV
Ukraine
29.04.2020
  • vz.ru
EU, Russia
28.04.2020
  • News Front - Bulgarian
EU, Georgia
25.04.2020
  • Russia in Arabic
China, Germany
25.04.2020
  • News Front - Bulgarian
Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, US, Ukraine, Russia