The Kremlin Belittling the Protests

It is probably not a surprise to anyone that Alexei Navalny and the protests against his detention are at the centre of this week’s pro-Kremlin disinformation attempts. Roughly a third of the cases collected this week are devoted to the dissident leader and the protests.

A very clear pattern is visible, as the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem has two missions: belittle the protests and defame Navalny.

The first mission, belittling the protests, is played out on all available platforms. It is important to describe the protests as a failure with very few participants. Something similar to a twisted auction is going on, where Russian authorities attempt to underbid each other. The “winner” in this competition, for the time being, is the Moscow City Department for Regional Security, claiming 300 people took part in the demonstrations January 31. Meanwhile, Moscow City Police records, collected by NGO OVD-Info show close to 2,000 detained. Do the maths…

“Small and Immature”

But, it is not enough to pretend the numbers were insignificant; the participants must also be belittled. Nationalist outlets like Tsargrad use the term “Navalny Cubs” – навальнята – to further underscore that the protestors are merely schoolkids. The term “Mommy’s Revolutionaries” – мамкины революционеры – appeared in August last year to describe the protests in Belarus; now it is applied to the country-wide protests in Russia.

Tsargrad writes with poorly disguised schadenfreude:

One “TikTok Star” was arrested after vandalising a car, belonging to the FSB. This “Mommy’s Revolutionary” started to moan online: “to be honest, I am scared…”

Depicting the protest movements as a bunch of schoolkids serves two purposes. Firstly, it creates an image of dissent as something immature. Secondly, it suggests that the schoolkids are nothing but pawns, cannon-fodder in an information war, unwitting children exploited by cynical puppet-masters: the West, the US, the Liberals, the Neo-Liberals, foreign intelligence, China or Navalny personally. Who pulls the strings does not matter; the important task is to create an image of the protests, lacking genuine popular support.

“A Traitor and a Tool”

The second mission, defaming Navalny, oscillates between an attempt to demonise him and introducing a competing narrative, describing him as a “tool”. State-owned RT loyally demonstrated a surveillance video on 1 February, allegedly filmed by Russia’s secret police, the FSB, allegedly demonstrating an alleged meeting eight years ago between an associate of Navalny with an alleged British spy! It seems RT is attempting to please the Kremlin with the airing of old FSB videos after the faux pas earlier this week, suggesting annexation of Eastern Ukraine.

Russian South Front, a major English language outlet within the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem, regurgitates the RT talking points: Navalny is a spy (allegedly) and a convicted felon who, thanks only to the humane Russian legal system, has managed to stay out of prison:

Russia appears to be among the most free and tolerant countries around the world and Navalny has still faced no sentence for the treason.

Navalny has repeatedly been described as a “Pied Piper” hypnotising children to join the protests. The fact that international diplomats are doing their job, observing the court hearings, is communicated as “proof” of Navalny’s allegiance to foreign powers. The US Embassy’s communication on the demonstrations to the American community in Moscow – in English – has been taken as “proof” of the Embassy’s involvement in the protest.

Another recurrent element about the countrywide protests is the claim that they are illegal. We can see such claims here, here and here. They are not. Article 31 of Russia’s constitution grants its citizens the right to gather and express their views publicly.

Another major topic in this week’s yield of cases is the COVID-19 pandemic, where we note a revival of the “artificial virus” trope. A pro-Kremlin outlet in Armenia dusts off the old story about a “Malthusian” plan to reduce the world population. This claim connects current disinformation attempts to the first documented case on coronavirus disinformation in the EUvsDisinfo database, from January 22 2020, in Sputnik Belarus. The claim of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s artificial origin has been more or less dormant in the pro-Kremlin ecosystem since the summer of 2020. EUvsDisinfo will follow the development of this claim.

Strange Cases of the Week:


related disinfo cases

03.02.2021
Izvestia, ren.tv
Russia, Sweden
02.02.2021
SouthFront - English
Russia
02.02.2021
Tsargrad TV
Russia
02.02.2021
SouthFront - English
Bulgaria, UK, Latvia, Lithuania, US, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden
31.01.2021
gazeta.ru
Russia
25.01.2021
Rossia 24 - YouTube
Russia, US
25.01.2021
Solovyov Live - YouTube
Russia, Germany
27.01.2021
Sputnik France, Sputnik France - Facebook, Sputnik France - Twitter
Russia
25.01.2021
RT English
Russia, Ukraine, US
25.01.2021
Rossia 24 - YouTube
Russia
28.01.2021
Vesti FM - YouTube
New Zealand, UK, Russia, Finland, Sweden, France
02.02.2021
Rossia 24 - YouTube
Georgia, Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russia
28.01.2021
Pervyi Kanal
Russia, US
25.01.2021
Sputnik South-Ossetia
US
31.01.2021
RT France - Facebook, RT France - Twitter, RT France, RT France - Facebook
Russia
23.01.2021
News Front - Hungarian
Ukraine
25.01.2021
Sputnik Georgia - Russian, Georgia and the World
Russia, US
29.01.2021
oroszhirek.hu
Russia, Ukraine
28.01.2021
Sputnik Italia
Russia, Ukraine, US
01.02.2021
akhbarak.net, albousla.ps, alshbaka.net, RT Arabic , el-3rb.com, el-3rb.com, elbayan-news.com, essahra.net, kachaf.com, kol-masr.com, akhbarak.net, albousla.ps, alshbaka.net, RT Arabic , el-3rb.com, el-3rb.com, elbayan-news.com, essahra.net, kachaf.com, kol-masr.com
EU, Russia, Ukraine, US
14.01.2021
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Latvia, Baltic states
28.01.2021
Sputnik Lithuania
USSR, Baltic states, Lithuania
31.01.2021
Sputnik Lithuania - Russian
Ukraine, Baltic states, Belarus
28.01.2021
Geopolitica.ru - Italian, Geopolitica.ru - English
Ukraine, US
31.01.2021
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Russia, US
30.01.2021
Sputnik Spain
Europe, EU, Russia, US
28.01.2021
eadaily.com
Georgia
26.01.2021
Geopolitica.ru - Italian, Geopolitica.ru - English
EU, UK, US
31.01.2021
Sputnik Greece
Russia
25.01.2021
mejdurecie.md
Moldova
31.01.2021
Tsargrad TV
Russia
31.01.2021
Tsargrad TV
Russia, US
24.01.2021
RT Germany
Russia, US
04.12.2020
Sputnik Germany
Latvia, Russia
31.01.2021
RIAFAN - Russian
Russia
30.01.2021
Sputnik Arabic, elbayan-news.com, essahra.net, lomazoma.com, mn2ol.com, news.almshd.com, newsformy.com, pucnews.com
Russia, Germany
30.01.2021
Sputnik Arabic, elbayan-news.com, essahra.net, lomazoma.com, mn2ol.com, news.almshd.com, newsformy.com, pucnews.com
EU, Russia, US
31.01.2021
RIAFAN - Russian
Russia
29.01.2021
alshbaka.net, RT Arabic , Arabnews 24, el-3rb.com, elbayan-news.com, essahra.net, gerasanews.com, Head Topics, kachaf.com, kol-masr.com, newsformy.com, Sahafaty, sns.sy, Syria friends
Russia, US
29.01.2021
alshbaka.net, RT Arabic , Arabnews 24, el-3rb.com, elbayan-news.com, essahra.net, gerasanews.com, Head Topics, kachaf.com, kol-masr.com, newsformy.com, Sahafaty, sns.sy, Syria friends
Russia, US
30.01.2021
abrag.akwadon.com, Al Minasa Press, alsharqtimes.com, alshbaka.net, RT Arabic , el-3rb.com, eshraag.com, essahra.net, gerasanews.com, kachaf.com, mangish.net, nabd.com, nabdapp.com, news.almshd.com, newsformy.com, Sahafaty
US, Sweden
28.01.2021
Geopolitica.ru - Italian, Geopolitica.ru - English
US
18.01.2021
Geopolitica.ru - Italian, Geopolitica.ru - English
Italy
29.01.2021
RT Arabic - YouTube, RT Arabic - YouTube, RT Arabic
Russia, Ukraine
29.01.2021
RT Arabic - YouTube, RT Arabic , RT Arabic , RT Arabic
Russia, US
30.01.2021
News Front - German
EU, Russia
25.01.2021
Sputnik Poland
EU, Latvia, Russia, Estonia, Poland
25.01.2021
Sputnik Poland
Russia, US, Poland
25.01.2021
Sputnik Poland
EU, Russia, US, Poland
29.01.2021
pl.rubaltic.ru
EU, Russia, US, Germany
28.01.2021
Zhurnalistskaya pravda, antimaydan.info
Russia, US
07.01.2021
APA
US
23.01.2021
Livenews.am
Armenia
28.01.2021
novorosinform.org, Tsargrad TV, dan-news.info
Ukraine
28.01.2021
SouthFront - English
Belarus
23.01.2021
RT Arabic , hammurabinewsagency.com, wtani.com, almatareed.org
Russia
26.01.2021
News Front - Russian
China, Ukraine
26.01.2021
Baltnews Lithuania , Sputnik Lithuania, Sputnik Lithuania - Russian
Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, US
15.01.2021
eadaily.com
Ukraine
28.01.2021
Katehon - Russian, fondsk.ru, reosh.ru, russnov.ru
Russia
27.01.2021
rubaltic.ru, Sputnik Lithuania - Russian, Sputnik Lithuania
EU, Baltic states
26.01.2021
Sputnik Greece
Russia, Ukraine
22.01.2021
News Front - Hungarian, Russkaya Planeta
Russia, Ukraine, US, The Netherlands
26.01.2021
News Front - Hungarian, RIAFAN - Russian
Ukraine, US
27.01.2021
SouthFront - English
China, Russia, US
27.01.2021
SouthFront - English
Russia
26.01.2021
6060news.com, addiyar.com, akhbarak.net, alshbaka.net, amad, RT Arabic , Arabnews 24, el-3rb.com, elayemdz.com, elbayan-news.com, elmohafezeen.com, elzmannews.com, eshraag.com, essahra.net, Head Topics, kachaf.com, lomazoma.com, lomazoma.com, nabd.com, nabd.com, newsformy.com, rtarab.com, ru4arab.ru, sana.sy, shamra, thawra
Russia, Ukraine
24.01.2021
Tsargrad TV
Russia, US
27.01.2021
novoross.info
Russia, Ukraine, US
17.01.2021
nahnews.org
Ukraine
27.01.2021
SouthFront - English
Russia, US
27.01.2021
Sputnik Lithuania
Lithuania
21.01.2021
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
China, Russia, Belarus, US
19.01.2021
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Russia, Belarus, US
20.01.2021
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
US
20.01.2021
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Russia, Belarus
19.01.2021
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Russia, Belarus, US
24.01.2021
News Front - French, News Front - Russian
Russia, Germany
16.01.2021
Cenzura, pravdorub.md
Russia, Ukraine
25.01.2021
News Front - Hungarian, Yuzhnyi Federalnyi
Russia, Ukraine
21.01.2021
Sputnik Spain
US
25.01.2021
nk.org.ua, fondsk.ru
Europe, EU, Russia, US, France
21.01.2021
Sputnik Georgia - Russian
EU, Hungary, Russia
21.01.2021
novorosinform.org, Naspravdi.info
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus
25.01.2021
Tsargrad TV
Ukraine
21.01.2021
Eho.md
Georgia, EU, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus
20.01.2021
Sputnik Moldova - Romanian
US
20.01.2021
russian-vesna.ru, News Front - Russian
Russia, Ukraine
18.01.2021
politnavigator.net
Ukraine, US
21.01.2021
novorosinform.org
Russia, Ukraine
14.01.2021
News Front - Hungarian, politexpert.net
Russia, Ukraine
15.01.2021
News Front - Hungarian, social.rueconomics.ru
Russia, Ukraine
20.01.2021
RIAFAN - Russian
EU, Russia
20.01.2021
Sputnik Greece
EU, Russia
18.01.2021
Sputnik Arabic, suhufnet.net, newsformy.com, nuomnews.com, akhbarak.net, mn2ol.com, New Hub
Russia, Germany
19.01.2021
Izvestia, ren.tv
Russia, Ukraine
19.01.2021
Kadara
Ukraine
11.01.2021
politnavigator.net, m3v.ru
Ukraine
14.01.2021
News Front - Russian
Russia, Ukraine
18.12.2020
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Iran, US