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

Date
Title
Outlets
Country
03.02.2021
  • Izvestia,
  • ren.tv
Sweden, Russia
02.02.2021
  • Rossia 24 - YouTube
Georgia, Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russia
02.02.2021
  • SouthFront - English
UK, Bulgaria, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, US, Lithuania, Latvia
02.02.2021
  • Tsargrad TV
Russia
02.02.2021
  • SouthFront - English
Russia
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, US, Ukraine, Russia
31.01.2021
  • RIAFAN - Russian
Russia
31.01.2021
  • RIAFAN - Russian
Russia
31.01.2021
  • Tsargrad TV
US, Russia
31.01.2021
  • Tsargrad TV
Russia
31.01.2021
  • Sputnik Greece
Russia
31.01.2021
  • Sputnik Armenia - Russian
US, Russia
31.01.2021
  • Sputnik Lithuania - Russian
Belarus, Baltic states, Ukraine
31.01.2021
  • RT France - Facebook,
  • RT France - Twitter,
  • RT France,
  • RT France - Facebook
Russia
31.01.2021
  • gazeta.ru
Russia
30.01.2021
  • News Front - German
EU, Russia
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
Sweden, US
30.01.2021
  • Sputnik Arabic,
  • elbayan-news.com,
  • essahra.net,
  • lomazoma.com,
  • mn2ol.com,
  • news.almshd.com,
  • newsformy.com,
  • pucnews.com
EU, US, Russia
30.01.2021
  • Sputnik Arabic,
  • elbayan-news.com,
  • essahra.net,
  • lomazoma.com,
  • mn2ol.com,
  • news.almshd.com,
  • newsformy.com,
  • pucnews.com
Germany, Russia
30.01.2021
  • Sputnik Spain
Europe, EU, US, Russia
29.01.2021
  • pl.rubaltic.ru
EU, Germany, US, Russia
29.01.2021
  • RT Arabic - YouTube,
  • RT Arabic ,
  • RT Arabic ,
  • RT Arabic
US, Russia
29.01.2021
  • RT Arabic - YouTube,
  • RT Arabic - YouTube,
  • RT Arabic
Ukraine, 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
US, 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
US, Russia
29.01.2021
  • oroszhirek.hu
Ukraine, Russia
28.01.2021
  • Katehon - Russian,
  • fondsk.ru,
  • reosh.ru,
  • russnov.ru
Russia
28.01.2021
  • SouthFront - English
Belarus
28.01.2021
  • novorosinform.org,
  • Tsargrad TV,
  • dan-news.info
Ukraine
28.01.2021
  • Zhurnalistskaya pravda,
  • antimaydan.info
US, Russia
28.01.2021
  • eadaily.com
Georgia
28.01.2021
  • Geopolitica.ru - Italian,
  • Geopolitica.ru - English
US
28.01.2021
  • Sputnik Lithuania
USSR, Lithuania, Baltic states
28.01.2021
  • Geopolitica.ru - Italian,
  • Geopolitica.ru - English
US, Ukraine
28.01.2021
  • Sputnik Italia
US, Ukraine, Russia
28.01.2021
  • Vesti FM - YouTube
New Zealand, UK, France, Sweden, Finland, Russia
28.01.2021
  • Pervyi Kanal
US, Russia
27.01.2021
  • Sputnik Lithuania
Lithuania
27.01.2021
  • SouthFront - English
US, Russia
27.01.2021
  • novoross.info
US, Ukraine, Russia
27.01.2021
  • SouthFront - English
Russia
27.01.2021
  • SouthFront - English
China, US, Russia
27.01.2021
  • rubaltic.ru,
  • Sputnik Lithuania - Russian,
  • Sputnik Lithuania
EU, Baltic states
27.01.2021
  • Sputnik France,
  • Sputnik France - Facebook,
  • Sputnik France - Twitter
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
Ukraine, Russia
26.01.2021
  • News Front - Hungarian,
  • RIAFAN - Russian
US, Ukraine
26.01.2021
  • Sputnik Greece
Ukraine, Russia
26.01.2021
  • Baltnews Lithuania ,
  • Sputnik Lithuania,
  • Sputnik Lithuania - Russian
US, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia
26.01.2021
  • News Front - Russian
China, Ukraine
26.01.2021
  • Geopolitica.ru - Italian,
  • Geopolitica.ru - English
EU, UK, US
25.01.2021
  • Tsargrad TV
Ukraine
25.01.2021
  • nk.org.ua,
  • fondsk.ru
Europe, EU, France, US, Russia
25.01.2021
  • News Front - Hungarian,
  • Yuzhnyi Federalnyi
Ukraine, Russia
25.01.2021
  • Sputnik Poland
EU, Poland, US, Russia
25.01.2021
  • Sputnik Poland
Poland, US, Russia
25.01.2021
  • Sputnik Poland
EU, Poland, Estonia, Russia, Latvia
25.01.2021
  • mejdurecie.md
Moldova
25.01.2021
  • Sputnik Georgia - Russian,
  • Georgia and the World
US, Russia
25.01.2021
  • Sputnik South-Ossetia
US
25.01.2021
  • Solovyov Live - YouTube
Germany, Russia
25.01.2021
  • RT English
US, Ukraine, Russia
25.01.2021
  • Rossia 24 - YouTube
Russia
25.01.2021
  • Rossia 24 - YouTube
US, Russia
24.01.2021
  • Tsargrad TV
US, Russia
24.01.2021
  • News Front - French,
  • News Front - Russian
Germany, Russia
24.01.2021
  • RT Germany
US, Russia
23.01.2021
  • RT Arabic ,
  • hammurabinewsagency.com,
  • wtani.com,
  • almatareed.org
Russia
23.01.2021
  • Livenews.am
Armenia
23.01.2021
  • News Front - Hungarian
Ukraine
22.01.2021
  • News Front - Hungarian,
  • Russkaya Planeta
The Netherlands, US, Ukraine, Russia
21.01.2021
  • novorosinform.org
Ukraine, Russia
21.01.2021
  • Eho.md
Georgia, EU, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine
21.01.2021
  • novorosinform.org,
  • Naspravdi.info
Belarus, Ukraine, Russia
21.01.2021
  • Sputnik Georgia - Russian
EU, Hungary, Russia
21.01.2021
  • Sputnik Belarus - Russian
China, US, Belarus, Russia
21.01.2021
  • Sputnik Spain
US
20.01.2021
  • Sputnik Greece
EU, Russia
20.01.2021
  • RIAFAN - Russian
EU, Russia
20.01.2021
  • russian-vesna.ru,
  • News Front - Russian
Ukraine, Russia
20.01.2021
  • Sputnik Moldova - Romanian
US
20.01.2021
  • Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Belarus, Russia
20.01.2021
  • Sputnik Belarus - Russian
US
19.01.2021
  • Kadara
Ukraine
19.01.2021
  • Izvestia,
  • ren.tv
Ukraine, Russia
19.01.2021
  • Sputnik Belarus - Russian
US, Belarus, Russia
19.01.2021
  • Sputnik Belarus - Russian
US, Belarus, Russia
18.01.2021
  • Sputnik Arabic,
  • suhufnet.net,
  • newsformy.com,
  • nuomnews.com,
  • akhbarak.net,
  • mn2ol.com,
  • New Hub
Germany, Russia
18.01.2021
  • politnavigator.net
US, Ukraine
18.01.2021
  • Geopolitica.ru - Italian,
  • Geopolitica.ru - English
Italy
17.01.2021
  • nahnews.org
Ukraine
16.01.2021
  • Cenzura,
  • pravdorub.md
Ukraine, Russia
15.01.2021
  • News Front - Hungarian,
  • social.rueconomics.ru
Ukraine, Russia
15.01.2021
  • eadaily.com
Ukraine
14.01.2021
  • News Front - Russian
Ukraine, Russia
14.01.2021
  • Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Baltic states, Latvia
14.01.2021
  • News Front - Hungarian,
  • politexpert.net
Ukraine, Russia
11.01.2021
  • politnavigator.net,
  • m3v.ru
Ukraine
07.01.2021
  • APA
US
18.12.2020
  • Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Iran, US
04.12.2020
  • Sputnik Germany
Russia, Latvia