Riding the Bomb
Putin fails to assert any dominance with his toxic nuclear empty-talk as Russian copycat factcheckers fail to establish any notable foothold in the West.
Another week and another case of nuclear hot talk from the Kremlin. This time, Putin’s escalatory rhetoric suggested that Russia plans to place tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil. The exact time and place of such action were left unanswered, but Belarusian authorities later confirmed the plan’s existence.
Putin’s move sparked a response from both the EU, that said the move could result in further sanctions, and NATO, that condemned the irresponsible plans.
While Putin’s nuclear intentions were still making circles in Western media, Russian disinformation outlets were busy pushing out lies and excuses, such as making outlandish claims of ‘dirty bombs’ in Ukraine, or likening depleted uranium shells with tactical nuclear weapons stationing.
As we have reported yet and again, the Russian information manipulation ecosystem attempts to capitalise on known taboos associated not only with nuclear weapons, but also with chemical and biological weapons and radiation.
Kremlin propagandists try to feed the common and often irrational fears associated with these types of weaponry. Unfounded fears may in turn lead to confusion and indecisiveness among Western audiences. In the worst case, fear-based decision-making may end up aligning with overt or covert Kremlin goals.
Fake war on fakes …
The pro-Kremlin information manipulation ecosystem’s attempt to steal the thunder of real debunkers and the fact-checking community with copycats seems to have failed to catch audiences, particularly in the West.
Thanks to Logically, it has now been established that WarOnFakes is a pro-Kremlin information manipulation ecosystem-affiliated propaganda project primarily operating on the Telegram platform, with a focus on Russian audiences.
Launched back in March 2022, the project claimed to offer ‘unbiased information’ and to ‘debunk fake news’ related to the war in Ukraine. However, its content has consistently pushed the Kremlin’s stance, defended Russian military forces, and blamed any negative events, not surprisingly, on Ukraine and the West.
The WarOnFakes website is available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic. Nevertheless, its most significant presence is in the Russian language, and therefore also its greatest impact is on Russian-speaking audiences.
… falls flat on its face
Despite multilingual channels having been created, they have not managed to gain any notable traction among European audiences. WarOnFakes maintains an active presence on Telegram, where it appears to also have local channels targeting specific cities and regions in Russia, such as Belgorod, Rostov, and Crimea.
While the project initially managed to gain some attention, including through a push by official Russian diplomatic accounts (see for example here and here) and the apparent use of inauthentic accounts, its website traffic and link referrals have dropped significantly compared to the previous year. The non-Russian language channels on Telegram have not been successful, with the English version being the most popular among them.
Overall, WarOnFakes operates as a Kremlin-aligned information manipulation project, primarily targeting Russian audiences on Telegram with a focus on shaping narratives around the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Its influence in the Russian infosphere has kept it afloat, but its growth, reach, and impact in particular in other languages remains limited.
Also blinking on our disinfo radar this week:
- The followers of Satan have seized power in Kyiv. Satan, or at times Gaytan, continues to rank high on the Kremlin propagandist’s imaginary fiends list. Right up there, or in this case maybe more correctly down there, with the notorious Anglo-Saxons, NATO, and the West. Disinformation such as this attempts to portray the Ukrainian government as an enemy of religion and dehumanise the Ukrainian leadership. Furthermore, the portrayal attempts to justify the illegal and morally bankrupt Russian invasion of Ukraine by making it a religiously righteous act.
- The West finds unacceptable that Georgians want to make Georgian laws. Another addition to a steady stream of pro-Kremlin manipulations covering the protests that took place in Georgia. As nothing makes tyrants and their henchmen more scared than people expressing their true minds unhindered, their propaganda machinery resorts to smearing the protestors and spreading conspiratorial lies regarding the origins of such protests. The long list of Kremlin scapegoats pulling the strings behind the curtains usually includes the likes of the CIA, George Soros, and lately the EU’s HRVP Josep Borrell.
- The EU’s economy is crumbling as a result of anti-Russian sanctions. When Kremlin propagandists find that their own economic survival is at stake, they try to find solace in imaging it to be even worse in the West. Unfortunately, the reality strongly disagrees with them. Recent commentary by the authors of the earlier Yale study on the Russian economy, supported by a ton of evidence, suggests that the ‘Russian economy self-immolated’ during the past year. At the same time, EU economic growth in 2022 was estimated to be 3.5 per cent, a far cry from crumbling.