Revealing the Truth: the reality of Russian disinformation campaigns in the EU

From manipulation to influence: how Europe is countering Russia’s information war aimed at undermining support for Ukraine and interfering in EU elections.

According to VoxCheck monitoring, in February 2023, 964 cases of disinformation about Ukraine were recorded in Polish, German, Italian, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak media[2]. The main pro-Kremlin narratives that were uncovered included justifying Moscow’s aggression, accusing Europe and the US of using Ukraine to wage war against Russia, and spreading fake news about the ideology of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.

In March 2023, 917 cases of disinformation were detected, of which the largest number were in Polish (207), Hungarian (158), Czech and Slovak (146 in each country) media. European media actively promoted narratives about EU and US control over Ukraine, justification of Russian aggression, discrediting of the Ukrainian government, as well as “Nazi ideology” in Ukraine.

It was also revealed that the Russian media launched a significant disinformation campaign against the EU in order to create panic and sow distrust in Western societies, according to an official document of the EU’s diplomatic service, which was seen by the Financial Times agency. This included disinformation about the coronavirus and attempts to interfere in EU elections.

In total, the EU diplomatic service detected 750 disinformation campaigns last year. To combat disinformation on the Internet, the European Commission intends to introduce fines for social networks.

In January 2024, the German Foreign Ministry announced that it had discovered one of the largest disinformation networks deployed by Russia: 50,000 bots active on the X social network that questioned Berlin’s support for Kyiv. According to representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this campaign to spread fakes was more sophisticated than the previous ones.

In February, a network of 193 websites called Portal Kombat was discovered in France, which was created by a Crimean-registered company to distribute pro-Russian news in French, English, Spanish and German. It was a “sleeping system” that could be “quickly activated to saturate the information space” during elections.

Vice-President of the European Commission Vira Yurova, who works with disinformation, warned that the June elections to the European Parliament will be hit by an “avalanche of disinformation”, including fake videos designed to undermine people’s confidence in voting. She emphasized that “special efforts” are needed to protect EU voting from increased use of new technologies and potential “covert manipulation and foreign interference, especially from the Kremlin.”

“The constant flow of lies aims to instill the idea that all information is unreliable and untrustworthy. Make us suspicious of everything. Fakes weaken the social structure, poison democracy, because only the truth makes democracy possible,” said the head of the EU’s foreign policy department, Josep Borrell.

For more detailed information and analysis of these campaigns, we recommend referring to the reports of VoxCheck and other independent sources that monitor and analyze disinformation campaigns.

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