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All the others are wrong!

In Russia, there is no more important subject for Kremlin propagandists than blaming others, especially Brussels and Washington, for wrongdoings. They use it to deflect attention away from domestic issues among ordinary Russians and away from the grinding war against Ukraine with its high casualty rates. Shifting blame also helps to flood and pollute the international information space.

Here we go again: smearing President Zelenskyy

A classic Kremlin trope is to smear President Zelenskyy, claiming his government holds power thanks to a coup, absent fair elections, and that he exercises power against the true wishes of the Ukrainian people. These tropes are based on the narratives, repeated many times over the years, of the elites vs. the people as well as lost sovereignty. No news here. Recently however, another twist was added to the narrative: Zelenskyy may be president, but now his presidency is no longer legitimate as his first standard term in office expired. The official Russian government news outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta called him ‘a usurper, although it is unlikely that anybody in Ukraine would be ready to call him that since he has intimidated all of Ukraine.’

Forget the war. Forget the constitution. Talk about something else…

There are several reasons why this is manipulation and disinformation. It even has a name: ‘whataboutism’. First, the Kremlin ‘forgets’ that Russia started a full-scale war against Ukraine with daily attacks on cities and civilian targets which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a free and fair election being held in even minimal safety across the country. Second, this war forced Ukrainian authorities to declare martial law for the defence of the country and the Ukrainian constitution explicitly forbids holding presidential elections under martial law. Third, the Kremlin tries to suggest that Ukraine is just succumbing to Zelenskyy’s ‘intimidation’.

The abject accusations of the Kremlin that Zelenskyy is an illegitimate and intimidating ruler are hard to believe, especially given the intense political discussions that have taken place in Ukraine in recent years. Topics such as the law on mobilisation or the change of the chief of defence have sparked vibrant discussions. Rather, the Kremlin spin is a mirror of the ever-increasing repression inside Russia, especially after Putin’s heavily manipulated re-election.

The Kremlin’s campaign to question Zelenskyy’s legitimacy has now also spread to questioning the EU’s support for Ukraine. The silly yet deceptive questions go: are Ukraine’s partners legitimate? Is it legally possible for the Union to commit funds and provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine? In reality, these misleading queries are just more attempts to sow doubt in the EU system ahead of the elections to the European parliament during 6-9 June.

…but it’s all about the peace conference in Switzerland

We call the Kremlin’s bluff: these disinformation narratives are all about the upcoming peace conference in Switzerland on 15-16 June, from which Moscow is trying to scare, lure, or persuade other countries from attending. There must be a fear that many countries will actually demand an end to Russia’s war. Suggesting that there can be no signatures on any document because of legitimacy is playing with more legal mumbo-jumbo.

Unfortunately for the Kremlin, the EU, the UN, NATO, and others with common sense do consider Zelenskyy the legitimate president. This was even reported by the Russian wire service TASS.

The EU as ‘monster censor’ – while repression continues in Russia

When the recent EU restrictive measures, or sanctions, were agreed on 17 May, four more outlets – the Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestiya and Rossiyskaya Gazeta – became subject to the suspension of their broadcast activities in the EU. The reason that EU Member States took these unanimous decisions on sanctions is the same as for the other outlets previously targeted. They are under the permanent direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation, and have been essential and instrumental in bringing forward and supporting Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and for the destabilisation of its neighbouring countries.

These outlets call themselves media but can best be understood as a propaganda department of a Ministry of War. They have become Kremlin’s instruments for warfare in the information space.

The reaction from Moscow is, not surprisingly, a Pavlovian response. Every effort is made to drive attention away from Russia’s own repression, outright censorship, and complete control over the media landscape which we have documented in our five-volume series, analysing the (absence of) media freedom in Russia. A critical comment, opinion, or activity can, and does, land people in jail for several years.

It is close to surreal and ridiculous to see a concern for the media freedom of European citizens expressed by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on his Telegram channel: ‘they [European politicians] block any alternative point of view, destroy freedom of speech, and violate the right to freely disseminate and receive information…[they] deny access to objective and reliable information to residents of European countries.’

We recall that Volodin has been in the inner circle of Russian power since 1999, including as deputy prime minister, Putin’s deputy chief of staff, and now Duma (parliament) speaker. We also recall that Russia has introduced censorship laws, enacted under his watch since March 2022, and is jailing journalists, bloggers, and civil rights defenders.


 Article and pictures first time published on the EUvsDisinfo web page. Prepared for publication by volunteers from the Res Publica - The Center for Civil Resistance.


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