Disinformation actors in Lithuania continued to focus on the global economic crisis, blaming the West for rising inflation, while in Latvia the topic was eclipsed by allegations of Western “Russophobia,” partly spurred by the deconstruction of Soviet monuments. Pro-Kremlin messengers in Estonia advanced numerous Russia-Ukraine war conspiracy theories, including baseless stories of American biolabs in Ukraine.
The following overview summarises developments in disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout August 22-28, 2022, including new or shifting narratives and key cases. These development and insights primarily relate to narratives about the following themes:
Events of the Russian invasion to Ukraine
(Negative) Economic Consequences of Sanctions
Conditions of Russians and Russian-speaking Minorities
Military Threats to Eastern Europe/Risk of War Expanding Beyond Ukraine
Military Aid to Ukraine
Despite the issue of Soviet monuments still being present in the public discourse, the topic was barely represented in the Estonian language segment of pro-Kremlin propaganda this week. Instead, pro-Kremlin messengers were particularly notorious in spreading different conspiracies around the war in Ukraine, such as: i) European citizens are brainwashed to support Ukraine; ii) the Russia-Ukraine war is part of a plot to destroy the world economy; iii) both the war and Covid are part of the Great Reset conspiracy; iv) stories of American biolabs in Ukraine.
“Politicians care about Ukraine at the expense of their own citizens” – this narrative has been detected again.
As EKRE continue with their nationalist rhetoric, they have gone on to claim that Ukrainian refugees threaten the Estonian state as they are not going to integrate and therefore will erode the society.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 8,100 interactions.
Disinformation narratives in Estonia regarding refugees and other themes related to Ukraine
The “energy crisis” that was so frequently discussed by Kremlin propagandists in the past, almost entirely vanished from their discourse this week. This corresponds to the general trend across the region.
Instead, the topic of alleged “Russophobia” of the Latvian state was focused on, specifically the deconstruction of Soviet monuments and some governmental statements that have been treated as “anti-Russian”.
Some anti-refugee messaging was also detected. Ukrainians are portrayed as reluctant about integrating into Latvian society and therefore threatening its security.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 4,400 interactions.
Disinformation narratives in Latvia regarding refugees and the economic consequences of sanctions
Disinformation narratives in Latvia regarding the conditions of Russians and other themes related to Ukraine
The most noticeable trend in disinformation narratives is the continued focus on the economic situation of the West: the energy crisis and inflation. Events of the Russia-Ukraine war, which previously saw significant attention, have been less discussed by disinformation actors this week.
Propagandists highlighted the negative trends in the economy (like the “energy crisis”, decrease in Klaipeda port traffic, or the Achema’s plant stopping operation) and manipulatively claimed that it is the false and short-handed Lithuanian governmental policy that is solely to blame for that. Associated Press articles were decontextualized to show that the West is secretly trading with Russia. The US is portrayed as playing a double game by making a profit from the war and trading with Russia, while simultaneously persuading other states to impose stronger sanctions on Russia at the expense of their economic interests.
The developments of the Russia-Ukraine war were discussed in a few articles. The messengers repeated the claim that Russia had attacked Ukraine because it was ready to attack first; they also echoed the FSB statement that Darya Dugina was assassinated by Ukrainian services.
This week, disinformation about Ukrainian refugees has reappeared. There were 3 cases, all focusing on how Ukrainian refugees are being prioritised over Lithuanians.
The narrative that Lithuania is escalating the war also reappeared this week. In all of the 3 identified cases, Lithuania was blamed for its “foolish and provocative” foreign policy, which only escalates conflict with Russia and other countries.
Deconstruction of Soviet monuments in the region was not given much attention.
A range of conspiracies continue circulating, such as: i) biolabs and other Western experiments in Ukraine; ii) Zelensky being a drug addict iii) Western media is manipulating people and failing to portray the war accurately; iv) the war was started to serve the interests of the military industry; v) the Lithuanian government is using the war to limit the freedom of its citizens.
For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 7,600 interactions.
Disinformation narratives in Lithuania regarding refugees and the events of the Russia-Ukraine war
Disinformation narratives in Lithuania regarding the economic consequences of sanctions, conditions of Russians and threat of the war spreading
Disinformation narratives in Lithuania regarding military aid and other themes related to Ukraine
The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group unites 10 think tanks and research groups, which are working non-stop to monitor Kremlin propaganda in 11 countries.
Report prepared and first time published on the DebunkEU.org web page. Cover illustration: Demonstration to support Ukraine / photo by Irmantas Gelunas/BNS