Disinformation actors exploit economic crisis to attack support for Ukrainian aid

New narratives seek to exploit current economic woes in Latvia, asserting that continued humanitarian and military support for Ukraine is unaffordable, while pro-Russian messengers in Lithuania focus on war crimes allegedly committed by Ukrainian soldiers. In Estonia, the Russian-Ukraine war continues to be linked to global conspiracy theories, with an emerging narrative framing the conflict as a proxy war between the United States and China.


The following overview summarises developing disinformation narratives monitored in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania throughout August 1-7, 2022, including new or shifting narratives and key cases. These development and insights primarily relate to narratives about the following themes:


  • Events related to the Russia-Ukraine War

  • (Negative) Economic Consequences of Sanctions

  • Refugees

  • Conditions of Russians and Russian-speaking Minorities

  • Military Threats to Eastern Europe/Risk of War Expanding Beyond Ukraine

  • Military Aid to Ukraine



ESTONIA



Overview:


  • Like in the previous weeks, a modest number of manipulative stories on the Russia-Ukraine war were identified in the Estonian language segment. The monitoring observed sporadic messages calling Ukraine a puppet of the West and portraying the war as another stage of US-China competition for global resources control. Some stories put the war into the frame of global conspiracy theories (like the Great Reset conspiracy).

  • Kremlin-backed voices continue appealing to the nationalistic feelings of their target audiences by portraying Ukrainian refugees as “deserters” refusing to protect their land, in no way better than Russian émigrés.

  • The removal of the red tank in Narva attracted some attention, with some voices stating that it is unwise for Estonia to create internal conflict during the war in Ukraine and that the Narva government is being forced by the Estonian government to do something against their will. On social media, the Estonian agitator/political activist Aivo Peterson incited Russians in Estonia to come out and oppose the Estonian government.

For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Estonian media this week received 5,800 interactions.


Disinformation narratives in Estonia regarding events of the Russia-Ukraine war


Disinformation narratives in Estonia about refugees and other themes related to Ukraine


Key examples:


  • The West will assist Ukraine with military aid only if it adopts the West’s LGBTQ+ agenda [Uued Uudised]

“It's no secret anymore that the liberal West associates development aid with allowing the LGBT agenda in the country and the adoption of gay laws - now Ukraine, which is in need of extensive military and economic aid, has been added to the list. [...] So that is largely the end of Ukraine - in order to escape the clutches of Russia's rapist army, they are being forced to adopt the 'values' of the liberal West. Thus, the war against Russia may be won, but Christian values will be lost - a stage already passed in many countries.”

According to this article, the West pushes Ukraine to abandon its Christian values and approve of the legal framework supporting LGBT+ rights. It is a prerequisite for Western military help to Ukraine. Otherwise, Ukraine will lose the war to Russia.



LATVIA



Overview:


  • Similarly, to the previous weeks, only a few articles were detected targeting Latvian-speaking audiences with Russian narratives.

  • This week, a key narrative was that Latvia should scale down its support to Ukraine as it goes at the expense of Latvian economic and military security.

  • Individual stories were observed that manipulatively portrayed Ukrainian refugees as ungrateful, and the energy crisis as a consequence of anti-Russian sanctions.

  • As Poland introduced obligatory shooting lessons for schoolkids, pro-Russian voices got an occasion to blame Warsaw in escalating the war.

  • Latvia has reached a record for yearly inflation in July, which was on average 21%. This may be used by pro-Kremlin voices to once again question the governmental policies of economic and military aid to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees.

For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Latvian media this week received 6,300 interactions.


Disinformation narratives in Latvia about refugees and economic consequences of sanctions


Disinformation narratives in Latvia about military threats and military aid


Key examples:


  • Latvia should not financially help Ukraine because aid takes much-needed resources away from Latvian citizens [Facebook page]

"200 million for Ukraine? There is a lack of money for decent salaries for teachers, doctors, policemen and pensions … Let those who make billions by selling weapons pay for the war!"

The author of this post claims that Latvia lacks the resources to help its own citizens, so it should not be giving any financial help to Ukraine. The post proceeds to list the problems which Latvia faces - inflation, low wages, etc. - and blames politicians for this. While the war in Ukraine is not the focal point of this post, it is mentioned in the following instances: saying that aid to Ukraine is taking away resources which Latvians themselves need; proposing that powers which benefit from war should be giving Ukraine resources.



LITHUANIA



Overview:


  • Like in previous weeks, pro-Russian messengers paid significant attention to developments on the frontline with specific focus on war crimes that Ukrainians allegedly commit. In that, the disinformation actors mostly used a decontextualized report by Amnesty International as their main source of information. Furthermore, there were also claims that i) Russian war crimes are exaggerated, ii) the West is using Ukraine to fight Russia and iii) the West is losing interest to help Ukraine.

  • The Kaliningrad transit issue almost vanished from the agenda. It popped up only in rhetoric of Erika Švenčionienė who positioned her visit to Moscow as an attempt to evade a conflict that the Lithuanian government allegedly provoked by establishing the “blockade”.

  • Upscaled attempts were observed to discredit Ukrainian government as incompetent and corrupt.

  • The monitoring continues fixing attempts to put the war in Ukraine in the frame of different conspiracies, such as US doing biological and chemical experiments in Ukraine.

  • The stories discrediting Ukrainian refugees and anti-Russian economic sanctions were individual.

  • On Friday, Lithuania's Prosecutor General's Office said it had launched a pre-trial investigation into The International Forum of Good Neighborhood, an association founded by a known disinformation agent Algirdas Paleckis. This may affect the agenda of pro-Kremlin voices in the nearest weeks.


For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all Lithuanian media this week received 5,700 interactions.




Disinformation narratives in Lithuania regarding events of the Russia-Ukraine war



Disinformation narratives in Lithuania regarding refugees, economic consequences of sanctions and conditions of Russians


Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about military threats and military aid





Disinformation narratives in Lithuania about other themes related to Ukraine


Key examples:


  • The Lithuanian nation is going through genocide because too many Ukrainian refugees are being accepted into the country [viesulas22.blogspot.com]

Blogger viesulas22 is a known disinformation actor. The person behind the blog is likely disinformation actor Algimantas Lebionka, whose original blog site was banned by Lithuanian institutions. When accessed by VPN it is seen that the posts on viesulas22.blogspot.com and lebionka.blogspot.com (the banned site) are the same.


The author claims that accepting refugees into Lithuania qualifies as a genocide because this way the demographic composition will be changed and the Lithuanian nation destroyed. This claim is baseless because the 60,000 Ukrainian refugees that were accepted to date could only make up around 2.15% of the total Lithuanian population, which is hardly a number that would lead to the dissolution of Lithuanians.


"The new arrivals [Ukrainian refugees and migrants from Russia or Belarus] will significantly change the national composition of the Lithuanian state, which, given the low birth rate, emigration, and the introduction of homosexuality, is a direct path to the destruction of the nation, as I have written about."

The author also goes as far as to say that what is happening in Lithuania is basically the same as Iraq’s or China’s actions to change the demographic composition of Kuwait and Tibet, respectively. Once again, these situations cannot be logically compared with that of Lithuania.

 

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.

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