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The Kremlin’s monochrome take on war and peace

Yet another busy week has gone by for the Kremlin’s disinformation outlets. Some still continued to target the European elections, including through the pro-Kremlin Doppelganger campaign, and focussed on dismissing the election results or drawing apocalyptic scenarios for the EU. However, the Summit on Peace in Ukraine, organised by Switzerland, was a thorn in Russia’s side that could not go unnoticed, so most prominent pro-Kremlin outlets also focussed on this event.

All eyes on Switzerland

We have covered the Kremlin’s Orwellian take on peace before, including how pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets use the narrative of peace in the service of war, dismiss any peace efforts proposed by Ukraine, or project Russia’s culpability for the war onto Ukraine and the West. So, it came as no surprise that as soon as the Kremlin learned about the Summit, its disinformation machinery started to frontload as many outlandish and distracting narratives as possible.

The closer we got to the dates of the Summit, the more far-fetched the pro-Kremlin narratives got. Some pundits linked peace in Ukraine to the outcomes of the European elections, claiming that peace will only be possible when Europe abandons Ukraine, or that that Ukraine is a poisoned chalice for the West. Others tried to deride Ukraine, claiming that the event was only held so that Zelenskyy could beg for money or ridiculing the Summit as ‘another Eurovision’.

Last minute spoiler

Pro-Kremlin disinformation in the lead-up to the Summit was driven by a singular notion – to solidify the idea that any meeting about peace without Russia’s presence is meaningless. To make this notion more legitimate, the Kremlin once again signalled a false openness to negotiations. On the eve of the Summit, Putin himself epitomised this tactic by releasing a statement with Russian ideas for ceasing hostilities.

While Putin called his list of demands ‘conditions for peace negotiations’, their substance merely amounted to a vague promise of a ceasefire. Of course, the ‘conditions’ laid out by Putin are completely unworkable, essentially asking Ukraine to surrender to Russian aggression, give up its land, and relinquish its sovereignty. And they were quickly dismissed as the ultimatum they are. But the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem seized the chance to yet again accuse the West of warmongering and portray Putin as interested in peace.

Old Soviet negotiation tricks

While Putin’s performance was clearly designed as a distraction, it also revealed two crucial truths about the Kremlin. First, Russia’s war against Ukraine was never about ‘denazification’ or ‘demilitarization’, it was a simple ill-disguised land-grab. But we knew that already. Second, Putin’s statement revealed the essence of the Kremlin’s imperialistic Cold War mentality where the world is divided in ‘spheres of influence’ and those with power can act with impunity. That is the black-and-white, zero-sum Russian view of a ‘multipolar world order’.

Putin’s list of conditions for a ceasefire was merely an old Soviet negotiating tactic – issue unrealistic maximalist demands and don’t budge from them until the counterparts give in to compromising their own interests. In truth, Putin remains disinterested in any meaningful negotiations.

Engage in disinformation recycling

In fact, the Kremlin’s attempt to skew perceptions of the Summit on Peace in Ukraine was quite predictable. Since Putin had failed to disrupt the Summit, pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets then sought to downplay it by claiming it was an utter diplomatic failure or a mere ‘Western get-together’. They also tried to slander Switzerland as unfit for facilitating any peace efforts and accuse the West of standing in the way of peace.

One of the major themes in pro-Kremlin disinformation about the Summit was to push the notion that it was a Western plot to deceive Russia. But since the event was attended by high-level representatives from 92 countries around the globe, the Kremlin disproportionately focussed on the handful of countries that did not sign the Summit communique. Some also tried to delegitimise the Summit as the first step toward peace by focussing on the absence of Russia and China. The Kremlin may have tried to downplay the high level of attendance because the contrast between support for Ukraine and Russia’s increasing isolation was all too stark.

As always, there were also more radical Kremlin disinformation voices. Putin himself likened the Summit to a ‘panopticon’, while other commentators called it a ‘Satanist ball’. Others went further still, comparing the Summit to Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ or calling it a ‘war conference’, failing the see the irony of their own statements.

Ultimately, the Kremlin did what the Kremlin does best – doubling down on recycling the same disinformation narratives about peace it has been reproducing for years. Don’t be deceived.


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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