Review of Russian Propaganda in January 2024

05.02.2024

In January 2024, President Zelensky’s visit to the Baltic States drew significant attention from major Russian propaganda outlets, serving as a focal point for diverse narratives. This compilation delves into the multifaceted perspectives and intentions surrounding Zelenskyy’s Baltic tour as portrayed by various Russian-influenced sources. The closure of the Dokole.eu propaganda portal and revelations about its financial aspects further illuminate the intricacies of information dissemination in the region.

Zelenskyy’s visit to the Baltic States in Russian propaganda

January witnessed a significant development with President Zelensky’s high-profile visit to the Baltic States, a move that garnered considerable attention from major Russian propaganda outlets. The visit has become a focal point for the dissemination of various narratives, each shedding light on the perspectives and intentions of the involved parties.

Zelenskyy’s strong statements during his Baltic trip are seen by Oleg Ivannikov, a reserve lieutenant colonel and candidate in historical sciences, in an AIF.ru article as

“a desperate attempt to divert attention from the failed mobilization efforts. Ivannikov suggests that Zelenskyy, findingdecreased interest in the Western audience, is employing a new communication style of “scare tactics” to extract support, including weapons and funds, “from the post-Soviet space, exploiting long-standing prejudices and fears among Baltic peoples for his perceived criminal struggle.”

Ivannikov’s perspective seems aimed at crafting an illusion of Ukraine being forsaken by its Western allies, depicting the Baltic States as a last resort for the struggling nation. This narrative suggests a strategic move by Zelenskyy to seek support from the Baltics amid perceived challenges in maintaining Western partnerships. Referring to the Baltic States as the “post-Soviet space” implies an aspiration to exert influence and control over these territories.  The mention of “long-standing prejudices and fears among Baltic peoples” alludes to the “Russophobia in the Baltic States” narrative.

“In addition to this, Zelenskyy has canceled elections, becoming a dictator, and stated that he will conduct voting if the West finances him. The world has never seen such a practice,” – Aleksandr Ionov

The narrative portraying Zelenskyy as a dictator is frequently employed by pro-Russian propagandists. It’s important to note that, by the Constitution of Ukraine, presidential elections are not conducted under martial law. This principle is outlined in both the Constitution of Ukraine and the Law of Ukraine on the legal status of martial law (Law No. 389-VIII, enacted on May 12, 2015), as well as through presidential decrees governing the imposition of martial law.

Aleksandr Ionov points out that the Baltic States “are Western satellites and are currently the only ones not in conflict with Ukraine, unlike countries like Poland, regarding trade and other matters unrelated to the military conflict.”

“The fate of Kyiv is being decided not in Ukraine or the Baltics, but in Washington,” summarized Ionov.

A prevalent Russian assertion regarding spheres of influence often portrays significant centers exercising complete control over designated regions. This narrative tends to undermine the autonomy of individual countries, negating their ability to pursue independent agendas.

Valdai club member Mezhevich stated that for the Ukrainian leader, visiting any Baltic country is a PR move aimed at gaining sympathy from like-minded individuals who share anti-Russian sentiments. The visit is seen by Mezhevich as a means of cross-informational exchange, while actual support in terms of money and weapons is expected from other places, such as Germany or Washington.

“In these countries, he meets people who think the same way – thinking about what can be done to destroy and annihilate Russia.” he added.

In this declaration, emphasis is placed on the notion that Russia is encircled by nations perceived as unfriendly, with an alleged desire to witness the collapse of Russia. Typically, such assertions are employed to rationalize potential preemptive actions against the identified “aggressor.”

“Kapital Strany” has connected Zelenskyy’s visit with plans to build 600 bunkers along the border with Russia. The article titled “The Baltics are preparing for dire consequences of Zelenskyy’s visit” The article ends with claims that Putin himself unequivocally stated back in December that Russia has no intention of attacking the states of the NATO and consistently emphasized that “Russia’s goals in Ukraine are denazification and demilitarization in the special operation.”

By highlighting these assertions, the narrative aims to shape perceptions of Zelenskyy’s visit as a destabilizing factor, prompting defensive actions from neighboring states.

Tsargrad has published an article titled “Lithuania and Estonia are asking for it. Zelenskyy exposed the Baltics to a Russian strike.” 

The problem is that neither in the United States, nor in Germany, France, or Britain, do they want to see Zelenskyy with his speeches anymore.

Tsargrad is striving to convey the notion that the West is abandoning Ukraine while highlighting the Baltic States as Ukrainian allies who voluntarily align themselves with Ukraine’s destiny.

The second leg of Zelenskyy’s tour was Tallinn. Here, the Ukrainian president started demanding the transfer of frozen Russian assets to Kyiv. In response, Estonian President Alar Karis gathered courage and stated that Tallinn would seek NATO permission for strikes with Western weapons on Russian cities beyond the SMO zone.

In the articles mentioned, the Baltic States are consistently labeled as “Pribaltika,” a term widely used during the Soviet occupation and still employed by Russian propaganda. This usage not only reflects historical influences but also indicates a persistent effort to assert a desired sphere of influence over the Baltic region.

January 2024 other highlights

Yulia Vitjazeva, a regular guest on Solovyov LIVE, has introduced a new narrative suggesting that Russia is safeguarding Europe from “armed Ukrainian hordes.” She emphasizes that the motive is not to receive gratitude but to ensure Russia’s safety. The goal is not to liberate or improve the lives of Ukrainians, as that was never the objective of the Special Military Operation (SMO). Instead, the focus is on safeguarding Russia’s national identity and the right to be Russian. This statement serves as a justification for attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and echoes the narrative of “protecting compatriots abroad.”

The propaganda portal Dokole.eu has declared its shutdown.

On the Dokole portal, one could read articles by Dimitri Klenski, China’s propaganda from Svetlana Selivanova, purposeful historical reports from the Ukrainian front titled ‘80 Years of Victory,’ articles from activists in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, letters from Sergei Seredenko in prison, a separate section was created for deported activists called ‘Deported,’ and more. The portal’s materials were at times provocative and aligned with Russia’s propagandistic narratives.

According to the information covered on the portal, the financial aspect of the project was managed by the non-profit organization Human Rights Defense Center “Kitezh.” The key figure behind the portal was Mstislav Rusakov, who identifies himself as a human rights defender. The editorial team admitted that throughout the year 2023, approximately 1360 publications were released, and only 537 euros were collected in contributions.

The Rosselkhoznadzor North-West inadvertently marked the anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad by sharing a photo depicting a view of London. The original can be found on the Imperial War Museum site. The use of Western photos in Russian propaganda is not a novel occurrence. At the May 9th, 2022 concert on the propagandist “First Channel” in Russia, among the images of “war veterans,” they featured a photograph of Bonnie and Clyde. In Voronezh, banners with a distinct twist emerged, depicting the US F/A-18 Hornet as a Russian war aircraft. The displayed poster carries the inscription “Peace was conquered by the Great and will be preserved by us,” alongside the letter Z, representing the armed forces of Russia.

Also in January 2024