“West’s attack on Russia”: Russian propaganda’s universal explanation of everything

 

Hybrid War

Lately, the news has been full of dramatic reports: the situation around Alexei Navalny and the protests in Russia; Lukashenka accusing the Belarusian opposition for staging a coup. A military build-up in Ukraine and a massive diplomatic fallout between Russia and Czechia after Czech intelligence shared proof of Russian state actors’ involvement in an explosion at an ammunition storage facility. And on top of everything – the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what looks like a complicated global situation, is, from the perspective of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets, very simple: a massive Western attack on Russia.

The Pandemic – A Western Attack on Russia!

EUvsDisinfo has collected a large number of cases suggesting that the pandemic should be a biological weapon against Russia. This claim was, for instance, forwarded by Russia’s Armed Forces TV-station TV Zvezda in late January 2020. Similar stories on US secret laboratories in Eastern Europe have occurred frequently in pro-Kremlin media.

The Belarus Situation – A Western Attack on Russia!

Even before the protests in Belarus broke out following the falsified presidential elections, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, through the channel Ukraina.ru, claimed that the US plans to stage a coup d’etat in Belarus. This claim has been repeated and amplified multiple times with small variations, including by Belarusian state media. An example is the almost comically doctored tape recording of a conversation between “German” and “Polish” agents, complaining that Lukashenko appeared to be tougher than expected.

The Navalny Attack – A Western Attack on Russia!

Russian dissident leader Alexei Navalny was the target of an attempted assassination in late August 2020. The open-source investigative team Bellingcat was able to identify the perpetrators as officers of the Russian state security agency FSB. Laboratories in Germany, Sweden, and France identified the toxic substance used in the attack as a military-grade, forbidden poison weapon, Novichok. It didn’t take many days after the failed attack before Russian state media started to suggest it all was a US operation.

The Protests in Russia – A Western Attack on Russia!

Alexei Navalny returned to Russia in mid-December. He was immediately arrested by Russian police and sentenced to prison. Navalny’s detention provoked a strong wave of protests in Russia with hundreds of thousands of Russians taking to the streets to demand his release. But in the Kremlin media – all of this was organized by the United States.

The Buildup on the Borders of Ukraine – A Western Attack on Russia!

Since early February, Russian state media have intensified a campaign against Ukraine. EUvsDisinfo has described the disinformation and military buildup in several articles – examples here and here. The Kremlin has massed military units in the vicinity of Ukraine’s territory and continues to use an aggressive tone – particularly blaming the US for raising the tensions in the region. Russia attempts to convince the world that moving over 100.000 troops to Ukraine’s borders is by no means threatening.

The Czech Crisis – A Western Attack on Russia!

The most recent unfolding story is the situation around Czechia sharing intelligence that points to Russian state involvement in an explosion at an ammunition depot at Vrbětice. Czechia decided to declare 18 Russian diplomats personae non gratae – people not welcome – with 48 hours to pack their backs and leave Prague. Russia responded immediately, sending 20 Czech diplomats packing. Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova declared on Russian State TV that the Czech move was the result of a campaign against Russia (quoted from Tsargrad.tv):

Europe is sick with a horrible case of anti-Russian gangrene. This gangrene produces putrid fairy-tales. The disease produces provocative rumours. It produces fantasies. The core of all fantasies is one: blame Russia for any dirty stuff. Dear friends, we must prepare for enduring this stinking rain of Western propaganda.

All this is set to a backdrop of a complicated domestic situation in Russia. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe economic hardship for millions of Russians. Russian state media reports that 19.6 million Russians live below the poverty line. That is 13 percent of the population. There is rising discontent with stagnation and poverty; fertile ground for protests as the September parliamentary elections draw closer.

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