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France exposes Russian propaganda network undermining Ukraine support

French agency Viginum uncovers network of propaganda websites spreading Russian lies about its invasion of Ukraine, aiming to weaken international support for Ukraine.
Credit: The Harriman Instirute
France exposes Russian propaganda network undermining Ukraine support

According to a recent investigation by the French agency Viginum, Russia is escalating its propaganda and manipulation tactics as the Western world approaches a crucial election year, Le Figaro reported.

Russia’s strategic deployment of propaganda tools and disinformation campaigns aims to weaken international support for Ukraine, employing a wide array of digital manipulation and media distortion to sway public opinion and erode global solidarity.

This revelation comes two years into Russia’s war in Ukraine, highlighting a sophisticated network named “Portal Combat” by analysts, designed to disseminate pro-Russian, misleading content aimed at polarizing public debate and weakening Western support for Ukraine.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Armed Forces, and Viginum unveiled findings from a months-long investigation into “Portal Combat,” which targets not only Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine but also countries like France, Germany, and Poland. This network, consisting of 193 “information portals” spread across three digital ecosystems, is directly managed by Moscow’s presidential administration, experts believe.

“Portal Kombat” leverages sites named “pravda,” mirroring the Russian word for “truth,” to spread the Kremlin’s narrative about its “special military operation” in Ukraine, disparaging Ukraine and its allies. These platforms, operational since June 2023, aim to amplify Russian social media accounts, press agencies, and official sites, among others. Another part of this network includes “news.ru” sites, catering to Russian-speaking audiences in Ukraine with local news tailored to echo Russian influence efforts.

Despite its sophisticated structure, the impact of “Portal Combat” in Europe has been moderate, with the French version attracting 10,700 visits in November, suggesting the operation’s potential is yet untapped. Military sources describe the network as a “dormant device” that could be activated swiftly, indicating that the information warfare is just beginning.

The revelation of “Portal Combat” is part of a broader strategy by Western nations to expose and counteract Russian disinformation efforts. While shutting down these platforms is challenging due to their hosting in foreign jurisdictions, French authorities aim to raise public awareness about disinformation campaigns and bolster societal resilience against manipulation.

This investigative report underscores the extensive nature of disinformation in Moscow’s strategy to undermine the West, illustrating the ongoing battle in the digital domain.

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