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WP: Russia’s strategist and troll army wages info war against US support for Ukraine, leaked documents show

Kremlin strategists aim to convince Americans that the US has higher homelessness levels than Russia and urge to redirect Ukraine aid to the homeless, implying the US is becoming a “Third World country,” per leaked documents
russia spreads propaganda around the world
Russia spreads propaganda, fake news, an illustrative image/ Source: 5.ua
WP: Russia’s strategist and troll army wages info war against US support for Ukraine, leaked documents show

The Washington Post reviewed a trove of internal Kremlin documents obtained by a European intelligence service and found proof that a Russian propaganda operation is aimed at weakening American support for Ukraine and discrediting Ukraine in the public eye.

The operation poses a grave threat, as US support is now crucial for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russian aggression. However, Congress has stalled the aid package with over $60 billion for Ukraine for over six months. Without this aid, Ukraine has “no choice but to retreat,” as per Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

The Russian propaganda campaign seeks to fuel anti-Ukrainian sentiment by encouraging American isolationism, heightening concerns over US border security, and exacerbating economic and racial tensions. The campaign, which intensified in January 2023, involves the creation of thousands of fake news articles, social media posts, and comments by Kremlin-linked strategists and troll farms, according to the Washington Post.

Who is behind this propaganda campaign?

The metadata from many of the leaked documents points to their creation by a team working under Ilya Gambashidze, the head of a Moscow-based PR firm called the Social Design Agency. Last month, the US sanctioned Gambashidze for his role in a sustained and malicious foreign influence campaign orchestrated by the Kremlin. This campaign, which Western officials have dubbed “Doppelganger,” involved setting up websites masquerading as legitimate European media outlets.

What narratives do Russian trolls use?

More than 100 leaked documents, spanning from May 2022 to August 2023, provide insight into the scale and tactics of Moscow’s efforts to weaken support for Ukraine not only in the US but also in France and Germany.

One tactic involved creating a fictitious American character who opposes military aid for Ukraine. The character argues that the government should instead allocate the funds to secure America’s borders and claims that “He sees that Biden’s policies are leading the US toward collapse,” the Washington Post reports.

The Kremlin’s strategists recommended numerous ideas for articles and social media posts, including one comparing homelessness levels in the US and Russia, suggesting that the United States increasingly resembles a “Third World country.” A proposed comment from a fictional American expressed anger at Ukrainian aid packages, claiming the funds end up in the pockets of American and Ukrainian officials while homeless people in the US “sit at the feet of passersby [and] sleep under bridges, ” according to the Washington Post.

Kremlin-linked strategists send out written proposals for social media posts, comments, and YouTube videos that would inflame racial and social tensions in the US and highlight themes of widespread poverty, high inflation, economic stagnation, and the potential loss of jobs for white Americans while suggesting that “colored and degenerate people and invalids” receive special treatment.

How Russian propaganda affected US politics?

Analysts and former US officials told The Washington Post that the Kremlin’s propaganda campaign is part of a decade-long strategy to amplify the voices of populist, anti-establishment politicians who oppose America’s global role. The campaign not only attempts to sway public opinion but also seeks to influence American politicians, with some Republican members of Congress reportedly echoing Kremlin-propagated narratives, as reported by the Post.

One of the most widely spread claims, which was traced to a site connected to a former American police officer turned pro-Russian journalist, John Mark Dougan, falsely asserted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had purchased two yachts with US aid money. This fake story, denied by Zelenskyy’s government, was amplified by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on X/Twitter, according to WP.

The Washington Post notes that Kremlin attempts to meddle in US politics first surfaced during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections when Russian trolls spread disinformation to boost Donald Trump’s campaign and undermine Hillary Clinton’s. Despite social media platforms’ efforts to crack down on hostile state actors, disinformation campaigns continue to thrive.

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