European Parliament Elections and Ukraine: What Narratives is Russian Propaganda Spreading in the EU?

European Parliament Elections and Ukraine: What Narratives is Russian Propaganda Spreading in the EU?

Photo: unsplash.com / Lukas S
6 June 2024
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From June 6 to 9, 2024, citizens of European Union member states will elect members of the European Parliament. The outcome of this vote will, among other things, determine the level of support Ukraine will receive in its struggle against Russia over the next five years. Consequently, Russian propagandists have launched a large-scale disinformation campaign targeting Europeans. For us, these elections are extremely important, while for Russia, they are dangerous.

Goals of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns ahead of the European Parliament elections:

  • Highlight the activity of political forces that promote narratives favorable to Russia (including weakening support for Ukraine);
  • To achieve this, ensure that as many pro-Russian candidates as possible secure seats in the European Parliament.

Bribery and Spread of Russian Propaganda

First, the enemy attempts to bribe Members of the European Parliament to spread narratives beneficial to Russia. For example, the lead candidate from the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany, Maximilian Krah, announced his resignation from the federal executive committee after the FBI launched an investigation into him on suspicion of receiving funds from the Kremlin. This party is known for promoting pro-Russian narratives:  they oppose supplying weapons to Ukraine and advocate for lifting sanctions imposed on Russia.

Additionally, the Kremlin tries to influence or even shape public opinion. In May, Viktor Medvedchuk and his associate Artem Marchevskyi were added to the EU sanctions list. They managed the online portal “Voice of Europe”, a propaganda resource that, according to the EU Council, Russia uses to influence elections.

Russian Narratives in EU Countries

At VoxCheck, we analyzed the spread of propaganda narratives in the online media of EU countries, including Poland, Slovakia, France, and Germany.

In the spring of 2024, the topic of peace negotiations with Russia was heavily promoted. Allegedly, Russia was making peace proposals, but Ukraine and the West were rejecting them, as they supposedly intended to fight “to the last Ukrainian“.

An example of a Russian narrative in Polish media from the blacklist of “Propaganda Diary”, Wolne Media on May 28, 2024, regarding “hopes for a quick truce”: “It seems we are at a crucial point in the Ukrainian war, and the coming weeks could determine whether there will be a peace agreement or if we will be sent to die in trenches in a senseless war.

Propagandists systematically accuse the US of provoking the war, undermining any peace efforts, and exerting complete control over Ukraine, using it to “exhaust Russia without regard for human lives”.

In this way, the war in Ukraine is portrayed as senseless and one that should be stopped at any cost — even through concessions to the aggressor. Propagandists create the impression that “Ukraine has no chance of victory”.

Slovakia

Certain Slovak parties are broadcasting Kremlin narratives aimed at weakening EU support for Ukraine and halting its resistance to Russian aggression. In fact, their calls for “peace negotiations” legitimize the occupation of Ukrainian territories and the revision of the post-war world order.

Miroslav Radačovský from the “Slovak PATRIOT” party insists on stopping the supply of weapons to Ukraine, claiming that the war cannot be resolved in this manner. He emphasizes that the war in Ukraine is supposedly a problem of the US and its global interests. Moreover, on April 12, 2024, Slovak politicians participated in a large international conference of patriotic parties in Bulgaria, where they signed the so-called Sofia Declaration, calling for an end to the war in Europe through negotiations.

Poland

In the Polish media space, rather one-sided narratives are spreading, suggesting that this war is unnecessary for anyone, the “bad West” is fighting against the “good Russia”, and Ukrainians are just “tools in this fratricidal war”. Allegedly, Poland should avoid being drawn into this confrontation. Panic sentiments are also being spread in Polish media.

For instance, the previously mentioned Wolne Media claims that Ukraine is planning to move its capital to Lviv: “This decision is related to the rapid deterioration of the military situation in Ukraine. Russian troops continue advancing on the northern front towards Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city. […] The leadership of the Ukrainian army openly admits that Ukraine no longer has a chance to defeat Russia or reclaim lost territories.

Another narrative of pro-Russian media in Poland is openly mocking the European Parliament elections. Allegedly, the EU is an unviable entity and, therefore, there is no point in participating in these “sham elections”.

Germany and France

In German media, one of the main mouthpieces for anti-Ukrainian narratives is the pro-Russian publication Anti-Spiegel. This media outlet openly cites Russian experts and media figures. For instance, journalists from Anti-Spiegel claim that there is supposedly no true democracy in Europe, making these elections a parody of the electoral process. Propagandists argue that the election results are predetermined. Specifically, they assert that military and financial support for Ukraine, which allegedly opposes the majority of EU residents, will continue despite the voters’ wishes.

Similar messages are directed at the French audience, trying to convince them that the war is unnecessary for the French and that cooperation with Russia would be more beneficial.

Instead of a conclusion

Russian propaganda is quite flexible. For people with far-right views, narratives of corresponding parties that promote anti-Ukrainian rhetoric and the idea of “peace at any cost” are amplified. For Eurosceptics, whose movement is noticeable in EU countries, Russian disinformation spreaders propagate the idea that participating in these elections is useless and pointless, as the results are supposedly predetermined.

Authors

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