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Disinformation Digest from the EEAS East StratCom Task Force


  • Nadia Savchenko: A Russian symbol of resistance

  • Debates: This one died

  • Happy Women's Day!

  • Disinformation Digest now also available in Russian

  • Disinformation Review: Russia overshadows the USA

  • Analysis: Sputnik speaks about sanctions

  • Friday fun: Has the US divided Ukraine?

Your freedom is our freedom

The Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko is on hunger strike in her Russian prison, awaiting her sentence to be read on 21-22 March. And while Ukrainian authorities have kept a strong focus on Savchenko's case for a long time, this week she became the main topic in the Russian opposition's criticism of the Russian government on social media.

As popular critical blogger Oleg Kashin points out in an analysis published by Deutsche Welle's Russian service on 8 March, the role of Nadia Savchenko has recently changed from her being "a Ukrainian hero to a Russian symbol." According to Kashin, the reason for the Russian opposition embracing Savchenko is that "we have not had such prisoners for a long time in Russia. For years, Russia's repressive system only practised this kind of exercise on its own subjects; in the case of Savchenko, it entered the international level," Kashin writes, and continues: "The Savchenko case demonstrates to the whole world what Russian investigators and Russian courts really stand for." Oleg Kashin finds that Savchenko no longer has value for Russia in an exchange of prisoners with Ukraine, and that the entire Ukrainian agenda is no longer important to the Kremlin, compared to the Middle East: "Savchenko has become not only a Ukrainian, but now also a Russian symbol of resistance [...] a living illustration of the slogan that "your freedom is our freedom," Kashin concludes in an intervention that suggests growing solidarity with Ukraine's cause among Russia's critical voices.

Protests against the Savchenko case also now involve Russian celebrities, such as actor, director and composer Vladimir Nazarov who appealed to Putin in an interviewwith TV Rain (Dozhd): "Not even in my worst nightmares could I have imagined that I would have to ask you not to kill a woman," Nazarov complains, referring to Savchenko's hunger strike, and adds, addressing Putin personally: "The whole world knows that you created a judicial system in which no judge, no prosecutor, not even a police officer will  do anything without command from above; that is, without your command."



In what was clearly an intended act of connecting Nadia Savchenko's case to Russia's 20th century totalitarian past, the Ukrainian prisoner found herself on a poster placed at a bus stop in Moscow to echo the Stalin poster from earlier in the same week; see the story below. Nadia Savchenko's case also gained substantial international attention, notably with this petition in the form of an "Open letter to European leaders", which thousands of individuals, including more than 500 prominent figures of politics, culture and academia, signed in support of the Ukrainian prisoner.

On 9 March EU's High Representative Federica Mogherini issued a strong, personal statement in support of Nadia Savchenko. Read the statement here.
Photo from Yaplakal.com

This one died


The anniversary of Joseph Stalin's death on 5 March became one of this week's most discussed topics in Russian critical and social media. The poster shown below was put up in Moscow by anonymous activists, and while it was quickly taken down by the authorities, the image was widely shared on social media. The poster provides one possible answer to the question why it is that Russia's critical voices put so much focus on Stalin this year despite the fact that the 63th anniversary is not a round number. The poster says: "This one died / And so will the other one."

Happy Women's Day!

On 8 March EU's High Representative Federica Mogherini recorded a video address to mark the International Women's Day. As 8 March is a very important public holiday in Russia and in many of the Eastern Partnership Countries, the East Stratcom Task Force subtitled the address in Russian and presented it onthe EEAS HQ official Russian language webpage, which is administered by the team. Click above and hear Federica Mogherini speak about women in politics and diplomacy – with Russian subtitles.

Disinformation Digest now also available in Russian


This week the East Stratcom Task Force began distributing the Disinformation Digest in Russian. This means that both of our weekly products, the Review and the Digest, are now published both in English and in Russian. Russian speakers can subscribe to our Russian products using this link.

Disinformation Review: Russia overshadows the USA

Pro-Kremlin media continue strongly anti-EU and anti-American narratives when covering Moscow's foreign policy choices in Ukraine and Syria. The February 28 broadcast of the popular host Vladimir Solovyov's talk show shows examples of how the notion of Russian superiority and the idea of an 'unresolvable historical conflict between Russia and the western world' is propagated on Russian national TV.

The idea that 'Russia overshadows the USA on every possible parameter', was repeated several times by participants in the show. Another statement voiced was that 'only the involvement of Russian troops is able to bring peace to the Middle East'. On a strongly anti-Western note, one of Solovyov's guests elaborated on the claim that 'throughout the 20th century, the interests of the USA have always been contradictory to the interests of Russian people'. Similarly, anti-western sentiments were clearly reflected in the participants' prediction that 'the continuation of American and European military operation in Syria will inevitably lead to a global nuclear war'. Read more in this week's Disinformation Review. (Image: Youtube)



Sputnik speaks about sanctions


Sputnik published a series of articles about EU's sanctions against Russia. The articles presented traditional Kremlin claims, for example that "the EU sanctions policy is adding numerous insults to European economic injuries."

The article takes stock of the impact of the EU's economic sanctions on Russia. According to the story, the sanctions will be there "to counteract what Brussels believes to be a threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine". The question is raisedWho benefits from EU sanctions against Russia? The story predicts an EU debate over the economic sanctions to be "no walk in the park", as a number of EU governments would allegedly like to see those sanctions reconsidered. The sanctions topic is introduced with an attempt to show the impacts in an alerting way, e.g. "concerns continue to grow" in European capitals.


Another story focused on sanctions tageting individuals in Donbas and Russia, highlighting the expiry date of those sanctions in mid-March. "EU plans to extend sanctions against Russia and Donbass officials", the article said. However, Sputnik used the opportunity to reinforce Russia's take on the Crimea events in March 2014, saying, for example, that "in March 2014, 96 percent of Crimean residents voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia." The article's main claim is that the Western countries refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the vote and impose sanctions over what they label Crimea's "annexation". (Screenshot from Sputnik.org).

Has the US divided Ukraine?

Two weeks ago we showed examples of how some pro-Kremlin media use the American movie-making industry to prove their case. Last week, it happened again: One of the most popular Donbas separatist sites on the social network VKontakte picked an image from the TV show "Madam Secretary" and claimed it to be proof that the US government is now preparing US citizens for a division of Ukraine in two and the establishment of "Novorossia" – i.e. the large parts of Southern and Eastern Ukraine which could fall under rebel control.
DISCLAIMER: The Weekly Digest is based on the analysis of the EU East StratCom Task Force; opinions and judgements expressed do not represent official EU positions.
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