US media is reporting that in the months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the lie that the government and culture of Ukraine are filled with dangerous “Nazis” has become a central theme of Kremlin propaganda about the war. According to a New York Times report:
July 2, 2022 A data set of nearly eight million articles about Ukraine collected from more than 8,000 Russian websites since 2014 shows that references to Nazism were relatively flat for eight years and then spiked to unprecedented levels on Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. They have remained high ever since. The data, provided by Semantic Visions, a defense analytics company, includes major Russian state media outlets in addition to thousands of smaller Russian websites and blogs. It gives a view of Russia’s attempts to justify its attack on Ukraine and maintain domestic support for the ongoing war by falsely portraying Ukraine as being overrun by far-right extremists. News stories have falsely claimed that Ukrainian Nazis are using noncombatants as human shields, killing Ukrainian civilians and planning a genocide of Russians. The strategy was most likely intended to justify what the Kremlin hoped would be a quick ouster of the Ukrainian government, said Larissa Doroshenko, a researcher at Northeastern University who studies disinformation.
Read the rest here.
The NYT report says that multiple regional experts said the claim that Ukraine is corrupted by Nazis is false, noting that in the 2019 parliamentary elections, all far-right parties combined received only about two percent of votes — short of the five percent threshold for representation. The report also says that the Russian media’s portrayal of the Azov Battalion, a far-right group, exaggerates the extent to which its members hold neo-Nazi views. In March, we reported that the Azov Battalion, a tiny part of the Ukrainian armed forces, has been at the center of a large amount of disinformation since the start of the Ukrainian conflict.
The Global Influence Operations Report has extensively covered Russian disinformation about Ukraine being dominated by Nazis. Recent reporting has included:
- In May, we reported that pro-Kremlin influencers and others attempted to link the shooter in the recent Buffalo, New York school shooting to the Azov Battalion in Ukraine.
- In April, we reported that Russian embassies claimed that Ukrainian soldiers are Nazis “operating under US orders.”
- In April, we reported that more than half of the French public believes in at least one Russian conspiracy narrative about the Ukraine war, with 10% of them considering that “Ukraine is governed by a junta infiltrated by neo-Nazi movements.”