Deprived of EU RT and Sputnik, Russia continues its information war

Deprived of EU RT and Sputnik, Russia continues its information war

Deprived of RT and Sputnik media, banned by the EU after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has not given up on information warfare in the old continent and elsewhere, playing on the Internet with great help of the checkbook and passing loopholes.

Russian businessman Evguéni Prigojine, founder of the Wagner mercenary group and allegedly close to Vladimir Putin, boasted on Monday (November 7) that he carried out manipulation operations in the country for the midterm elections in the United States after years of denials.

« The battle of narratives continues, not only in the West but also in Latin America and Africa, where the Kremlin is very effective in spreading its narratives and propaganda. Katarina Klingova, a researcher for the Bratislava-based think-tank Globsec, tells AFP.

In Europe, the Belgian NGO EU DisinfoLab, which specializes in fighting disinformation, reported in mid-September on a very sophisticated manipulation operation – launched in May 2022 and still ongoing – that consisted of creating dozens of clone pages of authentic media (including image, 20 minutes , Ansa, The Guardian or RBC Ukraine) with the aim of distributing fake articles, videos and polls.

All passed on from ” Networks of Pages or Fake Facebook Accounts ‘, and an advertising campaign on the social network for an amount of around $105,000, says the NGO.


While it remains difficult to attribute this operation to a specific actor, ” many elements point to the involvement of Russian-based actors “says EU DisinfoLab and describes all the narratives” consistent with Russian propaganda ».

In early July, a spokeswoman for the Bulgarian government accused Russia of paying up to €2,000 a month to public figures, politicians or journalists to defend the Kremlin’s interests in the country.

Already in March, the European Union had banned the media RT and Sputnik without being able to prevent them from broadcasting content. To do this, they play with the interstices of the Internet: creating new domain names, mirror sites or seemingly independent sites, reproducing RT content word for word, as recently noted by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

They also remain accessible via a simple VPN (virtual private network) or on online video platforms such as Odyssey or Rumble, where the supposed absence of moderation gives prominence to radical and anti-system conspiracy theories.

Recently reported to French authorities, who clearly evaded this evasion, Odyssey and Rumble stopped broadcasting RT and Sputnik content in France at the end of October. But elsewhere in Europe, the spread continues, AFP noted.

These two media are not just the tip of the iceberg. There is a plethora of tools and actors that the Kremlin uses in its operations of influence – from its vast media machinery to news agencies, embassies and their representatives around the world, troll factories, hackers, the Orthodox Church, various NGOs, etc. ‘, explains Katarina Klingova.

sow confusion

« Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the blocking of RT and Sputnik, there has been a recomposition of the information tool and Russian influence abroad around a vast galaxy of Telegram channels, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other accounts, Kevin Limonier, a researcher in Russian-speaking cyberspace, told AFP.

« This blockade also came too late. These media have managed to create extremely complex networks for disseminating narratives that are no longer necessarily dependent on the Russian state. Russian influence has become commonplace and ingrained, particularly in a number of anti-system circles, yellow vests, anti-vaccines, etc. ».

The strategy for a long time is to create confusion by mixing the true with the false, not hesitating to obscure reality and finding simple explanations for complex problems adds Mr. Limonier.

It also aims to stoke tension and weakness. Some observers therefore expect information campaigns on energy and heating issues in the approaching winter, which could weigh on European support for Ukraine in the event of food rationing.

« The information weapon remains an inexpensive tool compared to conventional weapons and can have a potentially powerful impact. For example in connection with elections when you are able to influence political leaders who may wish to stop aid to Ukraine “, refers to AFP Brian Liston, analyst at Recorded Future, an American company specializing in cybersecurity.


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