How Russian speakers in the EU are influenced by Russian propaganda media

Researchers in Europe frequently ponder the reasons behind the pro-Kremlin stance of Russian emigrants, residents of Russian descent, and Russian speakers in EU countries, despite their departure from Russia in pursuit of a better life, and the widespread international condemnation of the Putin regime for its military aggression against Ukraine.

It would seem that people who live in an open and democratic society and have fled a dictatorship (Putin’s regime) and restrictions on freedom of speech cannot support the same dictatorship.

We assume that this may be due to the influence of Russian propaganda and the reach of Kremlin disinformation, since many Russian-speaking residents of EU countries and immigrants from Russia read Russian media and watch Russian television in their daily lives.

To verify this, we decided to conduct a brief study to analyze the interest of the Russian-speaking audience in Europe and the volume of views from Russian news sources, which often spread disinformation aimed at denigrating the West and Ukraine. We’ll also show how the EU’s efforts against Russian propaganda failed.

Traffic overview of Russian media outlets banned by the EU

In our analysis, we delved into the website analytics of Russia-based language websites sanctioned by the EU for their propagation of Kremlin propaganda. We remind you that in 2022, the EU imposed sanctions on the Kremlin’s international multilingual propaganda media outlets, RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik.

The EU leadership stated that these Russian media outlets were conducting a “propaganda campaign justifying aggression against Ukraine and targeting EU civil society.” RT France tried to appeal the decision, but the European Court of Justice upheld the ban.

In May 2024, the EU Council announced new sanctions against Russian propaganda. The EU Council banned the pro-Russian web portal Voice of Europe, based in the Czech Republic, as well as three Russian media outlets: the state-run RIA Novosti, the government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and Vesti.

The ban applies to access to these media outlets’ websites in the European Union. The EU accuses these media outlets of spreading “Russian propaganda.” in the context of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

The EU Council noted that these media outlets “are under the constant direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation” and have played “an important role in supporting Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine.”

Russian news websites’ audiences in the EU

First, we have analyzed the traffic of Russian media websites targeted by the new sanctions and which spread pro-Kremlin views worldwide. And, as expected, we discovered that they have substantial audiences in France, Germany, and other European countries.

Ria-Novosti gets 1.32 million monthly views in France, according to SimilarWeb data. Our previous research identified Stratpol, a French-language pro-Russian propaganda website, as one of its incoming traffic sources. We also identify Radio Sputnik as an outbound traffic route. Therefore, users from Strapol, a pro-Russian and anti-Western propaganda media outlet, tend to flow to Ria-Novosti, a Russian outlet, and then proceed to Sputnik from there.

In Germany, Ria-Novosti enjoys even greater results: 16.56 million monthly views. It’s likely due to Germany’s large Russian-speaking community.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta is also popular in Germany and France. For instance, the website receives 674 thousand monthly views in France. At the same time, in France, the website receives 1.155 million monthly views.

Traffic volume and views for these three Russian websites, targeted by the EU sanctions, do not seem to have been impacted during the last two years and a couple of months, as SimilarWeb data shows.

Moreover, we have checked the traffic on the website, which is subject to US and EU sanctions from 2022. “The Russia-based company Tsargrad OOO is a cornerstone of Malofeyev’s broad malign influence network. Tsargrad spreads pro-Kremlin propaganda and disinformation that is amplified by the GoR. Tsargrad served as an intermediary organization between pro-Russian European politicians and GoR officials and recently pledged to donate more than $10 million to support Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine,” the US Treasury Department reported.

We tested’s accessibility from French and German locations, and we were able to access the website and browse its news, which was full of praise for Russian army assaults on Ukrainians described as “ennmies.” Moreover, despite sanctions, Russian speakers in Germany, France, and other EU states can still access this website.

According to SimilarWeb data, receives 177 thousand monthly views in France and 421 thousand in Germany. And we are talking about sanctioned hardliners of Russian propaganda, which is not only spreading Russian influence and propaganda but also openly supporting Russian war aggression against Ukraine and supporting Russian troops’ attacks against Ukrainians.

Russian-language news in Google search results

Imagine a frequent use case when readers go to search engine platforms, first of all Google, to browse news. Assume that the users are Russian speakers. What would be the total search volume? Actually, it’s significant.

According to Google Keyword Planner data, in Germany there are 368 thousand searches for news in Russian (search term ‘новости‘). But if we combine the searches for ‘news’, ‘Russia news’, ‘Germany news’, and ‘Ukraine news’, the total volume will reach 1 million searches per month in Germany alone. It’s fascinating to see what Russian-speaking searchers get from the search engine.

Our analysis shows that the website Ria-Novosti, subject to EU sanctions, is very successful in Google searches in Europe. It ranks in the top 3 and gets traffic from Google in France and Germany on such keywords as ‘news’, ‘Ukraine news’, ‘news from Russia’, ‘news from Israel’, ‘France news’, and ‘latest news’. Ria-Novosti receives over 50,000 clicks on these search terms in France and over 30,000 in Switzerland, according to Google. The website is still available in the EU without using a VPN.

Another Russia propaganda media outlet targeted by EU sanctions, Rossiyskaya Gazeta (, also enjoys driving organic traffic from search engines. It ranks highly on such search terms as ‘news’, ‘German news’, ‘Ukraine news’, ‘Russia news’, ‘breaking news’, ‘Israel news’, and more. In Germany alone, Rossiyskaya Gazeta receives 37,000 visitors from Google per month. The website is still available in France without using a VPN.

Another Russian propaganda media outlet targeted by EU sanctions, Izvestiya (, generates nearly 50,000 visits from Google monthly in Germany alone. It ranks highly on the search terms ‘Germany news’, ‘breaking news’, ‘world news’, ‘putin’, ‘latest news’, ‘israel news’, ‘news today’, and more. The website is still available in the EU without using a VPN.

However, we have also noticed a positive trend on Google. Under new algorithms, Google Discover (content suggestions) provides media websites with far more traffic than usual search, 60–70% of total traffic, according to digital marketing agencies. Furthermore, Russian propaganda media websites are gradually losing their presence in Discover.

In France, we have spotted articles from Russian opposition news (Meduza), pan-European TV channel Euronews in Russian, the BBC in Russian, Ukrainian independent outlet Ukrainska Pravda, and Russian agency Interfax. The websites targeted by EU sanctions have nearly zero visibility.

However, Russian propaganda outlets, subject to new EU sanctions, rank highly in the usual search results and receive hundreds of thousands of views in EU countries. Users can find their reports (often biased) in search easier than stories by independent news outlets in Russian (Meduza, RFI, RTI, Euronews). This is likely to be largely due to the fact that Russian outlets’ search engine specialists are proficient in manipulating search algorithms and artificially inflating the ranking and authority of their respective websites.

The analysis of Russian media content indicates that they provide positive coverage of Moscow’s policies and pro-Russian and Eurosceptic parties in Europe, such as the AfD in Germany and the National Rally in France.

Russian speakers in Europe are influenced by Russian media

To sum up, the results of our analysis, as well as all of these findings, indicate that Russian propaganda and Russian news websites have a strong influence on Russian speakers in Europe. Despite the sanctions, users can still access Russian websites and read stories online that promote the Kremlin’s narratives in Europe, aiming to undermine trust in national governments, spark protest moods, and cause discord in European countries.

This further suggests that Russian-language propaganda outlets significantly impact Russian speakers in EU nations, endorsing Kremlin perspectives and disseminating their narratives.

Russian information operations and influence on Russian speakers in Europe not only foster protest sentiments but also facilitate the recruitment of ideological supporters of the Kremlin’s policies by Russian intelligence services. Indeed, in recent years, there have been increasing reports of saboteurs from Russia (or Russian speakers from other countries such as Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine) participating in subversive activities in the European Union, particularly in France (sources: The Economist, The Finacial Times, France24, Le Figaro). 

One of the references includes the report by French intelligence, which believes that Russia is behind an operation in which five coffins draped in a French flag and bearing the inscription “French soldiers of Ukraine” were deposited near the Eiffel Tower, followed by similar grafties in Paris, as reported by the BBC. In June, French police detained three Moldovan citizens who painted images of coffins with the inscription “French soldiers in Ukraine” on the walls. 

Therefore, despite the sanctions and activities of agencies aimed at countering the Russian Federation’s disinformation and propaganda, the Russian Federation’s information influence persists and has a particularly powerful impact on the Russian-speaking audience. During the geopolitical confrontation and Russia’s war in Ukraine, the fight against Russian propaganda in Europe is failing, pointing to gaps in information security that European states will have to consider.

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