French analysts discovered Portal Kombat, a Russian propaganda network that aims to weaken Western support for Ukraine through sharing disinformation stories for European audiences. The Putin’s administration presumably manages the network directly. Le Figaro reported this.
Russian network Portal Kombat spreads inaccurate or misleading content – Viginum
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, and the Viginum agency, which is responsible for monitoring foreign digital interference, presented the findings of a several-month investigation into a network of “information portals” targeting Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, as well as France, Germany, and Poland.
“This network, which analysts ironically call Portal Kombat, broadcasts pro-Russian content that is “manifestly inaccurate or misleading” with the aim of polarizing public debate and weakening Western support for Ukraine,” Viginum explains.
Experts believe that the presidential administration in Moscow directly manages the disinformation campaign.
193 “information portals” targeted audiences in France, Germany, the UK and other nations
Portal Kombat is based on a network of 193 “information portals” formed around “three digital ecosystems.” The first unites sites called “Pravda” were available in France, Germany, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In June 2023, the first sites called “Pravda” launched to retransmit Russian or pro-Russian social media accounts, Russian press agencies, or institutional sites. Analysts say that all of the sites pick up on the Kremlin’s rhetoric about their actions in Ukraine.
Instead, the analysts say that these sites target Russian-speaking audiences in Ukraine and are linked to another, older ecosystem of sites called “news.ru”.
From April 3 to December 17, 2022, the creators of these sites launched successive waves of site creation, targeting local audiences by using the names of 41 different Ukrainian cities.
The cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have two portals because the sites created after the invasion of Ukraine do not just provide general information or local news but also spread Russian influence and impose the Kremlin’s views.
Russia invested a lot to build its disinformation network – experts
Experts emphasize that Russia has invested significant resources to build its network, but the operation has not had time to have an effect in Europe.
“Despite the developed system, the consequences in France remained moderate,” explains Viginum, emphasizing the low audience of pravda-type platforms: 10.7 thousand visits in November on the French site, 17.6 thousand on the Polish site, 34.4 thousand on the German site, 36.7 thousand on the British site, and 55 thousand on the Spanish version.
French authorities hope to raise public awareness of Russian disinformation
By disclosing the existence of the Portal Kombat network, the French authorities hope to raise public awareness of disinformation and increase the resilience of opinions, the report says.
The report highlights that the sites remain operational due to their hosting in foreign jurisdictions.
Recently, Russian propaganda has been spreading a new fake, claiming that more and more reports from Ukraine indicate that the situation on the battlefield of Ukraine’s Defense Forces is catastrophic.
Russian propaganda is also spreading the fake news that the United Kingdom has allegedly prepared a plan to secretly deploy NATO to Ukraine.