With RT and Sputnik banned, Russian propaganda successfully moved propaganda to other websites. After Russia launched an all-out war against Ukraine in February 2022, the European Union banned RT and Sputnik propaganda outlets. These two Kremlin state media platforms were used for spreading propaganda and false news about the war in Ukraine.
Last week, the head of RT France stated that the Russian TV channel broadcasting in French shut down after its French bank accounts were banned due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, RT’s closure will not stop pro-Kremlin propaganda from spreading in France. Pro-Russia propagandists, and even some journalists from RT, have disguised themselves in global media and publish their stories on new platforms, such as Omerta and Reseau International.
Websites networks with Russian disinformation in France
In 2022, Russia designed methods to get around the ban, and the number of dubious websites promoting the same pro-Russian information has multiplied. To cover it up, the Russia-funded resources changed the brand of their work. And they copied and pasted the content from “Russia Today” and Sputnik onto brand-new websites with no apparent links to Moscow.
These new websites are logically divided into two groups by approach and ‘editorial policy.’ The first ones broadcast brute Russian propaganda without any cover. Others publish generic world news stories, simulating a balanced editorial approach. Still, they accurately insert disinformation and pro-Kremlin propaganda stories in their news wires.
Russian propaganda disguised in global independent media
Reseau International is a brilliant example of Russian propaganda disguised in independent media. This platform is positioning itself as a global independent media in 8 languages. As it pretends to be independent, it displays on the website that it’s financed with donations.
But seeing the scale of publications translated into English, German, Turkish, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, and Russian, you might guess that enormous financing is behind it. It could be state-level funds. Which state? You can imagine from the brief content assessment that we do below.
Reseau International: Kremlin narratives in almost all stories
Our brief assessment shows that out of 24 news on January 17-18, 8 reports on the Russia-Ukraine war in a pro-Russian style, 2 news on Russia’s nuclear capabilities, and 10 news with strong criticism of the West (the EU and the US), and 2 containing conspiracy theories on Covid pandemic.
So, an explosive mixture of pandemic conspiracy, anti-americanism, pro-Kremlin, and nuclear fatalism stories.
With this ridiculous content, the editors of Reseau International try to gain audiences in France. They target primarily those with anti-US, anti-globalist sentiments, often with far-right views, and try to sell them in one package pro-Russian views and an anti-Ukraine stance.
We gathered a few headlines from Reseau International from their news publications in mid-January. See them below:
- There won’t be much left of Ukraine when they finish
- The consequences of the Russian offensive in Bakhmut and the capture of Solar
- Ukraine: Is the hammer about to fall?
- Russia with the strongest nuclear deterrent
- “Nuclear shield remains the main guarantee of Russian sovereignty,” says Shoigu
- Russian Defense announces successful strikes against Ukrainian military command
- NATO’s Battle of Ukraine and the occupation of Europe
Is it not astonishing? It looks like headlines on RT (ex-Russia Today), but it is presented as an international multilingual independent media. In tandem with the Omerta media, they effectively replaced the banned RT and Sputnik, Russian global propaganda media platforms banned in the EU.
Reseau International: anti-Ukraine, anti-US, and pandemic conspiracies
There is no surprise that Russian propaganda media often quote this “international” media in Russia. It serves Moscow as a tool to present “views from the West.”
In these media, you will find usual Kremlin propaganda narratives: “nazis in Ukraine,” “Ukraine is losing the war,” “Russia is winning” “the world should listen to Russia because Moscow has nuclear weapons,” “Covid was a global conspiracy,” “European nations are in a colonial dependence from the US,” and you can name more.
Fortunately, it usually does not work this way, as readers and viewers in France are intelligent, have critical thinking, and have access to various sources of information. This approach of building myths and spreading war propaganda works in the Russian Federation since there is no real political opposition in the country, and practically no opposition media, as they have been eradicated during over 23 years of Putin’s regime.
In France, the situation is entirely different. Still, people should be aware of the threats posed by the pro-Russian propaganda, often financed by Moscow, and question any information a media from their network spreads on social media.
Psychological warfare unit behind propaganda narratives creation
Satellite media back the Kremlin’s disinformation and psychological operations, groups on social media, networks of Russian cultural organizations abroad, and religious organizations.
So, hundreds of so-called independent international news websites, various YouTube channels, and thousands of social media profiles distribute narratives identical to those on Russian state media. It concludes that a mighty Russian state organization orchestrates these disinformation and psychological campaigns.
The Russian army’s psychological warfare unit is in charge of masterminding disinformation campaigns. According to the Washington Post study, Russian military unit 54777, which reports to the military intelligence GRU, was engaged in producing disinformation stories.
As examples of such operations, investigative journalists named the propaganda support of the 2014 GRU-led annexation of Crimea and the disinformation efforts related to fake news and conspiracy theories about Covid pandemic.
In this scheme, the psychological warfare unit and Russian GRU officers would only need to share topics and narratives with the editors on the controlled ‘international’ and multilingual websites to spread the disinformation to large audiences.
In this context, France and the EU need a mechanism to swiftly identify and ban new websites that spread pro-Kremlin propaganda and fake stories, as they threaten security.