Two Russian propaganda media narratives to undermine the Peace Summit’s outcome

Over the last week, Russian media has focused heavily on the Swiss Peace Summit. As we reported earlier, even prior to the summit itself, Russian media dispatched significant resources to denigrate the Ukrainian peace initiative.

Switzerland hosted a Summit on Peace in Ukraine on June 15–16. The purpose of this summit of heads of state and government was to build a shared vision for achieving a just and lasting peace in Ukraine, which would serve as the basis for a peace process. Over 100 delegations attended the event, including 57 heads of state and government from all across the world, including members of the G7 and G20. Switzerland did not invite Russia, saying that it should be invited for the next meeting.

It is no surprise that the summit received extensive coverage and negative commentary in the Russian media. The Russian president, Kremlin officials, politicians, and the media all heavily criticized the Peace Summit.

In this study, we identified synchronized publications on this topic in Russian media, some of which are under EU sanctions (such as Sputnik’ and RT/Russia Today), on the one hand, and pro-Russian outlets and websites in Switzerland, France, and Germany on the other.

We also outlined two key storylines spread by Russian propaganda media, which were later refined and expanded upon by websites in Switzerland, France, and Germany.

Narrative 1: The Swiss Peace Summit on Ukraine has failed.

Russian media

Russian outlet RIA Novosti, which was targeted by EU sanctions in May, quotes Dmitriy Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, who criticized the summit:

The results of the Ukraine summit in Switzerland are degrading to zero

Peskov justified his statement by pointing out that Russia’s exclusion from the summit eliminates any chance of achieving lasting peace in Ukraine. It is worth noting that Ukraine’s President Zelenky’s office has previously clarified that there will be no direct talks with Russia.

  • https://ria.ru/20240617/peskov-1953378731.html

Another publication, Russia Today (under EU sanctions for spreading propaganda in support of Russia’s war), also cites Peskov’s assessment of the summit:

“Zelensky’s (the Swiss Summit on Peace in Ukraine, ed.) conference is not about peace.

Peskov added that Russia has ‘nothing to say’ to the participants of the ongoing Swiss-hosted Ukraine peace conference.

  • https://www.rt.com/russia/599345-ukraine-peace-conference-kremlin

Another Russian media outlet, Lenta.ru (currently, no sanctions are imposed on this outlet), published an article titled “This is the West’s get-together,” no peace plan for Ukraine, and the Nazi scandal: how did the Swiss Peace Summit go?

To make its point, the author of the article quotes Anatoliy Chihachyov, a Russian political analyst and lecturer at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations: “Western countries tried to arrange another kind of get-together where they determined certain rules of the game for themselves.”

  • https://lenta.ru/articles/2024/06/16/swiss-summit

Anti-Summit narrative in the French pro-Russian outlets

A pro-Russian outlet Riposte Laïque published a very harsh article titled “It is not up to Ukraine in a bad position to dictate the conditions of peace”. The article uses stigmatizing and negative terms to denigrate the summit and the political leaders who participated.

Arrogance ? Stupidity? Unrealistic? The Kiev mogul (reference to President Zelensky – ed.) plays the bully to make a good impression on his troops. We can understand it. But the coalition that supports him is so unchecked… We must ask ourselves questions about the mental health of the leaders of the West.”

Peace is discussed between belligerents. The winner then imposes his own conditions. Discussing it on a global talk show is vain and ridiculous. Moreover, half of the heads of state summoned by the Kiev histrion did not come or send underlings.

“Peace is discussed after a ceasefire. It is not decreed as an EU directive.

One particular quote bears a strong resemblance to the well-known myth of Russian propaganda:

“The neo-Nazis persecuted the Russian-speakers of Donbass for eight years, killing 15,000 civilians.”

  • https://ripostelaique.com/ce-nest-pas-a-lukraine-en-mauvaise-posture-de-dicter-les-conditions-de-la-paix.html

Reseau International, a pro-Russian multilingual platform, slammed the summit using wording that duplicates Russian state media.

Concerning nuclear facility security, the outlet accuses the Ukrainian Army of bombing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been under total Russian control since March 2022. However, they label the Armed Forces of Ukraine as “the exclusive authors of the bombings of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and therefore pose a nuclear threat.”

Regarding the third point, which concerns the total exchange of prisoners of war and illegally deported individuals in an “all-for-all” format, this outlet argues against its implementation, citing “this logic must be qualified on the Russian side” and the fact that “among the Ukrainian prisoners of war, there are more than 200 who were tried and found guilty for war crimes they committed against civilian populations.”

This argument is further supported by the assertion that “the best traditions of GESTAPO under the Third Reich have been revived in Ukraine in the year 2024.”

Anti-Summit narrative in the German pro-Russian outlets

Anti-Spiegel criticizes Der Spiegel’s coverage and analysis of the Swiss Peace Summit, abruptly calling it “a failure”:

The “peace summit” on Ukraine in Switzerland failed miserably, but readers of the German media are not supposed to know that.

The outlet summarizes the summit’s only result as a “group photoshoot”:

Only about a quarter of the non-Western states have traveled to the photo shoot in the Swiss mountains, which is clearly a failure for the organizers from the West.

  • https://anti-spiegel.ru/2024/wie-der-spiegel-ein-fiasko-schoenredet

Anti-Spiegel further demonstrates its affiliation with the Russian media by republishing TASS’s (a state-owned Russian media agency, currently free from sanctions) summary of the day’s events, essentially a condensed version of the news review by the Russian state-owned TASS media agency.

The Russian news agency TASS publishes a summary of the day’s events in and around Ukraine almost every evening. I try to translate every summary if possible, but I cannot guarantee that I will be able to do so every day, especially since the summary sometimes appears in the early evening and sometimes late at night,” the Anti-Spiegel editor writes.

The paragraph above alone is sufficient to establish the affiliation between the TASS and Anti-Spiegel, but we will also present additional evidence to support our claim. Anti-Spiegel basically quotes letter-by-letter the report by the Russian Army on the situation at the frontline in Ukraine, spreading Russian war propaganda on how many Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, how many pieces of Western equipment have been destroyed, and so on.

  • https://anti-spiegel.ru/2024/gescheiterte-konferenz-in-der-schweiz-und-das-warten-auf-f-16-die-ereignisse-des-wochenendes

Anti-Summit narrative in the Swiss pro-Russian outlets

The Swiss pro-Russian outlet Global Bridge described the Peace Summit in a rather original way.

“…a diplomatic propaganda to gather one hundred and fifty countries, take a group photo, and thus put the Russian leadership under psychological pressure. And that is exactly what happened.”

According to the Global Bridge, the conference yielded no results because the total population of countries, representatives of which have signed the final communiqué of the summit, is far less than the population of countries that refused to sign it.

“This is the end of the success story of the “peace summit” on the Bürgenstock. Since the final declaration also mentioned the territorial integrity of Ukraine, it can be assumed that 14 states refused to sign it, namely, in alphabetical order: Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Colombia, Libya, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, the Vatican, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is significant because India has 1.4 billion inhabitants, Indonesia 275 million, Brazil 214 million, Mexico 127 million, Thailand 71 million, and South Africa 62 million. In geopolitical terms, these countries are not nobodies but rather heavyweights.”

  • https://globalbridge.ch/ziel-erreicht-ein-eindrueckliches-gruppenfoto

Narrative 2: Putin’s offer is Ukraine’s last chance for peace

Putin took the absence of an invitation to the Swiss Peace Summit with a significant amount of resentment, which was evident in the statements made by Russian officials and the pieces published by Russian media. 

The Kremlin attempted to distract the media from the Peace Summit by presenting Putin’s peace proposal, which received relatively less coverage in mainstream Western media and was not seen as credible due to the ultimatum to cede more territories to Russia. Meanwhile, Kremlin propaganda media and pro-Russian outlets in France, Germany, and Switzerland portrayed Putin’s ultimatum as a significant development and the sole feasible option for Ukraine and the West.

“Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, pledged in his speech on June 16, 2024, that he would “immediately” order a cease-fire and initiate negotiations if Kyiv initiated the withdrawal of troops from the four regions that Moscow had partially occupied in 2022. He also renounced Kyiv’s plans to join NATO and relinquish control over the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia regions, none of which the Russian army fully controls.”

TASS published an interview with Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin, who repeated Putin’s offer in the form of an ultimatum:

“The conditions of the next peace proposal for Ukraine if the current one is rejected will be more complex and harsh.”

“If Ukraine rejects Vladimir Putin’s peace proposal, the conditions for achieving peace and signing a peace agreement will become more complex and tough for Ukraine,” he responded to a question.

  • https://tass.com/politics/1804293

A fugitive Ukrainian pro-Russian oligarch, Viktor Medvedchuk (Vladimir Putin is the godfather of his daughter), who had been charged with treason in Ukraine and subsequently exchanged for 215 Ukrainian POWs, has been even more dramatic in his comment on Putin’s offer. He also repeats the Russian propaganda demystified terms ‘denazification’ and ‘demilitarization’.

“The peace initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin is the last chance to preserve the Ukrainian state.”

To further illustrate his point, Viktor Medvedchuk performed songs that incorporated some of the most well-known themes of Russian propaganda.

“Ukraine at present, with its illegitimate president, the regime adversary to the people, legal nihilism, and Nazi state ideology, cannot be considered to be the state anymore. Vladimir Putin suggests returning the state to Ukrainians, making it neutral, sovereign, demilitarized, and denazified.”

  • https://tass.com/world/1804049

Putin’s last-chance offer in the French pro-Russian outlets

The pro-Russian website Les Moutons Enrages, in its article on Putin’s peace proposal, quoted Pyotr Tolstoy, the Deputy Speaker of the Russian Parliament, and gave his interpretation of the Russian President’s remarks.

“This is the last peace proposal from us. The next proposal will be the capitulation,” said Pyotr Tolstoy.

This outlet not only provided multiple quotes from Putin, but also elaborated on them with the editor’s reasoning.

“To guarantee a less tense atmosphere for the negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Istanbul at the end of March 2022, Russia is withdrawing its troops from the Kyiv region, believing they have completed most of the work. An error that will lead to Boutcha’s provocation”.

Les Moutons Enrages uses the Kremlin message “Bucha’s provocations” to describe the Bucha massacre, which involved the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war by the Russian Armed Forces during their occupation of the town of Bucha (near Kyiv) as part of their invasion of Ukraine. Numerous photographic and video evidence of the massacre emerged on April 1, 2022, after Russian forces withdrew from the city.

The massacre was condemned by the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, who said he was “shocked by haunting images of atrocities committed by the Russian army in Kyiv.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Bucha on April 8, 2022, viewing mass graves and describing the massacre as “the cruel face of Putin’s army.” The Kremlin denied war crimes committed by its troops and later stated that it was a special operation and a provocation by the Ukrainian special services in order to blame Russia for it.

  • https://lesmoutonsenrages.fr/2024/06/16/vladimir-poutine-pose-les-conditions-pour-louverture-de-negociations-avec-lukraine-et-loccident

The website Riposte Laïque published an article with the cynic title “Putin’s peace offer is Ukraine’s salvation”.

The article begins with the words: “Let us remind the war-mongering politicians (meaning the ones present at the Swiss Peace Summit, ed.) who play with the lives of others, safely away from the fighting, wars that kill and mutilate.”

Then, the author continues with his ‘analysis’ of the summit: “The conference on peace in Ukraine, which is being held in Switzerland, is a charade without interest and, above all, without any real desire on the part of the West to put an end to the conflict.”

The author adopts a unique title for Putin, referring to him as “Tsar”. “The Tsar (meaning Putin, ed.) added: “The essence of our proposal is not some kind of a truce and temporary ceasefire, as the West wants, in order to restore losses, rearm the Kiev regime, and prepare it for a new offensive. I repeat, we are not talking about freezing the conflict, but about putting an end to it.”.

  • https://ripostelaique.com/loffre-de-paix-de-poutine-cest-le-salut-de-lukraine.html

Putin’s last-chance offer in the German pro-Russian outlets

The Anti-Spiegel, following its agenda of ridiculing Der Spiegel, suggests that Der Spiegel discredits Putin’s proposal through judgmental formulations and other tricks, for example by putting the word “peace offer” in quotation marks, suggesting to the reader that Putin has not made a peace offer at all.

Further in the article, Anti-Spiegel claims that Ukraine, the EU, and all its members are vassals of the US:

“The idea that Putin’s aim is to “soften the front of Ukrainian supporters” is complete nonsense, because in Russia there are no illusions that the USA has a firm grip on almost all of its vassals.”

To further emphasize his point, the author asserts that all Western mainstream media distorts the facts and manipulates the information.

“Putin has shown the world that Russia is ready for a fair peace, but the Western media present it differently, which has surprised no one in Moscow.”

  • https://anti-spiegel.ru/2024/wie-der-spiegel-putins-friedensangebot-erklaert

Putin’s last-chance offer in the Swiss pro-Russian outlets

The pro-Russian website Uncut News published an article quoting an interview given by the pro-Kremlin propagandist Scott Ritter for Sputnik (this Russian state-owned media is under EU sanctions).

Scott Ritter, a pro-Russian blogger and former US Marine, has appeared many times in our articles on Russian disinformation and is a frequent guest and speaker at Russian state TV.

Ritter asserted that the peace summit in Switzerland, despite its lack of success, has the potential to yield some results, especially since Putin has developed his own peace proposal:

“It (the Swiss Peace Summit, ed.) will now discuss the Russian peace initiative. There will no longer be talk of Zelensky’s unrealistic expectation that Russia will leave the new territories. The West will now say, What about this offer? Can we accept this offer? The NATO summit will no longer be about the question, ‘How can we expand?’ It will be about the question, ‘What do we do with the Russian peace offer?’ This puts the West in a dilemma. That’s exactly what Russia wants.”.

  • https://uncutnews.ch/scott-ritter-westen-muss-sich-nach-putins-ukraine-vorschlag-entscheiden-ob-er-frieden-will

In another article, Uncut News is referencing Putin’s speech on his peace proposal to Ukraine:

“The regime in Kyiv started the hostilities after some Ukrainians declared independence in accordance with international law.”

The article condemns Western politicians and justifies the conditions for Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine.

Those who have supported the Kiev regime’s war machine over the years are therefore accomplices to this aggression… Meanwhile, Europe and the USA acted as if nothing was happening, as if nobody noticed anything.

This article did not quote any Ukrainian or Western officials who represented their countries at the Swiss Peace Summit.

  • https://uncutnews.ch/putin-der-westen-verschleiert-die-wahre-ursache-des-krieges

To sum up, the Swiss Summit on Peace in Ukraine has been at the center of Western mainstream media coverage. In this study, we discovered that pro-Kremlin websites and outlets in Europe have selectively shared and produced biased pro-Russian publications, focusing on Putin’s peace proposal and ridiculing the summit’s contents.

Ukraine has already rejected Vladimir Putin’s offer due to the Kremlin’s unacceptable demands to cede more territories to his troops without fighting. Hence, it is safe to assume that the sole purpose of Putin’s peace proposal was to divert the attention of the media and the delegations at the Peace Summit, as well as to shift the discussions towards the Kremlin’s vision of conflict resolution.

The outlets we analyzed above sometimes simply translated and reposted articles from state-owned Russian media that are currently under EU sanctions. This was the case with Anti-Spiegel, a German-language pro-Russian website, and the French-language outlet Reseau International.

What’s more concerning is that Russian and pro-Russian media outlets, which are not under EU sanctions, are republishing and citing pieces produced by RT and Sputnik, which are under EU sanctions for pro-Kremlin propaganda and disinformation.

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