Which German websites help disseminate pro-Russian narratives

After our research on which websites are spreading pro-Russian narratives, we decided to take a closer look at websites in Germany. We found publications that quote Russian state media, that receive back quotes from them, and that spread claims that could play into the hands of the Kremlin.

During the content analysis, we have identified key pro-Russian narratives targeting audiences in Europe. We list them below with a few examples from German websites.

  • ‘The West and NATO are to blame for the war in Ukraine.’
  • ‘Ukraine is a proxy state for the West.’
  • ‘Ukraine and the West are losing; Russia is winning.’
  • ‘Russia is fighting NATO forces in Ukraine.’
  • ‘The French and other NATO troops are already present in Ukraine.’
  • ‘Nuclear threats from Russia.’
  • ‘The inexpediency of Western support for Ukraine.’
  • ‘The West is declining and losing influence in the world.’
  • ‘Favorable coverage for right-wing radical parties in light of the elections.’
  • ‘Fake news about the Ukrainian government sending children to the frontlines, as well as pregnant women being sent to the trenches.’

‘Shifting the blame for the war to the West’

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Russian propaganda machine has been blaming Ukraine, Western countries, NATO, and the EU for the war. Moscow claims that it felt threatened by Ukraine, that it came to protect the people of Donbas, and that NATO’s eastward expansion is to blame. This way, Russia is trying to justify its invasion and shift the blame for the war to the West.

“The attacks on eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014, i.e. after the Maidan coup, were carried out from Kiev. Russia has repeatedly (since 2014) pushed for a peaceful solution for eastern Ukraine. Putin demanded, bead and argued. But he was ignored until February 2022.” (https://apolut.net/die-auswanderhilfe-moya-rossiya-von-tom-j-wellbrock/)

“In 2014, the regime in Kiev started a war against Donbass… The West is arming Ukraine and pushing the Ukrainian dictator to launch a new campaign against the Donbass. The Russian army intervenes in 2022.”(https://weltnetz.tv/story/2982-russische-praesidentschaftswahl-2024-fehlkalkulation-des-westens)

“It turns the war into a big hybrid conflict between East and West, which spreads hatred, destruction and misery.”(https://zeitpunkt.ch/der-bisher-beste-text-zum-verstaendnis-des-ukraine-konflikts)

The now outbreak Ukraine war is above all a long-prepared proxy war between the USA and Russia for geopolitical interests, with the Ukrainians on the battlefield. Because the USA and the West have been pursuing the declared goal of including Ukraine in NATO since the NATO Summit in 2008 at the latest. (https://www.telepolis.de/features/Ukraine-Krieg-Warum-wir-den-Aufstand-fuer-den-Frieden-brauchen-7533383.html)

‘Ukraine and its allies have lost’

According to all of the propaganda bases, the Kremlin media are convinced that Russian troops have suffered almost no losses, while the Ukrainian army is suffering high casualties. The Kremlin media presents any Russian advance, even the capture of a village at the cost of several hundred soldiers, as a great achievement. Instead, the Russians downplay their own losses. The goal is to instill fear and force concessions to Putin’s demands.

“With each day of the Ukraine war, the chance of an independent future of the country becomes smaller.”(https://apolut.net/deutschland-und-die-ukraine/)

“Ukraine is also only helped in the short term. Because the money and the weapons are not enough in the back and front.”(https://lostineu.eu/ukraine-israel-taiwan-die-usa-giessen-oel-ins-feuer/)

“The bet on the effectiveness of NATO weapons, as time has shown, did not work, the praised leopards and Bradleys and other Western equipment burn, and very well.”(https://www.extremnews.com/nachrichten/weltgeschehen/e24c1930524c298)

 “Ukraine has already lost militarily.” (https://www.freiewelt.net/nachricht/ex-general-kujat-frage-der-zeit-bis-die-ukraine-militaerisch-vollends-unterliegt-10096537/)

“Either the escalation of the Ukraine war to a great European war with world war potential or a great loss of face and power of the West, especially the superpower USA based on the dollar dominance.”(https://www.pi-news.net/2024/05/grosser-krieg-oder-grosser-machtverlust/)

“The benefit of the Leopard tanks, which were handed over to Kiev from the West, is currently “zero” while Russian equipment for electronic warfare successfully fights Western drones, according to experts.” (https://www.anti-spiegel.ru/2024/nutzlose-leoparden-und-keine-zusaetzlichen-patriots-die-ereignisse-des-22-april/)

“Terrible losses:Bodies of Ukrainian soldiers are disposed of on the battlefield, morgues are not allowed to provide information.” (https://uncutnews.ch/schreckliche-verluste-leichen-ukrainischer-soldaten-werden-auf-dem-schlachtfeld-entsorgt-leichenhallen-duerfen-keine-auskunft-geben/)

“In Ukraine, the sale of the two-legged human material is currently underway. There, the decision-makers may have put many billions in their pockets and until the last Ukrainian is burned, this profitable business model is also to be maintained.” (https://qpress.de/2024/04/29/ukraine-demokratie-frieden-menschenrechte-weg/)

“In addition, there is the possibility that a Ukrainian army, which is exhausted and bled out by years of failed offensives, will eventually fall victim to a Russian counterattack, which would lead to far greater territorial losses than Ukraine has suffered so far. The French ex-president offers a diplomatic way out. The commentators react with “pro-Putin” insults. What’s behind the witch hunt.”(https://www.telepolis.de/features/Sarkozy-verunglimpft-weil-er-unbequeme-Wahrheit-ueber-die-Ukraine-ausspricht-9293539.html)

‘“Nazis” in Ukraine’

The Kremlin media used traditional ‘Nazi’ disinformation to discredit all Ukrainians and justify the war. In this way, Russian and pro-Russian propaganda also diverts attention from the fact that it was the Putin regime that started the aggressive and neocolonial war against a sovereign state, in violation of international law.

“While in Germany it claims to take action against people allegedly close to the Nazis, it supports a real Nazi regime in Kiev with billions.”(https://www.anti-spiegel.ru/2024/deutschland-laedt-vertreter-russlands-von-gedenkfeiern-zur-befreiung-von-konzentrationslagern-aus/?doing_wp_cron=1713875058.6111850738525390625000)

“One could actually be grateful to the Tagesschau for providing the public proof of the Nazi background of the Ukrainian regime.” (https://apolut.net/ukraine-soldaten-als-deutsche/)

“It also conveys why Putin is now resolutely fighting against Nazis in Ukraine and sets legitimate conditions for the government.” (https://de.sott.net/article/35437-Dokumentation-Ukraine-on-Fire-Hintergrunde-zur-Farbrevolution-in-der-Ukraine-2013)

“Zelensky is a Nazi in sweatpants”(https://www.freiewelt.net/nachricht/selenskij-ist-ein-nazi-in-jogginghose-10094886/)

“The Nazi regime in Kiev, supported by NATO and the EU, is the structure that threatens to trigger a new world war in Europe that would lead to a global wildfire.” (https://uncutnews.ch/europaeisches-parlament-verleumdet-russland-und-finanziert-nazi-terrorismus/)

“My narrative was not consistent with the narrative of NATO, and maybe that was a problem. The narrative of NATO tries to make us believe that there has never been a conflict between Ukrainian citizens around the Maidan in Ukraine, but that everything is only an invention of Russia. In my opinion and based on the events I have observed on the ground since 2014, it is just as true that Russia invaded and bombed in a criminal way as the fact that the Maidan was a nationalist coup, while on the other side of the trenches there were fighters and families from Ukraine who are set against Kiev. I know it’s extremely unpopular to say that today, but I’m a journalist and not a PR man.”(https://www.telepolis.de/features/Wie-die-Taz-einen-Artikel-eines-Ukraine-Kriegsreporters-manipulierte-9186628.html)

‘Russia is fighting NATO forces in Ukraine’

After Russian propaganda promised to capture Kyiv in two days and then two weeks, Moscow is looking for excuses for the failure of its so-called “special operation.” The simplest excuse is that almost the entire world is fighting against Russia. However, in reality, only the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which use modern Western weapons provided by the allies, are confronting the Russian invaders. Only foreign volunteers who joined the Ukrainian Army are on the ground, not any official forces. By faking the presence of French troops in Ukraine, the Kremlin creates a pretext for itself to resort to threats.

“Together with a representative of the arms producer Diehl (anti-aircraft system IRIS-T), Habeck had announced during his visit to Kiev that Ukraine had to win the NATO war against Russia.”(https://apolut.net/zwerge-erklaeren-russland-den-krieg/)

“But at the same time, it legitimizes the regime as a partner of Germany and supports those tendencies in the Federal Republic that would like to participate in a NATO war.”(https://apolut.net/ukraine-soldaten-als-deutsche/)

“The expansion of NATO activities near the Russian borders makes neutrality even more unclear and increases the immediate risk of direct confrontation.”(https://aktuelle-nachrichten.app/wir-befinden-uns-bereits-im-dritten-weltkrieg/)

“Not only French mercenaries are said to have already fallen on the front. President Macron is preparing an invasion of French ground troops into Ukraine. A tremendous escalation that can affect the entire continent.”(https://www.compact-online.de/macron-bereitet-invasion-in-der-ukraine-vor/)

“RT DE reports: We believe that NATO is openly involved in the violent confrontation in Ukraine with Russia” (https://www.extremnews.com/nachrichten/weltgeschehen/8747193012f2963)

“France sends foreign Legionnaires to Ukraine.” (https://www.freiewelt.net/nachricht/frankreich-schickt-fremdenlegionaere-in-die-ukraine-10096541/)

“France has sent the first combat troops to the Ukrainian front.” (https://anti-spiegel.ru/2024/frankreich-hat-erste-kampftruppen-an-die-ukrainische-front-geschickt/)

“Extraining Ukrainian students for the war and NATO soldiers in Ukraine.” (https://aktuelle-nachrichten.app/ukrainische-schueler-fuer-den-krieg-ausbilden-und-nato-soldaten-in-der-ukraine-die-ereignisse-des-wochenendes/)

“When I asked him to explain whether he wanted to indicate that Russia is fighting more humanely in Ukraine than the USA in Iraq, Chomsky replied: “I do not suggest it, it is obvious.”” (https://www.telepolis.de/features/Noam-Chomsky-Russlands-Krieg-in-Ukraine-humaner-als-US-Invasion-in-Irak-8983892.html)

‘Nuclear threats and nuclear blackmail’

When the Russian Federation realizes that the democratic, civilized world supports Ukraine and its adherence to international law, the last argument is the threat of nuclear weapons. Russian officials speak out, and pro-Russian media instill fear in Europe.

“The Russian military will take countermeasures when the US nuclear weapons are transferred to Poland, explained the spokesman for the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov.” (https://de.sott.net/article/36005-US-Atomwaffen-in-Polen-Moskau-stellt-Gegenmanahmen-in-Aussicht)

“In response to French war threats, Kremlin chief Putin has ordered the use of tactical nuclear weapons to be practiced.” (https://lostineu.eu/putin-ordnet-manoever-mit-atomwaffen-an-eiszeit-mit-deutschland/)

“Russia speaks, among other things, of the danger of a “direct military clash between nuclear powers” and cites the recent provocative statements of Western politicians as the reason for a maneuver by the Russian tactical nuclear forces.”(https://anti-spiegel.ru/2024/russland-warnt-vor-direkter-militaerischer-konfrontation-mit-der-nato/)

“Medvedev: This will be a global disaster – Biden and Macron need war before the European elections on the 9th.” (https://www.pravda-tv.com/2024/05/medwedew-das-wird-eine-globale-katastrophe-biden-und-macron-brauchen-krieg-vor-den-europawahlen-am-9-juni-videos/)

“Nuclear war is possible. World peace depends on the tact of the United States, which is being blackmailed by the Ukrainian “integral nationalists” and the Israeli “revisionist Zionists”.” (https://www.pravda-tv.com/2024/05/ist-die-moeglichkeit-eines-weltkrieges-real/)

‘Supporting Ukraine makes no sense’

Pro-Russian media convinces us that we should stop supporting Ukraine and abandon sanctions against Russia as a goal of all narratives. This is the main goal of the Putin regime: to make Ukraine defenseless against the offensive of the Russian invading forces.

“Cheap energy from Russia would be needed to mitigate the economic crisis. This realization now needs “supervised excuses.””(https://overton-magazin.de/hintergrund/politik/vom-albtraum-der-faeser-demokratie/)

“If Germany continues to present itself as a spearhead against Russia, we are threatened with demise. The only thing that can save us is neutrality.”(https://www.compact-online.de/scholz-neues-milliarden-paket-fuer-ukraine/)

“Without a strategy to end the war, the new US aid package will only bring us back to our starting point in a few months.”(https://overton-magazin.de/hintergrund/politik/vorsicht-vor-russischem-gas/)

“Der Spiegel has published an article with the headline “Expensive energy, inflation, trade conflicts – Russia’s war of aggression costs Germany 160 billion euros”, which is once again pure propaganda, because Der Spiegel blames Russia for the policy of the federal government.” (https://aktuelle-nachrichten.app/die-anti-russische-politik-kosten-die-deutschen-jaehrlich-2-600-euro-pro-kopf/)

“However, Spiegel readers do not learn that 80 percent of “Ukraine aid” does not go to Ukraine at all, but directly to the US arms industry.” (https://aktuelle-nachrichten.app/die-us-ukraine-hilfe-bleibt-in-wirklichkeit-zu-80-prozent-in-den-usa/)

“Germany is costing its suicidal Russia policy a lot. Citizens are expected to explode electricity and gasoline because the traffic light government wants to get away from Russian energy supplies.”(https://zuerst.de/2022/06/17/kostspieliger-oel-umweg-ueber-indien-warum-billig-wenn-es-auch-teuer-geht/)

“Otto Schily warns of war mood and Ukraine hype: “We have to get along with the Russians”” (https://zuerst.de/2022/07/24/otto-schily-warnt-vor-kriegsstimmung-und-ukraine-hype-wir-muessen-mit-den-russen-klarkommen/)

“Ukraine war costs the German economy 200 billion euros.” (https://zuerst.de/2022/09/20/chef-des-instituts-der-deutschen-wirtschaft-ukraine-krieg-kostet-die-deutsche-wirtschaft-200-milliarden-euro/)

“The majority of Europeans want peace, even at the expense of Ukraine.” (https://zeitpunkt.ch/index.php/die-mehrheit-der-europaeer-will-frieden-selbst-auf-kosten-der-ukraine)

“How the USA cracked Europe with the Ukraine war and China’s rise. Europe suffers and joins in. Germany is the main loser of the US collision with Russia and China. Western Europe, especially Germany, is the big loser. Cheap Russian energy has been replaced by expensive ones from the USA. This has undermined the competitiveness of the German manufacturing industry and contributed to even higher European inflation. Europe has also lost Russia’s huge market, where it sold industrial goods. In addition, it has lost the wasteful expenses of the Russian elite. Threat from Russia a mirage. Above all, however, the assertion of a Russian threat to Europe is not valid. This weakness indeed speaks for the legitimacy of the Russian need for a demilitarized Ukraine as a protective buffer.” (https://www.telepolis.de/features/Wie-die-USA-mit-Ukraine-Krieg-und-Chinas-Aufstieg-Europa-knackten-9631903.html)

We have prepared a table with links between all the sites that spread pro-Russian narratives or claims that benefit Moscow. These include Russian state media, news websites supporting far-right political forces, and some other sites. Using web analytics tools, we mapped all the links from each site to all the citations between the sites on the list, which you can see filtered in the table below.

Based on search analytic tools, our research revealed the interconnectedness of a range of German news websites, not only through similar topics and pro-Russian narratives, but also through mutual citations and referral traffic from one site to another, as illustrated in the infographics. The websites on the list have different levels of bias or occasionally post biased statements. It ranges from constant criticism of the West, which chooses only negative information about Ukraine and positive coverage of Russia, to spreading well-known Russian disinformation or quoting Kremlin state media.

In order to run a quick content analysis and identify websites that publish on similar topics and are close to pro-Russian propaganda media, we leveraged web analytics tools (SimilarWeb) and keyword and semantic analysis tools (Semrush). Identified websites use common terms and publish similar content, and that’s why they are shown as similar sites.

It is clear that Russia is waging a war of propaganda and disinformation against Europe, whereas it is waging a real war against Ukraine, seizing its territories. An analysis of key Kremlin media narratives in different languages reveals that their campaign’s main goal is to force the West to stop supporting Ukraine and make concessions to Putin, probably by giving him the occupied territories and thus recognizing the redrawing of borders in Europe by military means.

News websites that tend to support pro-Russian, Euroskeptic, and anti-American views, as well as those close to the positions of right-wing radical parties, often pick up such narratives. Consciously or unconsciously, such web resources play into the hands of the Kremlin’s agenda. Such news reports are becoming a tool for spreading Russian and pro-Russian influence in Europe.

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