Which websites promoted anti-Ukrainian cartoons pushed by Russian propaganda?

Russian propagandists have been disseminating anti-Ukrainian cartoons with fake stories, falsely claiming their production by France, according to an investigation by BBC Ukraine. We researched into this manipulation campaign to find out who reposted, quoted, and promoted these cartoons, and we discovered some well-known names from the pro-Russian website network.

Animated series on Ukraine-inc.info

Since 2023, the website ukraine-inc.info, registered in the US, has been hosting an anti-Ukrainian animated series that disseminates Russian narratives and disinformation.

The series suggests that the West orchestrates the war in Ukraine, which Putin’s regime started, and that aid to Kyiv harms the economies of France and other EU nations. The main antagonist of the cartoons resembles Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A Russian (named ABC school) account hosted this anti-Ukrainian cartoon on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpgiOaFjdos.

RRN media and other promoters of Russian propaganda cartoons

One of the first media outlets to share these videos was the Kremlin-linked Russian propaganda website RRN (Reliable Recent News), which used to be known as Reliable Russian News.

In July 2023, the French watchdog that looks into foreign digital interference, VIGINUM, disclosed the Russian-led RRN campaign and found it was involved in the reproduction and usurpation of 355 domain names of the media. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna stated that Russian actors were involved in this digital information manipulation campaign.

In July 2023, the EU Council imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and entities responsible for conducting a digital information manipulation campaign called ‘RRN’, “aimed at distorting information and disseminating propaganda in support of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine“. 

The pro-Kremlin RRN website was particularly aggressive in promoting the anti-Ukrainian manipulative cartoon with fake stories. It has been spreading information about these videos in different languages, as you can notice in the links below.

  • https://rrn.media/fr/video-qui-sera-le-nouveau-president-de-lukraine/
  • https://rrn.media/video-zelensky-s-blood-money/
  • https://rrn.media/fr/video-nbsp-largent-de-sang-de-zelensky/
  • https://rrn.media/video-who-will-be-the-next-president-of-ukraine/
  • https://rrn.media/es/video-quien-sera-el-nuevo-presidente-de-ucrania/
  • https://rrn.media/es/video-el-dinero-ensangrentado-de-zelensky/
  • https://rrn.media/ar/fedew-mn-sekwn-alraees-aljded-lawkranea/
  • https://rrn.media/it/video-chi-diventera-il-nuovo-presidente-dell-ucraina/

Other outlets that promoted these anti-Ukrainian cartoons in its first month of existence included the Russian state-owned Radio Sputnik, the pro-Kremlin site News-Front, which publishes biased news in 12 languages, and dozens of Russian-language Telegram channels, including channels created for the Russian-occupied Kherson region.

In France, this cartoon and the website ukraine-inc.info were first promoted by the pro-Russian propaganda website La Virgule. (Link: https://lavirgule.news/video-zelensky-est-drogue/)

We have also analyzed external links to the pro-Russian propaganda cartoon website and found that many French-language pro-Kremlin outlets promoted the cartoon “Stop Nazi Games” (look for this term to find the link in the articles below). 

  • https://reseauinternational.net/la-chine-a-loffensive-lhegemonie-atlantiste-malmenee-dans-la-sphere-economique-comme-au-zhuhai-air-show-2022/
  • https://www.mondialisation.ca/la-chine-a-loffensive-lhegemonie-atlantiste-malmenee-dans-la-sphere-economique/5672643
  • https://les7duquebec.net/archives/278437
  • https://presse.fiatlux.tk/2022/11/11/reseauinternational/la-chine-a-loffensive-lhegemonie-atlantiste-malmenee-dans-la-sphere-economique-comme-au-zhuhai-air-show-2022/

We spotted pro-Russian multilingual platforms, Reseau International and Mondialisation, that often repost articles produced by RT and Sputnik, Russian state propaganda media banned in the EU. Earlier, in our analysis, we concluded that these outlets are more manipulative and biased than RT itself. 

It’s interesting to note that this anti-Ukrainian cartoon was promoted in the article, which praised China on the global economic stage and criticized Western nations.

We also checked the referral traffic for the ukraine-inc.info website on SimilarWeb and discovered where the users were coming from. Here’s the list: The list includes srv.eu.mndsrv.com, eadaily.com, sk.news-front.info, disq.us, aftershock.news, news-front.info, antifashist.com, es.news-front.info, vk.ru, dzen.ru, srv.dt.mndsrv.com, pnevmohod.ru, yaplakal.com, forum.htka.hu, politikus.info, radiosputnik.ria.ru, and inforeactor.ru.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, these cartoons were distributed on the official pages of several “Russian Houses”, foreign representative offices of the “Rossotrudnichestvo” agency, whose main mission, according to its official website, is “strengthening Russia’s humanitarian influence in the world.”.

We also found Russian propaganda websites that disseminated the cartoon. The list includes Russian local outlets that have been launched in the occupied regions of Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk. They quote Ukraine Inc. and link to https://ukraine-inc.info. 

  • https://saxell.ru/2023/03/470775/
  • https://saxell.ru/2023/03/470571/
  • https://dnr-news.ru/society/2023/03/12/262732.html
  • https://news-kiev.ru/society/2023/03/12/121439.html
  • https://news-kiev.ru/society/2023/03/12/121352.html
  • https://radiosputnik.ria.ru/20230312/multfilm-1857399735.html
  • https://dnr-news.ru/society/2023/04/07/292678.html
  • https://kherson-news.ru/society/2023/04/07/116858.html
  • https://kherson-news.ru/society/2023/04/07/116691.html
  • https://kherson-news.ru/society/2023/04/07/116587.html
  • https://lnr-news.ru/society/2023/03/17/152545.html
  • https://news-kiev.ru/society/2023/04/07/135022.html
  • https://news-kiev.ru/society/2023/04/07/134914.html
  • https://zp-news.ru/society/2023/07/24/176021.html
  • https://zp-news.ru/society/2023/07/24/176086.html

Russian propaganda outlets in Spanish, including Pravda-Es from the Pravda propaganda network and News-Front, promoted the cartoon in Spain.

  • https://pravda-es.com/world/2023/08/01/8884.html
  • https://pravda-en.com/world/2023/08/01/34982.html
  • https://pravda-es.com/world/2023/07/21/4148.html
  • https://pravda-es.com/world/2023/07/24/5257.html

The cartoons have already gone viral, especially after one of the largest pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, Readovka, with more than 2.5 million subscribers, started reposting them on a regular basis.

The extent and frequency of cartoons spreading through various outlets and many platforms indicate it could have been a well-planned, coordinated, and orchestrated Russian influence campaign.

Propaganda topics in the cartoons

The series mirrors Russian state media narratives, portraying Ukraine as controlled by “Nazis” and Zelensky as a “puppet of the West” exploiting Ukrainians for profit by sending them to the front.

To save you time and prevent stress from watching deceptive Russian propaganda cartoons, we’ve compiled a concise analysis of the substance and focus. Our previous research shows that Russian and pro-Russian media cover all of these storylines as news and analysis.

  • Accusing the West of a proxy war in Ukraine. The cartoon depicts the war as being perpetrated by Western actors, with Ukrainian President Zelensky as their puppet. By blaming the West, Russian propaganda seeks to shift responsibility for a war that Putin’s regime began with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
  • Episode 3 displays anti-Semitism. A Russian propaganda video depicts the influence of a Jewish man on Ukrainian President Zelensky. Russian propaganda employs anti-Semitism in its conspiracy theories. The purpose of conspiratorial ideas is to weaken trust in governments in the West and incite rebellion.
  • Attributing Nazism to Ukraine. Episode 3 portrays Zelensky as a Nazi leader who sends his soldiers to a certain death. The Nazi presence in the Ukrainian government is a classic example of Russian disinformation. Ironically, pro-Kremlin cartoonists included storylines about Jewish control over Zelensky and his Nazism in the same episode.
  • The cartoons also depict the Ukrainian government as being responsible for Ukrainians’ murders. In truth, the Russian war, invasion, and missiles fired by Russian troops are killing Ukrainians.
  • Boasting of the destruction of Ukrainian forces and Western equipment. The Russian propaganda media consistently exaggerates its success at the front while concealing massive losses among its own troops. The Kremlin keeps repeating this because it is one of the ten principles of military propaganda, which aims to brainwash the population.
  • Narrative of Ukraine’s imminent defeat. The Russian media frequently writes about this, attempting to portray it as wishful thinking. Russian leaders’ statements and articles in pro-Kremlin media are now accompanied by cartoons depicting a fabricated scenario.
  • Blaming Ukraine for Europe’s economic challenges. Episode 9 shows Ukrainian President Zelenskyy stealing Christmas presents from European children. Episode 10 illustrates how European farmers are losing market share for their chickens due to low-cost products from Ukraine. In this way, Russian propaganda seeks to undermine European partners’ support for Ukraine. Furthermore, these stories aim to fuel people’s anger toward Ukraine amid EU farmer protests.
  • The narrative of corruption in Ukraine. Russian propaganda has consistently utilized this topic. Propaganda portrays the Ukrainian President as a corrupt tyrant who profited from the war. In this way, propaganda seeks to persuade Europe to halt financial assistance to Ukrainians.
  • Denigration of NATO. Moscow’s propaganda strategy has long been to blame NATO for all of its problems. The cartoon depicts the alliance nations as rats that refuse to accept Ukraine.
  • The narrative of Zelensky’s illegitimacy. Episode 12 shows that Zelensky’s access to the presidential office has expired. The narrative regarding the illegitimacy of the Ukrainian president after May, when elections were scheduled but could not take place due to the ongoing Russian war, was widely propagated by Russian authorities, state media, and pro-Russian websites throughout Europe, as we established in our research.

People shared the cartoon on social networks, claiming that the independent French studio Barracudas created it. However, there is no information about the “Barracudas” studio on the web. It’s a fake.

This orchestrated campaign aims to undermine Western support for Ukraine by sowing doubt and discord through misleading propaganda.

However, we would like to end this article on a positive note. These Russian efforts, despite the massive investments, have failed. This cartoon had little impact on European audiences. According to SimilarWeb data, the cartoon propaganda website received very few views, primarily from Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine-Inc.Info Traffic Share:
  • Ukraine    40.7%
  • Russia    39.6%
  • France    5.4%
  • Finland    5.4%
  • United Kingdom: 2.9%
  • Germany    0.77%
  • Czech Republic: 0.76%
  • Canada    0.48%
  • Kazakhstan    0.45%

However, disclosing such massive, creative, and sophisticated campaigns also requires appropriate measures in the West to combat them.

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