Russia uses many ways to blame Ukraine, West for war: Stanisław Żaryn

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Organised information operations continuously constitute one of the key elements of Russian actions carried out against Ukraine and its allies, including Poland. They are conducted through disinformation activities, propaganda campaigns or psychological operations.

Russian special services try to influence the Western public opinion by infecting the infosphere with fake news or manipulations, propagating antagonising content and distributing narratives that distort the reality. To achieve this aim they use various channels and conduct a wide range of disinformation actions. Since the beginning of the Russian aggression we have distinguished the main targets of the Kremlin’s propaganda: Ukraine, Poland, NATO and the United States.

Russia is systematically targeting its information operations against Ukraine, trying to distort the real image of the aggression. First of all, since the very beginning it has blamed Ukraine for starting the war. This message, backed with manipulated arguments and misleading interpretations, is spread in Russian media, but also by the Russian diplomacy on the international scene. Siergiei Lavrov has recently explained in his interview for India Today that the Russian aggression was provoked by the NATO policy of “dragging” Ukraine into Western structures and by the necessity to carry out denazification and demilitarisation. He repeated false claims suggesting that it was the Ukrainians who had committed massacres in Bucha and Kramatorsk, for which they later blamed Russians.

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In another statement Lavrov argued that Ukraine was continuously conducting new provocations and was responsible for the failure of peace talks. According to Maria Zakharova, and even Vladimir Putin, the current conflict was inevitable, because Ukrainian soldiers were trained by the West. What is more, through social media, Russian diplomacy presents its own interpretation of historical events which now are meant to legitimise Russia’s actions. Also a narrative about terrorist attacks that are being planned by Ukraine is systematically distributed to the public opinion and recently it has been reported that a nuclear weapon would be used.

As far as Russian information operations against Poland are concerned, they relate both to the internal situation in our country and our position on the international scene. Propaganda content targeted at Poland’s interests is disseminated directly by Russian authorities or journalists, as well as indirectly through some Polish media prone to propagating the Kremlin’s message.

All the time an intensified campaign is being conducted that tries to trigger negative emotions towards Ukrainians residing now in Poland. To this end, certain Polish information channels are being used, which directly propagate narratives of the Kremlin’s propaganda, for example by repeating negative stories about Ukrainian refugees. Even the titles of the articles published are meant to increase negative emotions among readers and, in consequence, provoke aversion towards war refugees. The alleged national and social privileges that Ukrainians enjoy are among continuously evoked claims. Narratives creating a negative image of Ukrainians are complemented by inciting Polish-Ukrainian historical animosities. The analysis of Internet content clearly shows that since mid-February a systematic Internet campaign has been launched, based on difficult historic occurrences between Poland and Ukraine. All these actions aim at provoking hostility towards the Ukrainians and – in consequence – to lower readiness to help among Poles.

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Also steps taken by the Polish authorities become targets of Russian attacks. The Polish government is accused of destroying Polish-Russian relations. Such attacks intensified especially after the decision was made to expel from Poland over 40 diplomats of the Russian Embassy, who carried out espionage activity there. The Russian Ambassador accused at that time Warsaw of destroying bilateral relations and even of occupying a Russian building in Poland's capital.

Simultaneously, Russia is undertaking actions slandering Poland and designed to weaken our international position. Accusations against the Polish government and the Border Guard are continued. Polish-language websites linked to activists present at the Belarusian border support anti-Polish messages claiming that the government does not help those in need and that Polish officers are demoralised. There are also publications questioning our position in Europe. Poland is portrayed as a country left alone, in dispute with the European Union, that has to abandon its dreams about leadership in the region. On the other hand, there are also opposite narratives that accuse Poland of building its leadership in Europe at the cost of human tragedy in Ukraine. Such a contradictory message is nothing strange in Russian operations. The main objective of the Russian propaganda is above all to destabilise the situation and provoke chaos, also by exploiting contradictory theses.

Such narratives are complemented by content weakening unity and solidarity within the EU and NATO and undermining the capacities of the USA or even anticipating „dusk of the Western dominance”. At the same time, the US is held responsible for the outbreak of the current conflict and accused of waging war against Russia with Ukraine's hands, which is supposed to be an undeclared world war III. The international information sphere is infected with claims that the USA deliberately overstate threats from Russia in order to legitimise a sharp increase in defence spending, which is said to be beneficial for American military industry companies. An anti-western message, spreading fear and uncertainty, is amplified by reports about forthcoming energy and food crises that may even result in riots in Europe.

The above mentioned examples show a wide range of areas in which Russia uses disinformation to build its information and psychological advantage and to distort the truth about the aggression it conducts or crimes it perpetuates. We should pay particular attention to the fact that Russian disinformation uses some Polish information channels which, by repeating Russian theses, are letting the Kremlin’s propaganda into the Polish infosphere.

Such actions may be amplified, as Poland is among the closest partners of Ukraine and is also one of the key NATO members in the region. That is why Russia will not abandon its information operations targeted against our national interest.

Stanisław Żaryn
Spokesperson for the Minister Coordinator of Special Services