Undermining Ukraine: How the Kremlin employs information operations to erode global confidence in Ukraine
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Undermining Ukraine: How the Kremlin employs information operations to erode global confidence in Ukraine

22 February 2023


In the lead-up to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin and its proxies perpetrated information operations to justify military action against Ukraine, mask its operational planning, and deny any responsibility for the war. Once the war began in earnest, Russia expanded its strategy with an additional emphasis on undermining Ukraine’s ability to resist in hopes of forcing the country to surrender or enter negotiations on Russia’s terms. This strategic expansion included efforts to maintain control of information and support for the war effort at home, undercut Ukrainian resistance, derail support for Ukrainian resistance among allies and partners, especially in the immediate region, and engage in aggressive information operations internationally to shape public opinion about Russia’s war of aggression, including in Africa and Latin America. Building upon daily monitoring by the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), this report synthesizes Kremlin attempts to undermine Ukraine by targeting local, regional, and global audiences over the course of 2022 since the start of the war on February 24 of that year. Russian information operations also targeted Ukraine’s neighbors, partners, and allies across Europe. The DFRLab conducted three case studies based on proximity to Russia and as key indicator audiences, including Poland, Ukraine’s nearest and most important NATO-member neighbor; France, a key Western European country supporting Ukraine with military and financial aid; and Georgia, a post-Soviet state under partial Russian occupation with a government highly influenced by Russia. In Poland, Ukraine’s closest Western neighbor, pro-Russian operations hacked social media accounts to spread forged documents that painted Ukrainian officials as harboring anti-Polish sentiments; similar operations also presented Ukrainian refugees as criminals exploiting Poland’s financial resources and the generosity of the Polish people. In France, rumors propagated across social media flowed into mainstream media discussion of advanced French weaponry sent to Ukraine landing in the hands of Russia’s security service. And in Georgia, a sympathetic pro-Russian government parroted Kremlin messaging to avoid involvement in the war, drawing the ire of both Ukraine and sympathetic Georgian citizens. Pro-Kremlin media also exploited its international footprint to promote Russian interests, particularly in the Global South. Russia’s “Return to Africa” policy has increased Moscow’s engagement with the continent in recent years, including establishing military influence in West Africa through proxy forces, improving ties with anti-Western political parties, and amplifying pro-Kremlin social media campaigns of dubious provenance. And in Latin America, the Kremlin circumvents restrictions on state media like RT and Sputnik by promoting their messaging through Russian diplomatic social media accounts and YouTube channels that have replaced state media’s Spanish-language presence on the platform.

Published in
United States of America



ukraine russia information propaganda misinformation