Main disinformation narrative in February in the Macedonian media space was proclaimed by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, just three days before marking the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He reversed the “mirror” and de facto said that Russia had to intervene with military force in Ukraine to defend itself from the West. ”I want to repeat – they started the war, while we resorted to force to stop it”, disinformed the Russian President
Just three days before the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – 24th February 2022 – when the attempt to invade entire Ukraine was initiated by the Russian Federation, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in an address in the Russian Parliament put the entire blame for the war on the Western countries that, allegedly, abused Ukraine. On the basis of what the media informed, we derived the main points of disinformation narrative intended to serve Russian foreign policy in accomplishing its geo-strategic goals:
Russia did everything possible to avoid the war, but Ukraine, supported by the West, planned to attack Crimea, Putin said.
Crimea is a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia back in 2014.
The Ukrainian people became hostage to the regime in Kyiv and its Western masters that occupied this country, in political, military and economic sense, published RFE in Macedonian language quoting Putin.
To be more convincing, Putin claims that just before the aggression – which Moscow calls “special military operation” – he requested guarantees from the West, but was rejected:
End of 2021, we officially requested security from the USA and Europe, but we were refused. The threat was growing and up to February 2022 everything was ready for a military intervention in Donbas. All this was violation of the documents adopted by the UN Security Council. I want to repeat – they started the war, while we resorted to force to stop it – said Putin addressing the Members of the Russian Duma, as quoted by 360 Degrees.
Parts of the main narratives from Putin’s speech can be found in the disinformation spread in the course of February by Dmitri Medvedev (the narrative that Ukraine is a Nazi country, while the European democracies are “Russophobs”) including disinformation about “Russophobia” and “Western Nazism” interpreted through the address of Ursula von der Leyen, and uttered by the Chief of Diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov in the beginning of February. More information on this topic related to Putin’s address on Ukraine can be found in the analysis published by Truthmeter”.
Near the border with Poland – new disinformative message from Moscow
Yet again, Dmitri Medvedev, one of the politicians positioned very high on Putin’s scale and one of the main propaganda people of Moscow, enhanced the propaganda matrix about Russia having to defend itself, threatening that such a defence implies suppressing everything hostile up to the border with Poland.
On 24.02.2023, on the anniversary of Ukraine’s invasion, Medvedev stated via Telegram:
“It is important to accomplish all goals of the special military operation. We need to move the borders of national threats as far away as possible even if those borders are the Polish borders”.
The statement published by several media in North Macedonia is inl fact, an extension оf what Putin said in the Russian Duma:
The bigger the range of the weapons they receive, the further we need to push them from our borders.
To be more convincing, Medvedev as an extension of the withdrawal of the new nuclear weapon control agreement, START, mentioned by Putin, on 27th February announced a new nuclear apocalypse if the West continued to supply weapons to Ukraine:
Our enemies are doing just that, refusing to understand that their goals will certainly bring about a complete fiasco. Loss for all. Collapse. Apocalypse, said Medvedev for “Izvestia” (News), later disseminated by Western agencies and the Macedonian media.
In the beginning of February, the message that the Russian Army will reach the Polish border was conveyed by the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. On 6.02.2023, through Telegram, as informed by some of the media, he stated:
As part of the support for Ukraine, Warsaw exhausted its own military resources and is confused now: what if – following the successful completion of the special operation – Russia starts the denazification and demilitarization of the next country? After Ukraine, Poland is next! I will not hide my intention and I have stressed many times that the fight against Satanism should continue throughout Europe, primarily on the territory of Poland. I think that the Polish people understood that – stated Kadyrov.
On 8th of February, the same or similar type of threat intertwining the narratives on Ukraine and the Ukrainians as a proxy players in war of the West against Russia leading to the suffering of the entire Ukraine because ”it could lose its statehood”, was conveyed by the President of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko:
Ukraine is coming close to the borderline where it risks losing fully its statehood – stated Matviyenko.
This February outpour of threats to the West in general, to Ukraine and especially to Poland, that started with the decisions of Washington, Berlin, London and Paris to send modern heavy battle tanks reached its crescendo in the middle of the month, through the Russian propaganda-reporter Vladimir Solovyov, who threatened with the possibility of shelling London.
To round it up, starting from the beginning of February (02.02.) when Putin had his speech in Volgograd (former Stalingrad), up to the address in the Federal Parliament, the Russian disinfo propaganda abused three types of narratives – fight against the West that is Russia’s main enemy, fight against reinstated Nazism and repeated history, and fight against “Nazi Ukraine” as a victim of a proxy player for the West in the war against Russia.
EU detected the most frequent Russian disinformation narratives – started at end of 2022
The European Union also confirmed that a part of these propaganda narratives is standard for the Russian disinformation matrix. In the beginning of February, the EU published its First Quarterly Report on FIMI Threats taking place on the territory of whole Europe.
The report detects the five most frequent Russian narratives on the basis of which disinformation is being developed in the period October – December 2022:
- ”The West is an aggressor to Russia”,
- “Ukraine is the aggressor directed towards Russia”,
- “Santions against Russia are counter-effective”,
- “The West is hypocritical”,
- “Ukraine is a Nazi and terrorist country”.
As one can conclude, all of them were massively used in February 2023. The report was launched at a large international conference by the High Representative and EC Vice-President, Josep Borrell. More information about the report, including Borrell’s speech can be found in the information published by “Truthmeter”.
For the first time this EU report also lists disinformation incidents coming from China as well as the fact that in a small number of cases, the Russian and Chinese disinformation narratives overlap. In the meantime, the policy paper of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in cooperation with Sofia Security Forum titled ”Secret Charm” – Chinese Hidden Influence in SEE” was published. The report contains the findings on the Republic of North Macedonia. More information about this can be found in the analysis published by ”Truthmeter”.
Disinformation about the relations with Bulgaria slowly subsided
Disinformation narratives developed about the Macedonian-Bulgarian relations slowly subsided after reaching their peak before and after 4th February on the occasion of marking 151 jubilee of the birth of Goce Delcev.
What is significant to note about this info-analysis is that two other confirmations coming from relevant addresses also claim that these disinformation narratives contribute to worsening the relations and benefit third parties that, above all, do not want to see the Balkans within the EU.
That third parties benefit from worsening the relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria – in this specific case Russia and its external policy – confirmed another source from Bulgaria in mid-February. On 16th February Vessela Tcherneva, who was a foreign policy advisor of the former Bulgarian Prime-minister Kiril Petkov, in an interview for the News on BTV stated that only Russia benefits from such tensed bilateral relations.
Every commotion of mutual relations not only make it impossible to include the Bulgarians in the Constitution, but they also benefit Russian interests on the Balkans – stated Tcherneva connecting this with the European integration process of the RNM.
This is the second such statement of Tcherneva. She is just one of the many representatives of the intellectual, political, or diplomatic scene in Bulgaria voicing her opinion. In the course of January, when the relations between Skopje and Sofia were extremely tense due to the incident with the young man from Ohrid, Hristijan Pendikov, Russia’s interests in degrading the relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia was also confirmed by the former Bulgarian Defence Minister, Boyko Noev, the former Bulgarian ambassador to the USA, Elena Poptodorova and the former Prime-minister and leader of GERB, Boyko Borisov. More details about the statements can be found in the information published by “Truthmeter” from Januaryt on the link HERE.
Several days after that, Prime-minister Dimitar Kovacevski, for an interview for MIA published 19.02.2023 confirmed the same when talking about the Macedonian-Bulgarian relations, stating:
Currently, individuals and groups in both Macedonia and Bulgaria do not want to see the region integrated in the EU. Unfortunately, those individuals, political parties and groups are funded and encouraged by third parties, i.e., countries that also do not want to see the region integrated in the EU. Everyone knows that now – stated Kovacevski.
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