We Are Ukraine

Sept 29, 2023

Russia utilizes a robust propaganda machine to advance its political and foreign policy goals globally. We at We Are Ukraine have analyzed Russia’s disinformation campaigns in Africa, Latin America, and India in our “Unmasking Russia’s Disinformation” series.

These campaigns predominantly rely on social media, leveraging hashtags like #IstandWithRussia or #IstandWithPutin on platforms popular in the targeted regions. However, Russian state media outlets such as RT and Sputnik Mundo also play a significant role out in the open, especially in countries of Latin America.

Our focus in this series is to dissect the strategies and tactics employed by Russia in these regions. Furthermore, we offer practical recommendations on countering Russian propaganda, aiming to equip individuals and communities with the tools needed to mitigate the impact of disinformation and safeguard the integrity of information ecosystems.

Africa plays a pivotal role in Putin’s foreign policy, which seeks to shift global power dynamics. Putin promises Russian support to African nations while tapping into the legacy of the continent’s colonial trauma in efforts of bolstering Russian interests in the region.

Russian disinformation in Africa targets countries with fragile democracies and conflicts, promoting the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and portraying Russian presence positively while criticizing Western involvement, with a particular focus on France.

Efforts to combat Russian disinformation in Africa involve major tech companies detecting and blocking networks, with over 30 countries having blocked Russian media outlets.

Russia maintains strong ties with authoritarian regimes in Latin America, such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, offering political and economic support in order to assert its own influence in the region. Russia uses its media outlets, like RT en Español and Sputnik Mundo, to spread disinformation in Latin America.

All Russian propaganda narratives about Ukraine disseminated in the region can be broadly grouped into three main themes, including claims that Russia is reclaiming its own territories; narratives that depict Ukraine as a Western puppet; and messages attributing the war to Ukraine’s NATO alignment, close ties with the United States, Russophobia, and alleged influence of “Nazis.”

India and Russia have a long-standing partnership rooted in the Cold War era, currently revolving around arms trade and oil supply. India’s stance on the Russian invasion is contradictory in that it has previously refrained from the United Nations votes against Russia and economic sanctions while emphasizing diplomacy.

There have been different Russian disinformation campaigns on social media targeting Indian users in particular. In March 2022, within a 48-hour timeframe, tweets originating from India featured #IStandWithPutin in approximately 41,000 instances, while #IStandWithRussia appeared more than 18,000 times. It lead to Twitter banning accounts en masse for coordinated inauthentic behavior.

One campaign falsely claiming Ukrainian forces used Indian students as “human shields” was exploited by pro-government accounts to showcase India’s evacuation efforts.