How Russian propaganda developed idea of the British being fascinated by Russian soldier

How Russian propaganda developed idea of the British being fascinated by Russian soldier

Fact Check
Russian propaganda is manipulating comments on the social media pages of Western publications and politicians

One of the Russian state-run online publications published a report on the British citizens allegedly being fascinated by a Russian soldier who, lying in a trench, threw away a grenade falling on him from a Ukrainian quadcopter. The material was based on comments posted under the video on the YouTube channel of the British newspaper, The Independent.

This is a manipulation, as the Russian media outlet chose only 10 out of more than 1,800 comments posted under the video to support its statement, in which the Ukrainian army is condemned and the Russian soldier is shown support. Moreover, it is impossible to find out whether the authors of the selected comments were British, as YouTube does not provide information about where a particular user is registered geographically.

Nevertheless, Russian propaganda did not hesitate to create the headline “Invincible: The British fascinated by Russian soldier throwing grenades away”, based on several comments from users who cannot be certainly identified as British citizens and portraying their soldier, who was motivated mainly by the desire to do at least something to save his life, as a hero who can easily juggle Ukrainian grenades.

One of a dozen of users, cited by the Russian media outlet, went as far as to claim that directing a drone with a grenade at a soldier of the Russian army that invaded the territory of Ukraine was a “war crime”, and the other voiced the Russian narrative that Western money is used to support terrorism.

If you read other comments under that video, it becomes clear that they are radically different from those selected by the Russian publication.

In particular, the user nicknamed pyrophobia133 says: “He [Russian soldier – Ed.] just casually throws away the bomb”. ‘Casually’ is by no means ‘heroically’.

The other user, nicknamed Abdullah Zahran, called the Russian soldier ‘idiot’: “In battles you find heroes and cowards, but I didn’t know there were idiots until I saw this video”.

The user John Kelleher mentioned that the Russian soldier seemed to have been scared like a baby: “This is the real story. Poor bugger scared out his wits probably crying like a Baby fighting a war that shouldn’t be”.

Other users, posting comments under the video, showed support for Ukraine.

For example, bork bread stressed: “I support Ukraine, but the fact that most Russian soldiers don’t even know what they’re fighting for, is just horrific”.

Many users noted that dropping a grenade from a drone was not a war crime. In particular, Wrex wrote: “To all the idiots in the comments who are crying war crimes. If he was alone and didn’t want to fight, he should’ve surrendered. Every Russian soldier who’s in Ukraine right now knows very well how to surrender. Ukraine has made it very clear. Either surrender or get killed. He chose death. If he was out in the open giving clear signs that he was surrendering that drone wouldn’t have dropped bombs on him. He was in the trenches on the territory of Ukraine hiding from Ukrainians, which means that he was still very much a threat”.

Andre Spaz noted: “Just because youre hiding alone in a trench after a firefight causes you to get separated from the rest of your company doesn’t automatically fall under a war crime if you get killed. The guy was making no clear sign of surrender, hands up, taking camo off, waving a piece of cloth nothing. For all his enemies know hes calling in a airstrike on their position or laying on his gun or grenade waiting on someone to get close enough. The guy is far from being incapacitated, he gets up after this and keeps running up the trench while crouching. That’s not a sign of surrender”.

The Russian mass media’s manipulation of the so-called ‘heroism’ of the Russian soldier came out against the background of a scandal in the Russian Federation, related to that very video.

A Moldovan blogger, Nekoglai (Nikolai Lebedev), posted a parody video of the Russian soldier throwing the grenade away on TikTok. In Russia, they decided that the blogger was making fun of the military. For that video, Nekoglai was detained and tried. The Russian court made a decision to deport the Moldovan blogger from Russia under the pretext of violating migration legislation.

It is a common fact that the vast majority of residents of the United Kingdom show support for Ukraine in the war unleashed by Russia. In particular, according to the data from one of the world’s largest consulting firms, Ipsos, conducting public opinion polls for Sky News on a monthly basis, as of October 31, 2022, 60% of the UK residents expressed support for Ukraine, and just 12% opposed.

In the Russian mass media, one can often find manipulations of comments under articles or the social media posts of politicians from the countries showing support for Ukraine.

On November 16, 2022, two similar articles were published on the website of one of the Russian state-run news agencies. In the article titled “The Traitor to the Germans”, they criticized Scholz after his words about Putin. According to the article, the Germans are allegedly showing support for Putin and are dissatisfied with Scholz , because he does not trust and does not support the policy of the Russian president. The material is fully based on anonymous comments under the post of Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz on Twitter, where the head of the federal government of Germany condemned Russian armed aggression against Ukraine.

The other article, titled “Poles angered by Duda’s statement about missile drop”, claims that Polish citizens are dissatisfied with Andrzej Duda, blaming Russia for the incident with the missile that had fallen not far from the border with Ukraine. Such conclusions were made solely on the basis of anonymous comments under the article published by Interia.

Each of these articles referred only to the posts of the selected users who showed support for Russia. The rest of comments were ignored.

Hence, Russian propaganda manipulates public opinion and promotes the narrative that citizens of the countries that are the allies of Ukraine seem to support Russia.

Andrii Olenin

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