RT is a state-run Russian information platform. Its real role is that of the Kremlin's mouthpiece targeting foreign audiences because it is broadcast in English, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, and German. With RT content translated into different languages, the chances of disinformation being spread internationally magnify. In this way, RT has evolved into the world's largest conveyor of fake news, manipulation, defamation, and propaganda campaigns.
Currently, the RT agenda is mostly focused on the Russian war against Ukraine. RT conveys verbatim Kremlin’s rhetoric on the justification of war, discredits Ukraine on the international scene, convinces its audiences of “ineffectiveness” of western sanctions on Russia, and calls for a halt to military assistance to Ukraine.
However, RT is an information threat not only to Ukraine, but also to the rest of the world. Kremlin propaganda had been using RT as a voice for spreading disinformation long before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Messages circulated by the platform discredited not only the Ukrainian state, but the entire democratic world, fuelled hostility towards Western nations and international organizations, and undermined public confidence in western health care systems.
In March, the EU imposed sanctions on RT English, RT UK, RT Germany, RT France, and RT Spanish TV channels, effectively halting their operations in EU countries. However, there are still many countries in the world in which RT continues broadcasting, running its propaganda campaigns targeting foreign audiences.
Calls for genocide in Ukraine and hate speech
● RT Russia, “Antonimy” (Antonyms) programme
“It would be a perfect map without Ukraine. Ukraine, for example, as part of Russia. A strong-willed, proud nation, under the oppression of an evil and dark empire,” said former chief of the Russian-language RT channel, propagandist Anton Krasovsky.
Later, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT, also shared this fragment of the video about the “map without Ukraine” on her Telegram channel on February 16, 2021, thus, further promoting a message through her own channels and expressing approval of Anton Krasovsky's words.
● RT Russia, 2022
The approval of propagandist Anton Krasovsky’s actions by RT editors only led to a boost in genocidal calls against Ukraine. A direct call to the genocide of Ukrainian children was made by the very same Anton Krasovsky in October 2022. Live, on RT Russia, the propagandist called for “drowning and burning Ukrainian children alive.”
“And it was necessary to drown those [children] in the Tysyna River. Right where that duck is drifting. [Ukrainian folk song, Plyne kacha po Tysyni, or A duck drifting along the Tysyna] To drown these kids, drown them in the Tysyna. […] As soon as they say that ‘moskali’ occupied [Ukraine], throw them in the river, where the currents are strong.” […] “And there [in the Carpathians] every house is called a ‘smereka’ [spruce] house. And there, right in that smereka house, they should be beaten and burnt,” he stated.
The case caused such a massive outrage that RT initially decided to “halt cooperation” with Krasovsky in order not to formally have a relation to the statement. However, not a few weeks passed after his dismissal when RT brought Krasovsky back on air: on November 1, another film from the series “Russia: XXI Century” was broadcast, which was dedicated to Russian sports during the reign of President Putin. The author and host of the film, surprisingly, is Anton Krasovsky.
This return of the propagandist on television screens confirms the true intentions of the media company, which are absolutely in tune with the appeals voiced by Anton Krasovsky himself.
The calls of propagandist Anton Krasovsky are not isolated. Prior to the mentioned case, he expressed admiration for the Russian massive missile attacks on Ukraine on October 10. It should be recalled that, as a result of that shelling, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the center of Kyiv, a playground, the Shevchenko University, the National Philharmonic, and two museums were damaged. Krasovsky commented on these events on RT Russia as follows “I danced on the balcony, rejoicing upon reading the news. […] But this is actually what Russia was waiting for. […] We want it like this. We want it like this every day. We want all of Russia, every Russian, to see that we are winning.”
If you want to see a truly dyed-in-the-wool fascist here’s Anton Krasovksky for you. I’m not sure you even need to speak Russian to get it — you can see it in the twisted grin with which he spits out his bile. pic.twitter.com/G2aS74zVxt— Glenn Kates (@gkates) October 10, 2022
Spreading fake news, conspiracy theories
● RT Spanish, interview with “Carlos” regarding MH17, 2014
After Russian forces shot down the Malaysian Boeing 777 over Donbas, Russian propaganda tried to shift blame onto Ukraine.
One example of such attempts was the so-called “Carlos” case involving an alleged “Spanish air traffic controller” who claimed to have worked at the Kyiv Airport on the day of the tragedy. In his interview for RT Spanish, he accused Ukraine of shooting down the passenger jet.
Subsequently, after the allegations were probed, it turned out that Carlos had never worked as a dispatcher and lied about the tragedy for a remuneration of USD 48,000 that came from Russia.
● RT America, “5G Wireless: A Dangerous Experiment on Humanity,” 2019
RT offices are also major proponents of conspiracy theories. For example, in May 2019, the American office of RT published a message that “5G technology, a technology that should significantly increase the speed and sensitivity of wireless networks, can simply kill you.”
RT America's “Dangerous Experiment on Humanity” refers to “terrible threats to health” of 5G signals, in particular, an increased risk of a number of diseases, including brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors, and Alzheimer's disease.
Undermining trust in health care systems through manipulation of the COVID-19 topic
● RT English, 2021
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, RT gave the floor on its media venues to “experts” who discredited quarantine restrictions and disseminated anti-vaccination views, while further discrediting Western policies on restrictive measures.
● RT France, 2021
In addition, Russian propaganda launched defamation campaigns against developed vaccines, which had been tested and proven effective, to promote their own “Sputnik V.” For example, an article that RT France published on April 23, 2021, was within the scope of the Russian influence operation against the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
● RT America, 2021
Russian propaganda discredited yet another vaccine — Moderna. An article titled “Moderna's Covid-19 jab got the “best vaccine” award — from a US-dominated Vaccine Congress stuff with corporate goons,” released in May 2021 on RT America, claimed that the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” “demonstrated effectiveness.”
Discrediting democratic elections
With the help of RT, most of the democratic elections were discredited by Russian propaganda. For example:
● RT English, European Parliament election 2019
● RT English, presidential election in Ukraine 2019
The news published after the outcome of the presidential election runoff in Ukraine in April 2019 is one of the examples of the attempt to compromise Ukrainian democratic elections. In the news publication, every statement from the congratulation of the President of the United States, which emphasized democracy, the free and honest expression of the people of Ukraine, is taken in quotation marks as those that should be challenged. At the same time, propagandists add that they “do not recognize the legitimacy of the election results.”
● RT America, US presidential election 2020
In a December 2020 article, RT made unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in the 2020 US presidential election, won by Democrat Joe Biden. The article described a surveillance video that Rudy Giuliani, then President Trump's personal attorney, presented at a US court hearing to demonstrate Trump's allegations of electoral fraud in the State of Georgia during the 2020 election.
Incitement to hostility towards the West
● Ruptly TV, “EU Flag Mass Incineration,” 2021
The case is a prime example of how RT is used by propagandists to amplify their message and spread disinformation more widely. The background was that after July 5, 2021, Russian narratives accused the West of escalating the situation in Georgia and causing civil unrest. The rhetoric of Georgian pro-Kremlin media, such as Alt-Info and Georgia and World, has become more assertive, targeting Western diplomats as well as the EU and the US in general, threatening more violent attacks.
One of the hosts of the far-right “Alt-Info” directly called on his supporters to vandalize, inciting them to burn the EU flag and upload a video on Facebook. As a result, a supporter of the ultra-conservative, pro-Kremlin political figure Levan Vasadze and his party burned the EU flag in protest against the alleged insult of Georgian saints.
Russian state media, such as RT, immediately picked up on this trend and showed people burning EU flags in different European countries at different times, giving the impression that anti-EU sentiment was widespread.
In addition to these cases, Russian propaganda used foreign offices of RT to manipulate events in Syria, cases of Navalny and Skripals, “Yellow Vests” protest movement in France, etc.
There is also a continuous effort to discredit the EU, NATO, and other international institutions and organizations. Unhealthy fabrications of “fascism,” “Nazism,” “terrorism,” and “Russophobia” in Ukraine and partner countries are being circulated.
More examples of outright RT fake news can be found in the EUvsDisinfo database, as well as in the NewsGuard report, which collected defamatory and disinformation statements, articles, and videos distributed, in particular, through RT America.
All examples mentioned this piece indicate that disinformation cases involving RT are far from isolated. These are all purposeful propaganda campaigns run by the Kremlin, who could target any country, political force, or even individuals. RT media company, which was initially conceived to deliberately disorient the international community, will not stop doing this voluntarily. The only way to prevent its harmful information influence is to forcibly stop the spread of RT propaganda by banning its broadcasts.
Iryna Subota, analyst with the Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security