Fear of war and demonization of Brussels. Disinformation actors in Slovakia continue to polarize society Bi-weekly report on emerging disinformation trends April 18, 2024
© Designed by Freepik presents an overview of disinformation trends that have been on the rise in the last two weeks:

  • The second round of the presidential election was determined by voters mobilized by fear and uncertainty. The narratives of warmongering or serving the West, which were used in the anti-campaign to attack Ivan Korčok, gained not only intensity but also effectiveness in the days before the election. The disinformation ecosystem, including members of the government, participated in their dissemination.
  • The approaching European elections open up space for further exploitation by disinformation actors. Paradoxically, these are mainly politicians who will be running for a seat in the European Parliament again this year. In their communication, they mainly use proven topics – they scare about the loss of sovereignty and appeal for the protection of traditional values.
  • The Slovak information space is increasingly dominated by narratives that pit the European Union and Russia directly against each other. In addition to the Voice of Europe case, through which Moscow sought to influence the European elections, the glorification of Russia as a selfless liberator and fighter against fascism is also playing a role.

Anti-campaign of fear and war

Peter Pellegrini is the winner of the presidential election in Slovakia. In the second round, the chairman of the Hlas-SD won with 53.1% of the vote. A relatively high voter turnout contributed to the result. A part of the electorate was mobilized by a strong anti-campaign against Ivan Korčok and fear-mongering before the decisive day. Two narratives in particular dominated – the intimidation of being dragged into the war and the discrediting of the civic candidate as a servant of foreign interests.

The anti-campaign involved members of the ruling coalition in particular. In his video supporting Peter Pellegrini, Robert Fico expressed himself quite clearly. He described Korčok as a warmonger who would not hesitate to send troops to Ukraine. While Korčok supposedly obeys the decisions of the West, Pellegrini is the one to know the value of peace. With this rhetoric, Fico is returning to the false calls for peace issue we covered in a previous report.

On this basis, not only the candidates but also the society and the media were divided. In another video, Fico also described the potential election of Korčok as extremely dangerous. The reason for this was again that Korčok was to serve exclusively his so-called paymasters – foreign countries, NGOs or the media. Fico made these claims without any evidence. At the same time, he continued to polarize society into two camps – those who recognize the so-called "sovereign foreign policy of Slovakia" and those who want to serve the West. Thus, in the election campaign, Fico and other actors included long-known narratives with mobilizing potential.

Matúš Šutaj Eštok, the current Minister of the Interior and a co-party member of Peter Pellegrini (Hlas-SD), also joined in, calling Korčok bluntly "the president of war". Peter Kmec and Denisa Saková (both members of the government and Hlas-SD) also came up with a similar scare about dragging Slovakia into the war and deploying Slovak soldiers. In a post where other members of the Hlas-SD party also made a coordinated call to choose peace over war, they used a picture of an old lady hugging a soldier. However, from the soldier's sleeve they edited out the Ukrainian flag. The incitement of negative emotions and fear among voters by means of doctored pictures of the conflict (in which members of the government at various points try to defend the aggressor) shows how manipulative one can be in an election campaign.

MP Ľuboš Blaha (SMER-SSD) also used similar anti-campaign language in his contributions. In the video, which was also shared on the official Facebook page of SMER-SSD, Blaha refers to Korčok as a warmonger, linking him to NATO activities in Yugoslavia and Iraq by a cherry-picking, while accusing him of driving Slovakia into a conflict with Russia. In doing so, the MEP once again oversimplifies complex situations and attacks emotionally charged topics that have long been exploited in the Slovak information space to manipulate the public opinion.

Members of the Republika movement also contributed to the mobilization of voters against Ivan Korčok. Its chairman Milan Uhrík described Korčok as a threat. Miroslav Suja, a member of Republika, sees Korčok as a liberal stooge of the EU and NATO. Lívia Pavlíková, who has been involved in the disinformation project KulturBlog in the past and is now running for the European Parliament on behalf of the Republika movement, has chosen similar rhetoric. The presidential elections in Slovakia were thus also an opportunity for many actors from the disinformation spectrum to raise their profile and set the agenda for the coming weeks.

The election results have shown that spreading disinformation or manipulating reality is an effective tool for mobilizing certain sections of society. The public continues to be consciously polarized into two camps by narratives that reinforce fear, insecurity and other negative emotions. Part of the process is also building hatred and reinforcing the 'us vs. them' dynamic, which can also be used during the forthcoming European Parliament elections. There are several dividing lines, one has only to choose.

Sinister Brussels, glorified Russia

As the Euro elections are approaching on 8 June 2024, the activity of actors who have long been attacking the EU through disinformation is also growing in the Slovak information space. Paradoxically, these are often politicians who will also be running for a seat in the European Parliament this year.

At the beginning of April, part of the disinformation scene was devoted to the Voice of Europe server case, which, according to the Security Information Service of the Czech Republic (BIS), was a tool for financing journalists and some candidates in the European Parliament elections in order to advance Russia's foreign policy interests. Several Slovak politicians who have long been involved in spreading pro-Russian narratives also granted interviews to the server.

One of them, Milan Uhrík (the current chair of the Republika movement), rejected the accusations and labelled them as part of the European Parliament election campaign. Together with other Euro-politicians on the list, he was to be supposedly accused due to the fact that he openly opposes the war in Ukraine. Uhrík is thus manipulatively and without any evidence trying to turn the optics around, resorting to the repeated use of false calls for peace, while attacking those who, unlike him, reject the surrender of Ukraine. To make it easier on himself, he threw into the mix a conspiratorially-tinged reference to sinister circles behind the scenes that are supposed to be trying to prolong the conflict.

Eduard Chmelár, the current advisor to Prime Minister Fico, went a little further in his comments on this topic. In his post, Chmelár also sought to cast doubt on the BIS accusations, conspiratorially calling them a higher intelligence game, by which, he said, "the European Commission is trying to censor its political enemies". According to Chmelár, Brussels is worried about the election results. Thus, without evidence, he gives his audience the impression of a secret and malicious action by Brussels, which he quite manipulatively puts in opposition to Russia, which he defends with this rhetoric.

A recurring topic is the issue of the protection of so-called traditional values. The topic has long been exploited by disinformation actors for the simple reason that it allows polarization and the building of hatred against an external enemy. In this context, Brussels and the EU have long been portrayed as a threat to traditional Slovak values and sovereignty. The vehicle for sharing these polarizing claims is primarily narratives related to LGBTI, gender or faith issues.

Recent posts published by Milan Uhrík may serve as an example. In both of them he follows the same modus operandi – he shares the statement of befriended colleagues from the European Parliament, which he concludes with his own viewpoint. He did so in the case of German MEP Christine Anderson (from the far-right AfD), who fabulated about Brussels' threat to gender, or in the case of Balázs Hidvéghi (from Hungary's Fidesz), who accused the EU of threatening traditional values. In this way, Uhrík tries to give the impression of legitimacy to his claims of a sinister EU. At the same time, he continues to create not only fear of the Brussels threat, but also the fictitious notion that he (or other like-minded politicians) represents a necessary rescue from some sort of values collapse.

The 79th anniversary of the liberation of Bratislava during the Second World War was also used to attack the EU and the West. The official wreath-laying ceremony at the Slavín memorial was attended by both the Russian and Belarusian ambassadors to Slovakia. It was precisely because of their participation that the ambassadors of the EU countries declined the invitation. Fico criticized them for this in his video, describing their absence as mere politics and a sign of disrespect for the soldiers of the Red Army.

MP Ľuboš Blaha felt the same way. In his post on the Telegram, he accused the ambassadors of the EU states of failing to express their rejection of fascism. That is why he wants to "fight against creeping fascism" in Brussels. In another posting, Blaha followed the same rhetoric in his nascent European Parliament election campaign. However, he took a little more care to glorify Russia in its role as a fighter against fascism. According to Blaha, "Western European nations should grovel and thank the Russians for their liberation".

It is the sediment of Soviet propaganda, for which this narrative was crucial and is still used vividly today. In addition to ignoring the role of the West and, for example, Nazi Germany's pre-war collaboration with the Soviet Union, it contributes to the construction of the myth of Russia as a selfless liberator. Blaha uses these narratives to artificially and manipulatively create an equation in which Russia is unjustly hated by the evil Western European nations. In doing so, he also operates with the idea of Pan-Slavism, whereby he sets the Slavic nations in opposition to the West.

Since posts containing narratives about the European Union have been dominant and present in several topics in the Slovak information space again in the last two weeks, we also looked at them using the CrowdTangle analytical tool. We used it to analyze the most popular posts on Slovak Facebook that contained the keywords "EU" (“EÚ”) or "Brussels" (“Brusel”). Posts were evaluated based on the total number of interactions (the sum of all reactions, comments and shares).

top 5

The post with the most interactions is a video published by Robert Fico, in which he claims that Brussels is using a double standard when assessing the behavior of member states. In his post, the prime minister again contrasts the interests of Slovakia and the EU. Behind the European criticism of Slovakia's actions and the possibility that Slovakia will lose part of the EU funds, Fico sees Slovakia's so-called sovereign foreign policy, which calls for peace in Ukraine. He returns to the claim that the EU would not be pleased with peace. In making his claims, he completely ignores the fact that Slovakia has indeed moved closer to Russia with its recent actions and has lost its reputation among its partners in the Euro-Atlantic community. The narrative of an unjust EU that deliberately wants to hurt Slovakia because of the war in Ukraine also avoids criticism of the latest proposals for changes to legislation on the criminal law and the public broadcaster.

The second post contains a recording of a discussion between Prime Minister Robert Fico and former Czech President Miloš Zeman on TA3 television. The video was published by Fico on his Facebook page. He continued his rhetoric accusing the West of applying a failing strategy in Ukraine. He urged the EU not to be a military organization. Fico also returned to the narrative that the West is letting Slavs kill each other, while expressing his belief that the conflict has no military solution. In other words, Fico once again appealed to his audience by calling for peace, but offered no concrete path to it. He also confirmed that calls for peace actually mean calls for the surrender of Ukraine.

The third place was taken by the above-mentioned video of Robert Fico, in which he criticizes the EU ambassadors for not attending the official wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the soldiers who died during the liberation of Bratislava at the end of the Second World War.

The next post in the list was published by Milan Uhrík. We have already mentioned it in the context of the Voice of Europe case. Using whataboutism and other manipulative techniques, the chairman of the Republika movement downplays the findings of the Czech Security Information Service and also rejects accusations that Moscow tried to influence the European elections.

The last place belongs to a Telegram post by Ľuboš Blaha, which was shared on Facebook by the official SMER-SSD page. In this way, the party amplifies the content of its MP, who is otherwise blocked on Meta platforms due to the dissemination of problematic content. In his post, Blaha attacks the Slovak opposition and Brussels. According to Blaha, Brussels is the opposition's last option to oppose the ruling coalition. That is why he attaches great importance to the European elections, in which he himself is running for the SMER-SSD party. He blames the EU and the opposition for the so-called anti-Slovak resolutions, which are supposed to deprive Slovakia of EU funds. Pragmatically, he ignores and fails to mention the fact that Slovakia is facing this possibility precisely because of the government's actions, which threaten the state of democracy and the rule of law. In doing so, Blaha manipulatively turns the opposition and Brussels into bogeymen who are supposed to unfairly threaten Slovakia's interests.

For the time being, it seems that the key topics in the weeks leading up to the Euro elections for disinformation actors will be primarily issues related to Slovakia's sovereignty and the protection of traditional values. The European Union continues to be portrayed by many actors as an external enemy whose interests are not compatible with Slovakia's. The modus operandi of the disinformation actors in Slovakia is straightforward – to establish the impression of a threat from Brussels, to mobilize participation in elections through fear, and to continue the rhetoric of the so-called united patriotic forces coming to the aid of the interests of the ordinary population.

The EU's migration policy will be instrumental in these malign efforts. The recently adopted new EU pact on migration and asylum is likely to be one of the key tools for mobilizing voters in the Euro elections by the Slovak disinformation ecosystem.


Project organized by Adapt Institute, which is supported by the Prague office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, continuously monitors the activities of both Slovak and foreign disinformation actors, but focuses mainly on the former. The project activities are built upon daily monitoring of emerging disinformation, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories in the online information space. This approach allows the analysts to identify disinformation posts and narratives that resonated with the public the most, as well as to find out where they originated, and how they spread and evolved on social media. The report takes the form of a bi-weekly summary of arising trends in the spread of malicious information content online. Based on that, can inform the public about emerging and current trends in the field of disinformation, manipulation, and propaganda.