Scaremongering about the West, demonisation of aid to Ukraine and attacks on the media. Pro-Kremlin actors return to their old ways ahead of the European elections Bi-weekly report on emerging disinformation trends May 2, 2024
© Oleg Chumakov via presents an overview of disinformation trends that have been on the rise in the last two weeks:

  • Disinformation actors have criticised the US Congress' funding of aid to Ukraine, which they have described as an unnecessary prolongation of the war. Hyperbolisation also emerged, describing the aid as a declaration of war on Russia by the US that could result in the unleashing of a nuclear war. Disinformers have also attacked Mier Ukrajine's (Peace for Ukraine) civic fundraiser to buy ammunition for Ukraine, which they claim comes from liberal-progressive elites and is intended to promote bloodshed.
  • The Slovak government has approved a draft law that will soon turn the Slovak public broadcaster RTVS (Radio and Television of Slovakia) into Slovak Television and Public Radio. Disinformation actors have welcomed the politicisation and control of the public broadcaster. They continued to use manipulative narratives to brand RTVS as a biased and partisan media outlet that is supposed to be a propaganda tool of so-called progressivism.
  • The rhetoric about a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine is also still present. For most of the actors under the spotlight, peace is just a buzzword for framing and simplifying an otherwise complex situation. False calls for peace are also gradually infecting the European Parliament elections. These are presented by various disinformation actors as a moment of decision between peace and war. The European elections in Slovakia are highly likely to be accompanied by the mobilisation of voters by spreading fear of Western values and the third world war.

Fundraising for ammunition for Ukraine has been interpreted as promoting bloodshed

Misleading rhetoric appeared in the posts of disinformation actors during the reporting period in the context of the approval of a $61 billion funding appropriation by the US Congress. The aid was interpreted as an alleged US attack on Russian territory or a declaration of war against Russia.

This line was mainly pushed by Ľuboš Blaha, a SMER-SSD MP and candidate for the European Parliament elections, who claimed in a Telegram post that "after what the US Congress has done, no one can doubt that the US has declared war on Russia". At the same time, he warned of the possibility of a nuclear conflict: "The Ukrainians are attacking Russian territory. American military aid means only one thing – the Americans are attacking Russian territory. And that is millimeters away from nuclear war". In another post, Blaha stated that the US Congress authorized military aid to Ukraine for the followers of Bandera, doing so on the anniversary of Hitler's birthday. He thus created a false analogy and implied the conspiratorial conclusion that this could not have been a randomly chosen date, but a US effort to support the Ukrainian Nazis.

The information about the anniversary of Hitler's birth was also communicated by Anna Belousovová, who pointed to the diminishing will of Ukrainian men to enlist in the war with Russia. The candidate for the European Parliament for the far-right Republic party interpreted the situation as an appeal for peace, since "if there are no soldiers, there will be no wars". According to Belousovová, the real cause of the war was the effort of the West to maintain its hegemony by artificially prolonging the war: "Although the countries of the so-called developed capitalist West have pledged to hunt down Ukrainians between the ages of 18-59 like wild animals in order to force them to fight, realistically I don't see this hunt as being successful." Thus, her post presented the decreasing willingness to enlist in the Ukrainian army as a positive factor that may help end the war sooner. In doing so, Belousovová completely ignores the fact that the loss of Ukraine's fighting capacity will result in its defeat and surrender to the aggressor.

Marián Kéry (SMER-SSD), a MP and chairman of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, used similar rhetoric. According to him, by passing a new aid package to Ukraine, the US "added even more fuel to the fire of war than before". He continued to promote the already established narrative of the ruling coalition about the senseless prolongation of the war, adding that the approval of the war aid in practice meant "an extreme playing with fire and a de facto declaration of war not only on the Russian Federation, but also on Palestine and China," since the US package was also meant to help Israel and the states in the Indo-Pacific region.

Disinformation actors also criticised the Slovak civic fundraising campaign for ammunition for Ukraine, which was announced by the non-profit organisations Mier Ukrajine (Peace for Ukraine), Dárek pro Putina (Gift for Putin) and All4Ukraine. The fundraising platform, which has been donating to help Ukrainians in their homeland and abroad since the beginning of the war, is also a partner of the campaign.

The campaign is being implemented by the Czech Foundation for Ukraine as it joins the Czech government's initiative to support Ukraine. The Slovak government has refused to join the fundraising campaign, which operates in many European countries. That is why the Slovak fundraising campaign is called "Ammunition for Ukraine - When the government doesn't, we send", and calls for participation of the public in a spirit of solidarity and an effort to show the world that Slovakia is on the right side of history. At the time of writing (30 April) more than 63 thousand Slovaks have joined the appeal and together they have collected more than 4 million euros.

The civic campaign has been criticized by several disinformation actors. Eduard Chmelár, a controversial political analyst and current advisor to Prime Minister Robert Fico, said in the Facebook post that "'patriots' led by Ivan Korčok (...) are pushing Ukrainians to fight to win freedom for them and they themselves are afraid, because they imagine the front to be a wifi in the trenches and they are serving lattes there." In his post, Chmelár also suggested that the campaign's main motto by Milan Rastislav Štefánik had been misused. According to him, the organisers are ignoring what was crucial for Štefánik – peace and diplomatic negotiations.

Chmelár mistakenly associates the fundraising campaign primarily with Ivan Korčok and opposition political parties, but he also refers to the artists and activists involved. He says of them that they are "walking with the forces of oppression" and adds: "...pursuing the interests of militant circles, you are collecting money for a tank, artillery ammunition, for everything but what Pope Francis called us to do on his visit to Bratislava: to become a messenger of peace in the heart of Europe". It continues to propagate the false narrative that military aid is prolonging the conflict, ignoring the fact that, without ammunition and military equipment, Ukraine would have lost the fight. Chmelár, who often glorifies Russia, favours peace negotiations with the aggressor, which, however, cannot be advantageous for Ukraine, and this rhetoric only serves the Kremlin's propaganda.

The peace narrative appeared in the posts of several other actors. Marek Géci, a member of the Republic party and candidate for the European Parliament, argued in a post that this campaign to help Ukraine is inhumane because it cannot achieve peace. Géci's party colleague Jozef Viktorín also spoke out against the campaign, saying that "the progressive-liberal forces have revealed themselves. They have confirmed that they prefer war rather than dialogue, they prefer killing rather than peace and tranquility." According to Viktorín, the goal of the fundraising campaign is to gain attention by flooding the mainstream media and tabloids, while "continuing the campaign" of the personalities who have appeared among the supporters – Martin M. Šimečka, David Puchovský and Štefan Hríb.

Similar statements appeared in the post of Zuzana Plevíková (SMER-SSD), a MP, who also questioned the use of the collected funds: 'From my point of view, this is a mere black hole. People may not be sure where their money will actually end up or how and from whom they want to get the ammunition. Perhaps only the arms industry will benefit and one will be tens of euros shorter." According to Plevíková, the campaign is a deliberate promotion of bloodshed, when the funds could be used more for humanitarian aid. Plevíková also stressed the need for peace negotiations with Russia, thus resigning to help the victim of aggression, which also needs military support to defend its independence.

In addition to the aforementioned actors, the current Minister of the Environment Tomáš Taraba (SNS nominee) also gained attention by expressing his negative opinion on the account of the civic fundraising campaign, adding that he "does not support armaments". Taraba's claims were picked up by the disinformation portal eReport, which added that "the campaign Ammunition for Ukraine is the latest hit of progressive liberals and their media."

Thus, the topics of the US military aid to Ukraine, as well as the Peace for Ukraine civic fundraising campaign, were primarily communicated in the spirit of the misleading narrative of peace that plays into the Kremlin's propaganda. The latter appeared across the posts of various actors - not only representatives of the ruling coalition, but also non-parliamentary politicians and candidates for the European Parliament.

Prime Minister Robert Fico repeated the narrative, criticising the EU and the West for "pouring money into arms" for Ukraine, which, in his opinion, does not solve the situation. According to Fico, Russia cannot be defeated militarily and even sanctions will not help this purpose: "Russia will not kneel down. If a Russian is on his knees, it is only because he is tying his shoelaces." Speaking on Radio Slovakia, he elaborated on the idea of doing politics on all four cardinal points and creating "good, friendly relations with anyone who is interested." Fico also followed up with the idea of normalising relations with Russia once the war in Ukraine is over, a stance he sought to legitimise with the achievements of the Red Army in liberating Slovakia from fascism. The post is discussed in the most popular posts section.

Public broadcaster through the lens of the Slovak disinformation ecosystem

On 24 April 2024, the Slovak government approved a modified draft law that will soon transform the current Slovak public broadcaster RTVS into Slovak Television and Public Radio (STVR). Parliament can be expected to decide on the legislation by summer. Apart from changes to bring the law in line with European legislation, not much has changed. The proposal continues to politicise the public service media considerably and bring it under the political control of the ruling coalition. Just as the nature of the proposal has not changed, neither has the rhetoric that has sought to manipulatively explain the step.

The coalition partners continued to manipulatively accuse the public media of bias and partiality. According to Ľuboš Blaha, RTVS is allegedly engaged in a political duel with the government and continues its so-called unprofessional activism. In his post, Blaha went on to refer to the "constitutional right to objective information" –paradoxical rhetoric, to say the least, in the case of a MP who has long been one of the main actors in the Slovak disinformation ecosystem.

MP Blaha continued his attacks on RTVS in other posts as well. In one of them, he branded the public broadcaster a tool of propaganda and labelled journalists as "liberal fascists". With this rhetoric, Blaha continues to manipulatively portray RTVS as a biased media outlet that is supposed to serve the values and interests of the so-called hostile West. He also falsely compared the situation and the government's actions to the blocking of some disinformation websites after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This manipulatively legitimises them and puts them on an equal footing with the traditional media, which, unlike the alternative ones, willingly comply with the standards of journalistic ethics.

Eduard Chmelár, who accused RTVS of "destroying public broadcasting" and spreading propaganda, took a similar approach to the issue. In his post, he also rejected criticism that accuses the government of limiting freedom of speech and media – according to Chmelár, the bill is just an attempt to provide a space for other opinions. It adds to a long-standing rhetoric that equates the meaning of facts and opinions in a manipulative way.

After the government approved the draft law, Blaha did not shy away from paranoid claims of totalitarianism and restrictions on freedom of expression in his next post - he used the manipulative technique of two wrongs (don't) make a right, comparing his blocking on Facebook to the government's actions in trying to take control of RTVS. Not only is he comparing the incomparable, but he is also trying to legitimise the government's actions by creating fear of a fictitious totalitarianism.

At the same time, some politicians operating in the Slovak disinformation ecosystem are trying to downplay the criticism of the part of the society that fears the changes to the public broadcaster. Eduard Chmelár mentioned his fatigue with the "melodrama about the end of democracy" and described the government's actions as an effort to return objectivity and pluralism to the public media. At the same time, he revisited accusations that RTVS and its journalists "stifled freedom of expression, censored inconvenient people and spread one-sided propaganda". He is probably referring to situations where RTVS has refused to give space to actors who have long disseminated non-factual or manipulative information.

György Gyimesi, a member of the Alliance party, also described the concerns about RTVS as "phantom", further manipulatively and without evidence linking the public broadcaster to liberalism or directly to progressivism and the political party Progressive Slovakia. Similar rhetoric is aimed at deepening the polarising moment in Slovak society, which pits two antagonistic camps against each other – a part of society (including the media), thanks to its positive attitude towards democracy, is portrayed as an enemy of so-called sovereign Slovak interests by manipulatively simplifying the situation.

Some alternative media, which are now legitimised by the ruling coalition through their designation as free or civic media, have also commented on the situation regarding RTVS. The media outlet eReport, which has long been involved in publishing problematic content and offering media space to the current ruling parties, uncritically shared the aforementioned Telegram post by Ľuboš Blaha, in which he portrayed RTVS as a propaganda tool and referred to the public broadcaster's director as a homeless man.

InfoVojna, a website that, among other things, continuously communicates pro-Russian and conspiratorial narratives, has taken a similarly uncritical approach to reporting. Without any kind of confrontation, it shared the words of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who during a press conference accused RTVS of violating human rights and of promoting a culture of perversion and vulgarity. To some extent, this reveals the setup of the relationship between the alternative media and the ruling coalition – the reward for uncritically adopting and sharing the dubious rhetoric of the ruling coalition is for these media outlets to have access to information and interviews with politicians who have pragmatically abandoned contact with the mainstream media.

False calls for peace

Since posts containing narratives about a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine 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 keyword “peace” (“mier”). Posts were evaluated based on the total number of interactions (the sum of all reactions, comments and shares).


The post with the most interactions is the video published by Robert Fico. It is a recording of his appearance on the political session Saturday Dialogues (on RTVS). In it, the Slovak prime minister once again returned to the rhetoric of a sovereign foreign policy, which envisages the eventual standardisation of relations with Russia. He also stressed that he does not believe in a military solution to the conflict in Ukraine – in other words, Robert Fico again indicated that he does not agree with military support for Ukraine and counts on its sacrifice to the aggressor. He described the possibility of Ukraine's membership of NATO as the potential start of the third world war. With similar rhetoric and continuous accusations of the West of deliberately prolonging the conflict (this is how Fico refers to military support for the victim of Russian aggression), the Slovak Prime Minister is not only spreading fear among the Slovak public, but also undermining the unity of the West in confronting the aggressor. As part of his argumentation, Fico relies on oversimplifying the situation in the international environment and pushing the narrative of the need for a Ukraine that would be independent and outside NATO structures. In doing so, he continually ignores the highly probable assumption that Ukraine would not be able to resist Russian aggression without Western support – in other words, it would lose its independence.

The second post can be considered part of the election campaign of SMER-SSD MP Ľuboš Blaha. In the post, he attacks the Progressive Slovakia party, especially its candidate leader Ľudovít Ódor, who was formerly prime minister of a caretaker government. Blaha falsely portrays the EU elections to his audience as a choice between peace and war. He returns to the strategy employed in the presidential elections – he manipulatively labels the democratic opposition as a path to war for purely pragmatic reasons: to build up the image of the enemy in order to mobilise his electorate. Blaha's original Telegram post was shared on Facebook by the official SMER-SSD party page.

The third place goes to a post by Marek Géci, a candidate for MEP for the far-right party Republika, in which he commented on the aforementioned financial collection for Ukraine. He described it as inhumane and accused the media of artificially pushing the narrative of the need to help Ukraine. He again used rhetoric that portrayed any military aid to Ukraine as an unnecessary prolongation of the war. This rhetoric paints a manipulative picture in which aggression is acceptable and the needs of its victims are ignored.

The next post in the list is also by Ľuboš Blaha, which was shared on the official SMER-SSD page. Blaha, among other things, questioned the sanctions imposed on Russia and accused the EU of warmongering. Once again, he 'forgot' to mention the Russian Federation as aggressor. He went on to attack the mainstream media and the non-governmental sector, turning them into internal enemies by such rhetoric to further mobilise the electorate.

The last place belongs to the post by Katarína Roth Neveďalová, a current MEP from the SMER-SSD party, who is also running for a seat in the next European elections. In a summary of her appearance on Joj24 television, the MEP gives the impression of EU fanaticism, which is said to be looking for tools to prolong the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and refuses to look for solutions leading to peace.

The most popular posts over the last two weeks thus clearly show that political actors are becoming increasingly active in the European Parliament election campaign. Their communication, which is often problematic due to the use of non-factual information and manipulative techniques, focuses mainly on polarising and emotionally charged topics. The war in Ukraine remains a constant topic, which is used by various disinformation actors to divide public discourse into two camps. At the same time, an artificial reality is created in which any action by the West (including the EU) is labelled as prolonging the conflict and warmongering.

Fear-mongering through similar means and rhetoric is designed to create fictitious threats, which are then countered by the very people spreading the disinformation. In this way, they present themselves as martyrs and fighters against oppression at the same time – the aim is, above all, to further polarise the Slovak public and mobilise it ahead of the elections to the European Parliament.


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.