Pro-Russian Actors Deflect Russia’s Use of Cluster Munition, Far-Right Parties Spread Disinformation on EU Migration Pact

Infosecurity.sk: Bi-Weekly Report on Emerging Disinformation Trends July 13, 2023
© Designed by Freepik
  • Anti-EU actors, primarily far-right parties, spread disinformation about the EU's Migration Pact. False narratives, such as wrongly claiming implementation of national immigration quotas, aim to distort the understanding of the initiative.
  • The US decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions has faced criticism, with accusations of hypocrisy by pro-Russian actors. Despite Russia's long-standing use of cluster munitions in Ukraine, disinformation attempts deflect attention and falsely portray the US as purposefully endangering civilian lives.
  • Disinformation and pro-Russia actors attack Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, using his recent trip to Slovakia as an opportunity to spread false narratives. Claims of Zelenskyy "begging" for resources and portraying Ukrainians as greedy aim to undermine public faith in his leadership and foster hostility towards Ukraine.

Far-right parties purposefully disinform about the EU’s Migration Pact

The Migration Pact, also known as the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, was introduced for the first time in September 2020. Its main goals were to provide better and quicker procedures for the immigration and asylum processes and to encourage a just allocation of accountability and solidarity within the EU. It was not long until various anti-EU actors started to spread disinformation and false narratives about the initiative.

Hostile rhetoric surrounding migration is predominantly utilized by members of far-right parties such as Republika, which present the suppression of migration as one of the main points of their political agendas. Milan Uhrík, an MEP and chairman of the Republika party, said on his Facebook page that the EU “gave us a choice: immigrants or fines! What kind of stupidity is this? Is this Brussels solidarity?!”.

It is important to state that according to the Pact, the member states can freely decide whether they will let an immigrant into the country or not. If the state decides not to accept the migrant, it will be obliged to pay a set amount. These payments will be paid into an EU social fund, which will be used to finance projects aimed at tackling the root causes of migration. Presenting these fees as “fines” is therefore misleading.

Since 2014, the issue of migration has been a stable element of the political debate, which has been exploited by actors similar to Uhrík. This easily creates not only an illusion of an external enemy or fear but also a negative sentiment towards the EU, which then acts as a rewarding target of hostile rhetoric for politicians in the run-up to the elections.

Furthermore, according to the articles on the official Republika party web page, the EU has implemented national immigration quotas. The demands for mandatory quotas, however, have been in fact replaced by an agreement of EU representatives in the form of this Pact.


The US is being accused of hypocrisy for sending cluster munition to Ukraine

Recently, the US representatives have announced that they are granting Ukraine's request for controversial cluster munitions. The decision was since criticized by human rights organizations because of the munition’s unpredictable effects. Cluster bombs are designed to detonate upon impact, but a sizable number are "duds," meaning they don't detonate at first thus exploding at a later date.

Russia has been using cluster munitions since the beginning of its aggression in Ukraine. Furthermore, Russian cluster munitions are said to have a "dud rate" of 40%, which means that many of them are still dangerous on the ground. On the other hand, the Pentagon estimates that the failure rate of its own cluster bomblets is less than 3%.

Despite these facts, many pro-Russian disinformation actors have mobilized and are now accusing the US of hypocrisy. Disinformation site Bádateľ, which is notorious for spreading conspiracy theories, wrote in a post: “In Vietnam and Laos, civilians are still being killed by the cluster munitions the US is going to give Ukraine. The US has never cared about people's lives.” Not only is this an example of whataboutism, an argumentative tactic where an actor responds to an accusation by deflection, but it also turns the attention away from the fact that Russia has been using the same, and even more deadly, weapons in Ukraine. It is also important to state that the type of cluster munition used in Laos differs from the one that will be sent to Ukraine.

Another disinformation site InfoVojna (“InfoWar”) posted an article in which they call the munition “forbidden” and stress how dangerous it is for civilian life. However, it is important to state that neither the US, Ukraine nor Russia has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions that outlaws the use or stockpiling of these weapons. This rhetoric also, once again, deflects from the reality of Russia actively using cluster bombs in Ukraine and overall purposefully endangering the lives of Ukrainian civilians.

Pro-Russian actors condemn the visit of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to Slovakia

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, President Zelensky has been a steady target of attacks by disinformation and pro-Russia actors who regularly use fabricated narratives to try to undermine public faith in his leadership abilities. His recent trip to Slovakia has now been utilized by these same actors to attack him and disseminate more untrue information about him.

One of the most prevalent narratives was that the President visited Slovakia and neighbouring countries just to “beg” for more resources. Milan Uhrík, an MEP and chairman of the far-right Republika party, wrote in a Facebook post that “if Zelenskyy comes, Slovakia will lose something again... I wouldn't hand him anything. We have helped them enough. Now is the time to help Slovakia”.


Similarly, a disinformation page Bádateľ, mockingly stated that since President Zelenskyy arrived in the country, Slovak citizens should “lock their gates, chase the chickens into the chicken coop and hold on to their wallets!”.

By pushing this kind of rhetoric, pro-Russian actors are trying to portray Ukrainians as greedy. They further amplify this narrative by creating a false notion that by helping Ukraine, Slovakia, and more specifically its citizens, is being robbed of something. This only continues to polarize public opinion and reinforces the already-rooted hostility towards the country.

Since the visit of the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has been one of the major topics in Slovak information space in the past two weeks, we also looked at it through an optic of a list of disinformation actors in Slovakia. We used the CrowdTangle analysis tool to analyse the most popular posts on Slovak Facebook that include the keywords “Zelenskyy“. Posts were evaluated based on the total number of interactions (the sum of all reactions, comments, and shares).

Top Posts about President Zelenskyy

The first place belongs to the aforementioned post by Milan Uhrík, in which he says that by giving assurances to Ukraine, Slovakia loses something.

Eduard Chmelár, a dubious political commentator, in a lengthy post mentioning the visit, stated that he doesn’t know anyone who would support Russia and blame Ukraine for being the aggressor and blamed the Slovak media for “altering” the true state of the public opinion. This statement is highly misleading, as it is confirmed by several surveys that the Slovak population is one of the most susceptible to pro-Russian propaganda in the European Union and a significant part of it does not consider Russia to be a threat (e.g. 69 % think that by providing military equipment and weapons to Ukraine, the country is provoking Russia and only 54 % consider Russia to be a threat). Not to mention that he himself is a proof of the considerable presence of pro-Russian rhetoric in Slovakia.

Slovenská národná strana (“Slovak National Party”) re-shared on its Facebook page a statement post by the party’s vice-chairman condemning President Zelenskyy’s by saying that President Zelenskyy is an agent of American interest. Furthermore, they stated that he is unwelcome in Slovakia and that the citizens who cheered on him upon his arrival were all actors. While the former refers to an already deep-rooted disinformation narrative that calls political leaders with anti-Russian values "agents of the West", the latter is nothing more than a baseless conspiracy theory.

The fourth place belongs to the aforementioned post by Bádateľ, in which the site insinuates that Zelenskyy came to Slovakia to “rob” its citizens.

Anna Belousovová stated that the visit was purposefully planned right before the NATO Summit in Vilnius and continued by saying that “anyone who has all five together must know that Ukraine did not, does not, and will not in the future belong to NATO”. Such statements are aimed at undermining public support for Ukraine's accession to NATO and at the same time go against the official statements of the incumbent political leaders, who consider this step to be fundamental.

Project Infosecurity.sk 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, Infosecurity.sk can warn the public about emerging and current trends in the field of disinformation, manipulation, and propaganda.