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Russian disinformation during Ukraine invasion ‘gaining traction but low quality’

Disinformation spread by Russia during their invasion of Ukraine is “gaining traction” but is “low quality activity”, western officials have said.

Officials said content justifying the war produced by disinformation outlets on Facebook has been viewed “more than 1.2 billion times globally”.

One official said messages sent by Russia to the Ukrainian people in an attempt to “break the will to resist” had “absolutely failed on every conceivable measure” as well as only managing a “moderate performance” in its primary goal of “regime security” in their own country.

His words come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to the UK, urging Western allies to provide “wings for freedom” by supplying his air force with advanced jets.

Red Square, Moscow and St Basil's Cathedral (Adam Davy/PA)
Red Square, Moscow and St Basil’s Cathedral (Adam Davy/PA)

Speaking about the views of Russian people on the invasion of Ukraine, the official said: “We’ve seen that there’s a large middle ground in Russia that is pretty agnostic on the war.

“As the realities of the war drive home, we can only see those who are supporting the war, the minority who are supporting the war, falling further.”

He added: “The next most important audience for the Russian State in this war are Ukrainian audiences, and Russia’s goal here is to break the Ukrainian will to resist.

“It’s absolutely failed on every conceivable measure.

“What we see across Europe, with a couple of exceptions, is people are strong and are being resilient to Russian information manipulation.”

Addressing the use of disinformation tactics by Russia, the official said: “Some of it is gaining traction, and it’s designed to distract audiences from the truth from the atrocities that are taking place in Ukraine and also to fuel conspiracy theories.

“We’ve noted the content justifying the Kremlin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine produced by disinformation outlets on Facebook have been viewed more than 1.2 billion times globally.

“Researchers found 50 pages affiliated with state and non-state actors across the Middle East in North Africa spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda, generating more than 705 million views.

“Now whilst this is a lot of activity, again, I have to state this is low-quality activity.

“They keep trying, they keep adapting their tactics, so we’ll keep trying to get better.

“But as we know, when we see votes in the UN General Assembly, this stuff isn’t perhaps as powerful as the Kremlin would like us to believe.”