For almost a decade and a half, Russia has been building up its "soft power" abroad. Or rather, its propaganda network. The main propaganda outlets are RT and Sputnik, which broadcast for all major European countries, as well as the United States, Canada, Japan, Latin America, and Africa. After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it was decided to block the projects in the EU. The authorities restricted access to sites with disinformation, and later made it impossible for legal entities associated with the projects to operate.
But the propaganda resources are still working and getting their audience in Europe. Here's how they do it.
Coincidence? We don't think so
Even before the start of the new phase of the war, in 2021, Russia's state media projects began to prepare for the possibility of working from the "underground". The authorities already had some questions to both Sputnik and RT, so they started looking for ways around them a long time ago. For example, after Sputnik was blocked in Estonia, a supposedly independent media outlet Sputnik Meedia appeared there in 2021 under the leadership of the same people with the same design and agenda. There have also been attempts to circumvent national sanctions in Latvia.
In April 2022, a "mirror" also appeared for the German-language RT portal. The registration details, unlike the English language one, are hidden, but the portal does not try to hide its connection with Russian foreign broadcasting service. A "mirror" of the German Sputnik, but under a different name - SNA (that is, Sputnik News Agency), with the same content and design, soon appeared. And it is available in the EU.
Affiliated projects help promote German-language RT and Sputnik, such as Anti Spiegel, which gets 1.7 million hits a month, and Kontrafunk radio, which has no official connection to Russia, but many former RT Deutsch employees work there, and it is run by an activist from the far-right Alternative for Germany, a party sympathetic to Russia. To understand the content of such projects, one only needs to look at recent broadcasts. "Queer ideology uses homosexuals for political purposes," warns Kontrafunk, offering to discuss all the disadvantages of European politics.
A few simple manipulations make it possible to maintain a presence on various platforms, such as TikTok, where Sputnik's official accounts were blocked. Moreover, everything - both "mirrors" and "new projects" of Russian propagandists - is available on Google services, thanks to which they get a new audience.
It turns out that the decision to restrict the Russian disinformation network in Europe has been formally implemented. But only formally.