Monitored Russian state media and diplomatic accounts last week posted 16,757 tweets, generating 159,855 retweets and 489,526 likes.
Russia-linked accounts last week carried the Kremlin’s statement that it would not fully resume gas supplies to Europe until Western sanctions against Moscow were lifted, while warning that energy shortages would cause social unrest, death, and discomfort throughout Europe this winter. Russian state media pointed to a large protest over the energy crisis in Prague on Saturday as a “preview of what’s to come” for Europe. RT journalist Rachel Blevins attacked those who framed the protest as pro-Russian, asking, “It’s not up to the people to decide what’s in the best interest of their own country?” After the G7 agreed to impose a price cap on Russian oil last Friday, state media said the move would “further collapse” the energy market and wondered if Europe would run out of gas. Throughout the week, Kremlin-linked accounts said that the “energy crisis will cost lives this winter,” the “British will freeze” for the “liberal world order,” Italian supermarkets would go dark, and Germany’s energy policies were “economic suicide.” Sputnik Radio host Garland Nixon tweeted that “EU elites” didn’t mind people dying from the cold this winter, since it meant “less hungry mouths to feed.” State media also claimed that the United States was taking advantage of Europe’s crisis by selling gas to EU countries. At the same time, they insisted that Russia had enough gas “for at least 100 years” and said state energy giant Gazprom was bringing in “huge profits” and planning a new pipeline to China.
Kremlin-affiliated accounts also attacked European politicians and described the EU as a weak and divided bloc. After the UK Conservative Party announced Liz Truss would be the country’s new prime minister, the Kremlin said it did not expect Russia-UK relations to improve, and state media attacked her as unpopular at home and divisive abroad. Moscow-linked outlets also characterized Truss’s victory as the “triumph of style over substance.” One account suggested the United States orchestrated her win. Meanwhile, state-backed outlets showcased a Polish official’s warning that the “threat of [the EU’s] implosion exists” and amplified a Hungarian official’s comment that the EU’s support for Ukraine could lead to a “catastrophic weakening” of the bloc. The Russian intelligence-linked site NewsFront argued that “Hungary has a chance to create a new empire on the ruins of Europe.” Another intelligence-affiliated site pushed for Germans to stage a revolution.
State media also attacked US President Joe Biden’s speech about the threat that former President Donald Trump and his far-right supporters pose to democracy. Moscow-backed accounts called Biden a “fascist,” a “totalitarian dictator,” and a “genuine threat” to US democracy. They claimed the speech “further divide[d] America” and foreshadowed a “Donald Trump arrest.” Russian accounts also amplified Trump’s attacks on Biden as well as Trump’s election conspiracies and calls for a new presidential election. RT Arabic asked if a debate between Biden and Trump would “ignite a civil war.” State media also said Biden had worked with Facebook to censor content.
In Ukraine coverage, Russian state media accused Kyiv of plotting a “terrorist attack” on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. RT shared a video purporting to show Ukrainian soldiers being detained before they could carry out the attack, and the outlet claimed the “saboteurs used foreign satellite systems” to communicate. The next day RIA Novosti said that “British special services controlled” an effort by Ukraine to storm the nuclear plant. And Kremlin-linked media accused Kyiv of holding up international inspectors who visited the station last week. State-linked outlets also claimed that Ukraine had suffered heavy losses during a “failed offensive,” alleged that elite Ukrainian soldiers were “refusing to fight,” and said that Ukrainian forces were abandoning soldiers. As usual, they complained about Western weapons shipments to Ukraine and asserted that those shipments were worsening the conflict. NewsFront also published an article claiming that the West was going to divide Ukraine.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s death prompted a range of respectful and critical commentary. President Putin’s decisions to lay flowers at Gorbachev’s casket but skip his funeral underscored the mixed reactions. State media both showcased world leaders praising Gorbachev’s legacy and attacking it. One RT reporter said Gorbachev was “a lousy leader who gave everything to his country’s enemies on a silver platter.” Others claimed his legacy proved that Washington and Moscow couldn’t work together and reupped complaints about NATO expansion after the Soviet Union’s fall.
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 17,534 times last week, generating 98,302 retweets and 354,152 likes.
Last Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Office released a report that criticized the Chinese state’s policies in Xinjiang, going so far as to warn that those policies may amount to crimes against humanity. Before the release of the UN report, MFA spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned that it was “a pure stunt orchestrated by the US and a handful of other Western countries.” On Thursday, Zhao’s colleague Wang Wenbin called the report “completely illegal, null and void,” a position Zhao repeated on last Friday even as the UN Secretary General himself urged China to follow the report’s recommendations.
On Twitter, “Xinjiang” was by far the most frequent key phrase and hashtag in Chinese diplomats and state media’s tweets last week. In the runup to the UN report’s release, the MFA’s top spokespeople Hua Chunying and Zhao Lijian focused their attacks on the United States. The MFA went further by repeating fabricated statements supposedly uttered by US diplomats. From Thursday through the rest of the week, Chinese diplomats attacked the UN report itself. Hua Chunying portrayed the UN agency as a front for “the West” and its supposedly anti-China agenda. The Embassy in the Netherlands, the Embassy in Italy, the Consul General in Osaka, the Embassy in Venezuela, the Embassy in El Salvador, and the Embassy in Tanzania were among the many Chinese officials whose voices were used to attack the UN text. Others, like the Embassy in Austria, the Embassy in Zimbabwe, the Embassy in Kenya, and the former consul general in Beirut criticized the UN document in an oblique way by showcasing scenes portraying life in Xinjiang as idyllic.
The MFA, as well as Chinese diplomats in Beijing and in Europe, were also quick to point out that their government’s policies in Xinjiang enjoyed the support of “nearly 100 countries, including many Muslim countries.” Many Chinese accounts, such as the Mission to the EU, the Embassy in the United Kingdom, and the Embassy in Malawi highlighted a Chinese report about the “Truth and Facts” about the “Fight against Terrorism and Extremism in Xinjiang.” Lastly, the MFA, as well as employees from the Global Times and Xinhua, tried to deflect criticism aimed at China by pointing to the United States’ mistreatment of Native Americans. In the days that followed the release of the report, Xinhua itself ran two stories about difficulties still faced by Native Americans’ today.
In addition to attacks clearly meant to deflect from Beijing’s own actions in Xinjiang, Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 also criticized the United States for many issues unrelated to current events. Some, like the Consul in Belfast, insisted on US military interventions abroad, with the MFA quoting notorious pro-Russian commentator George Galloway who accused the United States of being “prepared to fight to the last drop of European blood [in Ukraine].”
A Pakistan-based diplomat, CGTN Arabic, and CGTN-affiliate T-House all relayed the idea that the United States is on the brink of civil war. Other accounts were even more pointed in their attacks, with Hua Chunying highlighting the recent police killing of a “black young man” and parents protesting against gun violence in schools. A Xinuha reporter used a skit about Asian-Americans feeling slighted by white Americans’ ignorant questions to comment on US “double standards,” presumably on the global stage.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.