Monitored Russian accounts tweeted 17,461 times from October 12 to October 18, receiving 237,059 retweets and 694,525 likes.
Between October 12-18, monitored Russian accounts continued to exploit unrest over high energy prices and rising cost of living in Europe and the United States. OPEC’s announced plans to cut oil production received ongoing coverage, with Russian state media accounts trumpeting closer ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia and criticizing or ridiculing the Biden administration’s response to the cuts. Sputnik host George Galloway also retweeted far-right activist Jack Posobiec’s claim that the Biden administration attempted to coerce Saudi Arabia to delay the announcement to gain a political advantage in the midterm elections. But the primary target of energy related messaging was Europe. In tweets mentioning Germany, for example, seven of the ten most retweeted tweets highlighted energy issues or protests over energy-driven inflation. State media outlets and Russian officials also highlighted internal “cracks” on the continent over whether to cap the price of Russian gas and accused the United States off profiting off Europe’s energy woes.
There was also significant coverage of protests in the West. On Rumble (now monitored on ASD’s Midterm Monitor), more than 17 percent of all videos posted to RT’s channel last week highlighted global protests, with over 70 percent of those videos focused on anti-government protests in the West. On Twitter, monitored Russian state media accounts mentioned “protests” or “protestors” in 169 tweets during the studied period, with Germany, France, the United States, Israel, and Moldova all mentioned more often in protest-related tweets than Iran, where anti-government protests have raged for weeks. In the limited coverage of Iranian protests provided by Russian state outlets (8 tweets), there was no video of the protests themselves and no condemnation of police violence—even among Russia’s ostensibly left-leaning outlets. Most tweets instead focused on the role of the United States in Iran. By comparison, Iran was the subject of four times more protest-related coverage by monitored global media outlets than any other country during the same time frame.
Perhaps not coincidently, the near silence of Russian state media and diplomats on anti-government protests in Iran coincided with the alleged delivery of Iranian “kamikaze” drones to Russian forces in Ukraine. Russian messengers largely sidestepped questions about Iranian drone deliveries, choosing instead to highlight Iranian denials of the allegation or, in the case of Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Pskov, to punt the question to the Ministry of Defense. Propaganda outlets also highlighted Russian-made “Lancet” kamikaze drones in action.
In other Ukraine-related messaging, Russia signaled a willingness to negotiate with Ukraine while continuing to paint Ukraine as a Nazi regime and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a puppet of the West. Foreign Minister Lavrov declared that the “coexistence on the great European continent will depend on the eradication of Nazism in Ukraine.” RT en Español correspondent Helena Villar tweeted a video of Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez being confronted at a townhall for allegedly “supporting Nazis in Ukraine,” and a Radio Sputnik host falsely claimed that Ukraine put Elon Musk on a “kill list” after the CEO’s decision to discontinue his Starlink service in the country (a decision that Musk later reversed). At the same time, state media and diplomats highlighted statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claiming that Russia would welcome peace talks with the Ukrainians.
On October 12-13, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was held in Astana, Kazakhstan. “Astana” was the third highest mentioned key phrase during the studied period by Russian media and diplomatic accounts, with content focused on highlighting Russia’s role in building a multipolar alternative to a US-led global order. Other topics related to the conference included Russian-led conflict mediation between Azerbaijan and Armenia and efforts to build alternative financial systems in Central Asia.
Although Haiti was not among the ten most mentioned countries during the studied period, growing unrest in the island nation fueled predictable commentary about Western involvement and US plans to invade the country. Left-wing outlet Redfish claimed that the UN was “leading the drive for invasion.” RT en Español correspondent Helena Villar used similar language, but blamed the media for paving the way for a US invasion. Another RT en Español reporter, Wyatt Reed, retweeted a video allegedly showing Haitian protestors carrying Russian flags in a supposed effort to get Russia and China to block a potential UN “occupation.”
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 18,167 times from October 12 to October 18, receiving 114,041 retweets and 387,319 likes.
Last week, Chinese diplomats and state media overwhelmingly focused their attention on the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing. All ten of the top key phrases and nine of the top ten hashtags mentioned in tweets by Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 were related to the seminal gathering.
The formal nature of the occasion seemingly benefited the top Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) person on Twitter, Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, who authored four of the five most liked Chinese diplomatic tweets last week. Two of those four tweets expressed excitement for the congress and for Xi Jinping’s speech. The other two compared China to the United States. The tweet that generated most engagement for the entire week called the US system “fake representation of the people,” while another infographic contrasted China’s supposedly egalitarian and harmonious society to the United States’ unequal and polarized one.
Many Chinese diplomats and state media focused on promoting China’s achievements. For instance, Xinhua praised ten years of Chinese “achievements in economy, technology” while the Global Times relayed Xi’s optimistic assessment of his ten years in power. Others chose to flesh out why China was, in CGTN’s words, “a unique model of democracy for the world.” Pakistan-based diplomat Zhang Heqing stressed the importance given to “the people” in the CCP’s plans, while Hua Chunying highlighted the ethnic diversity found on “commemorative stamps” for the Congress.
China’s aspirations to be a source of inspiration to others was apparent in the messaging of bot diplomats and state media. The consul general in Belfast and MFA spokesperson Zhao Lijian highlighted China’s pacifism and opposition to “hegemony.” China also leaned on Western validators to promote the conference: Xinhua used an Australian expert to underline the “great importance” of the congress and Hua Chunying shared a video of foreign journalists expressing their gratitude and admiration for the facilities they were given to cover the gathering. And CGTN ran a short segment highlighting the “600 parties and organizations” working with the CCP in “170 countries.”
Last week, Russia and Ukraine were mainly mentioned by Chinese state media. While the network of Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 mentioned Russia more than 520 times and Ukraine more than 357 times, Chinese diplomats only accounted for about 50 tweets mentioning Russia and about 20 tweets mentioning Ukraine.
Many of the Chinese commentary mentioning Russia accused the United States of fomenting the energy crisis currently affecting Europe, with CGTN commentator Liu Xin and the Global Times and its former editor-in-chief all hammering home that point. The consul general in Belfast alone accounted for almost 40 percent of Chinese diplomats’ tweets mentioning Russia, as she amplified Russian President Vladimir Putin’s optimistic assessment of the war, relayed Russia’s willingness to provide gas to the EU, and promoted a new China-Russia pipeline going through Mongolia.
Chinese state media’s mentions of Ukraine were noticeably more negative. The Global Times warned that the specter of nuclear war meant that the country was headed “to self-destruction” and highlighted Chinese diplomats’ evacuation from Kyiv amid a “grim security situation.” The tabloid’s former editor-in-chief praised Elon Musk on Friday for publicizing Starlink’s cost before calling the CEO “a child” two days later when he decided to continue supporting Ukraine. By far the most active diplomat on Ukraine, the consul general in Belfast, relayed all those alarmist takes. At the same time, the Chinese Mission to the UN continued to call for a peaceful resolution and for the General Assembly to form consensus on Ukraine.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.