Russian diplomats and state media last week tweeted 18,327 times, generating 266,201 retweets and 836,310 likes.
Kremlin-affiliated accounts last week made a concerted push to amplify a conspiratorial speech given by President Vladimir Putin, which laid out his justification for seizing parts of Ukraine and attacked the West. Unsurprisingly, “Putin” was the most frequently used phrase by monitored Russian accounts last week. The 1,411 tweets mentioning “Putin” generated more than 47,600 retweets and 140,900 likes. Russia-linked accounts shared Putin’s assertion that people in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia had “made their choice…by the millions” to join Russia. Putin added that they will become Russian citizens “forever.” He argued the annexations were in line with the UN charter. Putin also called on Ukraine to “immediately end hostilities.” During the speech, which was staged to celebrate a land grab, the Russian president chided the West’s “neocolonial system.” He argued that the West was guided by “Satanism” and out to destroy Russia. He also claimed that the United States had “created a precedent” for the use of nuclear weapons. After Putin’s speech, the FSB-directed site NewsFront argued that “the world will never be the same – we are beginning to wage a holy war.” The last paragraph of that article said that “if, as a result of a nuclear war, several hundred thousand people remain to live on earth, then these will be our Russian people.”
Six of the ten most used key phrases by Russian accounts last week were related to annexations. Much of the propaganda was triumphant. State media highlighted “thousands of people across Russia” celebrating. RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said she shed tears of joy. Diplomatic accounts thanked the “USA’s relentless warmongering” and other Western abuses for pushing Ukrainian regions back to Russia. Amid that celebration, though, Ukrainian forces were regaining strategic centers within the territories claimed by Russia. RIA Novosti shared the Defense Ministry’s statement that Russian troops around Lyman had been moved to “more advantageous lines.” The FSB-liked site SouthFront ran more critical coverage of the Lyman retreat, including a quote by a Russian corresponded who said, “We were humiliated!” State media also noted that Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, was unable to clarify where Russia’s border began and ended. Peskov said that Moscow would “continue to consult with the residents” of the regions recently claimed by Russia.
Propagandists also continued to blame the United States for explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines. President Vladimir Putin said that the “Anglo Saxons” carried out the attacks because Washington wanted to “completely get its hands on the European market.” NewsFront called the attacks “aggressive marketing the American way,” while other outlets asserted that the United States was trying to weaken and control Europe. One RIA Novosti piece alleged that US bombings had “put an end to all illusions about the independence of European politics.” Some propagandists said that the attack was a US declaration of war against Germany, while others said it was part of a US information war against Russia and retaliation for referendums in Ukraine. As proof of US culpability, Kremlin-linked accounts pointed to a handful of quotes by President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US diplomat Victoria Nuland, and Polish MEP Radek Sikorski. Kremlin-backed outlets also highlighted far-right media that blamed the United States. Remarks by Tucker Carlson, Charlie Kirk, and people in the comments section of a Daily Mail article were amplified. Meanwhile, Russia-affiliated media said US ships, planes, and helicopters were seen near the explosions. Finally, propagandists warned the pipeline bombings could spiral into a world war.
Kremlin-linked accounts praised and defended Elon Musk after he proposed a peace plan that would involve rerunning elections in places illegally annexed by Russia, ceding Crimea to Russia, and forcing Ukraine to adopt a neutral status. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev tweeted, “Kudos to @elonmusk,” and Medvedev predicted that Musk’s next post would call Ukraine “an artificial state.” NewsFront said that Musk’s tweet “changed the information war.” Sputnik reported that Russia-backed authorities in Crimea invited Musk to visit the region. Life ran an article headlined, “How Elon Musk became an agent of Russia.”
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 13,507 times over the studied period, pulling in 110,696 retweets and 437,426 likes.
Over the studied period, Chinese state media and several diplomats relayed pro-Russian narratives in relation to the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany. “NordStream” was the fifth most mentioned hashtag in tweets from Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0. In addition, five of the top ten most retweeted tweets over the studied period were about the sabotage.
Most of those tweets came from state media outlets. While much of the coverage was factual, a significant portion of it relayed Russian statements pushing back against accusations that the Kremlin was behind the sabotage and implying that the United States was to blame instead. Individual state media personalities were more overt in their accusations. For instance, a CGTN commentator shared a meme about US culpability, and the head of China Daily in Europe amplified contrarian Western voices like Jeffrey Sachs and Tucker Carlson.
On the diplomatic side, three diplomats were responsible for the nearly all of China’s pro-Russian messaging around the Nord Stream sabotage: the consul general in Belfast, the former consul in Beirut, and a Pakistan-based cultural counselor. There were large overlaps in the content they posted. For instance, all three of them shared an interview Jeffrey Sachs gave to Bloomberg accusing the US government of sabotage. The consul in Belfast posted the two most engaged with tweets over the studied period: one featuring the same meme as the above-mentioned CGTN commentator (also shared by the former consul in Beirut) and another showing a cartoon mocking European meekness in the face of supposed US sabotage (also shared by the Pakistan-based cultural counselor).
October 1 marked the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The top three most mentioned key phrases in tweets from Chinese diplomats and state media last week were related to that anniversary. The tenth most common key phrase in those tweets was the rather enigmatic “upper pic.” The term was connected to a widespread messaging style used by many Chinese diplomats around the anniversary that juxtaposed a usually bleak or underwhelming picture from China’s past with a bright and upbeat picture of contemporary China—hence, “upper pic” refers to the positive image of modern China. The contrasting pictures were sometimes accompanied with text to underline how far the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had brought the country from a “humiliating” past to a “confident” present. Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying was the main originator of these tweets, many of which were then shared by many diplomatic accounts including the consul general in Mumbai, the Embassy in France, the ambassador to Cuba, the consulate in Edinburgh, and the consul general in Zanzibar.
While most of the comparative montages drew from China’s struggle at the hand of colonial powers in the 20th century, some showed more recent CCP “victories.” For instance, one such tweet contrasting Hong Kong protesters in 2019 with a peaceful city street in 2022 was shared by the Embassy in Egypt, the former ambassador to the African Union, the consul general in Kolkata, the consulate in Sydney, the consulate in Durban, and the consul general in Osaka.
In addition to the pipeline conspiracies blaming the United States, several diplomats including Hua Chunying, the consul general in Belfast, the former consul in Beirut, and the consul general in Karachi all shared the same infographic contrasting the “0 conflict[s]” initiated by China to the “201 wars” waged by the United States.
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