Russia Toplines

Monitored Russian accounts over the past nine days tweeted 23,348 times, generating 259,630 retweets and 848,122 likes.

As the Ukrainian military recaptured large amounts of territory in the country’s northeast and south, Kremlin-linked accounts framed Russia’s retreat as a preplanned maneuver, highlighted Russia’s supposed military successes, downplayed Ukrainian gains, and claimed that the United States was responsible for any advances made by the Ukrainian army. State media amplified the Kremlin’s official line that Russia’s retreat was a simple “regrouping,” which was needed to create a “defensive line that would be impervious to a Ukrainian attack.” Others said that while Ukraine made some gains, they weren’t “major.” Moscow-funded media also insisted that Ukrainian forces were suffering heavy losses during their offensive and concealing the true number of casualties. Russia was described as conducting “massive strikes” against Ukraine, destroying convoys of “Ukrainian nationalists,” and taking out Ukrainian ammunition stockpiles. Meanwhile, state media and diplomats asserted that the United States was deeply involved with Ukraine’s offensive. Several accounts pushed a claim that “English speaking NATO troops” were in the country. Interestingly, a few outlets admitted Ukraine’s offensive was a success.

Russian narratives related to gas, grain, and Western aid to Ukraine continued as usual. State media portrayed European countries as divided over restrictions on Russian energy, engulfed in protests over high gas prices, and vulnerable to a “polar winter.” One state media commentator joked about a US official betting on the “percentage of Europeans that will freeze to death verses death from starvation.” Kremlin-linked accounts also claimed that most Ukrainian grain was being shipped to Europe rather than countries facing the highest levels of food insecurity. President Vladimir Putin asserted that “the West blatantly deceived poor countries in need of food” and promised that Russia would increase exports to those states. Meanwhile, Russian propagandists said that Western weapons shipments to Ukraine were a “serious threat to international peace,” being used against civilians, and ending up on the black market. As usual, state-backed outlets also argued that the United States should focus on funding domestic programs rather than Ukraine’s war effort.   

Russian propagandists also weighed in on the border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan. State media attempted to portray Russia as a regional power broker, emphasizing that Putin was working to de-escalate tension between the two sides. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed its “extreme concern” over the conflict and called for peace. RIA Novosti and Tass portrayed the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as a mediator. They showcased Armenia’s appeal to the CSTO and the organization’s move to send a mission to assess the conflict.

Kremlin-linked accounts did not make a large push to promote the upcoming meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which took place at a summit for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) today. Some propagandists, though, did claim that the meeting had a “symbolic meaning and will signal to the West about Beijing’s support for Moscow.” Others said that Putin and Xi’s discussion would mark a move in the battle against the “American world order.” Russia’s Mission to the UN attempted to play up the SCO’s geopolitical relevance.     

Finally, while diplomatic accounts responded to Queen Elizabeth’s death with condolences, some state media accounts celebrated her passing and attacked the British empire’s legacy and legitimacy. The left-leaning account Redfish put out a thread on Queen Elizabeth that criticized her for “shamelessly living off the wealth her family reaped from the profits of slavery.” The top tweet of the thread earned 35,000 retweets and 108,300 likes, making it the most liked post by any monitored Russian account this year. The next closest tweet only had 17,600 retweets and 51,900 likes. Redfish’s popular thread also led to the account gaining more than 3,700 new followers in a week. Other state media accounts also bashed the queen. Sputnik correspondent Wyatt Reed amplified an Argentine TV host calling the Queen a “Nazi son of a b*tch.” State-backed outlets also showcased anti-monarchy protests in Scotland.  


Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 23,409 times over the past nine days, pulling in 121,759 retweets and 475,219 likes.

Chinese diplomats and state media frequently emphasized how difficult Europe’s winter is likely to be without Russian gas. The Global Times, amplified by Pakistan-based Cultural Counselor Zhang Heqing, predicted a “winter of discontent” that European governments may not survive.

On the diplomatic side, the consul general in Belfast, the ambassador to ASEAN, and the deputy consul general in Auckland all conflated protests against high energy prices in several European countries with supposedly widespread anti-NATO and pro-Russian sentiments.

On the state media side, CCTV presented German protests opposing sanctions on Russia factually. CGTN and Global Times, however, were more pointed in their coverage of the protests in Prague, underlining their anti-EU and anti-NATO undertones. China Daily went further by saying that “Europeans are tired of sacrificing themselves” and should stop “blindly following the US-led sanctions.”

China played coy over the Xi-Putin meeting that took place in Uzbekistan today. Prior to the meeting, Chinese diplomats and state media refused to confirm that a bilateral meeting would be taking place. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) simply referred to Xi meeting the “Council of the Heads of State” of the SCO. When asked directly last Wednesday and again this Tuesday about a bilateral Xi-Putin meeting, the spokesperson for the Chinese MFA dodged the question.

On the Hamilton Dashboard, Chinese diplomats and state media mentioned “Samarkand,” the city where the meeting took place, in 47 tweets over the studied period. “Xi” was mentioned in 31 of those tweets, while “Putin” only came up once—in a Global Times tweet quoting Russian outlet Tass that did not mention a possible meeting with Xi. Chinese accounts tweeted about “SCO” 94 times over the studied period, highlighting Beijing’s intention to promote this Chinese-led format.

A significant portion of Chinese messaging over the studied period remained focused on the UN report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang released in late August. Chinese diplomats often relied on state media to make their point. The Chinese Embassy in Switzerland shared CGTN’s “facts about Xinjiang’s population,” Hua Chunying highlighted a Global Times investigation into the “OCHR so-called Xinjiang ‘report,’” and the ambassador to Qatar amplified a China Daily video reportage about deceptive methods like “AI generated pictures, sham media outlets, [and] astroturfing” supposedly used by the United States to attack Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

There were also several instances of Chinese messaging relying on foreigners to makes pro-CCP points. Hua Chunying shared a documentary of a Kiwi influencer visiting Xinjiang, and a prominent CGTN commentator promoted an interview with the Syrian ambassador to China who refuted accusations of genocide.

Following the earthquake that hit Sichuan province on September 5, “earthquake” was the most frequent key phrase and fourth most frequent hashtag in tweets from Chinese diplomats and state media over the studied period. “Sichuan” and “Luding,” the part of the province most affected by the disaster, were also among the top ten terms. Several diplomats, including Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, highlighted the “efficiency” and “unselfish love” displayed in Chinese citizens’ reactions to the disaster. Hua also pointed out that “Russia & many other countries” expressed sympathies to China. The ambassador to Cuba juxtaposed pictures of rescue efforts with propaganda images of the Long March.

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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.