Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Threats to Zelenskyy: Russian officials last week claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “no longer has the right to represent Ukraine in the international arena” due to Ukraine’s decision to postpone elections. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that “Zelensky should be caught and put on trial for crimes against Russians and Ukrainians or liquidated”. Pro-Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Soloviev added that “drug addict and LGBT activist Zelensky has no future” and that “if we [Russia] are not the first to get to him, then he will be eliminated by his own people, the Ukrainians”.
  • Assassination Attempt in Slovakia and Helicopter Crash in Iran: Several Russian officials and commentators last week suggested that the assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and the death of Iran’s president and foreign minister were not accidental or coincidental. RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan claimed that the incidents were the result of “careful professional training” carried out by the “Lords of Sh*t”, with other state media accounts boosting claims that the incidents were carried out by “intelligence services” or part of a broader effort to eliminate “pro-Russian leaders”. Medvedev added that the attempted assassination of Fico is emblematic of “the new Europe, that of Russophobic imbeciles”.

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Putin in Beijing: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Beijing was a major topic of PRC messaging across all monitored platforms last week. On Telegram, CGTN Russian praised the “traditional friendship” between the two countries. On Facebook, CGTN Arabic highlighted Russia’s “great strategic importance” for the PRC. On Instagram, Xinhua advertised Putin’s visit to the Harbin Institute of Technology, one of China’s top defense research universities. PRC diplomatic accounts and state media outlets emphasized the depth of both countries’ ties by advertising a “restricted meeting” between the two leaders.
  • Support for Palestine: The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it stood “on the side of fairness and justice and (…) international law” when asked about the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for the Israeli prime minister and Hamas senior leaders. PRC state media featured the list of alleged Israeli war crimes more prominently than that of alleged Hamas war crimes, with the former receiving more than twenty times more engagement than the latter. PRC state media also highlighted pro-Palestine protests in the United States and in Croatia, as well as the use of US ammunition in Gaza in Arabic and Spanish.

News and Commentary

EU suspends broadcasting for four Russian state media outlets: The EU suspended the broadcasting activities of four additional Russian-linked media outlets—including RIA Novosti and Voice of Europe, which was recently accused of bribing EU lawmakers to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda ahead of June’s European Parliament elections—for their role “supporting and justifying” Russia’s war in Ukraine. Senior Manager for Europe and Fellow Vassilis Ntousas said, “It is important that this decision comes from the Council of the EU, meaning all EU member state governments, which demonstrates the bloc’s willingness to counter the Kremlin’s propaganda and its impact in more tangible ways than in the past, while respecting the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The decision’s timing is not accidental either, as this suspension of broadcasting activities concerning these four outlets that are under ‘permanent direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation’ is also explicitly linked to them targeting ‘European political parties, especially during election periods’. For some, this news might come across as too little, too late. But it must be said that, slowly but steadily, the EU is showing its appetite to react even to the most overt facets of Russian information operations.”

Russian influence campaign blames Ukraine for attempted assassination of Slovak PM: A seemingly coordinated Russian influence campaign involving state media, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, and Russian bots on X has blamed Ukraine, without evidence, for the attempted assassination of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico last week. Co-Managing Director David Salvo told the Dispatch, “It’s no surprise that Russian state-aligned networks are spreading disinformation online linking Ukraine to the attempted assassination of the Slovak prime minister. Anything the Russian state can do to undermine support in Europe and the United States for Ukraine it will readily attempt. With European Parliament elections set for next month, this is a particularly opportune time for Russian networks like Doppelgänger to be undercutting support for Ukraine (note they were doing so predominantly in English, not in Slovak). Finally, it’s not just online inauthentic networks that are linking Ukraine to the assassination attempt. RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan openly made the insinuation herself.”

In Case You Missed It

  • TikTok said it removed thousands of accounts tied to 15 influence campaigns in the first four months of 2024, including a large network linked to the PRC.
  • Meta approved several political advertisements—generated by researchers to test the company’s content approval process and altered using artificial intelligence (AI)—that spread disinformation and incited religious violence during India’s election cycle.
  • The US Department of Justice has charged four individuals for allegedly facilitating an elaborate scheme to help North Korean information technology workers pose as US citizens to secure remote jobs to generate funds for North Korea’s weapons program.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency will step up cybersecurity inspections on water utilities amid increasing foreign threats and inspections revealing vulnerabilities.
  • The Australian Electoral Commission’s top official said the electoral body lacks legal tools and capacity to detect or combat AI-generated election disinformation in the country’s next election.

ASD in the News

Ohio SoS Announces Expanded Effort To Deal With An Election Problem That Does Not Exist. Senior Fellow David Levine quoted in Talking Points Memo

House committee bickers over bill to ban noncitizen voting. Senior Fellow David Levine quoted in The Fulcrum

AI & Elections: Exploring the Opportunities and Risks of Artificial Intelligence. Senior Fellow David Levine at an International IDEA panel

China y Rusia, de la mano por conveniencia frente a un antagonista común: Estados Unidos. Co-Managing Director David Salvo quoted in ABC Color

Ρούβλια, bots και κατάσκοποι (Rubles, bots, and spies). Research Analyst Etienne Soula quoted in Kathimerini

Quote of the Week

“I worry that we are seeing a segmentation, that Europe will only focus on Russia, that the [United States] will only focus on [the PRC] and everyone will forget about Iran. Regardless of the election outcome in the United States, we need to make sure that we strengthen the transatlantic link and treat these three threats together—they work together, so why shouldn’t we?”

—Swedish European Parliament lawmaker David Lega in an interview with Politico’s Global Playbook on May 15.

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