In the course of the past week [27 June - 04 July] the information space was overwhelmed with articles related to MKD-BG relations thus overshadowing the Russian aggression on Ukraine. However, trends threats by Russian officials targeting Ukraine and NATO/the West, accusations that the "West is prolonging the war" as well as aggrandizing "Russia's military superiority" were observed.

• Over the reporting period, the dispute between North Macedonia and Bulgaria around preconditions for negotiations on EU membership for NM were at the top of the public agenda. Local pro-Kremlin voices were also focused on this topic and paid therefore less attention to the Russia-Ukraine war.

• If they touched the topic of the war, this was mostly in order to pick up and broadcast the propagandistic statements of Russian top officials (Lavrov blaming the West for prolonging the war, June 28; Rogozin threatening NATO’s “decision centres”, June 28; Medvedev warning the West against “encroachment on Crimea” June 28).

• The topic of Kaliningrad, so much emphasized last week, was not observed this time. This appears to be crosscutting trend across the region: apparently, Kremlin expects a diplomatic solution for the issue.

• The trend of putting the war in Ukraine into the context of Kosovo and Albania decreased for this week. This may be linked to the increased prevalence of the NM-Bulgaria topic that pro-Kremlin messengers use frequently to spread their Balkan-related narratives.

• The narratives of Western sanctions damaging the West, Ukraine losing the war, and dangers of military support for Ukraine received modest attention. Yet, we assume they will return once the wave of NM-Bulgaria disputes dies down. The narrative of the West provoking food crisis was nevertheless detected. Narratives of NATO being unable to stop Russia was spread by Global Times, an outlet owned by the Chinese Communist Party. Sputnik Serbia celebrated the new Russian armored vehicle “Akhmat”.

For comparison, the most interacted with individual Ukraine-related article across all North Macedonian media this week received 1,300 interactions.

The topic Events of Russia-Ukraine war were marked by narratives that the West is to responsible for the "food crises", a media outlet owned and controlled by the Chinese Peoples Party was broadcasted portraying Russia as "constructive" and the continuing narrative of "mercenaries" fighting for Ukraine was recorded as well.

Within the topic Military threat to Eastern Europe / Risks of expanding the war beyond Ukraine the most notable were the narrative of nuclear threats to NATO as well as that "Crimea is Russia".

The topics on Military Aid and Miscellaneous were marked by messages supporting the narratives that the "Military aid prolongs the war" and that "Russia is military superior".

The Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group is participated by a total of 10 organizations, think-tanks and research groups from the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The working group is conducting a continuous monitoring of the Kremlin disinformation, propaganda and influence operations in 11 countries. Our partners: Civic Resilience Innitiative and Debunk.eu (Lithuania), Analyses and Alternatives (Bulgaria), Prague Security Studies Initiative (Czechia), GRASS (Georgia), Atlatszo (Hungary), Fakenews.pl (Poland), Slovak Security Policy Institute (Slovakia), Detector Media (Ukraine).

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Rosana Aleksoska

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