In the past period we have registered numerous reactions by Russian officials, that aim at presenting Russia as a victim through use of manipulations, threats and distortions.
Kaliningrad is placed on the coast of the the Baltic sea and stands for a Russian exclave that is surrounded by EU member states as neighbours. Almost its entire trade and goods exchange is conducted through Lithuania. In the mid-June, Lithuania has banned the transport of goods from Russia to Kaliningrad calling on the EU sanctions that underlining their full implementation as an EU member state. The EU sanctions are triggered because of the unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression on Ukraine, should be understood as sanctions toward an aggressor. This brief overview aims at providing a retrospective of the Kremlin disinformation used to present the sanctions as unjustified using several mechanisms that are part of the Kremlin playbook.
In order to provide larger picture, the retrospective will entail several events/reactions that happened prior, during and after the sanctions were imposed on Russia by Lithuania.
On 14 June, Macedonian portals reported about the statement of Russian MP Fyodorov given for Sputnik. In his statement, Fyodorov said that Russia is currently considering revoking the recognition of Lithuania’s independence for which he submitted a bill to the Russian State Duma. Fyodorov added that in the future, Russia could also revoke its recognition of the independence of Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine.
On 18 June, the Lithuanian authorities issued a ban on transport of goods from Russia to Kaliningrad through Lithuania. This ban entailed the transport of goods such as coal, metal, construction materials, advanced technology, which makes some 50% of the goods imported by Kaliningrad.
On 20 June, Head of the Federation Council Commission for the Protection of the State Sovereignty of the Russian Federation Klimov commented on Kaliningrad sanctions on his Telegram profile. RIA Novosti reported about the post of Kimov on Telegram, where he said that the blockade of Kaliningrad is an unacceptable, it can be assessed as a “direct aggression” on Russia, and literally forces it to turn to self-defense.
On 21 June, Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky gave a statement for Russian state TV. In his statement Lieutenant-General Buzhinsky threatened the West is playing with fire in blockading Kaliningrad to prevent sanctioned goods reaching the territory via NATO state Lithuania. His statement is a reaction at British general Sir Patrick Sanders, who recently took command of the UK’s land forces with a rallying call to troops to prepare to fight and beat Russian forces in a potential WWIII. Buzhinsky send a direct threat to the UK, saying that “in case of WWIII, Britain will physically cease to exist.”
The same day, Russian MFA spokeswoman Zakharova gave a statement for Solovyov Live television channel. Talking about the situation in Kaliningrad Zakharova stated that the consequences will follow. She added that such steps are inadmissible, and they will bring about an appropriate response. According to her, Lithiuania’s actions were violating international law. She concluded that if Russia qualifies other countries’ decisions as "openly hostile," there won’t be any attempts to find a "formula" to defuse the situation.
On 22 June, a far-right and pro-Russian influencer posted on his portal and Facebook profile.The threats of Zakharova were also transmitted in an article entitled “Lithuania will cease to exist!”, in his writing Nedelnkovski misuses and distorts facts from various periods and social contexts in order to manipulate the audience.
The above presented events and reactions can be defined as a unsuccesfull attempt of Kremlin to present Russia as a victim. Namely, due to the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression on Ukraine and the on-going war, Russia cannot behave as an equal and normal participant in the international relations and communications.
The distortions, manipulations and threats including their dissemination and amplification by the pro-Russian influencers and the pro-Russian infrastructure on social media cannot cover the fact that Russia is an aggressor and a subject to sanctions. The sanctions cannot be selectively implemented, on a contrary they should count everywhere.
The method from the Kremlin playbook to have a large number of Russian officials sending the same or similar messages to support certain narrative which is later disseminated and amplified through the pro-Russian infrastructure of influencers, websites and social media, is recorded.
In addition, the one sided coverage continues, meaning that the side which is targeted with manipulations and threats by the Russian officials is not covered in the articles.
The narrative that “Lithuania is escalating the war“ was subject to 71 articles by 31 portals, shared 136 times on 67 Facebook pages/groups with 4,082,046 followers and 11,022 interactions in the period 14-22 June, 2022.
This project was funded in part through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.