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Russian disinformation campaign blames Ukraine for shooting Slovakia PM

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Russian disinformation campaign blames Ukraine for shooting Slovakia PM

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia Today, went further in a comment on her Telegram channel, blaming Ukraine for the attack: “The Slovak prime minister is injured. Whoever said the war started as a result of rampant Ukrainian neo-Nazis and Putin had no choice. “That’s how they work.”

The company Logically, which tracks disinformation campaigns, evaluated more than 100 Russian-language pro-Kremlin Telegram channels and found that they uniformly claimed that the attack was motivated by Fico’s “pro-Russian stance,” while also claiming that the media Westerners were justifying the attack. due to Fico’s lack of support for Ukraine.

The Telegram channel of military blogger Mikhail Zvinchuk, which has 1.2 million subscribers, stated that a “Ukrainian trace” was highly likely to emerge in the attack on Fico. The post has been viewed more than 300,000 times. The official Telegram channel of Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated that Fico is “known as a friend of Russia.”

“Russian-language channels and Russian disinformation operations are likely to use the Fico assassination attempt as a new topic to claim that the West supports violence against pro-Russian politicians and, more broadly, to expand the already present narrative that the “The world is engaging in widespread ‘Russophobia,’” Kyle Walter, research director at Logically, tells WIRED.

Most of the posts on “With the assassination attempts, I have not seen any accusations (on social media) in Slovak linking the assassination to Ukraine or Russia.” These English publications, she says, imply a target audience of international, non-Slovak users.

Fico is a divisive figure in Slovakia, a small EU country situated between Austria and Ukraine. Considered a friend of Russia, Fico, 59, was re-elected for the third time in October, following a campaign in which he called for the withdrawal of military support for Ukraine and said he could never support the idea of ​​LGBTQ marriage. Since his Smer-SD party won the election, he has proposed closing the country’s anti-corruption office and has been accused of crack down on civil rights groups and limit freedom of the press.

“The typical supporter of the current government is mostly rural, generally an older voter, who is not very enthusiastic about how things turned out with their economic success,” says Sona Muzikarova, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council focused on Central Europe and Oriental. “On the other side is the more liberal urban voter, a little more awake, pro-EU, pro-West.”

More liberal voters were unhappy with the return of Fico, whose last term in power ended with his resignation in 2018, after huge demonstrations for the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová. Kuciak had been uncovering government corruption.

“He was elected through a democratic process, but there is still a large part of the population that is very unhappy with this type of person being at the head again,” adds Muzikarova.

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