The Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security analyzed the content of RT’s Russian and foreign offices and the most explicit cases to explain why Russian state media do not belong in the media space of the civilized world.
RT is a Russian state information platform. His actual role is that of a spokesman for the Kremlin aimed at foreign audiences because it is broadcast in English, Arabic, Spanish, Russian and German. With RT content translated into different languages, the chances of disinformation spreading internationally increase. In this way, RT has become the largest transmitter of fake news, manipulation, smear and propaganda campaigns in the world.
Currently, RT’s agenda is mainly focused on the Russian war against Ukraine. RT broadcasts verbatim the Kremlin’s rhetoric about the justification of the war, discredits Ukraine in the international arena, convinces its audiences of the “ineffectiveness” of Western sanctions against Russia, and calls for a halt to military aid to Ukraine.
However, RT is an information threat not only for Ukraine, but also for the rest of the world. Kremlin propaganda had been using RT as a voice to spread disinformation long before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The reports disseminated by the platform discredited not only the Ukrainian state, but the entire democratic world, fueled hostility towards Western nations and international organizations, and undermined public confidence in Western healthcare systems.
In March, the EU imposed sanctions to the television channels RT English, RT UK, RT Germany, RT France and RT Spanish TV and stopped its transmission in the EU countries. However, there are still many countries in the world where RT continues to broadcast, carrying out its propaganda campaigns aimed at foreign audiences.
Calls for genocide in Ukraine and hate speech
- RT Russia, program “Antonymy” (Antonyms)
“It would be a perfect map without Ukraine. Ukraine, for example, as part of Russia. A proud and strong-willed nation, under the oppression of a dark and evil empire.” said the former head of the Russian-language RT channel, propagandist Anton Krasovsky.
Subsequently, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan also shared this snippet of the “map without Ukraine” video on her Telegram channel on February 16, 2021, further promoting the message through her own channels and expressing her approval of the words of Anton Krasovsky.
The approval of the actions of propagandist Anton Krasovsky by RT editors only led to an increase in calls for genocide against Ukraine. Anton Krasovsky himself made a direct call for the genocide of Ukrainian children in October 2022. Live on RT Russia, the propagandist called for “drowning and burning Ukrainian children alive”.
“And it was necessary to drown those [niños] on the Ticina river. Right where that “duckling swims” (Hey, The duckling swims in the Ticina, Ukrainian folk song, ed.). Drown those children, drown them right in the Ticina […] As soon as they say that ‘moskali’ occupied [Ucrania]throw them into the river, where the currents are strong. […] And there [en los Cárpatos] each house is called a ‘smereka’ house [abeto]. And there, right in that smereka house, they should be beaten and burned, ”he stated.
The case was so explicit that RT initially decided to “stop cooperation” with Krasovsky so as not to have a formal relationship with the statement. However, it was not a few weeks after his dismissal that RT brought Krasovsky back on the air: on November 1, another film from the series “Russia: 21st Century” was broadcast, which was dedicated to Russian sports during the time of President Putin. . The author and presenter of the film, surprisingly, is Anton Krasovsky.
This return of the propagandist to television screens confirms the true intentions of the media company, which are absolutely in line with the calls expressed by Anton Krasovsky himself.
The appeals of the propagandist Anton Krasovsky are not isolated. Prior to the aforementioned case, he expressed his admiration for the massive Russian missile attacks against Ukraine on October 10. It should be remembered that, as a result of that shelling, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the center of Kyiv, a children’s playground, Shevchenko University, the National Philharmonic and two museums were damaged. Krasovsky commented on these events on RT Russia as follows: “I danced on the balcony, rejoicing at reading the news. […] But this is actually what Russia was waiting for. […] we want it like this. We want it like this every day. We want all of Russia, every Russian, to see that we are winning.”
Spreading fake news, conspiracy theories
- RT in Spanish, interview with “Carlos” about MH17, 2014
After Russian forces shot down a Malaysian Boeing 777 over the Donbas, Russian propaganda tried to blame Ukraine.
An example of such attempts was the so-called “Carlos” case involving an alleged “Spanish air traffic controller” who claimed to have worked at the Kyiv airport on the day of the tragedy. In his interview for RT en Español, he accused Ukraine of shooting down the passenger plane.
Later, after investigating the complaints, it turned out that Carlos had never worked as a dispatcher and lied about the tragedy for a remuneration of USD 48,000 that came from Russia.
Photo of Carlos during the interview broadcast on RT in Spanish in May 2014. Source: Catch Carlos if you can, research website.
- RT America, “Wireless 5G: A Dangerous Experiment for Humanity”, 2019
RT offices are also big proponents of conspiracy theories. For example, in May 2019, the US bureau of RT published a report saying that “5G technology, a technology that should significantly increase the speed and sensitivity of wireless networks, can simply kill you”.
RT America’s “Dangerous Experiment on Humanity” refers to the “terrible health threats” of 5G signals, in particular, an increased risk of a number of diseases, including brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors and Alzheimer’s disease.
Undermining trust in health systems through the manipulation of the topic of COVID-19
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, RT gave the floor to “experts” who discredited quarantine restrictions and spread anti-vaccination views, while further discrediting Western policies on restrictive measures.
In addition, Russian propaganda launched smear campaigns against the developed vaccines, which had been tested and proven effective, to promote their own Sputnik V. For example, an article RT France published on April 23, 2021 was within the scope of the Russian influence operation against the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19.
Russian propaganda discredited another vaccine: Moderna. An article titled “Moderna’s Covid-19 jab got the «best vaccine» award — from a US-dominated Vaccine Congress stuff with corporate goons”, published in May 2021 on RT America, claimed that the Russian Sputnik V vaccine “demonstrated effectiveness”. .
Discrediting of democratic elections
With the help of RT, most of the democratic elections were discredited by Russian propaganda. For example:
- RT English, 2019 European Parliament elections
- RT English, Ukrainian presidential election 2019
The News published after the result of the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine in April 2019 is one of the examples of the attempt to compromise the Ukrainian democratic elections. In the news, every congratulatory statement by the President of the United States, which emphasized democracy, the free and honest expression of the people of Ukraine, is taken in quotation marks as those that must be questioned. At the same time, the propagandists add that they “do not recognize the legitimacy of the election results.”
- RT America, 2020 US Presidential Election
In a Article December 2020, RT made unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in the 2020 US presidential election, won by Democrat Joe Biden. The article described surveillance video that Rudy Giuliani, then a personal attorney for President Trump, presented at a US court hearing to prove Trump’s voter fraud allegations in the state of Georgia during the 2020 election.
Incitement to hostility towards the West
- Ruptly TV, “Mass incineration of the EU flag”, 2021
The case is a prime example of how propagandists use RT to reinforce their message and spread disinformation more widely. The background was that after July 5, 2021, the narratives Russian authorities accused the West of escalating the situation in Georgia and provoking civil unrest. The rhetoric of Georgian pro-Kremlin media such as Alt-Info and Georgia and World became more assertive, targeting Western diplomats, as well as the EU and US in general, threatening more violent attacks.
One of the presenters of the far-right program Alt-Info directly called on his followers to commit vandalism, inciting them to burn the EU flag and upload a video to Facebook. As a result, a supporter of ultra-conservative pro-Kremlin political figure Levan Vasadze and his party burned the EU flag in protest of the alleged insult to Georgian saints.
Russian state media such as RT immediately picked up on this trend and showed people burning EU flags in different European countries at different times, giving the impression that anti-EU sentiment was widespread.
In addition to these cases, Russian propaganda used RT foreign offices to manipulate events in Syria, the Navalny and Skripal cases, the “yellow vest” protest movement in France, etc.
There is also an ongoing effort to discredit the EU, NATO, and other international institutions and organizations. Unhealthy fabrications of “fascism”, “Nazism”, “terrorism” and “Russophobia” are circulating in Ukraine and partner countries.
More examples of RT fake news can be found on the database EUvsDisinfo, as well as in the report NewsGuard, which collected disinformation and defamatory statements, articles and videos distributed, notably, through RT America.
All the examples mentioned in this article indicate that the cases of disinformation in which RT is involved are by no means isolated. All of them are intentional propaganda campaigns run by the Kremlin, which could target any country, political force, or even individuals. The RT media company, which was initially conceived to deliberately mislead the international community, will not voluntarily stop doing so. The only way to prevent its harmful influence of information is to forcibly stop the spread of RT propaganda by banning its broadcasts.
Iryna Subota, Analyst at the Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security