Author: Svetoslav Malinov
One of the long-lasting disinformation narratives, originated and reiterated multiple times by Russian controlled media and amplified and republished constantly by the group of pro-Kremlin online news outlets in Bulgaria, refers to EU and NATO as the main factors for starting the war in Ukraine and opposing the Kremlin’s efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully. This narrative is used to frame the reporting in the news of different events and occasions, e.g. NATO as starting a hybrid war against Russia or the G20 summit in Indonesia viewed as promoting the battle between Russia’s multipolar world order against Western imperialism. In the same manner, the interpretations about the UA 10-point peace plan states that Russian troops should be withdrawn from a territory, which according to the Constitution of the Russian Federation is part of Russia, thus there is no room for diplomatic peace talks on that matter. Kremlin’s-related media claim that Russian government has been always open to negotiations, but Zelenskyy’s proposed plan translates to Russia “Shutting up and getting out” of its own territory.
The current flash report reviews the media coverage of the “Russia as a peacemaker” narrative in number of pro-Kremlin news outlets in Bulgaria for the period November 2022 – February 2023 (Pogled.info, Informiran.net, Duma newspaper (duma.bg), Bulgarian version of News-Front, Epicenter.bg, BSTV.bg, Blitz.bg, Novini247.com), with some of them being among the most widely shared news sources of this type in the Bulgarian social media.
Russia only wants peace, has made proposals but they were ignored
Russia is illustrated as having the aspiration to form a multipolar global society based on the balance of power and mutually beneficial cooperation. In the multipolar world, Russia is pictured as a counterweight – along with China and sometimes India, to the US and NATO. In an exclusive interview for Sputnik from February 2023, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov stated that he definitely supports peace efforts, but if you want peace, “always be prepared to defend yourself.” He also added that NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said the “path to peace” is “to pump Ukraine with weapons” so that it “wins on the battlefield”, a claim that he does not support.
On the contrary, Ukraine is framed as pushing for escalation and Ukraine peace proposals are reported as no way forward. According to this framing, Russia has repeatedly shown its readiness for negotiations, but Ukraine has imposed a ban on them at the legislative level. According to an article published on Pogled Info, Zelenskyy demonstrated his unwillingness to seek peace by stating that “there will be no Minsk-3 agreement” at the G20 summit in November 2022. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov noted that such words absolutely confirm Kyiv’s position of unwillingness to start a dialogue.
During the same summit, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying that the conditions for starting negotiations expressed by Kyiv were unrealistic and inadequate to the current situation. The minister also emphasized that Moscow had not refused peace negotiations . Other media added also that even when Kyiv was supposedly openly violating the Minsk agreements, the leaders of Germany and France continued to blame Russia for non-compliance. Nevertheless, a precedent has now been set for a “critical” attitude of the official West towards Kyiv, which looks like a warning to Zelenskyy. Last but not least, in the Poland missile blast event, the Russian Foreign Ministry described Kyiv’s statements about the incident as a “gross provocation” against the Kremlin’s peace efforts.
The West/NATO/EU as warmongers
The general narrative of Russia as a peacemaker accommodates also the sub-narrative that EU seeks to subdue Russia’s opinion on the war in Ukraine, whether by isolating the Russian delegation at the G20 summit in November 2022 through boycotting officials’ speeches, or by destabilizing the G20 financial summit in India last week by trying to “blackmail” the Kremlin into adopting a joint official statement on Ukraine – an “anti-Russian and purely confrontational manoeuvre,” according to the Russian foreign ministry. As an evidence, different media reported the Lavrov statement during the Summit, that the EU’s decision to launch a mission to train Ukrainian soldiers shows the EU’s “political schizophrenia” as European leaders simultaneously talk about the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. He added that the EU and NATO have long been hybrid actors in the conflict in Ukraine, supplying weapons and training the Ukrainian army.
According to other articles, the US is relying on one of two possible future scenarios for the war in Ukraine. The first formula is that Ukraine will certainly win because the whole West, all 56 countries, are with it and Russia cannot defeat such a huge army. The second formula is also very simple – the West will simply not accept Ukraine’s defeat by Russia. Ukraine has supposedly latched on to the bandwagon of the West because it is actually benefitting materially from the whole process. Kyiv is now supposedly fighting against Russia with the best army that NATO could create for it because the old Ukrainian army from February 2022 no longer exists – it was destroyed by Russia in the summer.
Multilateral international instances and their role
The narrative includes also the issue of bi-lateral efforts of Russia to overcome the international isolation, presented as efforts for achieving peaceful solution through the tools of international politics. An example is the Lavrov’s talks on bilateral relations with the representatives of Russia’s allies, above all China during the G20 Summit and the fact, that they supposedly attract the full support of these countries, despite the West’s desire to isolate Russia in mainstay international organizations. The talks and negotiations regarding the food and fertilizer supplies from Russia have been also used as an evidence for the Kremlins efforts, highlighting for example the Turkey’s Minister of Agriculture Vahit Kirisci statement that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to meet Putin in Bali, in order to discuss with him this issue.