September 12, 2022 | DW

Pro-Kremlin narratives look to stir social unrest in Germany ahead of energy crisis

Russian disinformation campaigns are exploiting legitimate concerns among the German public over the fast-approaching winter and a lack of certainty around the availability of gas for heating. ISD Senior Analyst Julia Smirnova features in German broadcaster DW‘s article speaking on the concerns around Russian influence operations exploiting fears and sowing social unrest in the country.

A recent campaign used a decontextualised quote of the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, about German support for Ukraine “no matter what my German voters think.” This edited video clip of her participating in a panel discussion began to be spread by pro-Russian accounts.

According to analysis by the Disinformation Situation Center, a Europe-based coalition of researchers tracking Russian disinformation, of which ISD is a member, the distorted quote of Baerbock first appeared on Russian state or pro-Kremlin social media channels. The clips were then later amplifed by members of German parties Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Die Linke, as well as a number of far-right extremist accounts. “This incident shows that for disinformation to spread, a synergy between Russian or pro-Kremlin actors and domestic actors in Germany is crucial,” she said.

She noted that Russian state and pro-Kremlin media try to present Europe’s energy crisis as a consequence of the West’s solidarity with Ukraine.

“The narrative pushed by Russian propaganda is that people in Germany have to feel cold because of Ukraine,” Julia said. “And now that winter is approaching, this narrative has more potential than ever to resonate with people who are legitimately worried.”