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How Russia's disinformation campaign seeps into Swiss views

14 June, 2024 Friday
16:57

Insight News has analyzed the media landscape in Switzerland and identified outlets that quote Russian state media and spread Kremlin propaganda in Europe

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Switzerland has become a target for Russian propaganda due to its role in global initiatives, its support for Ukraine, and its hosting of the upcoming Peace Summit on June 15-16. According to a Reuters report on June 10, the Swiss government has reported a surge in cyberattacks and foreign disinformation campaigns targeting the country ahead of the summit.

Insight News provided examples of these propaganda pieces along with their sources.

The analysis suggests that Russian influence efforts aim to weaken Western democracies, undermine trust in governments, and reduce support for Ukraine. No major media outlet is on the list, but rather fringe resources. 

Overview of the Swiss Media Landscape

Swiss audiences primarily follow mainstream media and traditional outlets. However, there are a few pro-Russian websites that attract a small portion of traffic. These websites often quote and republish stories from Russian propaganda sites that are sanctioned in the EU, such as Russia Today, Sputnik, and Ria Novosti.

The identified pro-Russian websites (including infosperber.ch, uncutnews.ch, transition-news.org, lesobservateurs.ch, arretsurinfo.ch, globalbridge.ch, and zeitpunkt.ch) collectively account for only 0.8% of the total traffic share among Swiss media outlets. Of this, infosperber.ch receives 0.42% of the traffic and ranks below the top 30 local media websites, according to SimilarWeb data.

Meanwhile, German outlet Anti-Spiegel and French outlet Reseau International, both pro-Russian, have garnered a significant audience in Switzerland. These pro-Kremlin platforms are frequently quoted and reposted by Swiss websites with similar leanings.

Over the period from June 2023 to May 2024, the website reseauinternational.net received 700,000 visits from Switzerland.

News Insight created an interactive table with links to all of Switzerland’s websites that spread pro-Russian narratives or claims that benefit Moscow.

An analysis of digital media traffic in Switzerland revealed the surprising popularity of Russian state propaganda platforms. According to SimilarWeb, the English version of RT received almost 10 million views in a year, the German version got 2.7 million views, and the French version had 656,000 views.

The Swiss read Russian propaganda in Russian, as well as in French, German, and English due to the significant Russian-speaking population in Switzerland. Ria-Novosti, sanctioned in the EU for spreading disinformation, received 918,000 views in Switzerland over the past 12 months.

Despite Europe's efforts to combat Russian propaganda, the desired results have not been achieved. Numerous websites continue to spread pro-Kremlin content, with RT and Sputnik using mirror sites to evade bans. Russian speakers in the EU still access most Russian pro-Kremlin media outlets.

Content analysis identified key pro-Kremlin narratives targeting Swiss audiences, including:

  • Demonization of the West and Ukraine as threats to democracy

  • Russia is at war against NATO and the West (particularly the U.S.)

  • Portraying Ukrainians as Nazis

  • Highlighting the threat of nuclear war

  • Urging a halt to support for Ukraine

  • Promoting global conspiracy theories

Narrative 1. Demonization of the West and Ukraine as a threat to democracy

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Russian propaganda machine has been blaming Ukraine, Western countries, NATO, and the EU for the war. Moscow claims that it felt threatened by Ukraine, that it came to protect the people of Donbas, and that NATO’s eastward expansion is to blame. This way, Russia is trying to justify its invasion and shift the blame for the war to the West. 

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/les-etats-unis-ne-peuvent-pas-faire-face-a-la-defaite/

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/la-veritable-histoire-de-la-guerre-en-ukraine/

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/lavrov-na-pas-exclu-de-nouvelles-mesures-dans-le-domaine-de-la-dissuasion-nucleaire-a-cause-des-usa/

Narrative 2: Russia is at war against NATO and the West (Especially the U.S.)

After initially claiming it would conquer Kyiv in a few days, Moscow has sought to explain the failure of its "special operation." The primary narrative is that Russia is fighting against nearly the entire world. However, it is actually Ukraine’s Armed Forces, equipped with advanced Western weapons, that are resisting the Russian army.

By fabricating the presence of Western forces in Ukraine and distorting statements from Western leaders, Kremlin propaganda aims to justify its actions, portraying Russian troops as battling NATO and suggesting that Putin's regime is defending against threats to EU states.

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/les-trois-grands-mythes-de-lotan/

  • https://globalbridge.ch/der-gesellschaftliche-wandel-in-russland-beschleunigt-sich/

  • https://weltwoche.ch/autor/claude-cueni/

Narrative 3: Ukrainians are Nazis

Kremlin media have used the 'Nazi' label to discredit all Ukrainians and justify Putin’s war of aggression. Pro-Russian propagandists have demonized the Ukrainian military and government. This narrative shifts attention away from the fact that it was Putin’s regime that initiated an aggressive, neocolonial war against a sovereign state, violating international law.

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/lukraine-daujourdhui-nest-pas-une-democratie/

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/maria-zakharova-je-voudrais-commencer-par-parler-des-actions-des-pays-occidentaux/

  • https://www.infosperber.ch/politik/welt/neustes-zum-maidan-ein-putsch-und-keine-revolution-in-wuerde/

Narrative 5: End support for Ukraine

Russian propaganda outlets in Switzerland are actively spreading narratives that portray any assistance to Ukraine as ineffective in defeating Russia. Their main objective is to showcase Russia's strength while emphasizing Ukraine's vulnerabilities. This tactic aims to diminish support for Ukraine, weaken international solidarity, and advocate for easing sanctions imposed on Russia.

  • https://globalbridge.ch/europas-liberale-autoritaere/

  • https://globalbridge.ch/die-vietnamisierung-der-ukraine/

  • https://lesobservateurs.ch/2024/06/05/sahra-wagenknecht-utilise-la-rhetorique-de-donald-trump/

Global conspiracy theories

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russian propaganda has accused Ukraine, Western countries, NATO and the EU of fomenting the war. Moscow claims that it intervened to protect Donbas residents and accuses NATO of expanding eastward. These claims are supported by conspiracy theories that suggest globalists are organizing a war against Moscow. This narrative aims to justify the Russian invasion and shift the blame to Western entities.

  • https://arretsurinfo.ch/patrick-smith-les-medias-alternatifs-ont-raison-sur-lukraine/

  • https://globalbridge.ch/krim-iv-wem-gehoert-die-krim/

  • https://weltwoche.ch/daily/europa-wird-entscheiden-muessen-will-es-weiterhin-eine-us-weltherrschaft-oder-eine-multipolare-welt/

You can read a detailed analysis of Russia's disinformation campaigns in Switzerland and the content of pro-Russian websites here.

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