By Madeline Roache, Sophia Tewa, Alex Cadier, Chine Labbe, Virginia Padovese, Roberta Schmid, Edward O’Reilly, Marie Richter, Karin König, McKenzie Sadeghi, Chiara Vercellone, Zack Fishman, Natalie Adams, Valerie Pavilonis, Shayeza Walid, Kelsey Griffin, Coalter Palmer, Andie Slomka, Louise Vallée and Akshata Kapoor.
Last updated: Oct 5, 2022
Months before Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, false narratives about Ukraine and its allies, many promoted by the Kremlin’s disinformation apparatus, were already proliferating online. From false claims of Ukrainian genocide directed at Russian-speaking Ukrainians, to assertions that Nazi ideology is driving Ukraine’s political leadership, these claims were used to justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
As support for the Ukrainian government rose, Kyiv has made use of social media platforms and messaging apps to push back against the Kremlin’s disinformation machine. However, a growing stream of anti-Russia misinformation has also spread online. Some pro-Ukrainian sites and scores of social media users have shared false posts about the war, ranging from manipulated images of the mythical Ghost of Kyiv to misleading footage of alleged Russian attacks.
Tracking 278 Top Russia-Ukraine Disinformation Sites
- English-language websites: 136
- French-language websites: 43
- German-language websites: 22
- Italian-language websites: 30
- Other: 47
To date, NewsGuard’s team has identified and is tracking 278 domains some with a history of publishing false, pro-Russia propaganda and disinformation — that have promoted false claims about the Russian-Ukraine conflict. These websites include official Russian state media sources of the kind that some of the digital platforms have temporarily sanctioned since the onset of the Russian invasion. But many websites that are not official propaganda arms of the Russian government and are not being sanctioned by the platforms also promote false claims supporting the government of Vladimir Putin. These sources include anonymous websites, foundations, and research websites with uncertain funding—at least some of which may have undisclosed links to the Russian government.
The three most influential among websites known to be funded and operated by the Russian government are the state media sources RT, TASS, and Sputnik News. Below are links to NewsGuard’s Nutrition Labels for these three sources:
NewsGuard’s team is monitoring these and the dozens of other sites that we have identified as those that spread Russia-Ukraine disinformation narratives, including the top myths cited in this report. As noted above, as new myths and disinformation sources are identified, we will update this report accordingly.
Russia employs a multi-layered strategy to introduce, amplify, and spread false and distorted narratives across the world — relying on a mix of official state media sources, anonymous websites and accounts, and other methods to distribute propaganda that advances the Kremlin’s interests and undermines its adversaries. Its government-funded and operated websites use digital platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to launch and promote false narratives. NewsGuard has been tracking these sources and methods since 2018. and licenses its data about Russian propaganda efforts to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Cyber Command, and other government and defense entities.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, citing NewsGuard’s reporting and data, outlined key components of these efforts in its report, “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.”
While Russia’s disinformation firepower has meant that pro-Russia disinformation remains dominant, anti-Russia or pro-Ukraine disinformation, occasionally shared by Ukrainian authorities, has also started to emerge. These narratives tend to paint a triumphant picture of Ukrainian armed forces while making unsubstantiated anti-Russia claims.
For example, videos of the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a Ukrainian fighter pilot alleged to have shot down six Russia military jets, were spread to millions on TikTok and other platforms. Days later, it emerged that the footage originated from a video game and that there is no evidence to support the existence of the “Ghost of Kyiv”.
Researchers, platforms, advertisers, government agencies, or other institutions interested in accessing the full list of domains can contact us here: Request domain list.