Gwara Media fact-checkers conducted a report on the most common narratives from Russian propaganda during the winter-spring of 2023. 

Analysts behind Perevirka, Gwara’s fact-checking bot, studied the most powerful waves of disinformation spread and boosted by Russian propaganda. To compile the report below, they have processed thousands of requests received by @perevir_bot from December 1, 2022, to May 31, 2023. 

Data breakdown

From Dec. 1 to May 31, the Telegram @perevir_bot team processed 16,361 requests. During this time, 5,161 requests were given the “Lacks evidence” status.

These requests ask to analyse the queries with insufficient or ambiguous data, such as the nature or existence of Putin’s fatal illnesses, the legitimacy of documents issued on Russian-occupied territories or in Russia, and so on. The “Lacks evidence” group also includes requests that reference insider sources or reflect a requester’s subjective opinions, like political forecasts and interpretation of scientific concepts.

Then, 3,081 requests received the “True” status. They contained information our team confirmed via at least two or three reliable sources.

Requests that weren’t clear or constructive got the “Rejected” status. This group contains 3,496 requests. We’ve put here messages that, for example, included a link to a video from a Ukrainian national telethon that was broadcasting daily on television since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion. Since we don’t understand what exactly the bot user wanted to check, we cannot process the request and give it the “Rejected” status. We ask them to clarify the question in the comment.

See the most typical examples in the picture below.

Requests that were marked as “Rejected”: random pictures and words, photo without context, etc. / Source: Gwara Media

Finally, 2,301 requests received the “Fake” status, and 2,322 received the “Manipulation” status. We formed a sample from the last two categories for the study on Russian propaganda narratives.

Perevirka bot request data breakdown (01.12.2022-31.05.2023) / Source: Gwara Media

We added the most unique and resonant examples of fakes and manipulations by Russian propaganda to the sample – these are cases we usually discuss in our Fact-checking section. We select the publications for it using the following criteria:

  • Novelty. A fake or manipulation should not duplicate those already identified and analyzed earlier.
  • Social resonance. We monitor the distribution of the message and analyze it, checking for similar or identical requests sent to us via the bot and searching for narratively close news and posts in the media/social networks. 

So, we selected 234 unique requests for the in-depth analysis.


We planned to include 24 Russian propaganda narratives we’ve already identified to analyze the requests. We used them to study waves of disinformation when we worked on our last report. However, our approach needed adjustments.

Narratives that Russian propaganda has stopped spreading

We noticed that the direction of Russian propaganda significantly changed from December to May. Fifteen narratives identified as quite widespread earlier have been almost absent from the public discourse.

We decided to exclude four narratives from further research entirely because they have almost disappeared from media and social networks:

  • “Russia does not take part in the events in Ukraine”
  • “Antisemitic Ukraine”
  • “Ukraine violates the Minsk agreements”
  • “Crushing defeat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Azovstal”

Ten more narratives from previous studies weren’t included in the December 2022-May 2023 report (from now on, Report III).

Narratives that almost or completely disappeared during winter-spring of 2023 / Source: Gwara Media

So, in the analysis of disinformation for August-September 2022 (from now on, Report II), the narrative “Russia wants peace/Putin will save everyone” took the 7th place (5,7%) among the most widespread. In the earlier report for May-July of 2022 (from now on, Report I), it took 4th place (6,3%). Now, it’s absent.

The narrative “Nazis are in power in Ukraine and its pro-government structures” comprised 1,1% of the Report II narratives and 3% – of Report I. It’s also absent in the current report.

The “Ukraine doesn’t make independent decisions and is dependent on the States” narrative was used by propagandists only during August-September 2022. Then, it accounted for 1,7% of Russian disinformation that has been investigated.

West/The USA does not trust the government of Ukraine” accounted for 2,3% of the other narratives studied in Report II and 2% of Report I narratives. In the current report, we didn’t encounter it at all. 

From December 2022 to May 2023, we also see the “Ukrainians don’t know how to handle weapons / Ukrainian army is incapable of fighting” narrative. In Reports I and II, however, it took up shares of 1,7% and 1,1%, respectively.

With the successes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in mind, we can assume that Russian propagandists have realized that it’s impractical to continue spreading the narrative about the complete incompetence of the army.

The narrative “AZOV are Nazis / AZOV shoots at settlements” also disappeared from the agenda, though it held steady at 1,7% throughout the periods investigated within Reports I and II.

Narratives like “The West has nearly exhausted sanctions against Russia / Sanctions don’t have the effect the West had hoped for,” “If Russia had not launched a “special operation,” Ukraine would have attacked,” and “Crimea lives better in Russia than in Ukraine” are absent for a second consecutive study. Still, in Report I, they held 1,3%, 1%, and 0,3% shares of all narratives, respectively.

The narrative “Ukraine dreams of conquering Europe” emerged in August-September 2022 with a 1,7% share among narratives analyzed in Report II, – and we haven’t seen it again. 

The new Russian propaganda narratives

We updated the list with the new narratives from cases our bot received in the Winter-Spring of 2023. 

  • “Fraud.” A lot of requests came from people who received fraudulent messages aimed to collect their data or obtain funds masquerading as job offers at Amazon and Rozetka (a Ukrainian e-commerce company & marketplace, – t/n), ₴7,000 gift cards from MilkaOKKOWOG, and others. It is not a separate narrative but a type of harmful misinformation.
  • “Conspiracy theory.” We added this narrative after we received numerous requests about the earthquake in Turkey. These were reports of messages from Russian online spaces claiming that this natural cataclysm had an artificial basis.
New narratives of Russian propaganda that emerged during Winter-Summer of 2023 / Source: Gwara Media
  • It’s bad everywhere except for Russia.” To this narrative, we attributed requests like “The US plans to label food made from unborn children.” Their goal is to demonstrate that only in the Russian Federation people support the “true values.”
  • “Ukraine/the world won’t survive without Russia.” We added this narrative due to many messages containing disinformation and fakes like “Europe will freeze without Russian gas” or “In 2023, famine awaits Ukraine,” spread by Russian propaganda.
Examples of messages conveying “Discrediting the Ukrainian army” narrative / Source: PEREVIRKA bot & various online resources
  • “Discrediting the President of Ukraine.” This topic has become propagandists’ jam. A separate niche includes foreign magazines’ fake covers, supposedly reflecting the world’s attitude toward the current president.
A fake La Man cover created to discredit the President of Ukraine by Russian propagandists / Source: PEREVIRKA bot & various online resources
  • “Failure of a counteroffensive.” We added this narrative because Russian propaganda takes great pains to paint the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failure nowadays. They started introducing it into the discourse in the spring and actively promoting it during the summer. 

The narratives

After analyzing the distribution of propagandist messages in online spaces, we’ve selected 28 narratives for the study.

Prevalent Russian propaganda narratives in online spaces / Source: Gwara Media

We divided these narratives into groups based on the number of requests containing them and their frequency in our sample for the investigated period.

The “Main” group (50,9%) includes narratives repeated most often and most present in the online space. Russian propaganda prioritizes and actively promotes them. The “Medium” group (35,5%) are narratives that appear pretty often but aren’t promoted as intensely as the “Main” ones.

Distribution of Russian propaganda narrative groups by frequency of encounters / Source: Gwara Media

Finally, the “Occasional” group (13,7%) includes narratives that rarely occur or once. Such narratives do not indicate trends, but they speak to the mood of certain small population groups (as a rule, within Russian society.)

The “Main” group narratives

Let’s start the analysis from the “Main” group. The “winner,” or the most widespread sentiment, is the narrative “Ukraine is a country of chaos, radicals, and Nazis,” which ranks first within the sample/among mentions. Its share in the current group is 26,9%, taking up 13,7% of the total narratives analyzed during the Winter-Spring of 2022.

When we did analytics for Report I, this narrative was already the fourth most popular among the “Main” group. It accounted for 10% of all narratives in our study for May-August 2022. Within Report II, it declined in popularity to 6th place, taking up 7,4% of the scope.

The sample we used for analysis lacks the manipulations associated with this narrative, so, within Report III, it is expressed via fake news, like the mobilization of dogs to the Armed Forcesthe swastika in the downtown of Dniprothe canonization of Stepan Bandera, and others. 

Examples of fake news conveying the “Ukraine is a country of chaos, radicals, and Nazis” narrative / Source: PEREVIRKA bot & various online resources

The narrative “The West does not need Ukraine” holds the second place. Its share in this group is 21,8%, accounting for 11,1% of all narratives.

This narrative was expressed through both fake news and manipulation –some of the related fakes genuinely cheered up our fact-check team. Here are some examples: soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces abroad are taught to dance (instead of military training), and an Israeli ban on using the Ukrainian flag.

This category also included a supposedly probable Polish occupation of Ukraine, which we’ve discussed several times already.

Using this narrative, Russians aim to make Ukrainians feel dejected about the help from foreign partners. That is why this topic does not leave the “Main” group for the third time.

The “Main” group narratives breakdown / Source: Gwara Media

Third place is taken up by a new narrative, “Discrediting the President of Ukraine.” Its share comprises 19,3% of the “Main” group and 9,8% of the total.  

The fourth place is shared between “Ukraine is losing the war” and “Ukraine is a mess” narratives, which have taken up a share of 16% within the group and 8.1% of all narratives. 

The “Ukraine is losing the war” narrative is among the “Main” group in all three of our reports. It serves the goal of Russian propaganda: to prove to their citizens, the world, and even Ukrainians that the Russian Federation is winning the war. 

They conclude that Ukraine is losing the fight by producing fabrications like these: “There are no men [left to join the army] anymore, so now women are expendable,” Armed Forces recruit minors and elderly men; advertisements or claims of foreign politicians about immense combat losses in Ukrainian army/foreign equipment losses. 

The narrative “Ukraine is a mess” joined the “Main” group for the first time. Earlier, we put into the “Medium” group. The increase here is explained by the impact of electricity shutdowns caused by Russian attacks.

Fakes like these appeared in Ukrainian online space about the time shutdowns started: Ukrainian cinemas don’t refund tickets and ask to thank Russia for that; Ukraine uses steam locomotives for transportation because there’s no electricity; Ukrainian schools teach that human species emerged in Ukraine earlier than elsewhere; the Ukrainian language is older than Sanskrit.

Examples of publications manufacturing the “Ukraine is a mess” narrative / Source: PEREVIRKA bot & various online resources

Narratives of the “Medium” group 

This group is represented by 11 narratives we’ve found in 83 of 234 requests; they comprise 35.5% of all narratives. 

These messages can’t be considered a part of a powerful disinformation wave. But they are the ones that form the necessary repetitive noise and information overload. In such a way, Russian propaganda utilizes Goebbels’ principle, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”   

The “Medium” group narratives / Source: Gwara Media

Sixth place among all narratives – and the first one in the “Medium” group – is taken up by the narrative, “Ukrainian government doesn’t need its citizens/Ukrainian government treats them as cannon fodder.” It takes up a 12% share of the group and 4,3% of the total. 

Under this narrative, we’ve filed cases like these: Ukrainian troops are being paid via certificates instead of money; citizens of the deoccupied Kherson oblast received pieces of foam instead of diapers as a part of humanitarian aid; squads that would shoot deserters are being formed; and others. 

Note that in Report II, covering August-September of 2022, this narrative was in the “Occasional” group, while in Report I on disinformation in May-July of 2022, it was in the “Medium” group, too. 

In seventh place in our rating is the “Ukrainian military and its supporters are criminals” narrative. We’ve found it in 10,8% of the messages in the “Medium” group and 3,8% of all narratives. 

During the spring-summer of 2022, this message was used more frequently. It was the most commonly spread disinformation of that period, taking up 15% of all narratives.

In the autumn of 2022, the “Ukrainian military and its supporters are criminals” narrative was in about 9.1% of the messages received by our bot. It was primarily expressed through fakes about transplant surgeons from the “black market,” the Kraken Regiment robbing random Kharkiv oblast residents, etc. 

Examples of the “Ukrainian military and their supporters are criminals” narrative // Source: online resources

“Diverting attention” isn’t exactly a narrative. Here, we include cases that don’t cover a particular story or convey a distinct message but aim to distract – or have a hidden clickbait. The latter looks like a title encouraging readers to click on a link, join a channel or a group chat, download an app, etc. 

Here, we have the cases of betrayer cats that deliberately sabotage Starlinks, giant fish in Lviv Oblast, and Patron the dog’s castration. Some may think them ridiculous, but the “Diverting attention” messages comprise 10,8% share in the “Medium” group and take up 3,8% of all narratives. 

Examples of requests with messages that aim to divert attention / Source: PEREVIRKA bot & various online resources

Next on the list are three narratives: “Fraud,” “Ukrainians need a new government/Discrediting the Ukrainian government,” and “Russophobic Ukraine.” Each of these narratives takes up 9,6% of their group and a share of 3,4% of the total. 

The “Ukrainians need a new government/Discrediting the Ukrainian government” narrative was present in the “Occasional” group in our earlier reports, which means we’ve encountered it rarely or once. It’s in the “Medium” group, even though a distinct, separate narrative dedicated to “Discrediting the President of Ukraine” has emerged. If we were to combine them, though, they would take second place among all the messages boosted and produced by Russian propaganda. That proves that Russia pours a lot of effort into convincing the public that the Ukrainian president and Ukrainian government are incompetent and untrustworthy. 

We can assume that such actions are meant to undermine the support of Ukraine in the world, as the military and humanitarian aid our country receives is unprecedented.  

Our second report didn’t present the narrative of “Russophobic Ukraine”. We’ve met it earlier: in the “Medium” group of the analytical report covering May-July of 2022. Back then, it only had a share of 2.3% among all narratives. This narrative is linked to the cases with fakes like it’s possible to get tested for the “muscovite” genes in the Lviv clinic; Ukrainians renamed the Moscovium chemical element to Ukrainium; the Ternopil women’s health clinic doctors’ advice not to name a kid Ivan, and so on. 

Examples of the “Russophobic Ukraine” narrative / Source: PEREVIRKA bot & various online resources

The following narrative in the “Medium” group is “Ukrainian government is profiting from the war.” It takes up 8,4% in this group and 3% among all narratives. 

While the defamation and defamation of the Ukrainian government are aimed at international and Russian readers, this particular narrative is constructed for Ukrainians. Ukrainians already question their government, so Russian propaganda bolsters this narrative to further anti-government sentiments. 

Among cases that try to reinforce anti-government opinions for this group, we noted these: paid services in Points of Invincibility (shelters where people in Ukraine can come in case of power outages; we wrote about them here – t/n), new cottages on the Canary Islands and in Chili bought by Zaluzhnyi’s daughter; and export of Ukrainian energy to Poland when there are problems with electricity on the domestic market.  

The last four narratives take up 7,6% of the “Medium” group and 2,6% of the total: “Ukraine/the world won’t survive without Russia,” “People aboard support Russia despite their governments opposing it,” “Discrediting the Ukrainian army,” “The silencing of dissent/No freedom of speech in Ukraine.” 

Note that the narrative “People aboard support Russia despite their governments opposing it” is expressed through both fakes and manipulations. The message is instilled when the news about small protests or demonstrations is presented as mass rallies or protests against rising prices – as anti-NATO rallies. These are textbook examples of manipulation.  

Fakes are an essential part of this narrative as well. For example, a video from the Independence March in Warsaw that happened on the 11th of November 2022, Poland Independence Day, has been presented as a report from anti-Ukrainian protests in April 2023, half a year later.

Manipulation & fake components of the “People aboard support Russia despite their governments opposing it” narrative / Source: Gwara Media

“The silencing of dissent/No freedom of speech in Ukraine” was a narrative from the “Occasional” group within our previous reports. However, while we worked on this report, several events connected to the liquidation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and counterintelligence operations of the Security Service of Ukraine happened. That’s why Russian propaganda was actively trying to paint a picture of Ukraine as a country that doesn’t have religious freedom. They spread fake news like: it’s necessary to undergo re-christening if you have been christened in UOC (MP) (christening is a word used for baptism in Ukrainian orthodox tradition, – t/n), blackened crosses on the Refectory Church, and forced conversion to catholicism.  

The “Occasional” group combines situational narratives that aren’t extensively widespread. These are episodic messages that feed into various elements of Russian public rhetoric. This group takes up 13,4% of the total. 

The “Occasional” group narratives / Source: Gwara Media

The following narratives share the first place: “It’s bad everywhere except for Russia,” “NATO is fighting in Ukraine,” and “The West is the enemy that wants to destroy Russia.” Each of them takes up 15,6% of a group share and 2.1% of the total. 

NATO is fighting in Ukraine” and “The West is the enemy that wants to destroy Russia” narratives have the same goal. They want to convince people that the West leads Ukrainian armed resistance. 

We want to note that both narratives somewhat lost relevancy. The “NATO is fighting in Ukraine” narrative comprised 3.4% and 2.7% of all Reports I and II narratives. Similarly, the narrative “The West is the enemy that wants to destroy Russia” was found in 9.1% and 3.7% of the total. 

European “gay values” are now “emerging” in Ukraine” and take up 12.5% of the “Occasional group” and about 1.7% of the total. This narrative became more powerful – in the previous reports, it had 0.6% and 0.3% shares. That is the evidence Russians are trying to prove to their citizens and Ukrainians that support of European values is unbecoming because these values imply the necessity to treat the LGBTQ+ community as equal members of society. 

Such thoughts are almost unsupported in Ukrainian media discourse, so this narrative is less spread. 

An example of a query containing the “European gay values are “emerging” in Ukraine” narrative / Source: PEREVIRKA bot query

Five narratives contest the next place in the rating: 

  • “Nuclear blackmail” 
  • “Failure of a counteroffensive” 
  • “Panic” 
  • “To end the war, Ukraine has to concede its lands”
  • “Conspiracy theory” 

All of those take up 0,9% part of the total narratives and 6,3% of the “Occasional” group. 

Three last narratives are also spread evenly: each amounts to 0,4% of all narratives and 3,1% in “Occasional”: 

  • “The Ukrainian government doesn’t care about citizens left on the occupied territories” 
  • “Legitimizing ‘DNR’/’LNR'” 
  • “The USA isn’t actually ready to support Ukraine” 

The last two narratives are the rarest, but we’re documenting the single instances of them appearing in the report. 

Russian propaganda narratives from December 1, 2022, to May 31, 2023 / Source: Gwara Media


In this investigation, we’ve analyzed requests received by our fact-checking bot from December 1, 2022, to May 31, 2023, and identified five powerful waves of disinformation we traced back to Russian social media accounts, channels, and mass media. 

We also found 11 “sub-waves” and examples of occasional disinformation. 

The analysis confirmed that there are three narratives that Russian propagandists repeat consistently. These are “Ukraine is a country of chaos, radicals, and Nazis,” “The West doesn’t need Ukraine,” and “Ukraine will lose the war” narratives. But this report signifies an emergence of a new popular narrative, “Discrediting the President of Ukraine.” We assume it can be explained by the unprecedented support of Zelenskyi worldwide.  

Zelensky in the Congress of the USA / Photo: Kenny Holston for The New York Times

At the same time, the narrative of “The West is the enemy that wants to destroy Russia” lost its popularity to a new message, “Ukraine/The world won’t survive without Russia.” 

During the investigation, we noted a positive trend: Ukrainian society panicked less – and, therefore, was less likely to believe fear- and anxiety-inducing fakes and manipulations. On the other hand, con artists and frauds have successfully adapted to the realities of full-scale war and started working again. 

Lastly, a reminder: trust official sources only, and don’t let others control your attention. Send the news you doubt is trustworthy to @perevir_bot.

All information in the article is uploaded to our Dataset

Analytics: Yuliana Topolnic, Alesya Yashchenko 

Editing and proofreading: Olena Mygashko 

Translation to English: Yana Sliemzina 

Read also:

Disinformation Waves of Spring / Summer 2022: Analysis by Gwara Media