Spilnota Detector Media

Fake The wife of the attacker on the Slovak prime minister is allegedly a refugee from Ukraine and pushed the man to commit the assassination attempt

Propagandists are disseminating information that the wife of Juraj Chintula, who shot Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, is allegedly a “refugee from Ukraine” and incited her husband to take revenge on Fico because of his critical position towards Ukraine. The Russians claim that the woman was allegedly arrested, but do not specify the charges. Some Russian social media users call Chintula’s actions a “SBU operation”, comparing them to terrorist attacks in Russia, and point out that the shooter had pro-Ukrainian views.

In fact, Juraj Chintula’s wife is not a Ukrainian refugee and did not incite her husband to take revenge on Fico. This was found out by specialists from the StopFake project.

According to Slovak media, Chintula’s wife worked as a teacher at a gymnasium. However, they do not mention anywhere that she is Ukrainian. Neighbors describe them as a “very friendly couple” who have lived together for decades and have two adult children, far longer than the concept of “Ukrainian refugees” from Russian aggression against Ukraine has existed.

According to the Slovak website Pluska.sk, Chintula's wife was summoned for questioning in connection with the attempted murder of Robert Fico. She was accompanied by investigators as she left the apartment, covering her face. Juraj Chintula was a former miner, bodyguard and writer. The couple's son Chintul is also in shock and does not know his father's motives. Elenka, Chintula's wife, hides her face for fear of persecution.

The motive for his assassination attempt on Robert Fico in the press was initially disapproval of government policies. However, according to Euronews, investigative journalist Szabolcs Panyi found Facebook posts where Chintula supported the pro-Russian paramilitary group Slovenski Branci, known for ties to the Kremlin. According to TV Markiza, Chintula planned the attack several days in advance, having legally owned the weapon for more than 30 years.

Robert Fico was wounded after a government meeting in the city of Handlove. He is now in hospital in Banska Bystrica, his condition is serious. Police charged 71-year-old Chintul with attempted revenge murder.

The fakes about the “Ukrainian trace” in the assassination attempt on Fico are an attempt by Russian propaganda to discredit Ukraine in the international arena and deprive it of support.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: Deepstate (Deep State Theory)

The “deep state”, according to conspiracy theorists, is a hidden network of members of the federal government (particularly in the US intelligence agencies) who collaborate with high-ranking financial and industrial institutions to control the elected government of the United States from within.

However, the term first emerged in the 1990s as a reference to the “deep state” in Turkey. It also has its roots in at least the 1950s, but back then it meant more of the concept of the military-industrial complex, which involves the collusion of generals and defense equipment manufacturers who enrich themselves due to endless wars in other countries. Subsequently, it began to be used for the American government, especially during the administration of President Barack Obama in a slightly different context. The theory gained widespread publicity during the presidency of Donald Trump, who spoke of a “deep state” allegedly working against him and his policies. Trump's use of his social media account Twitter (now X), along with other elements of right-wing populist movements during his presidency, helped develop the theory into one of the fundamental elements of the QAnon movement.

Public opinion polls conducted in 2017 and 2018 indicate that about half of all Americans believe in the existence of the deep state.

Russian propagandists use this theory in different contexts on the topic of Ukraine. In particular, they are trying to justify the actions of the Russians by saying that it is in fact the United States that is subservient to the elites and artificially continuing the war. Proponents of the conspiracy theory argue that the rich and intelligence agencies are pushing the parties towards war and even determine US policy, so elections are supposedly meaningless, and Ukraine cannot end the war with victory. Or that in general both Russia and Ukraine are supposedly pawns in their hands and they need to go and negotiate peace. In addition, in this way they also express their distrust not only of the United States, but also increase their distrust of Ukrainian institutions and the state as a whole. Like, if this is how the States work, then in Ukraine, especially, everything is controlled by a limited elite and special services.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: “Currency Wars”

Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to justify the crimes of Russians, as well as to discredit the Ukrainian government and its foreign partners. In this case we are talking about the theory of “currency wars”.

The theory comes from a book by Chinese author Song Hongbin called Currency Wars, first published in 2007 and re-released in 2009. Literary critics call it the first known book in the genre of economic nationalism. According to the book, Western countries are allegedly controlled by a group of private banks manipulated by the countries' central banks. In 2009, more than 200 thousand copies were sold, plus about 400 thousand unofficial copies in free circulation. The book became a bestseller in China; it has been read by many government officials and business leaders across the country. However, it has been criticized in Western media as spreading false information and being based on conspiracy theories. The New York Times criticized the book at the time for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

According to Hongbin and supporters of his theory, these large private banks that allegedly control countries use currency manipulation to enrich themselves by first lending money in US dollars to developing countries and then selling their currencies. They say that this is why a number of financial crises occurred, including the “Japanese lost decade”, the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Latin American financial crisis, etc. It is also claimed that the Rothschild family has a fortune of 5 trillion dollars, while Bill Gates has only 40 billion. Like, it is this family that controls the world and creates a new world order. Conspiracy theorists also believe that the US Federal Reserve System is allegedly not a government agency, but several private banks controlled by the interests of the Rothschild family.

Russian propagandists began to spread this theory in the context of providing military and financial assistance to Ukraine, as well as the sanctions policies of its allies. This theory has acquired particular proportions in TikTok, where users are being intimidated with its help by the collapse of the global financial system. They say that with sanctions against Russia, the West is only making the ruble stronger due to the influence of the state, while the American economy is declining. In addition, there are supporters of this theory who claim that the war is exclusively economic in nature, and Ukraine is only an attempt to externally redistribute the world. However, just like the assertion that the US Federal Reserve is not a government institution, the versions of conspiracy theorists about the reasons for the Russian full-scale invasion are not true.

Fake Soros allegedly said that “only Russia cares about Ukrainians”

Propagandists are actively spreading conspiracy theories about American philanthropist George Soros. According to Russian media, Soros allegedly gave a long interview about Ukraine. Russian propaganda quotes Soros as saying that he expressed the opinion that the fate of Ukrainians “is of interest only to Russia” - “The Russian Federation cannot leave Ukrainians to starve and freeze to death in ruins”. However, this is fake.

Specialists from the StopFake project drew attention to it. They found out that the screenshot distributed by propagandists for this news comes from the website zavtra.ru. To create this fake, they used an interview with an American financier published in the German political magazine Cicero back in 2014, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Even 10 years ago, Soros warned the EU leadership about being too soft on Russia and called on the world to mobilize all available means to counter Russian aggression, as it could spread: “Russia’s attack is aimed not only at Ukraine, but also indirectly at the whole of Europe”, – Soros emphasized in 2014.

According to Soros' statements to the German weekly, Russian propagandist Oleksandr Zapolkis wrote a full column about him for Regnum.ru in 2014, calling Russia's invasion of Ukraine a “European war” and repeating the persistent Russian narrative about the “brotherly Ukrainian people” that openly killed by the Russian army. It was Zapolkis who wrote the quote that propagandists attributed to George Soros. “Russia considers Ukrainians its own... Russia cannot leave Ukrainians to starve and freeze to death in the ruins. Europe “wins” even if all that remains of all of Ukraine is one large ruin, littered with stinking troupes. Because Russia will undertake to restore it and save people”,  propagandist Zapolkis wrote then about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian propaganda systematically attributes non-existent statements to Soros and accuses him of inciting hatred towards the Kremlin. At the same time, the Russian media sees the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights, which is what Soros organizations do, exclusively as a threat to the traditional values of Russia.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: “CIA drug dealers”

Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to discredit the Ukrainian government and its foreign partners. In this case, it is about the “CIA drug dealer” theory. Accusations and conspiracy theories about the involvement of American intelligence in the drug trade have been circulating for decades in the context of historical events and the confidentiality of the CIA's activities.

Some of the allegations stem from the CIA's involvement in covert operations during the Cold War, particularly in Southeast Asia and Latin America. For example, during the Vietnam War, there were reports of opium trafficking by CIA-backed guerrilla groups in the Golden Triangle region.

One of the most famous cases fueling these conspiracy theories is the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s. It involved secret arms sales to Iran (despite the embargo) to finance Nicaraguan rebels known as the Contras. Conspiracy theorists claim that the drug trade was allegedly used to finance these operations, although official investigations have found no direct evidence of CIA involvement in drug smuggling.

Journalist Harry Webb's 1996 San Jose Mercury News investigation, “Dark Alliance”,  revived interest in allegations of CIA drug trafficking. Webb claimed that the CIA-backed Contras were trafficking cocaine into the United States illegally, contributing to the cocaine epidemic. However, subsequent investigations and analysis contradicted some of his claims. While some investigations have acknowledged CIA involvement with individuals and groups involved in drug smuggling, they have generally concluded that there is no systemic CIA collusion in drug smuggling.

Consequently, although allegations of drug smuggling have been the subject of intense investigation, concrete evidence to support these allegations has not yet emerged. However, the continued existence of these conspiracy theories highlights broader questions about transparency, accountability and public trust in government institutions.

Russian propagandists use this conspiracy theory to promote the impression that Ukrainians are a nation of drug addicts. They say that they also participated in the Revolutions under the influence of drugs. Let us recall, for example, the “pricked oranges” that supposedly created a feeling of euphoria during the Orange Revolution “orchestrated by the collective West” and the “State Department cookies” in 2014. Propagandists are also spreading the message that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are supposedly also fighting drug addiction, and USAID (an American local assistance organization) supplies them with whole batches of drugs. They also want to toughen the message against the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi, created by Ukrainian political strategists in 2019. Now the Russians claim that he is allegedly a drug addict, and the CIA supplies him with drugs. Russians use different methods to spread this message: from fake covers and animated series to fake comments from stars on this matter.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: Bilderberg Club

Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to justify Russian aggression against Ukraine. In this case, we are talking about the Bilderberg Club - a real-life private annual meeting of world leaders. It was originally held to prevent a world war, but now, according to its participants, it is an unfiltered discussion about the future of the world.

However, the confidentiality surrounding the group has not only led to various criticisms of it and its activities from different political positions, but also to a number of conspiracy theories. Different categories of conspiracy theorists have different versions about the group's intentions. Some left-wing or less specifically oriented political groups accuse the Bilderberg group of either covertly imposing or generally supporting capitalist dominance and corporate power, while right-wing activists and Russian propagandists are accusing them of imposing or promoting world government and global planned austerity. Right-wing conspiracy theorists typically view the group as a central decision-making body, or at least attribute significant importance to its role, while most left-wing or apolitical conspiracy theorists view it only as one of the institutions that help promote international corporate interests and ideology.

In August 2010, former Cuban President Fidel Castro wrote an article for the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma in which he referenced Daniel Estulin's 2006 book, “Secrets of the Bilderberg Club”, which Castro said described “the ill-fated Bilder lobby groups”. They say they are manipulating the public “to establish a world government that knows no boundaries and is answerable to no one but itself”.

Russia is spreading this theory, emphasizing that the war in Ukraine is also a plan of this club. Like, it wasn’t Russia that started it, but Russia was framed. This theory is another form of the world government theory that we wrote about earlier. According to him, the world is ruled by a separate elite, which creates a bunch of crises in order to reduce the population.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: “gay propaganda” and “blue mafia”

Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to justify Russian aggression against Ukraine. One such example is the idea of “gay propaganda” and the “blue mafia”. “Gay propaganda” or “homosexual propaganda” is a term used in religious circles to disparage the promotion of cultural acceptance and normalization of non-heterosexual orientations and relationships. They say that in Western countries there is a circle of gay elites - the “blue mafia”, which “forcibly” promotes the “superiority” of LGBT couples over heterosexual ones. Children allegedly become LGBT persons after viewing LGBT-related content. According to conspiracy theorists, such methods are used to reduce the world's population. Although the “blue mafia” theory initially concerned only showbiz and fashion, later conservative activists and especially Russia dragged it into politics.

The term “gay agenda” actually originates from the United States and is actively used in other countries with active anti-LGBTQ movements, such as Hungary and Uganda. It was made popular by a video series produced by California-based religious group Springs of Life Ministries in 1992. A series of these videos were circulated in many Christian organizations and spoke of “gay propaganda”.

Conservative activists and conspiracy theorists also include efforts to change government policies and laws regarding LGBT rights as gay propaganda. In particular, American conservative activists use the term to refer to changes in LGBT rights legislation, such as same-sex marriage and protection against discrimination. Russian propagandists took this into account and adjusted it to the local context. They say that liberal forces in the USA and the EU are forcing Ukraine to recognize LGBT couples as more important in the legal field than heterosexual ones, from which Russia supposedly has to save us. They say we cannot allow a future where LGBT couples have more rights than heterosexual couples.

Russia adapted these theories not only in its propaganda, but also in its legislation. In particular, on June 11, 2013, the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted a law prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. This law supplements the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO RF) with an article providing for administrative liability for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, and also makes changes to the federal law “On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development”, according to which Information prohibited for distribution among children also includes information “promoting non-traditional sexual relationships”. In addition, the law introduces amendments similar to the law “On Basic Guarantees of the Rights of the Child in the Russian Federation”.

On November 30, 2023, Judge Oleg Nefedov of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared it an “extremist organization” and banned the “international public movement of LGBT people”. With this decision, the Supreme Court satisfied the claim of the Russian Ministry of Justice, sent on November 17, 2023. Since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the condition of the LGBT community in the Russian Federation has deteriorated significantly. Thus, in 2022, a law was passed banning LGBT propaganda among adults, and in July 2023, a law banning transgender transition. According to human rights activists, the Russian authorities were thus trying to distract the conservative electorate from the failures in the war with Ukraine, strengthening homophobia and transphobia in society.

Sexual orientation (regardless of whether it is heterosexuality or homosexuality) is natural and does not depend on the work of the media, fashion, ideology or the activity of any social groups. Detector Media has repeatedly debunked absurd Russian fake news aimed at reinforcing the “gay propaganda” narrative.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: The Birds Don’t Exist

Movement Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to justify Russian aggression against Ukraine, sometimes even satirical ones. Satirical conspiracy movements are created to ridicule real theories and their adherents. However, Russia often resorts to presenting satire as reality. One example of this is the satirical Birds Don't Exist movement. Its creators claim that birds, such as pigeons, are supposedly drones operated by the United States government to spy on American citizens. The movement began in January 2017 when Peter MacIndoe created this theory during protests. After a video of him and his “Birds Don't Exist” sign during the Women's March in Memphis went viral, the movement gained popularity. Subsequently, the founders of the movement organized rallies in support of this theory and even created a special truck that traveled around the country and distributed it.

The theory is that the US government exterminated all birds between 1959 and 1971 and replaced them with surveillance drones. Claims within this theory, such as that birds charge on electrical wires or use defecation for tracking, are not always consistent. Supporters of the movement are holding demonstrations with “Birds Don't Exist” signs and erecting billboards, and are calling on companies like Twitter to change their logos. The movement had hundreds of thousands of fans in 2021, according to MSNBC.

Russian propagandists love to demonize the West, using both this satirical theory and other materials of a satirical and humorous nature, passing them off as reality. For example, they once wrote about a copy of Mein Kampf allegedly found during an IDF raid. They say that the military Azov left her. This thesis was actually invented in a satirical telegram channel. And there are many such examples. Russian propaganda wants people to stop distinguishing between what is truth and what is a joke and to believe in everything. They say that the modern world is so unpredictable that something that seemed absurd and funny just a few years ago can happen. It is precisely because of this uncertainty about the future that people turn to conspiracy theories - they provide quick answers to urgent questions.

Fake CNBC allegedly wrote about US “global military operation” “Storm”

Propagandists are spreading information in the English-language segment of social networks, allegedly the American media company CNBC published news about a “global” US military operation called “Storm”, which was supposed to take place in 2024. One user posted the screenshots on Platform X (formerly Twitter), describing them as “shocking in many ways” and pointing out that they referred to Donald Trump as the “current president” of the United States. However, this is fake.

The fact-checkers from Reuters drew attention to it. They found that the expression “Storm” is often used by adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Through it, they describe moments when influential individuals are expected to be detained. Also, the authors of this fake falsely claim that Donald Trump has led the US Military since 2020.

The material was published on the now defunct website cnbcusa.com, which is not related to the official CNBC website. A CNBC spokesperson confirmed in a comment to Reuters that the article was not published by them and stressed that cnbcusa.com was never affiliated with CNBC. Reuters also did not find any related articles about Trump as the “current military president” in 2024 or about the “global” US military operation called “Storm” on the official CNBC website. Therefore, this information is false.

Propagandists distribute or support such materials in the English-speaking world to deepen divisions in American society and create distrust in democratic institutions. Detector Media has already written about what methods Russia is using for this in the context of the upcoming presidential elections in the United States.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: “movement of sovereign citizens”

Propagandists use various conspiracy theories to justify Russian aggression against Ukraine. One of them is the Sovereign Citizens Movement. This is a group of people in the United States that is common in other countries. They are united by anti-government activities. This group includes activists, litigators, tax protesters, financial fraudsters and conspiracy theorists. They adhere to their own pseudo-legal ideology, which is based on distorted interpretations of common law. They say that they are not limited by government laws if they do not agree with them.

According to the FBI, sovereign citizens are “anti-government extremists” who consider themselves separate from the United States despite living within its borders. They reject the authority of courts and government laws, believing that they can avoid legal obligations through various tactics. This includes refusing to pay taxes, ignoring laws, and rejecting official documents such as Social Security numbers and driver's licenses. Although the arguments of sovereign citizens have no legal validity and have never been recognized by the court.

The movement often attracts individuals facing financial or legal problems or those who consider government actions to be discriminatory. As a result, it grows during periods of economic or social crises. Although it was first associated with racist and right-wing groups, it now includes people of various ethnic backgrounds, including a significant number of African Americans. Most sovereign citizens do not support violence, but their methods often involve illegal activities. Some of them were convicted of tax and financial fraud, as well as traffic violations. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation classifies the Movement as domestic terrorists.

Sovereign citizen legal theories reinterpret the United States Constitution through selective readings of legal dictionaries, state court decisions or specific rules, and other sources, including the Bible. They routinely ignore the second clause of Article VI of the Constitution, which establishes it as the fundamental law of the land and the Supreme Court as the final authority for interpretation. In addition, many in the Movement consider the county sheriff to be the most important law enforcement officer in the country, with powers greater than those held by federal agents, elected officials, or local law enforcement agencies. This argument is now becoming more used in the context of events occurring around US immigration policy and the recent decisions of the Governor of Texas on defending the state border.

In the post-Soviet space, the Movement is represented by the Union of Slavic Forces of Russia (USSR), also known as “citizens of the USSR” and “necrocommunists”. It is an informal social movement, whose supporters believe that the USSR (and/or the Russian Empire) as a sovereign state and subject of international relations still exists, they consider themselves citizens of this state and do not recognize the Russian Federation, do not comply with its laws and do not obey her government, an ideological movement that believes in conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism.

The ideology of the movement is used to justify Russian aggression towards Ukraine and to stop providing assistance to it. The idea of a “USSR that still exists” has formed the basis of Russian state ideology and is the motivation for the disinformation campaign waged by the Kremlin on a global scale.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: the theory of “subconscious programming”

Propagandists often try to explain current events with mysterious circumstances or wild speculation instead of facts. One way to do this is to use the theory of subconscious programming. This is a theory that the government or other aforementioned entities use pop culture as a tool of mass mind control to make the population more accepting of future events. This is the definition given by Ohio State University. This phenomenon was first described by researcher Alan Watt, who defines the concept as “the exercise of a psychological task through the media to make the public aware of planned social changes that will be introduced by our leaders. If and when these changes are implemented, the public will already be familiar with them and will accept them as natural extensions, thereby reducing possible public resistance”. It was then popularized by famous American conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and David Icke. The most famous use of this theory are examples of “predictions” from the series “The Simpsons”. They say that the authors of the animated series know something, and that’s why they “predicted”, in particular, Trump’s presidency, Biden’s reign, and even an attempted insurrection in the United States in 2021.

Scientists do not consider the theory of “subconscious programming” to be unfounded, since there are several contradictions when considering the possibility of such an influence. However, this theory has been refuted by scientists because, unlike the claims of conspiracy theorists about a guaranteed desired reaction, in fact the reaction of the subconscious is not so predictable. Additionally, while conspiracy theorists try to present this concept in a purely negative light, in fact this type of programming can also be used for positive purposes, such as reducing the trauma of a population from a tragedy.

Propagandists use this theory by spreading either existing examples or inventing examples of “subconscious programming” related to Ukraine. For example, at one time a fake was invented that “The Simpsons” supposedly foresaw a war in Ukraine. They do this to strengthen their narrative that the West allegedly planned the war long ago and provoked Russia into it. Like, there is no point in doing anything, since everything has already been decided for us a long time ago. In this way they give the false impression that democracy does not work and that wars or global tragedies are actually planned in advance to increase support for ineffective governments.

Message Disease X is allegedly another experiment on Ukrainians

Russian telegram channels continue to talk about the unknown disease X and claim that Ukraine is preparing to confront the virus in close cooperation with Washington. In addition, propagandists are calling on Ukrainians to rethink the potential pandemic, which they claim could be another commercial project of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health for further human experimentation. However, this is not true.

The message was noticed by specialists from the VoxCheck project. They found out that Disease X is not a commercial project; it was first mentioned back in 2018. In addition, Ukraine is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) to prepare for the possible spread of an unknown disease.

The Russians' statements are manipulative. Ukraine does not have “close” cooperation with the United States regarding possible cases of disease X, as propagandists write about it. In addition, unknown pathogen X is not a new phenomenon; WHO first mentioned it in 2018. Disease X is the conventional name for a pathogen that is not yet known to people, but may cause a pandemic in the future. At the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 17, 2024, the threat of a possible pandemic from disease X was discussed. WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted the need for joint measures by countries to prepare for this scenario.

The Ministry of Health of Ukraine is working together with WHO to prevent the spread of dangerous pathogens. In Ukraine there are national and regional laboratories that diagnose infectious diseases and study antibiotic resistance. Health Minister Viktor Liashko notes the importance of working on new strategies to prepare for a possible pandemic and the problem of antibiotic resistance.

By supporting such conspiracy theories, propagandists want to intimidate society and cause people to distrust international institutions. Detector Media has repeatedly written about other conspiracy theories that are spread by Russian propaganda against Ukraine.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: The Taylor Swift Pentagon spy theory

Propagandists are trying to destabilize the situation in the world by supporting various conspiracy movements and using them as part of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Often, conspiracy theories are created based on popular figures. An example of this is the theory that American singer Taylor Swift is allegedly a Pentagon spy and that she “fights against disinformation” with her songs.

In January, on FOX NEWS' Jesse Watters Primetime, host Jesse Watters asked viewers how they thought Swift became so popular. Noting that he had no evidence, he theorized: “About four years ago, the Pentagon's psy-ops team was considering turning Taylor Swift into a tool during a NATO meeting. What kind of tool? A psy-op to combat online disinformation”. He called her a psy-op, a person secretly involved in psychological operations, usually hired by the government, military or police to influence the beliefs, emotions and behavior of the masses. Watters showed a video of someone talking about Swift's influence, commenting: “Yes, this is real. The Pentagon's psychological task force suggested that NATO turn Taylor Swift into a tool to help the Biden administration”. The presenter repeatedly disseminated narratives about the war in Ukraine, consonant with, for example, calling it a “proxy war”.

In fact, the video was taken from an academic conference on disinformation organized by NATO in 2019. The woman who spoke—Alicia Marie Bargar—was not a Pentagon official or associated with NATO, but an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Bargar told Business Insider that her words were taken out of context. She discussed cybersecurity challenges and used Swift as “a random example of a famous person to explain the concept of social media analytics to an audience”.

A Pentagon spokesman commented on the theory to Politico noting, “With this conspiracy theory, we're going to shake it off”, a reference to Taylor Swift's song Shake It off.

This theory did not come out of thin air. Right-wing commentators in the United States blamed Swift for the key defeats of Republican politicians. Although Swift did not endorse any candidate in this election, she publicly supported Biden in 2020 and reminded her fans to vote in 2022.

After Swift was named a Person of the Year 2023 by the TIME Magazine's, similar allegations resurfaced from conservative commentators that she was part of a larger election conspiracy. Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller said Swift's fame “is not organic”. Far Hand activist Laura Loomer said Swift is “who Democrats are counting on to interfere in the 2024 presidential election”. Anonymous telegram channels that spread pro-Russian rhetoric also disseminate messages with a similar message.

Russian propagandists use this theory to try to interfere in domestic American politics and neutralize the influence of American popular culture in Europe. In addition, in this way they support people committed to the Russian worldview in American political circles.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

For years, propagandists have been trying to explain current events with conspiracy theories, trying to shift responsibility for problems with real political actors to imaginary “world governments”. Some of these theories go back to the century before last, such as the well-known falsification of the late 19th - early 20th centuries called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This text was first published in 1903 in the Russian Empire, although it existed in handwritten versions earlier. It outlines the types of plans of a certain Jewish organization to establish world domination. The real authorship of the text is unknown; certain parts of it were copied from ancient pamphlets, thus it is a compilation of conspiracy theories of the anti-Semitic ideas of that time.

Why did such a “document” gain popularity in Russia? The main theses of the imaginary plan of the Jews are the use of various ideologies, from Nietzscheanism to communism, to undermine the “traditional” foundations of society that interfere with the establishment of world domination. The main enemies of Jews and Masons, according to the “Protocols”, are the institutions of the Catholic papacy and the Russian autocracy. This view of political and social processes suited Russian monarchist conservatives, who defended the tsar as the only real obstacle to the “satanic forces” to seize power.

Modern Russian propaganda does not use the Protocols, although conspiratorial anti-Semitism in general often appears even in the expressions of senior representatives of the Putin regime, not to mention more marginal propagandists. However, it can be noted that the approach of conspiracy theories has not changed. Also, modern “evil”, from Ukrainian “Nazism” to Western “cultural Marxism”, seeks to destroy “everything good” that exists in the world, and the only one who “resists” this is the Russian Tsar, who is now called the president. Now, it seems that instead of the conditional Jews of the world, a conditional “global government” threatens the world.

With this primitive technique, propagandists strive to achieve two goals. Firstly, shift responsibility for public problems from real representatives of power, primarily the same tsar-president, who has been in power for decades, to someone else. Secondly, to rally the population around the “traditional” authorities, because they are supposedly the only ones who can protect against growing problems (in fact, inspired by this government). However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion did not help the Russian Tsar and his propagandists retain power. From their example, one can clearly see that conspiracy theories are not capable of resolving social contradictions, and authoritarian regimes often fall suddenly and harshly, primarily for their leaders.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: “Pastel QAnon”

Propagandists have been trying to destabilize the situation in the world for years by supporting various conspiracy movements. An example of this is the situation with “pastel QAnon”.

QAnon, as we have previously written, is an active American conspiracy and political movement centered around the baseless claims of an anonymous person or persons known as Q. In their statements, they claim that there is a certain secret organization of satanic cannibals involved in sexual abuse of children. Allegedly, it is in charge of the global process of child trafficking and coordinated the conspiracy against former US President Donald Trump.

“Pastel QAnon” is a set of tactics and strategies that use “soft” aesthetic elements, particularly pastel colors, to attract additional audiences to the QAnon conspiracy theory. This phenomenon often unfolds on major social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Telegram and YouTube.

Social media influencers associated with “pastel QAnon” focus on aspects of QAnon theory that appeal to maternal instincts, particularly issues about preventing child sexual abuse and human trafficking. They use an emotional and engaged presentation, which is popular among influencers in the field of health, yoga and new age. The term was coined by Marc-André Argentino, a researcher at Concordia University in Canada.

QAnon fans have moved from encrypted pages and anonymous forums to major platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. “Pastel QAnon” uses them to spread messages about child “protection”, child trafficking, health and other topics. They exemplify what the movement is about. The presentation is deliberately done using an informal style. Posts do not always indicate their views on QAnon, and their authors often deny any ties to the movement but promote the same conspiracy theories as QAnon. Often this is done by using already existing popular hashtags, distorting the meaning of the original intentions of their creation and the efforts of organizations involved in combating human trafficking. This is the situation with the #SaveTheChildren hashtag, which was used by QAnon activists.

Pastel QAnon uses soft aesthetic elements such as pastel colors, glitter effects, washed out colors, strokes, illustrations of nature, fashion, makeup, and the language of spiritual and motivational quotes. This visual aesthetic includes elements that are familiar to target groups due to their popularity in product and service advertising, which contributes to its appeal among the audience.

Russia not only supports the development of this movement in a foreign context, but also uses it or similar tactics in its propaganda. This approach was used to create visual materials for last year's protests against the President of Ukraine in Odesa. Then Russians created an information campaign to protest rolling blackouts.

In addition, propagandists often use spiritual quotes in their materials on Russian aggression against Ukraine and soft visual aesthetics. This is done in order to spread your messages among those who find the usual presentation style too aggressive. This is also used by Russian propagandists working abroad.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: plot for a coup in Germany in 2022

Propagandists have been trying for years to influence the situation in states that can actively support Ukraine’s further European integration path and oppose Russia’s plans in Europe. In particular, through the support of conspiracy theories in different countries of the world. An example of this is the 2022 German coup plot situation.

In December 2023, charges were brought against members of the Patriotic Union group, arrested a year ago. According to the investigation of the German police, the purpose of the group was to restore the German Empire through a coup d'etat in conditions of civil war. It has been planning an armed attack on the Bundestag since at least November 2021, in addition to the public detention of politicians for civil unrest. The Patriotic Union believed that parts of the German security forces would show solidarity with their efforts. German prosecutors have declared the group a terrorist group.

In a confiscated policy document, the group describes its goals in detail: in addition to patrolling the streets, its members, if they gained power, would also be responsible for the “neutralization of counter-revolutionary forces”. These conspirators included supporters of left-wing political views and Muslims. In addition, during the recruitment of candidates for the inner circle of “Prince Royce” (the head of the group), consultations with experts on paranormal phenomena and astrologers were recorded.

The group had a far-right ideology, regularly promoted anti-Semitic theories and shared the views of the American QAnon community, whose representatives believe that the United States is led by “satanists, cannibals and pedophiles”. The Patriotic Union's planned coup included an assault on the Reichstag, similar to the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Russia is directly involved in the activities of the group, even though the press secretary of the Russian President Dmytro Pieskov at one time denied any connection with the conspiracy group. In particular, it was financed by citizens of the Russian Federation through contact with Royce’s partner “Vitalii B.”, as the investigation found.

Recently, Russian propagandists have been trying to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, in particular, by fueling the idea of a coup. The example of the Patriotic Union shows well what such a conspiracy can look like, on what ideological basis it can exist, and also how conspiracy theories can become a destructive force for society.

Fake American blogger Gonzalo Lira was allegedly arrested “for criticizing Zelenskyi” and is being “tortured” in a Ukrainian pre-trial detention center

Propagandists are spreading information on social networks and media about blogger Gonzalo Lira, who is allegedly illegally detained in a Ukrainian pre-trial detention center. They say that Lira was detained because of “criticism of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi”. However, this is fake.

The specialists from the StopFake project drew attention to it. They found out that this information was first published on his X page by American presenter Tucker Carlson, who is a supporter of Donald Trump and criticizes any assistance to Ukraine. Detector Media has already written about dangerous narratives in his author’s program. After Carlson’s statements, American billionaire and head of X (Twitter) Elon Musk demanded an explanation from the Ukrainian side in connection with the arrest of an “American citizen” on Ukrainian territory. Musk also accused Ukraine of torturing Gonzalo Lira.

There is no evidence that Gonzalo Lira was subjected to torture. In addition, in Ukraine there is no criminal liability for criticizing the president. The American blogger was arrested on May 1, 2023 in Kharkiv for violating Article 436-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (justifying Russian aggression against Ukraine). In a commentary for the Ukrainian publication NV.ua, representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) stated that the actions of Ukrainian law enforcement officers to arrest the pro-Russian blogger Gonzalo Lira occurred exclusively in accordance with the law. In particular, Gonzalo Lira argued that Ukraine seems to be shelling its own territory, and that the country is led by a neo-Nazi regime.

The SBU documented Lira's activities and handed the blogger a suspicion. In May 2023, the court chose a measure of restraint for him in the form of detention with the possibility of bail. He was initially released under house arrest after posting bail, but in July Lira was arrested again while trying to cross the border into Hungary on a motorcycle. Lira is in a pre-trial detention center in Kharkiv. Court hearings in his case are scheduled for December 12 and 21, 2023.

It should also be noted that Gonzalo Lira denied the facts of the massacre of civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities, disclosed the location of Western journalists and Ukrainian military personnel, and also disseminated their personal information. In addition, Lira defended Putin's motives, arguing that the Russians allegedly take special care to avoid destroying civilian infrastructure or harming civilians. On his social media accounts, the blogger spread a number of previously debunked conspiracy theories, including Russia's claim that there are American laboratories in Ukraine for the production of biological weapons. The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications, in its article “What’s wrong with the pro-Russian blogger Gonzalo Lira, for whom Carlson and Musk stood up”, spoke in detail about Gonzalo Lira’s months-long anti-Ukrainian activities. Detector Media previously wrote about other ways Russia uses the opinion of foreigners in the media field.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: the theory of the “Dulles Plan”

Propagandists have been trying to explain current events through conspiracy theories for years, trying to justify the crimes of the Russians. The theory of the Dulles Plan is also used for this purpose.

This “plan” is the US strategy towards the USSR adopted during the Cold War. According to the theory, it provided for a hidden moral breakdown of the population of the USSR. The idea is credited to Allen Dulles, head of the CIA from 1953-1961. According to supporters of the theory, the goal of the “plan” was supposedly the destruction of the USSR due to propaganda aimed at separating nationalities and social groups, destroying the traditions and moral values of the population. In particular, due to political jokes and quarrels between generations. In their opinion, the plan operates against Russia even after the collapse of the USSR.

However, the authenticity of the Dulles Plan is questionable. The text, which appears to be a “plan”, first appeared in a Russian publication in the early 1990s and is an edited excerpt from A. S. Ivanov’s novel “Eternal Call”. In the summer of 2015, this text was recognized as extremist material in Russia. Propagandists also use the term Dulles Plan to describe extracts from the US National Security Council Memorandum 20/1 of 1948. However, this memorandum has nothing to do with Dulles and the CIA, and also does not imply the moral decay of society. In particular, the “peaceful goals” of the memorandum provide for “Reducing the power and influence of Moscow to such extent that they no longer pose a threat to the peace and stability of the international community” and “to achieve fundamental changes in the theory and practice of international relations observed by the government in power in Russia”. 

Although the text of the Dulles Plan is not real and contradicts American policy towards the USSR at that time, its influence on Russian consciousness is significant. This is evidenced by the fact that the theory was used by the majority of Russian politicians, and now propagandists have also adopted it in the context of a full-scale Russian invasion.

They use it to not only justify the war against Ukraine, but also to provide an image of victimhood. They say that Russia had no other choice but to attack Ukraine, since the West wanted to destroy it. In addition, in this way they want to rewrite history and devalue the independence of the former republics of the Soviet Union. Allegedly, the collapse of the USSR was artificially inspired, and accordingly, it should not happen. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union is a natural process, primarily due to economic problems caused by the failed policies of the party leadership and the neglect of the specifics of each of the union republics for the whims of Moscow.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: The Alaska Payment Conspiracy Theory

Propagandists have been trying to explain current events using conspiracy theories for years, trying to justify the crimes of the Russians. Sometimes they use the most absurd theories for this, such as the “Alaskan payment conspiracy” or “Orkney conspiracy” theory.

According to it, the Russian Empire allegedly never received payment for the purchase of Alaska from the United States, and instead the ship Orkney, allegedly carrying payment in the form of gold, was deliberately blown up with insurance money by Oleksandr ‘Sandy’ Keith, a conman and expert on explosions. They say Orkney sank in the Baltic Sea while transporting payment to St. Petersburg from London. Oleksandr Keith, who went by several aliases including William Thompson, had previously blown up ships to claim insurance money in Europe. Russian politician Volodymyr Zhyrynovskyi of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party has repeatedly made these allegations, as well as allegations of bribery related to the purchase agreement.

The theory was disproved. Firstly, the fact that Russia did receive the money is evidenced by the fact that it was then spent on building railway junctions throughout the country. Secondly, according to the conspiracy theory, Orkney was blown up on the date when the money was supposed to be sent. It is stated that the ship sank in the middle of July 1868, when payment was supposed to be delivered on August 1, 1868. Additionally, there is no record of the disappearance of a ship named Orkney, only a similar ship called the Orkney Lass, which, according to post-event reports, was still in service and was probably bound for South America that year rather than St. Petersburg. Gold has never been found in the Baltic Sea either.

Russian propagandists use this theory as one of the first examples of how the West allegedly constantly wanted to deceive Russia. In addition, a number of Russian propagandists and high-ranking officials, appealing to this theory, have repeatedly threatened the United States with military intervention in Alaska, since within the framework of the theory this territory continues to remain Russian. They say that Russia has the right to this, since it did not receive money for it at the time. In addition, they also want to justify the “struggle against the West and Western values”. Russia is victimizing itself by reinforcing the myth that the West constantly wants to destroy it using such theories.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and in the world: Theory of “Chemical Emissions”

Propagandists have been trying to explain current events using conspiracy theories for years, trying to justify the crimes of the Russians. An example of this is the theory of “chemical emissions”.

According to it, various types of chemical weapons have been allegedly being cut over Ukraine for years from special helicopters without identification marks. They say that rich countries are testing harmful chemicals on residents of developing countries. That is why there is a headache, burning eyes, and sore legs. Before the full-scale invasion, some conspiracy theorists tried to explain the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. This theory combines conspiracy theories of the “new world order” and the “golden billion”. In both of them, people are mocked in order to entrench a world order that benefits only the elites, the richest and most privileged representatives of humanity.

Russian propagandists use this theory in the context of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory. In particular, they claim that NATO and Ukrainian troops allegedly use chemical weapons against civilians, although this has never been confirmed. To strengthen this theory, the Russians spread fakes they created about supposedly found chemicals with American labeling in different places of the country.

Thus, Russia wants to shift responsibility for its actions and their consequences to other parties and divert attention from possible provocations on its part. Like, it must be said that Ukraine is doing something so that they don’t think about it while it continues its aggression against Ukraine.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: the theory of the “golden billion”

Propagandists have been trying to explain current events through conspiracy theories for years, masking their hostility towards Western states with conspiracies. An example of this is the theory of the “golden billion”.

The theory was invented in Russia. It first appeared in articles by the Soviet conspiracy theorist A. Kuzmich in the late 80s of the twentieth century. According to it, “Western elites” are trying in various ways to redistribute world wealth in favor of the one billion population of the Earth, mainly Western countries. Another version says that according to the plan of the elites, only one billion people should remain on the planet. They say that this is why in the West they “propagate” LGBT people, and force them to eat insects and refuse animal products, and also why wars occur. The theory of the “golden billion” is closely intertwined with the theory of the “new world order”, which we wrote about earlier. According to it, the world elites deliberately consistently make the world worse in various forms.

Russian propagandists use the theory of the “golden billion” to explain almost every decision of the governments of Western countries, which in one way or another contradicts established norms and traditions in Russia. Any progressive idea in their messages turns into a global threat, and Russia turns into the savior of the world from such bad ideas. It is obvious that the war in Ukraine for them is also the result of the actions of the West. In addition, they are trying to justify all Russia’s failures with the “golden billion” theory. They say it has a bad economy because the West wants to destroy all Russians. It is no coincidence that the theory arose against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Russia.

By using the “golden billion” theory, Russia wants to erase the sense of reality and reinforce the image of the victim in this situation. In addition, it tries to shift responsibility for its actions from the aggressor to the victim of aggression and its partners. All this helps Russia maintain the narrative of an ideological war with the West and justify aggression against Ukraine as a “fight for real values”.

Сonspiracy theories How conspiracy theorists explain events in Ukraine and the world: the theory of “false flag operations”

Propagandists try to explain current events using conspiracy theories, distorting the original meaning of certain terms. An example of this is the “false flag operations” theory.

Its original definition is used to describe operations that the enemy is falsely accused of committing in order to initiate or revive hostilities. Such operations have indeed occurred throughout history, especially during World Wars I and II, and historians use the term “operations under false flag” in professional literature. Conspiracy theorists have distorted its meaning by using it to describe almost every event in the world. For example, conspiracy theorists argue that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States were allegedly carried out by the American government, and not by terrorists, in order to begin and justify their “War on Terror”, including the invasion of Iraq.

Russian propagandists used the “false flag operations” theory to launch their full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A few days before February 24, 2022, Russian state media claimed that Ukraine was allegedly preparing an attack on Russian territories in order to start a war against Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, conspiracy theorists and propagandists claim that Russia was allegedly framed and the invasion was allegedly staged. Like, it was not Russia that attacked Ukraine, but the West that attacked Russia in Ukraine.

By using the theory of “false flag operations”, Russia wants to erase the sense of reality and make people doubt everything that is happening around them. In addition, in this way they are trying to shift responsibility for military aggression onto others in order to reinforce the image of “Victim Russia” cultivated by propagandists. This theory is an example of how Russian propaganda distorts the meaning of terms to obscure the information space.