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Far right groups 'using Russian invasion of Ukraine to push anti-West narratives'

Right wing extremist groups in Europe have used the Russian invasion of Ukraine to push anti-Western narratives, according to a new analysis.

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Content blaming Russia's invasion of Ukraine on NATO has been shared by right wing extremist groups. Picture: STOCK IMAGE

Researchers found that content shared by extremist groups in France, Germany and the UK in the early stages of the invasion had placed blame on NATO and the United States, while promoting pro-Russian propaganda.

The content shared by the right wing extremist groups also tended to side with Russia over Ukraine and there was evidence that the same conspiracy theories and narratives were shared by groups in all three countries.

The analysis was carried out by Claire Burchett, a PhD candidate at King’s College London, and James Barth, and was published by the Global Network on Extremism and Technology.

The researchers said: “The predominant sentiment expressed in posts which referenced the war was criticism of the West, specifically blaming the conflict on NATO or the administration of US President Joe Biden.

“Apart from two channels, there was far more support for Russia than there was for Ukraine. The pro-Russia support largely came from the New Right, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has courted political parties and groups aligned with this branch of the far right for many years.

“Pro-Ukraine support mostly came from groups endorsing National Socialist (Nazi) ideas, themselves more ideologically aligned with the Ukrainian far-right Azov movement.

“Surprisingly, there were few anti-Semitic posts. This is made more surprising considering that Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish. We hypothesise that this is because right wing extremist groups have prioritised an anti-West message, portraying Zelenskyy as a ‘Western puppet’, a position in tension with, and in fact a reversal of, historic anti-Semitic tropes.”

The researchers analysed more than 700 posts published to 15 right wing extremist channels on the social network Telegram. The posts were published in the first 17 days of the Russian invasion.

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